Develop Leadership

I was thrilled to discover this morning that Stephen Downes took the time to leave some very thorough feedback for me. He is at times hard hitting (and in this case apologizes in advance), but it’s good stuff. There are some things I can’t do anything about in the context of this paper (for instance he dislikes the form of citations and the past tense, which are demanded by the APA style – at least at Walden University… as I understand it), but he also calls me on my vague language, lack of focus, and other items I can certainly improve on.

I also really appreciated the encouragement from Roger Stack on my last post as well. This is much more motivating than writing in isolation and sending a draft to my advisor.

I feel I need to put together a more in-depth response to Stephen, and I certainly need to spend some time sorting out what criticisms I want to act on, but for the time being I think it is more productive for me to keep going so I can get a draft of this done. So, I’ve been writing again this morning…

Bellow is the last section on Facilitating Organizational Change. (Sections on Overcoming Resistance will follow). I found this section on leadership particularly difficult to cull down to two pages. This is much closer to four… and so makes an even longer blog post. If you’re taking these in, thanks for reading. I look forward to any additional feedback… Stephen’s certainly opened the door to criticisms, so let ’em fly if you have em.

5. Develop Leadership

Fullan writes that he knows of no school that has improved without strong leadership (Fullan, 2001b, p. 141). Both personal and collaborative learning are necessary for organizational change, but even these two are not sufficient without strong leadership. Change agents who hope to bring about positive change in schools must also take steps to develop leadership at all levels of their organization. Senge, Evans, and Fullan each share in this belief.

Senge’s (1990) thoughts on leadership began with a simple core strategy: “be a model. Commit yourself to your own personal mastery” (p. 173). However, Senge expected much more of a leader. He was interested in “leaders who have a sense of vision… [and] communicate that in such a way that others are encouraged to share their visions” (p. 212). The leader’s new work, according to Senge, is to serve as a designer (of the ship, rather than as captain, p. 341), as a steward (p. 345), and -most importantly – as a teacher (p. 353). With regards to systems thinking, he believes that “leaders should especially focus on understanding the limiting processes that could slow or arrest change” (Senge et al., 1999, p. 8). With a focus on “leadership communities rather than hero-leaders” (p. 16), Senge et al. recommend developing leadership at all levels, including local line leaders (p. 16), internal networkers or community builders (p. 17), and exectutive leaders (p. 18). Under his new model of educational leadership, leaders are responsible for the engaging the members of the organization, providing systems thinking, and leading learning (Senge et al., 2000, p. 412-418).

Evans (1996) had a similar view of leadership, but he also dealt with the many chronic tensions that leaders must resolve in order to be successful, including managing versus leading (p. 148), resources versus demands (p. 149), the paradox of power – or the dependency of the leader on his followers (p. 150), symbolism versus substance (p. 151), and isolation in a fishbowl, part of the personal toll of leadership (p. 151). Two capacities that leaders need to successfully balance these tensions are “are marketing, to find out what constituents think and want, and public relations, to keep constituents informed about the school’s own goals and needs” (p. 127). What Evans considered authentic leadership also demands integrity in action, personal ethics, vision, belief in others (p. 185), problem solving savvy (p. 190), clarity and focus (p. 206), participation without paralysis (p. 229), recognition of others (p. 254), and a willingness to avoiding avoidance, even if confrontation is necessary (p. 272). In keeping with Fullan’s focus on the moral purpose behind school change, Evans (1996) believed that such authentic leaders derive their authority from two sources, their professional position, and the moral force of their goals (p. 172-173). Further, he believed that “purpose and followership form the heart of transformational leadership” (p. 167). To cultivate both of these, he suggested that “traditional management is to be replaced by shared governance and traditional teacher isolatino by collaboration and collegiality” (p. 231). He later wrote that “no task is more important for a school leader than to be… ‘the voice of the covenant’ – to take primary responsibility for nourishing, celebrating, and protecting the core values and behavioral norms of the school community” (p. 172). Ultimately, “staff must feel that the leader is committed to the change but also to them. Principals, then, need to expect the grief and tolerate the mourning” (p. 201).

Using the language of Senge, Fullan (1993), too, wrote that “the leader’s new work for the future is building learning organizations” (p. 70). To do this, he believed that leaders need to display the personal qualities of hope, enthusiasm and energy (Fullan, 2003, p. 93), while acting from a mind set of “moral purpose, an understanding of the dynamics of change, great emotional intelligence as they build relationships, a commitment to new knowledge development and sharing, and a capacity for coherence making” (p. 93). He explained that:

“leadership, if it is to be effective, has to (1) have an explicit “making-a-difference” sense of purpose, (2) use strategies that mobilize many people to tackle tough problems, (3) be held accountable by measured and debatable indicators of success, and (4) be ultimately assessed by the extent to which it awakens people’s intrinsic commitment, which is none other than the mobilizing of everyone’s sense of moral purpose” (Fullan, 2001a, p. 20-21)

Effective leaders, according to Fullan (2001a), “listen effectively” (p. 123), “don’t panic when things go wrong in the early stages of a major change initiative” (p. 124), and “mobilize the collective capacity to challenge difficult circumstances” (p. 136). Leaders need to be what Fullan (2005) calls energy creators: people who, among other things, “are enthusiastic and always positive… stimulate and spark others… and wish to improve on their previous best” (p. 37). Systems thinking also plays a roll in Fullan’s philosophy on leadership; he calls for “developmental leaders (systems thinkers in action) who do not stand back and conduct passive analysis, but because of their immersion and system perspectives learn to size up situations quickly and intuitively, using concepts discussed in this book” (p. 102). However, effective leaders at the top of an organization cannot fulfill the need for leadership in an organization; “internal commitment… cannot be activated from the top… there must be many leaders around us” (p. 133). What is needed for successful and sustained organizational change is what Fullan calls pervasive leadership, “leadership at many levels of the organization” (p. 137). In fact, Fullan (2003) felt that “we should be selecting leaders in terms of their capacity to create the conditions of other leaders to flourish and make a continuing impact beyond our terms” (p. 106).

In order to provide the highest chances of sustainable success for any challenging change initiative, such as one that aims to integrate video games and simulations into a formal k12 learning environment, each of these elements of leadership should be developed in the organization. Change agents must be sure to develop communities of pervasive leadership, full of leaders who exemplify the disciplines of personal mastery, vision building, and (especially) systems thinking. These leaders, particularly the formal leaders, should develop their authentic leadership style in order to successfully balance the many tensions of leadership, and they must work to build capacity for change by creating energy in others. If new educational technologies are implemented instead through top-down directive, the chance for failure of the initiative is high.

However, even if the realities of change are respected, personal and collective learning are supported, and leadership is developed, a change initiative such as the integration of video games and simulations in education will likely still be met with resistance in the organization. Change agents will also need to be prepared with strategies for overcoming organizational resistance.


Support Collaborative Learning

With the exception of a frustrating citation record keeping issue, I’m rolling now… so I haven’t spent much time re-reading these sections, but here is the next one. I hope someone is reading… but this is motivational to post as I go regardless. I hope it’s not unwise. :)

I do feel a bit silly that this is primarily just demonstrating the research I’ve done, rather than saying anything new… but I suppose the paper is not called a KAM demonstration for nothing. And again, this is a draft. At any rate, here it is…

4. Support Collaborative Learning

Personal learning is a necessary condition for organizational change, but it is not sufficient; there must also be a degree of collaborative learning as well. As Fullan (2001b) stated, “we have long known the value of collaboration and the debilitating effects of isolation” (p. 6). Two more of Senge’s five disciplines support this need for collaborative learning: shared vision and team learning. Evan’s philosophy acknowledges the difficulty of this, and Fullan argues it’s critical importance for schools.

Senge (1990) warns that “if people do not share a common vision, and do not share common ‘mental models’ about the… reality within which they operate, empowering people will only increase organizational stress and the burden of management to maintain coherence and direction” (p. 146). How then do organizations build shared vision? According to Senge (1990), building shared vision “involves the skills of unearthing shared ‘pictures of the future’ that foster genuine commitment and enrollment instead of compliance” (p. 9). Senge et al. (1994) identified five stages of shared vision: telling, selling, testing, consulting, and co-creating (p. 314). The further an organization is to the right on this scale, the more likely a shared vision will engender genuine commitment.

Senge (1990) noted that “shared visions emerge from personal visions… [and that] organizations intent on building shared visions continually encourage members to develop their personal visions” (p. 211).However, he also noted that “alignment is the necessary condition before empowering the individual will empower the whole team” (p. 235). The practice that helps bridge the gap between personal visions and shared visions – and that helps to ensure alignment – is team learning.
Senge (1990) writes that “the discipline of team learning starts with ‘dialog,’ the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into a genuine ‘thinking together” (p. 10). Team learning is a “collective discipline” (p. 237) that “requires practice” (p. 238). Critical elements of team learning include “the need to think insightfully about complex issues” (p. 236), “the need for innovative coordinated action” (p. 236), and the skills of “dialogue and discussion, the two distinct ways that teams converse” (p. 237).

Evans supported the collaborative development of vision, but recognized the difficulty of focusing shared vision. He noted that shared vision statements, for instance, often fail on account of length, fragmentation, and impracticality – not to mention clichés (Evans, 1996, p. 208). He also identified an organizational dysfunction he called processitis: “a preoccupation with procedure and interaction that affects many self governing groups” (p. 239). Fullan’s new professionalism captured many of the same solutions Evans suggested for dealing with such dysfunctions; it was “collaborative, not autonomous; open rather than closed; outward-looking rather than insular; and authoritative, but not controlling” (Fullan, 2001b, p. 265).

For Fullan (2001b), “professional development is not about workshops and courses; rather, it is at its heart the development of habits of learning that are far more likely to be powerful if they present themselves day after day” (p. 253). Several of these habits (or characteristics) of successful collaborative cultures include fostering diversity while trust building, provoking anxiety and then containing it, engaging in knowledge creation, combining connectedness with openendedness, and even fusing the spiritual, political and intellectual (Fullan, 1999, p. 37). Also, like Evans, Fullan (1993) shared words of caution for those who would support collaborative learning. Collaboration, he notes, “is not automatically a good thing” (p. 82). In fact, “unless one understands deeply why and how collaboration functions to make a difference it is of little use” (Fullan, 1999, p. 40). Without focus (and moral purpose), collaboration may be little more than what Fullan (2005) and others have called “coblaboration” (p. 48).

It is clear from Senge, Evans, and Fullan’s work that change agents who support personal learning must also support focused and purposeful collaborative learning if they hope to facilitate the sort of organizational change necessary to implement video games and simulations as educational technologies in constructivist learning environments. This collaborative learning must build shared vision and exhibit the characteristics of successful collaborative cultures, while avoiding the pitfalls such as processitis and coblaboration.


Support Personal Learning

This is definitely draft material, and it is very Senge heavy, but I feel like I’m on the right track now…

3. Support Personal Learning

Any organizational change begins with individual change, which requires individual learning. Any change agent hoping to facilitate organizational change would do well to first support personal learning. As Senge (1990) explains, “organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs” (p. 141). To that end, two of Senge’s five disciplines support personal learning – personal mastery, and mental models.

Senge (1990) describes personal mastery as “the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively” (p. 7). He goes on to explain that it “starts by clarifying the things that really matter to us, of living our lives in the service of our highest aspirations” (p. 8). He then lays out several practices and principals critical to personal mastery, including personal vision (p. 147), holding creative tension between current realities and personal vision, (p. 150), commitment to the truth – especially about current reality (p. 159), and using the subconscious (p. 161). He also includes systems thinking as part of personal mastery and focuses on the importance of integrating Reason and Intuition (p. 167), seeing our connectedness to the world (p. 169), compassion (Senge, 1990, p. 171), and commitment to the whole (p. 171). He also notes that “people with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, their growth areas” (p. 142).
Senge et al. (2000) see teachers as “coaches in personal mastery for students” (p. 59) and believe that “the epitome of personal mastery in the classroom is helping children to decipher their passions, to explore whether they believe these are possible, and to nurture their courage to delve into it, without judging them right or wrong” (p. 111).

An important part of personal mastery for anyone involved in a change effort – or anyone involved in learning, including students and teachers – is an ability to question mental models. Senge (1990) defines mental models as “deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action” (p. 8). He goes on to explain that “the discipline of working with mental models starts with turning the mirror inward; learning to unearth out internal pictures of the world, to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny” (p. 9). Unexamined mental models can thus limit people’s ability to change; as Senge et al (2000) pointed out, “in any new experience, most people are drawn to take in and remember only the information that reinforces their existing mental models” (p. 67). Senge (1990) also pointed out that “most of our mental models are systematically flawed. They miss critical feedback relationships, misjudge time delays, and often focus on variables that are visible or salient, not necessarily high leverage” (Senge, 1990, p. 203).

Fullan, too, believed that organizational change starts with personal learning. He wrote that “personal purpose and vision are the starting agenda. It comes from within, it gives meaning to work, and it exists independent of the particular organization or group we happen to be in” (Fullan, 1993, p. 13). He felt that “personal vision in teaching is too often implicit and dormant” (p. 14) and he believed in the “the central importance of teachers’ learning, individually and in relation to colleagues” (p. 62). Purpose came into play here again for Fullan; he explained that “paradoxically, personal purpose is the route to organizational change” (p. 14).

Change agents responsible for implementing emerging technologies, such as video games and simulations, in schools will need to support personal learning (both related to the new technologies, and related to the mission of the school). This support will need to include development of personal mastery, the ability to scrutinize mental models, and a sense of personal vision for everyone involved in the change effort.


Use Systems Thinking

Here’s the second of five sections on facilitating organizational change (in order to integrate emerging technologies, such as video games and simulations, into a constructivist learning environment.) Again, I’m sharing a quote heavy draft…

2. Use Systems Thinking

Sytems thinking, as opposed to linear or rational-structural thinking, can be a positive tool for change agents to understand and use in educational institutions. Senge (1990) noted that “we tend to focus on snapshots of isolated parts of the system, and wonder why our deepest problems never seem to get solved” (p. 7), and he introduced “a conceptual framework… to make the full patterns clearer, and to help us see how to change them effectively” (p. 7).

This framework included the laws of systems thinking (Senge, 1990, p. 57), many of which can serve as powerful reminders to educational change agents. These include the concept that “the harder you push, the harder the system pushes back” (p. 58), “the easy way out usually leads back in” (p. 60), “faster is slower” (p. 62), and “small changes can produce big results – but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious” (p. 63). He also identified systems archetypes that can be used by change agents to understand larger patterns. These included concepts such as limits to growth (p. 95), shifting the burden (p. 104), reinforcing processes (Senge et al, 2000, p. 84), balancing processes (p. 86), and delays (p. 91). Senge et al. (2000) also believed that “in any effort to foster schools that learn, changes will make a difference only if they take place at… three levels” (p. 11), the learning classroom (including teachers, students, and parents, p. 12), the learning school (including school leaders, principals, superintendents, school board members, and representatives of higher education, p. 14), and the learning community (including community members and other lifelong learners, p. 16).

Senge et al. (1999) developed a perspective that assumed “human groups, processes, and activities are self-organizing, like ecological niches” (p. 144). Fullan (2001b) later applied four principals of living systems to educational organizations: equilibrium as the precursor to death, the edge of chaos as a source for new solutions, self organization¬ as a source of emergent solutions, and disturbance as a more reliable tool for change than direction (p. 108-109). Fullan warned, though, that “there is a time to disturb and a time to cohere” (p. 116). He looked to concepts in complexity science (formerly chaos theory) to describe the process of coherence-making; strange attractors, for instance, “involve experiences or forces that attract the energies and commitment of employees… they are not predictable in a specific sense, but as outcomes are likely (if not inevitable) in the process we are describing” (p. 215).

Fullan (2003b) also suggested that change agents “must be cognizant that changing their schools and the system is a simultaneous proposition” (p. 4). This understanding will help them avoid what he calls the if-only dependency: the assumption “that the system must get its act together before people can start doing their jobs” (p. 19). He went on to note system-imposed barriers to change, such as centralization or decentralization (p. 21), role overload and role ambiguit (p. 22), limited investment in leadership development (p. 23), neglect of leadership succession (p. 24), and the absence of a system change strategy (p. 25). To over come such barriers, he suggestd that systems must enter a cycle of push and recovery, just as individuals do (Fullan, 2005, p. 44).

There will be many barriers to the adoption of video games and simulations as educational technologies. The change agents responsible for these initiatives will need to understand and use systems thinking if they hope to lead their organizations through the cycles of push and recovery necessary for the integration and diffusion of new innovations.


Respect the Realities of Change

I’m starting to get a sense for how this paper might turn out. Here is a (quote heavy draft) section on respecting the realities of change in order to facilitate organziational change, specifically the integration of emergent technologies, such as video games or simulations.

Facilitating Organizational Change

Senge, Evans, and Fullan were briefly introduced in the previous section. Each is a prominent theorist in the field of organizational change in education, making their work an ideal basis for a working theory of school change. A thorough review of their work has revealed ten elements of school change that can be used to guide the process of integrating video games and simulations as educational technologies in a constructivist learning environment. Five of these relate to instigating or facilitating organizational change. These are to respect the realities of change, use systems thinking, support personal learning, support collaborative learning, and develop leadership.

1. Respect the Realities of Change

To be successful, change agents must respect that organizational change is a complicated, difficult, and time-consuming process – especially in an educational institution.

The need for change in schools is clear, and the failure of past change efforts is evident. Fullan (1999) noted that “so far, schools are much more a conservative agency for the status quo than a revolutionary force for transformation” (p. 10). Although the need for change is clear, schools have largely failed to enact and sustain meaningful changes. Unfortunately, as Evans noted, “changes that deal with the essentials of schooling – teaching and learning – seem to prove weak and temporary, but changes that enlarge and enhance the administrative bureaucracy seem to prove strong and enduring” (Elmore and McLaughlin, p.4, as cited in Evans, 1996, p. 79).

Fullan (1993) wrote that “to break through this impasse, educators must see themselves and be seen as experts in the dynamics of change” (p. 4). He suggested that “we need a dual approach working simultaneously on individual and institutional development” (p. 12) and identified several individual capacities (personal vision building, inquiry, mastery, and collaboration) reminiscent of Senge’s five disciplines, and several institutional counterparts (shared vision building, organizational structures, norms, and practices of inquiry) that also appear in the Professional Learning Community literature reviewed in the Depth portion of this KAM. Fullan’s new paradigm of school change included elements of complexity theory (1999, p.4, 2003, p.21-23), evolutionary theory (1999, p. 6), and capacity building (p. 9). Ultimately, he concluded that “working through the complexities of change until we get shared meaning and commitment is the only way to get substantial improvement” (Fullan, 2001a, p. 272).

Each of these authors identified concepts that can help educational change agents work through these complexities. Chief among these was Senge’s (1990) concept of a learning organization, an organization “where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together” (p. 3). Senge et al (2001) later dealt with schools as learning organizations, as did Fullan (1993), who recognized several common ingredients for successful restructuring: getting clear on the focus of change, making change organizational and systemic, managing the ongoing change process, and “the recognition that structural changes would not be sufficient without changes in ideas, beliefs, and attitudes” (p. 78).

Closely related to their focus on ideas, beliefs, and attitudes, was a focus by all three of these authors on the purpose (or moral purpose in Fullan’s case) behind educational change. Evans (1996) called for focus and clarity in educational change initiatives, especially in response to the questions of what, why, and how (p. 75). Later, Evans (2001) took a very Senge-like (and business-like) stance when he suggests that discussions about purpose in schools should start with questions such as “’what are we really good at?’ ‘ as a school hat do we do best with students?’ [and] ‘what do we really value and how do our actions show our values?’” (p. 75). Fullan (1993), of course, felt that “education has a moral purpose… to make a difference in the lives of students regardless of background, and to help produce citizens who can live and work productively in increasingly dynamic complex societies” (p. 4). He felt that the moral purpose of school should include facilitating critical enculturation, providing access to knowledge, bulding an effective teacher-student connection, and practicing good stewardship (p. 8-9).

The adoption of video games and simulations as educational technologies will be a complex process, which will only be successful if those responsible for the initiatives respect these realities of organizational change. They must recognize the need for change, the failure of past change efforts, the resulting need to be skilled change agents, the nature and complexity of organizational change, and the need for strong moral purpose behind the change they propose.


School Change and the Integration of Video Games as an Educational Technology: An Introduction

As I’ve done before when I felt my motivation for my academic writing waning, I’m going to post some here. Here is a part of the (draft) introduction to my final paper prior to my formal dissertation. It’s about three pages double spaced in Word, so this may be a bit long for a blog post, but if anyone reads it through I’d be thrilled to receive any feedback. :)

Emerging technologies, such as video games and simulations, show a great deal of promise as educational tools, particularly in constructivist learning environments. However a great deal of organizational change is required for schools to fully adopt and take advantage of promising new technologies. It is important for educators, educational technologists, and administrators to understand the nature and complexity of school change, and to act with this knowledge in mind when integrating new technologies. Therefore, the purpose of this breadth portion of the Knowledge Area Module (KAM) is to synthesize the work of Senge, Evans, and Fullan to produce a preliminary working theory of school change that can be used to guide the process of integrating video games and simulations as educational technologies in a constructivist learning environment.

Senge (1990) introduced the idea of a learning organization, explored ways in which organizations can manifest learning disabilities, and suggested a number of disciplines for fostering a learning organization, including the pursuit of systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, and team learning. He provided concrete examples of his theories at work in various industries (Senge et al., 1994), and later focused specifically on their application in the field of education (Senge et al., 2000). Senge wrote in 1990 that “all too often, great organizations are fleeting, enjoying their moment in the sun, then passing quietly back into the ranks of the mediocre” (p. 11). When he turned to writing about schools’ inability to support “the kinds of multifaceted, in-depth relationships between people that facilitate learning” (Senge, 1994, p. 486), especially over the long-term, he blamed this on educational institution’s centralized nature, regulations, and large sizes (p. 486). He later wrote that the assembly-line system of education which “dramatically increased educational output” (2000, p. 31) initially, actually “created many of the most intractable problems with which students, teachers, and parents struggle to this day” (p. 31). Though he felt “we face a vital and yet seemingly impossible task: re-creating schools to serve students who will grow up in a post industrial world” (p. 9) that is precisely what he set out to do.

Evans (1996), too, believed that “radical change is crucial and possible” (p.3). His focus, though was on the difficulties presented by the human side of school change, the psychological factors. Evans (1996), who cites Senge often, was also interested in the nature of change and the capacity of organizations to implement and sustain changes. He was particularly concerned with the culture of resistance found in many schools, and in ways that an authentic educational leader might understand reluctant faculty and thus be able to provide vision tempered by realism. Evans (2004) also considered the role of students’ families in changing school cultures.

Fullan, who cited Senge often as well, also cited constructivist educational theorists such as Dewey. Though Fullan’s early work focused on helping school administrators survive in a system of change over which they had little control (Fullan, 1991, 1997, 1998), his Change Forces trilogy (Fullan, 1993, 1999, 2003a) focused on helping them to understand and even influence the complex systems that surrounded them. His newer works focus on the complexity of reform (2001b), leading in a culture of change (2001a), the moral purpose of this leadership (2003b), and breakthrough strategies for large-scale sustainable reform (2004, 2006). He recommended respecting “the messiness of the process required to identify best solutions and generate internal commitment form the majority of organization members” (Fullan, 2001b, p. 118). He also found that “within the apparent disorder of the process there are hidden coherence-making features” (p. 118).

Each of these authors explicitly or implicitly supported the development of constructivist learning environments and the development of 21st Century Learning Skills. Evans (2001), for instance, called for schools to “emphasize ‘constructivism’, higher-order thinking, and interdisciplinary learning” (p. 149), and Fullan (1999) was interested in “purposeful knowledge creation” (p. 16). They each saw the importance of providing a context for learning. Evans (1996) called for “real-life exhibitions rather than traditional tests” (p. 58), and Fullan believed that “learning in context is the learning with the greatest payoff” (p. 127). Within this context, inquiry-driven learning can be powerful. Senge et al. (2000) found the skill of inquiry to be central to the practice of personal mastery (p. 68), and Fullan (1993) considered “a spirit of inquiry and continuous learning” critical to any change initiative (p. 67). Even the constructivist concept of social negotiation played a role in each of their philosophies. Senge et al. (1999) wrote that “organizations, like all human groups, operate through conversation” (p. 35), and Fullan (2001b) recognized the importance of “social learning… exchanging ideas, support, and positive feelings about” (p. 126). The power of reflection was also a recurring theme in their work. Senge et al. (2000) believed that “educational practice must be informed by critical reflection” (p. 318), while Fullan (2006) noted that “opportunities for the team to debrief and reflect on… practice and progress” (p. 94) was critical. Twenty-first century skills, such as risk taking, are frequently valued by each of these authors as well. Each of them understood that “if people do not venture into uncertainty, no significant change will occur” (Fullan, 1993, p. 25).


Meme Alert: School 2.0

In addition to the “Google in Education” and “Video Games” in education trends I saw in the 1212 posts I skimmed and read this morning, I also noted a resurgence of the School 2.0 or School Restructuring meme. Doug Belshaw (who I seem to link to disproportionately often here) asksIs this the future of schools? in reference to an article about an innovative new school being built in Australia.

Meanwhile, Will Richardson (and others) report that the School 2.0 conversation started by the US Department of Education at the NECC conference in July continues. In fact, the plans we saw at the conference are finally available online – and on paper by request. Visit School 2.0 – Join the Conversation to see what the educational technology leaders in this country have in mind. Naturally, there are many Web 2.0 (and ubiquitous computing – and networking) technologies involved, as well as some innovative organizational changes. Again, this is an exciting trend to see.

Administrators and Technology – Are We Seeing the Signs of Change?

My last few administrator trainings – for OCDE‘s AB 430 Module 3 program – have left me thinking that perhaps I’m seeing a change in trends. Some of the change was deliberate on the part of myself and the other trainers and organizers, and some of it may be an indication of large-scale change slowly taking place.

For my part, during the year and a half I coordinated Module 3 for the Institute of Leadership Development at the OCDE, I purposefully integrated emerging technology and pedagogy into the administrators trainings. Before I left, I was responsible for a re-write of the program and explicitly included such topics as these:

  • 21st Century Skills
  • The Read/Write Web (Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, Online Surveys, etc.)
  • Creative Commons
  • Video Games in Education
  • Customization for individual district’s contexts.

The fact that I was writing these segments (and more so, the fact that the state department of education approved them in the context of AB 430) says a lot about the changing context in which administrators are being trained and expected to operate. However, what the administrators are bringing in with them says even more…

At the first training of the year back in September, which I led with Christine Olmstead of Brea-Olinda, the administrators were definitely not beginners. Even when I started training (in January 2005) many in each session needed help creating their first PowerPoint and were proud when they presented their slides to the board, or to their staff, or to parents. This year, though, our “Professional Presentations with PowerPoint” segment (which discussed basic how-to’s, basic slide design, and annoyances to avoid) was almost completely unnecessary and we had to move quickly to challenging them with things such as embedding media, using hyperlinks, creating non-linear shows, and exploring ways their teachers could run gameshows with PowerPoint (such as “Jeopardy” or “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”) These folks blasted through every technical segment we had prepared, and were well aware of the issues we had to discuss. (These were still great discussions!) Interestingly, though, many of them were assistant principals and reported that there was still a generation gap between them and their principals.

Last Wednesday was the most recent training I lead with the new coordinator, Ted Lai. At this training we also saw an overwhelming percentage of administrators who knew the technology basics and the issues. During the welcome activity we heard descriptions of schools with many smart boards, laptops to check out, and many more exciting technologies… and exciting examples of use. Luckily, Ted had completely revamped the presentation segment with a bit focusing on presentation style, citing resources such as Presentation Zen. (You’ve got to see the Yoda vs. Darth Vader post… and the Gates vs. Jobs post.)

In retrospect, I recognize that this was the trend at the end of last year, before I left the county. I was more and more amazed by the stories the administrators brought into the trainings, and they were more and more excited about topics such as the read/write web and video games in education.

Perhaps some slow and sustainable forces of change are at work here?

I would find it hard to believe it’s just the administrators we’ve happened to train… or that its just Orange County. Are any of you seeing similar patterns?

Senge on Openness… and Microworlds

Everytime I return to this book (The Fifth Discipline) it gets better, and seems more prescient. Here is a quote from Senge that sounds like Scoble could’ve said it:

Nothing undermines openness more surely than certainty. (p. 281, from a section on “Openness and Complexity”)

It also seems he’d read Papert already, as he has a whole section at the back of the book related to Microworlds. I write and share a lot of what I consider cutting edge thinking on video games and simulations in education, but look at this excerpt from 1990, sixteen years ago:

Now a new type of microworld is emerging. Personal computers are making it possible to integrate learning about complex team interactions with learning about complex business interactions. These new microworlds allow groups to reflect on, expose, test, and improve the mental models upon which they rely in facing difficult problems. They are settings for both crafting visions and experimenting with a broad range of strategies and policies for achieving those visions. Gradually, they are becoming a new type of ‘practice field’ for management teams, places where teams will learn how to learn together while engaging their most important business issues.

Microworlds, will, I believe, prove to be a critical technology for implementing the disciplines of the learning organization. And they will accomplish this by helping us rediscovr the power of learning through play. Shell’s Arie de Geus saus that organization learning occurs in three ways: through teaching, thourhg ‘changing the rules of the game’ (such as through openness and localness), and though play. Play sis the most rare, and potentially the most powerful. Microworlds are places for ‘relevant play.’ (p. 315)

At times, reading Senge even sounds like I’m reading Dewey.

Senge on Disruptive Teachers?

I’m outlining a paper on organizational change right now, and I found this quote from Peter Senge’s classic The Fifth Discipline to be particularly inspiring:

The committed person doesn’t play by the ‘rules of the game.’ He is responsible for the game. If the rules of the game stand in the way of achieving the vision, he will find ways to change the rules. A group of people truly committed to a common vision is an awesome force. They can accomplish the seemingly impossible. (p. 221)