Thursday, February 3, 2011

Connected Principals Reflections - From My Friend George Couros

This reflection was originally posted on my friend George's blog - George and I facilitated a conversation (A Call for All Educators! How do we get more "Connected" Principals?) at Educon this past weekend that we feel is critical to helping schools and classrooms continue to evolve into the environments our students need in order to best prepare for their future.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by jeremyfoo

Patrick Larkin and I had the honour (he had the honor) of leading a conversation at Educon on Sunday and had some fantastic learning experiences ourselves with people from all areas of education. It was great to see so many of our “Connected Principal” colleagues able to attend both virtually and in person as it is great that we have supported each other. The whole point of starting Connected Principals in the first place was to build a network of administrators so that we could learn from each other along with others. I could not have imagined the network of learning that has been created. I am truly humbled every day by the passion of those that share and write.

I just wanted to share some of the quotes that we had collected from our session on this shared Google Document that was created for this:

Why is being involved in social media worth the time for administrators?

  • Principals like to lay claim to the “instructional leader” title, but convincing teachers that you have the intellectual curiosity to serve as an instructional leader is difficult when they have no evidence of what you know and can do.
  • We need to lead by example. If you want to get your teachers and students connected, you need to be connected and share the value of these connections.
  • It’s a way to connect and converse with people who are thinking deeply and taking action in education. Those connections and conversations make your own learning more efficient. Professional growth in a social media spaces can save you time in the long run.
  • Is it reasonable to ask teachers to be intellectually vulnerable when that same expectation isn’t modeled by their leaders? Social media spaces make it possible to model that intellectual vulnerability.

How will administrators being connected improve opportunities/learning for students?

  • When principals see value in the kinds of tools and services that make social learning possible, they’re more likely to work to provide access to similar tools and services for their students. The flawed perception that learning in social media spaces is risky quickly disappears when you spend a bit of time in the digital pool.
  • Being connected opens your eyes to experiences beyond those in your district, county, or state. If you don’t pick your head up and look around, innovation will pass you by (therefore passing your teachers and students by).
  • It shows our students we are not stuck in the 1950 modality of instruction. It models appropriate behavior for our students. I think it’s important to teach them responsible usage and not just lock them out.

How will administrators being connected improve opportunities/learning for staff?

  • Staff members need to see administrators taking risk in front of them. I often tackle an unfamiliar online tool in front of my faculty in faculty meetings so they can see I’m willing to take risks as well. Also, they get to see me struggling and understand that it is ok to fumble around with new tech.
  • Learning in online spaces is far more efficient than learning in offline spaces. That efficiency will determine who is successful and who isn’t in tomorrow’s world. If you’re not working and learning in new social spaces, you can’t possibly understand how networks can make learning more efficient—-and if you lack that understanding, you can’t pass it on to your teachers and students.

How will administrators being connected improve opportunities/learning for themselves?

  • (Love this) They will be more interesting people. that helps everything.

Here is a question that was added by participants…

What barriers/challenges stand in the way of seeing more principals in connected learning spaces?

  • Principals are public figures in a profession that can be controversial. Making yourself transparent—opening your thoughts and ideas to push-back—can be a risky move.

  • Many principals are inflexible. “I have been doing this for 15 years. I have this down, I don’t need to improve or change how things are running in my building.” Serious roadblock.

There are many other points that are in this session, and it was amazing to see all of this information compiled as we did not even give participants the time to work on the document; the conversation just took over.

One thing that I came to realize from this whole conversation has stuck with me. I flat-out stated that I want to be great and the only way that I can achieve this is by creating opportunities of greatness for my staff and students. Why would I not want to do well? Only through them, will I ultimately achieve success as a leader. Not all principals may want this for themselves, but they must want this for their staff and students, which ultimately would lead to their own success. I believe that through this continuous opportunity of learning and the ability to connect, we create the opportunities for our staff, and more importantly, our students to be great.

Hopefully through this continued learning that I am able to be a part of, and being connected, I have the ability to better serve my staff and students. Isn’t that why administrators do this in the first place?

Thanks again to those who attended the session. It was a great opportunity to improve my own learning and the conversation was fantastic.

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