‘Technically’ leading

A lengthy conversation on twitter this afternoon has set me to thinking – yet again- about the use of social media and whether people have responsibilities regarding their influencing of others. The gist was that sometimes leading by example isn’t enough. That we are now past the phase of  “hey, look at this, isn’t it great? Now go and use it in your classroom tomorrow!”. The people taking part in this conversation were all people I choose to follow, as I respect their opinions, enjoy reading their ideas and blog posts, and think that they are people I would choose to have in my ‘ideal staffroom’. One idea put forward was that we are the leaders, which I guess we are, regardless of our actual positions within our actual schools.

I guess what Kelli referred to in her post http://kellimcgraw.com/2010/07/12/reframing-change/ applies to me also. I started getting interested in using technology when my old school got a smartboard in every room. All staff were expected to use them, as there was no longer any alternative. Even day to day casuals were expected to be able to deliver lessons using smartboards. That didn’t mean I considered myself a leader at that stage, I was just really enthusiastic and enthralled by the promise of what could be done. Traditionally maths is a pretty dry subject to teach, enlivened by as many hands on activities as you can think of! Because I was prepared to spend time experimenting, mainly at home, my skills grew until I ended up training my colleagues in the use of my preferred software. For many people the bare minimum of knowledge sufficed, enough to put notes on the screen and change the slide when required. Did it cause a shift in their pedagogy, engagement, or infuse them with the desire to go out and change the world. Generally not. Some people, however, did become very enthusiastic and went off to learn more by themselves. Guess these were the first and second followers, shown in that video Pip Cleaves is fond of!

At my new school there is a lot less technology in the school. Yes we are working on getting more resources and learning how to incorporate it into our teaching more productively; and yes there are people who are keen to use technology to engage the students. Classroom management, National Partnerships applications, new curricula and other things take lots of time and energy. In the new term, I hope that people will start focusing on incorporating tech again.

Do I feel that it is my responsibility to demand that they start spending huge amounts of time learning how to use web 2.0 stuff? No. Would I help them if they wanted to? Yes, gladly. In my own time. Over and over until they felt confident. Will I make suggestions where I feel an application would be great for that person? Yes. Insist on them trying it? No. I understand that there are family commitments, and ‘real lives’, and that some people have no desire to spend their time glued to a computer at home, particularly if they find it challenging to even turn one on…

It has been my experience that people telling me I have to do something (especially if I know I actually DON’T have to) has been enough for me to dig my heels in. And incorporating technology on a regular basis is not compulsory in maths. Spreadsheets and the use of graphics software are recommended, only the former actually mandated. The staff in my current staffroom have proved fairly receptive to ideas on using technology, we are currently giving an assignment which is paperless to be completed by yr 10. This is a huge step for all my staff, prior to this year there was one data projector and OHPs.

Another point from the discussion was about the dominance of some people online (this was not necessarily from Kelli’s post ). That ‘leaders’ on social media sites post more, influence more, and have responsibilities to their followers than the ‘others’. I only follow the people I choose to, and have ‘unfollowed’ tweeps who I felt I was not learning from, enjoying social chatting with, or just couldn’t keep up with the sheer volume of their largely irrelevant ( to me) tweets. As an individual I have that right. I feel no responsibility to my followers, neither do I assume that those I follow are responsible for my personal development. I love talking to my PLN and they make me laugh, question what I am doing at times, and contribute to my continual professional development.

Though them I have learned other things too; where to send my sons to school in an unfamiliar area, gained the chance to be involved in some exciting projects in this region, advice on things I knew little about, and genuine compassion when two of my grandparents died in the past fortnight. I have learned so much in the past year from my PLN, and that’s why I spend hours on my computer reading their tweets!

3 thoughts on “‘Technically’ leading

  1. Very well said Jacqui, points on technology as a must does not go down well with any adult, but used in such a fashion as to have them ask ‘how do you do that’ or ‘how can I learn that’, is how it is best done.

    People like Pip, priorcomitment, etc., on Twitter have opend up so many new ideas in educational technology, this much maligned social networking media is looked at too quickly, with not enough research and forthought.

    I liked what I saw in your maths Notebook presentations last Saturday, keep up the good work as it is a fine example of how IWB’s can be used in the classroom as a learning tool and not just a fancy whiteboard.

    I’d like to add a bit in saying that all technology is a tool in teaching, none better than the other, all play a role in making our classrooms more interesting and more interactive for students in the 21st century classroom. We can say that SmartBoards are the best form of learning in any classroom as if they are not used in the correct manner and with careful planning, then they aren’t much use at all as a learning tool, as is all other digital technology in the classroom.

  2. ROFL – I think you and I were furiously typing blog posts on the same topic at the same time. I think this is reflective of the fact that we are on the same journey – different subjects, same goal – to make education current, relevant and enjoyable for all involved!
    I love your comments that you don’t like being forced to do something, so why would others. I for one am taking a big step back and turning down the intensity a few notches for next term.

    Love your post and can’t wait to chat more on twitter.

    bianca :0)

    PS: Sorry about your grandparents, I missed that with all the other rush of holiday tweets and life. xx

  3. Thanks for this reflection – I feel like I’ve been a bit of the mark in my last few posts, and tonight (through thrashing it out with you, Jan, my PLN…) I feel like I’ve finally hit upon some ideas that are generative, rather than just critical.

    I still do have concerns about how identity is constructed online. But to an extent, this is out of our control. If a lot of people follow me, my voice starts to carry weight. I’m very upfront about being someone who shifts their thinking as my ideas develop, but you’ve gotta hate that feeling when you’ve finally talked some key people into using, say, Ning, only to have it become a subscription only service. Or when you recommend a site and someone spends ages setting up a teaching space, only to find it’s been blocked. Or…when you spend a few years banging on about ‘leading by example’, and then find yourself unsatisfied with the capacity of that model!

    Ideally, I think we should all be acting as leaders in the sense that we stay true to our philosophies, model our beliefs about best practice, and always try to support each other in the quest for learning. By my PLN remains oriented around the ‘personal’ first and foremost, around ‘learning’ second (not all reflection and play leads to learning!), and around the shared quests of the ‘network’ after those. If I were to give up my own learning journey to meet the needs of the network…well, then I wouldn’t be modelling best practice, would I?

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