Friday, August 13, 2010

Open Learning and Leadership: The Power of Relationships

I have discovered that I have carried Fear about posting to my blog, mainly a fear regarding “do I haveRelationships.An Investment something worthy to say?” “Will it be read?” “Will people care?” “Will it make sense?” I have been doing a lot of reading of bloggers I admire (Lisa Nielsen, @InnovativeEdu, all bloggers on The Connected Principal, Steven Anderson, @web20classroom) and really am amazed at not only the depth of each posting, but the frequency by which they post, almost feeling overwhelmed by the shear volume of it all: Where to begin? What to write about? How often to post?
But then it dawned on me. This epiphany came while reading Open Leadership by Charlene Li; speaking of the Obama Campaign’s disruptive and transformational use of technology, she writes, “it [President Obama’s Campaign'] used technology to reach out and create a relationship where there wasn’t one before . . . .” Isn’t that the key? Whether we use Twitter, Facebook, Ning, Plurk, Google Anything, or in this case blogging, we are connecting and engaging with other educational leaders to build relationships that are predicated on transparency, trust, open communication, and free sharing of information. If I approach my digital media endeavor with that open-mindset then I will assuage that FEAR and truly leverage these interactive technologies for the benefit of the community. I heard Lisa Nielsen say, speaking of Twitter, that it “is not about the tweet, but about the conversation.” To have conversation, we must have two-way engagement from at least two people. With blogging and other digital tools, I see that this same approach applies. Conversation constructs relationships, supports it, helps it to flourish. When we write for an authentic audience, we are conversing, connecting, and collaborating.  Li continues by saying, “The repeated successful interchange of people sharing their thoughts, activities, and concerns results in relationships.”
Connections In the same vein as the Tapscott quote above, David Warlick poignantly states, “I blog to learn. Many of my blog entries are questions from which I learn from others." This collective is not just confined to blogging, but to all digital media designed for those who engage to learn and lead together.
I have found myself just “tweeting” to be “tweeting”—making sure I get my quota in for the day; or wrestling with what to blog about because I feel I need to keep up with the blogging “Joneses”. And because of this chasing the wind, I have lost out on the connection, the learning, the relationships.  I really find most value-add when I comment on a blog or respond to a tweet sent out to our PLN to help with a presentation, give a “shout-out” to a room full of new Twitter users, (or just today, offering encouragement to the class of 2014 at Patrick Larkins’s [@bhsprincipal] school), or add feedback to a Wall in Wallwisher for the best Web 2.0 tool for the elementary classroom. This interaction is so critical to the survival of a PLN (Lisa Nielsen speaks of this in her recent blog post The PLN Matures).
I (and others readChange.One Waying this post) have to guard against the “one-way” mentality , interested only in what we have to say, tweeting or blogging about self-interests. I realize that blogging is a self-reflective activity  However, when I only do this, I miss the point. The last 9 months have been by far been the most extraordinary professional growth in my 20 years in education. And it has been due to the relationships garnered in my PLN, the conversations begun with a single tweet and carried over into a larger discussion (#edchat, #cpchat, #edtech, #elemchat). Although lurking and observing has such value initially--to learn, to assess the lay of the land, to discover the “do’s” and “don’ts”, to feel comfortable--CONTRIBUTION to the conversation is absolutely essential.  
I, therefore, resolve to exchange, engage, and share. Will you join me in that charge?

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