Check Yourself in the Mirror

Note: Another oldy but goody from, a blog entry I wrote when my son was nine years old (he's 16 now). Again, amazing how the ideas have endured!

Check Yourself in the Mirror
"Check yourself in the mirror," my Dad would call out each morning before we left for the drive to school. That last minute look in the mirror would often reveal a hair out of place, or that my shirt buttons and belt buckle weren't lined up right. Worse, it might show a bit of stubble--when in high school--that I hadn't shaved, or crud in the corner of my eye.

Now, every morning, I offer my sixteen year old the same advice. It's not about vanity but knowing how you will appear to others. And, if you're sending the message you want to send, then that's fine. But if you're not, that last check in the mirror can provide a crucial moment of insight. While some prefer to never look in the mirror when it comes to their organization, it's absolutely necessary. Our role today in schools is about building Global Communications Center for our campus or district. It is NOT the job of the Communications's YOUR job as an educational leader.

Dave Fleet shares some suggestions for online monitoring of your organization's image, or the buzz around it. He says it's important that before you do anything--such as set up a blog, whatever--that you find out how to track what's going on out there. I see his suggestions as part and parcel of establishing your own Global Communications Center for your school or District. Fleet writes:
Before your organization launches a blog, before you start playing with Facebook, before you even think about Twitter, you should be listening to what people are saying about you.
"Google is managing your identity unless you are," as quoted by Dean Shareski in his Going Global, Going Public. "What digital footprints are existing for you right now? It's not an ego search but to find what others are saying about you." This goes for each of us, but also, for organizations like schools. But it's important we go, as Dean and others share, beyond just tracking our digital footprints, but that of others' footprints when they interact with our organizations.

As an edublogger, this is something I learned while setting up my blog and finding ways to connect with others. However, the tools that are available now are much more comprehensive than what were available when I began. A quick look at Dave's suggestions, and I'm astonished that I'm using most of these approaches already. What I doubt is happening, though, is that school districts and schools are doing this...most of our organizations may very well have a less than active interaction with news and other people out there. Simply publishing your own television show isn't enough when most people thrive online, and most content endures online more than in a broadcast.

I love this quote (Christian Grantham as cited in about ending the "passive relationship with local news" in this blog entry. What catches my attention is that the same tribulations and troubles students, teachers and leaders are going through, well, that's what a lot of folks in the news industry are going through. You could tweak this paragraph easily to reflect the angst among educators:
I love working with people who see the importance of the role the net will play in transforming the way the world gets and interacts with information. I also love working with veterans of news, and I will always remember the challenges they face with the changes that are happening. For some, that change is very difficult. But the fact is, we are no more in the television and newspaper business than Wal-Mart is in the trucking business. Our business is no longer the industry that surrounds distribution – the trucks, the printing press, the reams of paper, the broadcast towers, the satellite dishes, the lights, the huge cameras, the buildings, the “live trucks”…

It’s the final product: information. The market in an on-demand world for news and information where people have to wait to receive a highly produced product is steadily shrinking. At the same time, the online audience for news and information is growing significantly. It’s an exciting time to be working in a new medium that is transforming the way we get information.
How has our "business" in education changed? It's no longer about textbooks, that's for sure and canned ideas. It's about creativity, communication, collaboration. Even as the market shrinks in the news world, in the education world, I find this statement to be as true as it's ever been in education (BTW, the link below includes a Clay Shirky moment in video):
If our information was made freely available and became the building blocks through which other work could be done - we would be the foundation upon which the news and information world is built upon.
Source: DigiDave - Journalism is a Process, Not a Product: Changing the Legal Structure for Digital Journalism
That education is still the foundation--albeit being switfly eroding--is because it is firmly entrenched in a "no market" environment. What's neat about becoming your own "global communications center" is that you can teach students these skills as you're setting up your classroom web site. I

magine what would have happened if model classroom teachers using blogs with students had set these tools up (if they'd been available) BEFORE they started blogging with their students. Wouldn't it have been awesome to capture the feedback flowing in from all over the world, including traditional and participatory reporting?

You know, I hadn't ever thought of myself--or the work the Communications Dept in a school district--does as Global Communications. But, that is exactly what we're doing with Read/Write Web tools. And, that is the challenge facing districts as well as journalists. We are caught up in a "citizen" journalism, teacher communicator.
"Should learning professionals be leading the charge around new work literacies such as social media and informal learning?" Good question. My answer: yes. Because everyone should be. Tucker writes, "my responsibility is to work on my own sphere of influence, starting with our online course development team leading by example for our facilitators." Christy Tucker, Experiencing E-Learning
Source: As commented on and cited by Stephen Downes
How are YOU setting up your Global Communications Center? How are YOU leading the charge? The answer to this question is a lot easier than taking this position:
Al Gore said: "We have to abandon the conceit that isolated personal actions are going to solve this crisis. Our policies have to shift." He was talking about global climate change but he might as well have been talking about our attempts to transition schools into the 21st century…
Source: Our Policies have to Shift, Dr. Scott McLeod, Dangerously Irrelevant
Compare that approach--abandoning the conceit that isolated personal actions are going to solve the crisis in education, or journalism--to this one from Pete Reilly (EdTech Journeys) with his tale of Gandhi's decision to not offer advice unless he was living by it himself.

When you get up tomorrow morning, take a moment to check your school or district's virtual image in the mirror of public opinion. Begin now to build the resources you need to keep track of those, and make a difference.

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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