Dedicated Followers of Fashion are Leaders

But examining leadership practice can be difficult, examining leadership practice in your own organization can be very difficult — and examining your own (hopefully evolving) leadership practice can be extremely difficult…

Are we giving this very important principle sufficient time and energy with respect to our own (young) learners…and our own children?

Early in this century, when the internet was actually still in its infancy, I was invited to co-design and co-facilitate an online MA level course in the Education Division of an important BC university. The course was Leadership in Distributed Learning Environments and the focus, please note, was leadership.

As part of the experience, we wanted the learners to apply established leadership reflection processes and we wanted to do it, of course, online. Because we were merging the two, we also wanted to effectively walk the line between the vocabulary of both fields: ‘online’ and ‘leadership’. We decided to call the mechanism a weblog(as in part- ‘log’ and  part-‘blog’: the latter being literally the latest hot term in the web-online community). We set up a weblog space for every learner behind the institution firewall.

Roughly 20% of the course enrollees were devotees of the internet and all things web and online and they were up-to-date on every new development. They were truly explorers and they were dedicated teachers wanting to use the best-newest tools for themselves and for the sake of their own learners. They made an immediate approach for permission to be able to use the latest ‘blog spaces’ on the open internet as opposed to the spaces we had established.

We said no, of course offering what we felt was a reasonable explanation.

They escalated their requests, being ‘web-savvy’, using direct access (i.e., email at that time) to the Dean and the Administration of the university. I recall my co-instructor and I getting together to lift a glass of good scotch and toast, ‘spectacular if short-lived careers as professors’.

We were not being sarcastic. We were convinced this would be our last course of this level and type.

But the university did not order us to change our direction. By week 8 of the course, we were getting email from learners: thanking us. They were realizing there are topics in leadership growth and development that you do not want your employers, friends and the general public to read. By week 11, there was a learner-initiated thread in the course discussion forum to debate what parameters should be enforced, by leaders, for ‘public’ versus ‘protected’ conversation – across the full spectrum of   learning areas and topics that put learners at ‘risk’ in any conceivable sense.

The current, second decade of this century, latest hot term for personal presence in the web-online community is, of course, tweeting. Five years from now, it will be ‘xyz’ <fill in the blank, please, because I’m not capable of predicting the mechanism; even tablets are less than three years old as I write this).

But whatever the term-process, and whatever the technology involved, will the principle-importance of ‘public’ versus ‘protected’ conversation be any less important? I think not. Especially as the Web Means The End Of Forgetting (New York Times; July 21, 2010).

As an educator, if you choose to blog-tweet-xyz, as an adult and a professional, presumably you have had time to reflect upon and accommodate any possible consequences. We will continue to need explorers and dedicated teachers who want the latest-best tools for their – and our – learners. We will continue to need educators to model in the web-online environment, just as we do in traditional and alternate class settings.

As a parent, have you considered the implications of what is said in ‘public’ and cannot be retrieved? Have you considered the impact of modeling in this new, constantly emerging environment, to the same extent you have in more traditional family and social environments?

I know my leadership and learning continues to adapt and evolve and there are still some reflections I prefer to develop in the ‘private-protected’ domain. I know that some of my thoughts-attitudes at age 16 would not have been positive additions to my reputation and therefore to my life and my career.

Have we given this very important topic sufficient time and energy in respect to our own (young) learners…and our own children?

I wonder….

Posted in Learning Matters