Back in the early history of online connections for school leaders in New Zealand we coined the comment,”Individually we might struggle and make mistakes in our leadership but collectively we can master all problem solving and define strategies that work.” (This was generated in 2003-2004 before broadband was much more than a mirage for most schools and the online world was seen mainly as a place of reference. It still applies today – 2010.)
Although progress has been made in achieving this collective goal of connecting, via the internet, the “pools of expertise” in schools, advisory services and universities much more communicative interaction is needed to support school leaders and teachers in their drive for achievement levels previously thought impossible. This support needs to reach across the gaps between the pools of expertise so those in the school context are able to benefit from the defining shape and focus established by School Leadership and Student Outcomes, Kiwi Leadership for Principals, and Ki te Aoturoa.
Reading this collection of wisdom and research backed focus and shape for leadership strategising provides school leaders with plenty to consider. As a leader one can start to use and discuss the specific strategies and their meaning. However there is a need to bridge the gap between the well crafted statements in such resources and the realities of in school contexts. Simple questions like, “What does ako look like in our school?” or “What does creating educationally powerful connections look like?”
Taking this latter question and digging into it further raises some very interesting and demanding questions:
- How do you “establish continuities between student identities and school practices”?
- How do you “develop continuities and coherence across teaching programmes”?
- How do you “ensure effective transitions across educational settings”?
In applying such sound ideas to a school context I wonder about such things as – how long do these things take? How much leadership energy and emotion will be required? What do other school leaders think of such questions? Who can give me regular and objective comment about leading change processes related to such questions? Where can I find the thinking of other leaders?
All such questions target the gathering knowledge to meet school context needs.
Bridges Connecting the Pools of Expertise
Bridges between pools of expertise need to be two way, four way or even eight way structures that allow and encourage easy and rapid flows of thoughts, observations and feelings.
The bridges need to allow for differentiation to fit the many school contexts leaders operate in. In other words the school leaders need to be in control of how they build and connect their own Personal Learning Environments (PLE’s).
The bridges need to reach out to ideas and knowledge 24/7 and maintain access to the thinking of others both past and present.
The users of the bridges all need to be publishers – this is seen as an essential step in leaders learning. Publishing for an audience and especially for an unknown one forces you to clarify your thinking and openly encourages response if you clearly seek assistance or support.
The users of the bridges all need to be capable “listeners” as they consider the thinking and knowledge of others. They must make special effort to understand and dig into the ideas and positions taken by those who have differing points of view.
“Engage in open-to-learning conversations” is an essential element of pooling expertise. You are opening out your views and knowledge for others to consider and respond to.
Am I right in thinking that advisors, facilitators and those engaged in research and tertiary education have responsibility to actively interact and share across these bridges?
Dean Shareski in How to make better teachers opens up the power of blogs as a key element in this bridging.
Sacha Chua in Six Steps to making sharing part of how you work provides some very useful suggestions about what to do as we grow collaboration. Practical and applied to learning more and using time more successfully.
Conclusion/the End for Today
Blogs offer so much as a basis for shared learning.
I’ll return with more.