Stepping into the social media landscape

small__223408012photo credit: nathangibbs via photopin cc

Getting started with social media can be daunting. I remember when I began exploring Twitter a few years ago. Like many others, when I signed up, I didn’t get it. I was almost instantly overwhelmed with the amount of information and could not make sense of it.

As I stumbled my way through the seemingly strange social media landscape, I’ve met some amazing guides who have paved a path. I began to read and delve into the resources they shared and slowly…I learned more. As I learned, I began to get my bearings a bit. Through their example, they have opened up a whole new world to me.

Here are just a few of the educators who are part of my personal learning network and the resources they have generously shared with those interested in learning more about how to use social media for professional learning and community engagement. Continue reading

Moving forward in the face of fear

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear.”  — Ambrose Redmoon

In my work, I frequently hear profound trepidation about the big, wide world of social media. The chorus of voices bemoans the ubiquity of Facebook and issues cautionary tales of how social sites are diminishing our personal connections to others. And on and on…

Underneath this reluctance, I hear a genuine sense of fear — fear of our world spinning out of control. In an effort to regain some semblance of control, there is a tendency to react by wanting to “shut it down.” Instead, I’d like to urge us to be courageous in our leadership and move forward in the face of fear.

As Redmoon’s quote suggests, being courageous does not mean “the absence of fear.” Rather, it is “the judgment that something else is more important that one’s fear.” As educators, I would also add that our ability to prepare our students for their future and to engage with our communities to accomplish that goal, in a world that is growing ever more complex and fast-paced, is more important that our own fear.

open leadership

I recently revisited Open Leadership, by Charlene Li (@charleneli). Li’s book provided me with a bit of a road map to begin grappling with my own uncertainty. While the book is not geared specifically for those of us toiling in the field of education, I think educational leaders will find plenty of resources here to get started.

At the outset, Li assesses the new terrain which has been characterized by the “fundamental shift in power” from institutions (like schools) to customers (such as our students, parents, and community members).  With new social technologies, more people are online, using of social sites and sharing digital resources like never before. Li points out that conversations that used to take place in more private realms of offices, phone calls, and even the parking lot, are now taking place online. While these developments may make us squirm, we are powerless to stop them.

The question, then, is how do we manage our fears as we navigate forward in digital spaces to connect more meaningfully with our communities? Li offers four key take aways for educators. Continue reading

The delicate balance…

medium_3251916229 This week I had the opportunity to attend a professional conference with other educational leaders across our state. One of the sessions I attended focused on implementing the Common Core State Standards within the context of 21st Century education. Ken Kay (@kenkay21) from EdLeader21 facilitated a thought provoking discussion.

The discussion featured a panel of superintendents engaged in initiatives to implement 21st Century Learning within their districts. The panelists shared their experiences working with staff as they began to develop a vision for student success. The conversation invariably turned toward how do we keep a focus on the essentials and not get bogged down in piling on yet another initiative.  Continue reading

On the need for clarity of vision…

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photo credit: snarl via photopin cc

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

— Lewis Carroll

There is a tendency when beginning a new journey to simply want to get on with it. Pack up, head on out. I have certainly been guilty of this myself. In the frenetic pace of activity and competing demands, jumping into action is second nature for me. Yet, without a clear vision of where we are heading, we run the risk of following any road and ending up nowhere.  Continue reading

Can the key to educational change be found “below the green line”?

My work as an educator has been guided by a firm belief in the power of the collective wisdom of groups to engage in their own professional learning and work collaboratively to improve learning for all students. Richard and Becky DuFour, Michael Fullan and others have promoted this idea as a key to educational change.

Yet, this simple idea has remained elusive. Working together is tougher than it would seem. Educators struggle with how to make their collaborative work with colleagues productive, engaging and transformative. Throughout my own career, I have had two kinds of experiences. I have participated in lively discussions with colleagues, asking tough questions and really pushing to make our classrooms engaging places for students to learn. I have also been a part of other group or team efforts that are nothing more than an exercise of going through the motions — filling out a meeting log, following a perfunctory protocol, and having stilted conversations. I have wondered what makes the difference between these two very different team processes.  Continue reading