Learning Networks for New Zealand School Leaders

Leadership summaries provided by the Ministry of Education include;

  • Leadership is now about empowering, transforming, and working together – Leading from the Middle – MOE
  • “Effective principals have external networks that range from face-to-face through to online contacts. Networks help provide them with up-to-date and relevant knowledge about educational trends and issues. They give opportunities for making connections and developing learning partnerships that can be an effective way of sharing resources.” Kiwi Leadership for Principals MOE 2007
    •  “Ko te manu e kai ana i te miro, nöna te ngahere. Ko te manu e kai ana i te mätauranga, nöna te ao”

                Reciprocal learning and exemplary modelling of innovation that leads to the effective    creation, development and delivery of high quality authentic learning contexts and practice. Tū Rangatira – MOE 2010

Networking Opportunities knock every day!

Our learning world encompasses around 2 billion people actively connected to the internet and access to knowledge about past, present and future human activity is at its cheapest. Never before has it been possible to bring the thinking and understanding of so many together so quickly and easily.

The complexity and rapidity of social and technological change bring educational leadership special challenges – we face never before considered issues, such as disaffection with schooling, transient students, social expectations that schools will solve all ills and so on. In other words school leadership is firmly embedded in complex issues while governments in the OECD world place more and more focus on achievement and school performance accountability.

The traditional model of the principal “knowing it all” lies in a heap and needs to be replaced with a model that empowers the principal to be a networked learner and leader. The principal constantly works on using her/his personalised network(s) to link to and reflect upon new ideas, new solutions, reflective thought and discussion, coaching and feedback. In other words the network provides access to the leadership/thinking power of many others.

The networked principal applies a diverse range of personal skills at all levels of his/her networking.

Within School

  • Within school and face-to-face networking involves diverse relationship building and maintaining skills combined with a never ending thirst for new understanding, viewpoints and appreciation of students, teachers and community needs. Networking skills include publishing (sharing) one’s understandings, position on issues, reflections about issues and changes. Coaching and shared learning are other important networking skills.
  • Within school these leadership skills are important contributors to the trust, shared goals and a willing certainty that the school’s classrooms are the homes of strong internal networks and are growing to be strongly networked to world learning. In this home-base network the learning exchanges are a mix of kanohi ki te kanohi, paper exchanges, on the school server sharing and analysis. Some are lengthy and planned. Some are short and sharp and unplanned. These by chance interactions are a huge benefit for the school learning network as frequently they produce new possibilities and lift the network into new realms of operating at a higher plane because the shared learning is right at the “chalk-face” so the leader(s) see, understand, approve and support all at a rapid pace.
  • One can argue that a school leader ensures that these in school networking interactions are seen as the leader modelling what every member of the school community needs to be doing – engaging in collaborative learning, questioning and listening in depth, respecting the views of others and trusting others to act fairly and openly about their learning exchanges.
  • One can argue that the school leader who is successfully engaging in such in school networking develops the skills and disposition to successfully expand and use networks in wider groups and even nationally and internationally.

Within New Zealand

  • Within Aotearoa, the district and local region the same networking capacities and skills are applied with the belief that educational progress will only be fully embedded when there is shared responsibility and action about achievement across geographical areas. Our networks of school leaders are so small that we have an extraordinary opportunity to grow our leadership capacities in ways that the larger nations of the world can only dream about.
  • We can in Aotearoa combine elements of kanohi ki te kanohi with the online interactions in a surprising number of ways – thus the opportunity to build online trust and security is likely to be more quickly achieved than in big societies. This in turn should mean that we are able to interact more easily with others engaged in similar leadership settings and can interact across leadership levels and up and down through different levels of leadership responsibility.
  • Diffusion of ideas and new possibilities should be easier to spread if leaders can adopt a sharing, collaborative, trustworthy and trusting approach to their interactions. (Note this open approach is handicapped in many leaders minds by the need to protect “their schools intellectual property” in case others will “take more students” in the next round of enrolments.

Across the Internet

  • Across the world the same networking capacities and skills can be used to share learning with others and gain fresh insights.     


Making the Networked Principal

Use the opportunities;

  • Every day brings opportunity to network at all levels – in school, district, Aotearoa and the world.
  • Every day brings opportunity to collapse under the weight infowhelm.
  • Every day great ideas keep re-surfacing and new ones emerge!
  • Every day school leaders feel driven by the expectations of their communities to deal with the here and now. As the experts they as leaders should be seen to be super busy and super resourceful.
  • Every day issues and complexities that have been unsolved or unresolved arise again.
  • Every day there are astounding learning achievements in Kiwi schools
  • Regularly stopping to think is all too rarely placed on the agendas of busy school principals. 

 Can we establish a New Zealand wide network of school leaders where increasingly we apply a collective approach to solving the complex problems of education while strongly supporting the astounding learning that already goes on?

Perhaps networking approaches that treasure and value all learners include;

  • Coaching and truly sharing learning
  • Listening to what is happening both inside the minds of learners and teachers as well as what appears on the surface.
  • Networking built on strong face-to-face learning interactions that treasure and grow relationships then being mirrored in online and blended learning settings.
  • Leadership learners who have a strong sense of confident self management about their learning – they seek and question readily expecting to find what they need rather than wait to be told.
  • School Professional Learning is no longer dependent on external forces providing the means to activate teacher and principal learning – the power is in our own hands to make professional learning fit our own contexts as and when we need it. (The means to conquer distance being of huge significance for rural town and district schools in terms of time and money saved.)

Recognise the capacity of IT and internet tools to advance networking

 Notice so far that I have not mentioned specific technologies and their tools. This is because the capacity to network effectively is the most important thing not knowing about the most tools. However the explosion of technologies to support networked learning has meant that we need to be carrying out networking learning processes such tools.

  • Individual reflections and observations – publish in an online blog/journal and invite feedback from others. E.g. WordPress, …
  • Storing evidence of your leadership actions and events – online and or on servers that never fail! E.g. Dropbox, Slideshare, My Portfolio …
  • Open to learning gathering of sources/ideas/questions – RSS feeds, Aggregators such as www.educationalleaders.govt.nz,  Twitter, Diigo, …
  • Engage in regular dialogue – online and face-to-face about leadership issues and questions – within your school and community (e.g. Principals blog) with other leaders (VLN & My Portfolio) with others in other countries (MOOCs)
  • Engage in regular dialogue – online and face-to-face that lifts your thinking into double and triple loop thinking where the What if… thinking is helping to produce ideas and solutions beyond what has been considered in the past.
  • Using your Walking Wikipedias – establish a means to identify powerful contacts and interact with as needed – using the full range of networking tools. Use IT tools to help remember who and their significance to your leadership context. E.g. follow them on Twitter, Facebook, their blog, ring them up, speak to them at hui…


Establish a Kiwi Linkage of Leaders that is self-managed and used by self-managers


Adopting internet based tools a school leader in New Zealand can be an effective networker and add to the world’s appreciation of leading school advances. Applying sound networking principles of giving and in turn using and receiving each leader can benefit themselves and their schools as well as giving to others in their schools.

A simple way to ensure sources and items of value to New Zealand school leaders is to adopt the nz addition to tags being made online for things that are of particular interest for Kiwi leaders. E.g. In Twitter using the following would sharpen our use of the links provided;

NAPPnz  – National Aspiring Principals Programme (New Zealand)

PLEnz – personal learning environment (New Zealand) 

Leadershipnz – …

Distributed Leadershipnz – …

Enough Said

This summary is an off the cuff set of reflections about self-managed learning. It has been influenced by a diverse range of events, actions and walking Wikipedia over the past 5 years as I have dipped my toes into the “flow of the internet” and observed the rapid expansion of social media tools.


About rogersvlle

Thinking about learning leaders and adding the internet and Its elements to their working worlds.
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