Over the past few weeks I have tried to find the time at the end of a busy Tuesday to listen in on the Leadership 20 sessions organised by George Couros. Usually I end up logging in about 20 minutes late, listen in while also marking a pile of papers, and then leave early to rush home to my family. So far I have managed to listen to the last half of Georges first session on ‘Blog as portfolio’ and half of Chris Smeaton’s session on ‘Visionary Leadership’; despite my fragmented approach these sessions have got my brain buzzing and full of questions.
Question 1: What supports need to be in place for teachers before rolling out e-portfolios k-12?
Wearing my technology coordinator hat I am always very aware that it is easy for technology integration to end up taking more of the teachers time, and supporting learning less, than expected. For a teacher that is not a geek to embrace technology and use it effectively to support learning they need support and recognition of the extra time it will take them to adopt a new way of doing things. In my experience it is easier to get support for a new initiative if the people involved know that you have really tried to put yourself in their shoes, and see the repercussions from their perspective, before embarking on the journey.
With that in mind, as much as I am a big proponent of e-portfolios I have not yet pushed them as a k-12 solution because I want to work out an effective workflow first. One of my concerns with e-portfolios is that they might tend to push more of the things our students do to show learning and reflection into the electronic space. While I appreciate that there are certain advantages of using technology to showcase learning, I still believe that very important learning happens face to face and using tactile materials like pencil and paper. It is in the transfer of these interpersonal and tactile artifacts of learning to an e-portfolio that I get stuck. Do you take pictures, scan, audio record, video record? Who manages all these files? The teacher? The students? How do the files get to the right place with the right degree of reflection? How do we do this without adding to the work load of already overworked teachers?
I realise that these questions need to be answered in partnership with the teachers involved and that they will look different for every institution; but I was heartened to hear that the Parkland School Division is using WordPress MU to host blogs for all their students and hope we might be able to build on their experience.
Question 2: How to blog about administration topics without betraying the trust of teachers?
When I was just blogging about classroom teaching the reflections about what were working and what needed improving were always about me. I was comfortable with that because the only person that I was reflecting on publically was me. I am not a school administrator, but I do wear the two hats of Technology Coordinator and MYP Coordinator, at my school. In both these roles I have visions of where I would like to move our school and how I want to do it, and I would like to blog about these ideas. The thing that is holding me back is the uncomfortable realisation that when I blog from the perspective of a school leader I am blogging about more than just myself; any reflection on my efforts as a coordinator generally involves sharing processes that involve other teachers as well. So, I am curious whart sorts of filters or frameworks do successful blogging leaders use to make sure they are not betraying teacher trust when they blog?
He has said many of the things that I have thought and I tried to embody and was brutally honest. He talked about struggles with staff, some of the things that he has done to improve the culture, but did it in a way that was real and wasn’t in a “political” tone. He was blunt but not offensive and he said nothing that anyone would deem unprofessional
There is a quote from Chris’s session that is still making the Twitter rounds: “you need to be able to conduct an autopsy without blame”. It seems to me that there is a connection between being an honest and upfront leader and being able to blog as a leader. The only way I can see myself being able to blog as a leader is if I am the kind of leader that approaches issues head on, is brutally honest about my intentions and respectfully honest about how I view a situation. If I can be this kind of leader, then I can see myself being more comfortable blogging as a leader.