Saturday, January 17, 2009

Comparte Mas!


"Share more!" is advice I like to share with people I work with, and advice that I have to keep in mind during MY work. By sharing it, I remember. I was so enamoured of the term that I created an FTP account for document sharing (years ago) and use "share" as the login, "more" as the password. In reading The ClueTrain Manifesto, which I hope you've read, I kept getting hit by the kinds of changes K-12 institutions need to go through.

One of the most fundamental is a willingness to make mistakes in public, to accept that learning and sharing what we do as we learn is critical to our success in a networked environment. The quote that jumped out at me from ClueTrain is really a Herman Melville quote.

Let us speak, though we show all our faults and weaknesses--for it is a sign of strength to be weak, to know it, and out with it...
Source: Herman Melville as cited in The ClueTrain Manifesto

This approach of only sharing when we are perfect is so tempting. I want to share ONLY when I have it together, ONLY when my work is perfect. It is a temptation to be perfect, to make decisions only when we have all the information we need. Ewan McIntosh in a recent blog entry writes:

The school has several potential 'gurus' in digital media, active learning and critical skills work - but they have successfully resisted the temptation to keep their 'secrets' and that guru status.
Source: Leading from Behind, edublogs

Our gurus should be those who are unafraid to share their most vulnerable moments, those moments when they are learning that show they do not know what they are doing but are trying to learn.

For our leaders, Melville's quote has profound implications. Instead of just sharing what they know--making themselves unassailable and therefore unreachable--they should be sharing what they don't know. Maxwell, the leadership guru, likes to share that you should staff your weaknesses. I agree with that because I am well aware of my own limitations. Staffing my weaknesses as a leader enables the team to accomplish a lot more than what I can imagine. The problem is, as leader, I may limit their imagination unless I admit that I am NOT a guru, that I am fallible.

One of my team was sharing that we should pick a particular project, work out all the kinks, make it perfect before expanding the implementation. Others on the team disagreed. "Let's organize it and then put it out there and see what happens." On the one hand, lock it down until we had it perfect. On the other, open it up and share it, even if it meant making mistakes. The project? Setting up Moodle courses for our workshops.

I was reminded of my time at a regional service center. The business manager, the central office wanted to approve all newsletters that were printed by the divisions. By the time I got approval back on one newsletter, months had passed. I had felt a wave unreality flow past me. My immediate supervisor felt it, as well. Then, the question, "What if we use the Web? It's always being revised, always under construction." So, I had approval to build a web site for the Educational Technology Services site. What do you think one of the first publications was? It was an online newsletter.

Years later, after we had a vibrant site, the Executive Director became aware of it. Apparently, someone had complimented her on the quality of the web site, and she had become aware of it. It was a bit disconcerting to be told, then, that something similar to the following would have to happen:

All Web pages must be formally approved by the Department of Business Prevention....
Source: The ClueTrain Manifesto

The reaction? Exactly what ClueTrain shared--cold water onto all that magic-mushroom enthusiasm. The next challenge came from the business manager. "Why," she asked, "are you giving away all your workshop handouts? Districts should pay for those, attend face to face workshops and then receive the handouts."


"When people who have never been to our workshops, and had no intention of attending our workshops," I replied, "get a copy of those handouts, they suddenly want to come to the workshops. Our handouts online also build good rapport with our customers and they change so frequently that they should be available for everyone on the Web."

I was unsuccessful in explaining this approach, but stubborn enough to maintain the web site "out there" and have sufficient support from my supervisors to keep it in operaton. These ideas were foreign to the top leadership in our organization. "Share more," was an imperative for me as a classroom teacher, as a workshop facilitator, and I feel so affirmed and validated in today's culture of sharing.

But, back then, our approach to share more was not valued EXCEPT by our "customers," people whom I like to think of as fellow teachers "just down the hall or around the corner." So, the top leadership eventually won. They locked down the web site, they took the materials down, put it all up behind their walls.

Share more.








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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure