“If there is anything that is underdeveloped in educational reform, it is the operational knowledge base that should be possessed and continually updated and refined by organizational members. Leonard (1995) confirms that effective organizations couple their internal problem-solving capacities with constant access to and consideration of external knowledge.” Michael Fullan, Change Forces: The Sequel, 1999.
Ever the forward-thinking educational provocateur, Fullan started writing over two decades ago about educational reform in an aggressive style. It is a style that most would take for granted now in education. Part of his focus for change intended to turn schools inside-out.
“If I had just invented Facebook, Twitter, …. fill in the social media outlet of your choice, I would have struck it big.” For educators, the time to seek external knowledge is now and there is no better engine to use than Twitter. Fullan himself could not have envisioned the power of Twitter to capture the vision he had in Chapter 4 of his Sequel: The Deep Meaning of Outside Collaboration. In the chapter, Fullan expressed zeal for schools with a “absorptive capacity.” In other words, they could steal great ideas and use them for the benefit of their students. On page 43, there were four things he said these schools of the future would do would be to:
1. create porous boundaries
2. scan broadly
3. provide for continuous interaction
4. nurture technological gatekeepers
Sounds a lot like educational use of Twitter by our best educators, doesn’t it? Let’s look at how great educators and schools could use these four elements for the betterment of their schools.
1. create porous boundaries. Why limit our search for great ideas to education? Why limit the venues from which we gather creative opportunities? Fullan, using research from Harvard Business School’s Dorothy Leonard-Barton, suggested bombarding our educators with ideas. The “new normal” of education today should not be driven by ensuring content retainment. Fullan’s idea of porous boundaries envisions learners with the skills to filter information through many layers. If we wanted students who could regurgitate info back to us, then yes a non-porous, sticky surface makes sense. Three days of instruction and the testing cloud of dust each week would make sense. Instead Fullan and forward thinking educators would throw hundreds of ideas at learners, have them process, and then act. In the porous process, ideas would get lost, certainly and temporarily. However, a few ideas would captivate and the learner would have the opportunity to make new meaning, and more importantly, make progress with the idea. Twitter allows for that rapid bombardment of ideas to come streaming at us. We simply take and use what we need and filter through that which we do not.
2. Scan broadly. How big is your PLN (Professional Learning Network)? Twitter allows us to be on a first name basis with folks from the four corners of the world. My regular feed shares the thoughts of those in Atlanta, Scotland, LA, the Hawaiian Islands and on to Australia. I have business moguls and 9th grade English teachers in my feed. I have middle school girls basketball coaches and NBA coaches in my feed. I have a slew of entrepreneurs along side classical liberal scholars. I have creative artists in my feed and I also have concrete bean counters in my feed. I can expand or cull as I see fit and as my learning dictates.
3. Provide continuous interaction. One of the foremost educational practitioners on Twitter is @GrantLichtman, author of #EdJourney, a daring action research which features Lichtman getting in his Prius and traveling cross country to interview more than 600 people connected to education in 64 schools over 98 days. It was a ambitious undertaking. It was a continuous interaction. Few of us can take on that kind of enterprise. However, with Twitter, I can have short interviews each and every evening or even in the early morning with #BFC530, a daring group of educators around the globe who check in every day at 5:30 EST. Gone are the days of the once a year national or state conference as the only PD an educator can get outside of their school.
4. Nurture technological gatekeepers. Fullan thought it wise to take care of those who stretched themselves outside the boundaries and who were cutting-edge in their learning. Much like we give additional support to families and soldiers on the front lines, we need to be mindful to encourage those that go to the edge to bring the ideas back. My Head of School at Trinity does an excellent job of this and makes it a pleasure to work at my school. Speaking from Fullan’s vantage point, if I may be so bold, I’m thinking that schools should be exceptionally safe for the tech gatekeepers today. Instead, those trying to hold on to the past and who blow up mission appropriate ideas that come from the outside should be the ones that should be in jeopardy. Fullan referred to these folks as the NIH crowd, those who disdain anything that was “Not Invented Here.”
Now would be a great time to reach back and refer to Fallen. You can find him @MichaelFullan1 or you can go old school and dive deeply into his myriad of change-oriented education books. A fine synopsis of them can be found at http://www.michaelfullan.ca/books/.
until next time, what is your rate of change over time as you drive change at your schools…