On the moral obligation of sharing

medium_5497223174

photo credit: opensourceway via photopincc

I’ve been developing a personal learning network (PLN) through Twitter and online forums for the past few years. I found my initial forays into social media to be a bit disorienting. The flow of information was overwhelming. It was difficult to get my bearings. But, I stuck with it — dipping in, then stepping away, and then returning. I found it to be a process — at first I mainly “lurked”, viewing the contributions of others, then gradually I began to share and engage with others.

Through this process, I have discovered what Lyn Hilt (@L_Hilt) has referred to as “Effort In = Reward Out.” Along the way, I have benefited in real ways from the ideas, practices and insights shared by the amazing and thoughtful educators who are part of my PLN. Engaging with the work of others has nudged me to take risks, pushed me to think more deeply, and opened up new ideas for empowering students in their learning.

In the (tongue-in-cheek) words of George Siemens, these powerful learning experiences led me to conclude that “My Personal Learning Network is the most awesomest thing ever!” Siemens’s piece challenged my thinking about PLN’s, in general, and helped me to think differently about the importance of my network and my place within it. Continue reading

“Learning by heart”

medium_7787493photo credit: Lady-bug via photopin cc

I believe that schools can become much more than places where there are big people who are learned and little people who are learners. They can become cultures where youngsters are discovering the joy, the difficulty, and the excitement of learning and where adults are continually rediscovering the joy, the difficulty and excitement of learning. Places where we are all in it together — learning by heart. — Roland S. Barth, Learning By Heart (2004), page 29

I first encountered Roland Barth’s book, Learning by Heart, as part of the required reading for my administrative credential program in the days B.T. (Before Twitter). In his book, Barth warned about the tendency among school leaders to become so focused on the “more important matters” of the job that they miss the truly critical work of “lead learning.” Instead, he urged educational leaders to work as co-creators of a “community of learners” committed to lifelong learning, discovering new knowledge, and making their learning visible by sharing openly with colleagues. Throughout my career, I have taken his words to heart.

And, I find that Barth’s wise words still ring true for me as I try to sort out how to apply their meaning for my work today. Recently, I have started to participate an online interactive course, “Educational Leadership in the Digital Age”, facilitated by Lyn Hilt (@l_hilt) of the PLP Network (Powerful Learning Practice). Last week, one of our topics for exploration was what does it mean to be a “lead learner” in a “time of rapid change with ever-evolving digital technologies.” Continue reading

Do we practice what we preach?

small__2980678175photo credit: Eric M Martin via photopin cc

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”

— William Butler Yeats

This week I had the opportunity to talk with a local business leader who passionately believes that to meet the challenges of our rapidly changing world, we need to “unleash our entrepreneurial spirit.”

As we talked, he described the capacities that are essential for successfully navigating an ever shifting terrain: embracing change, engaging in lifelong learning and growth, staying relevant, challenging assumptions, taking risks, considering multiple perspectives, and aligning our purpose and passion. He concluded by stating that educators need to “practice what you preach!”

Our conversation then turned toward the vital role educators play in helping young people develop these capacities. I found myself wondering how well we, as educators, model these critical habits of mind and practices? Do we engage in active, self-directed lifelong learning? Stay relevant? Take risks? I reflected on  our tendency to cling to what is known and avoid venturing into the unknown. 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

Why Twitter is the hub of my personal learning network

A few days ago a teacher in our district asked me about different online publishing platforms for her students. She was looking for ways for her students to share their writing with others, get feedback and publish their work. 

In the days B.T. (Before Twitter), I would have headed right for Google and dug in. But I didn’t. Instead, I sent out the following tweet:

blog.tweet

Within a few minutes, I received two responses.  Continue reading

A Personal Challenge for the New Year

small_4401158952photo credit: Jhong Dizon | Photography via photopin cc

The approaching new year brings with it an opportunity to reflect upon the past year and focus on new challenges ahead. This year I have been fortunate to connect with and learn from truly courageous educators who are taking on the challenge of creating the kinds of schools and learning spaces our students need for future success.

The power of social networks has enriched my own professional learning in so many ways. While I have been an active consumer of the insights shared by others, I have struggled with how to start contributing to the grand conversation by sharing my own thinking. Then, I encountered a challenge.  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