Embracing Citizen-Journalism in K-12 Leadership

Note: The following is a re-post from LeaderTalk, and is a blog entry I wrote some time ago. Although the tools are dated, it's easy to imagine new ones that take their place. Amazing that while the ideas endure, the tools have changed dramatically!
Embracing Citizen-Journalism in K-12 Leadership
Job misery, shares Patrick Lencioni, author of various educational leadership books, comes as a result of 3 reasons. Those reasons include the following:
  1. Anonymity - If others in authority are unaware of what you are doing, then you are unhappy. We cannot long work in obscurity.

  2. Irrelevance - If our work is irrelevant, means nothing to the organization, has no impact on the bottom line—teaching and learning—then why do it? Why get up and fight the good fight?

  3. Immeasurement - Failure to measure our success—or lack of it—means that we are unable to assess our progress. And, without that tangible measure of forward movement, of change, it is too easy to be lost in the midst of the change we are trying to facilitate.
As an administrator, I see it as my role to clarify for staff how their work is relevant to the organization, to provide feedback on their rate of success, and to celebrate their hard work so that all know they are responsible. If we assume the mantle of citizen journalists, then we can tap into our own creativity and eradicate the 3 reasons misery finds its way into the hearts of our leadership teams.

Power in Creativity

When I do something—teach a class, create a product—I get a charge of energy. At the end of a day of meetings, I walk out drained, tired, and wishing I could take a nap before driving 45 minutes through bumper-to-bumper traffic. When I “do something,” I walk out feeling awesome and I’m ready to go out for the evening, craft administrative procedure, or facilitate a workshop.

The reason creativity is so powerful for me is that I am at heart, a teacher, a person who likes to share what he is learning with others. Citizen journalism is about reporting on what is going on around me, and enabling others to have access to experiences and ideas that are daily occurrences but that only a few see.

Fight Job Misery with Read/Write Web Tools

Patrick Finn, author of Literacy with an Attitude, shares that powerful literacy involves creativity and reason—the ability to evaluate, analyze and synthesize what is read…it is also the ability to write one’s ideas so that another person can understand them. As leaders in public schools, we can take on the 3 factors of job misery that Lencioni identifies and minimize them in school settings. It is simply a matter of using technology to transform the negative, to be creative and create online value that others can come to better understand what our students and staff are doing.

1- Recognize - “There is something that is much more scarce,” shared Elbert Hubbard, “something finer far, something rarer than ability. It is the ability to recognize ability.” With easy access to publish at will tools, you can easily recognize educators, students and parents in your school community.

Foster recognition by featuring the work you or your team does in blogs and video clips that show how they are working on behalf of their target audience or colleagues.  Some specific tools you can use to achieve this include:
  • Blogs - Setup a blog you can easily contribute to. Blogs make it easy for people to subscribe to them, and you can add photos and videos to them. While initial setup can be challenging, there are now many educators who can provide assistance.


  • Wikis - Moving to the next level, challenge teachers and others you trust to contribute content to a wiki, an editable web site. The ease of adding content should enable people to contribute content.
Both of these mediums are essentially blank journals, or bulletin boards, that can hold sound (e.g. podcasts), video (e.g. vidcasts) and text media (e.g. narratives). If you are not comfortable with embedding media like video or audio, put it on a web site that simplifies the process (e.g. Edublogs.tv is a great site to host video or audio at no cost and without advertising).

Once you have content online, you can also choose to create a narrated tour. Some tools you can use include the following:
  • Diigo Web Slides - These allow you to create narrated slideshows of web sites. The web sites remain interactive and clickable even as you add your audio narration to them.

  • Flowgram.com - This new tool enables you to combine audio narration with web sites, pictures, and a variety of content in one easy to use tool. You record directly from your computer (you’ll need a microphone) and just need to know the web address of the content you want to add. This makes it easy for you to highlight online work that your staff and students are creating and sharing via the Web.

  • Jog the Web - Create a guided tour of web sites, adding your comments to each site. Lacks the audio component available in Diigo Web Slides and FlowGram.com.
Other possibilities include using tools like MyPlick.com, VoiceThread.com to upload a slideshow document—such as one created in Powerpoint—and then adding audio to it. VoiceThread even enables your viewers to add audio, video and text of their own. What a fantastic way to recognize the work that is being done, and invite recognition of that work done by your staff by others!


2- Engage - Engage your colleagues in conversations and work that makes a difference in the lives of others. As educators, we have opportunities to engage others every day. One Read/Write Web tool that we can use to engage others is to facilitate professional meetings and learning that is available using Moodle. Often, our meetings and workshops leave us disconnected, shuffling from one disjointed event to another.

Creating a Moodle and empowering your staff to participate in it can provide opportunities for engagement, for enabling individuals to be heard and to exercise their voice. However, do not expect success immediately. It may very well take a year of hard work, including consolidating resources in one place, to see results. You can find Moodle.org online, and there are ample examples of Moodles being used to enhance work and professional learning settings.

3 - Set Clear Parameters for Success - If the team needs to be able to measure it’s own success, it’s own progress separate from me as the boss, then I need to set clear definition of what constitutes success. This is often difficult with changing expectations from above, “scope creep,” as projects do take on a life of their own. I always come back in those projects to whether the end user has learned how to use the technology proposed, and whether they are using it at a maximal level that optimizes their work.

While some administrators have access to project management tools (e.g. MS Projects), there are now ample tools that enable collaboration. Wikis and Moodles are two powerful tools you can use that do not involve adding yet another tool. However, data collection can sometimes be a challenge.

Why not use a tools like GoogleDocs Spreadsheets and Forms (login as guest) to collect information on the progress of an initiative? Or, install the Questionnaire module in Moodle (view example)? While these simple tools cannot replace more sophisticated project management tools, they do provide ways for educators to collaboratively design the parameters for success and to report progress on those.


Conclusion

As education administrators who have access to a variety of Read/Write Web techologies, it is possible for our teams to experience anonymity, irrelevance and immeasurement. Yet, it is a possibility well within our control as leaders.

Take a moment and learn how to use simple Read/Write Web tools to become a citizen journalist rather than continue as merely an administrator who waits for a Communications Department to decide what is newsworthy and what isn’t.

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

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