If you have seen this video a hundred times, please don’t go away yet.
Scroll down …
If it is new to you, please take a moment to view it. It was produced in 2008. At the time, it was at the leading edge, and it was used as an introduction to so many presentations on school reform and educational technology.
I encountered this video this past week in an interesting context. I won’t share the context right now, but I do want the share my reaction to the video as it relates to the question, “How do you lead change?”.
This video is really old, yet so little has changed in the 4-5 years since it was first produced. Why is it that there has been so little change?
Perhaps I think this way because of my current perspective. There are pockets of change, pockets that have reached that critical mass and are growing now. This was so evident at #ECOO12 last month, and #Unplugd12 earlier this year.
When I moved to northwestern Ontario, I wanted change to happen fast. I created this wiki, hoping others would collaborate on it with me. I led professional development sessions on Web 2.0 tools. I think some people were interested, but not committed, and it fizzled.
I failed. But from failure comes learning.
Back then, my approach was “here I am, this is what I know, you should do this too”. I couldn’t understand why nobody else was excited about this.
How do you lead change? How do you turn this frustration, this utter frustration, into leading change?
For me, there was a strong need to flee. I felt so totally isolated in a place where nobody seemed to be “getting it” that I just wanted out. I was scared that I was getting behind just because my own learning felt like it was at a standstill.
Fortunately, I can live in the beautiful, isolated place, yet still find my tribe. The movers and shakers in education are just a tweet away. By building and growing my online Professional Learning Network (PLN), I could still move my own learning forward while modeling the kind of learning and change I knew had to happen.
When you are trying to lead change, finding your own peer group, your own learning network, your own support system is critical. Going it alone isn’t going to work. A leader needs to be able to thrive in the environment too. If a leader feels like their own growth is being stifled, the excitement, the learning, the conversations will not have the energy and enthusiasm needed for change to move forward.
Leaders need to keep growing and modeling change, they can’t get stuck. Leaders need to celebrate all the little events that show progress. We need to build that critical mass where you have so many people sharing and learning together that collaborative learning becomes the norm, and those not doing it are the odd people out.
Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.
Teachers have taught me this year that I have to meet them where they are. This is not about where I am, this is about where they are and what they need to move forward.
It was a career highlight for me this week when I walked into the staffroom and heard a teacher say, “ Did you see that video that Donna posted on Twitter last night?”. Then, the teacher proceeded to show the video to her colleagues on her smart phone. Wow. That is what a staff room should look like, full of excitement about sharing and learning.
Early one morning this week I woke up and checked my Twitter feed to find that another aspiring leader had joined our conversations on Twitter. Within a day she was already writing about how “addicted” she was to the learning and how blogging was the next step for her.
When another teacher asked about starting a wiki, I shared with her the wiki I started four years ago. We talked about how four years ago, this was the wrong approach. I didn’t recognize that it was too early, that change isn’t linear, that there are the right starting points for different people, and that where I was, was not where they were.
Building capacity with teachers is critical if change is to happen. With social media, “giving the tools to teachers” has become much easier.
Talking about tools and sharing resources and enthusiasm is not enough. Listening to teachers talk about their ideas for their students, and matching that enthusiasm with the right tools for them to move forward is essential.
We must introduce educators to places where they can enhance their own learning and find others with the same needs and goals. We can all learn on Twitter 24/7. There are over 300 educational chats, and the amount of information on how to bring 21st century learning and skills into the classroom is overwhelming. Encouraging teachers to use technology, and to model their own learning, needs to be a priority if change is to occur.
Change involves learning. It is an exciting time for learning for all, not just students. Learning to learn is critical for all of us to thrive as we move to make our schools better reflect where society is, and to focus on preparing our students for the world as it is today and as it will be for them, not the industrial model of the past.