Sunday, 26 April 2015

How do we REALLY connect as professionals?

This is not one of those posts where I list the "TEN BEST WAYS TO CONNECT TO YOUR NETWORK ON THE INTERNET"

I am asking the question - what is a good way for administrators to connect and exchange meaningful information that will improve their profession and do this in a confidential environment?

Confidentiality is becoming for me one of the most important factors.

Our teachers and students are bursting through the 21st century, adopting sophisticated ways to communicate and innovate.  They are adopting new teaching techniques to adapt to the rapidly changing face of education.

What has not changed at all in my thinking is the industrial age structure of management.  We are caught in the middle - we are not teachers and we are not in a position to affect policy change.  We want to support change, but we are obliged to support official doctrine.

We all still exist in a hierarchical structure that were generally composed or fashioned during the industrial revolution.  To be fair, most major institutions - churches, hospitals, universities - follow along in the same model.

I have no idea how to change that and I don't even want to posit a way to change such structures, I am not sure they can.  Maybe this is asking too much of a large institution.

However, how do middle managers - principals and vps safely communicate within that structure so that they can communicate effectively and bring about just a little change at least in their own schools - our only sphere of influence.

Let's take a look at a few tools:
Google+ Communities do not seem to offer a good environment for admin to communicate.  The groups are not really private.  The information discussed within these groups becomes the property of Google or the district if your district has signed on with Google.

Managers seem to find this a complicated tool to use and I have yet to see any kind of useful prolonged conversation on a community that lasts any length of time - maybe three posts maximum.

Twitter we all acknowledge, is a great tool for educators.  I love Twitter chats like #satchat and most weeks the conversation is very interesting.  However this tool doesn't seem to work for smaller groups of professionals and it certainly not private.  This is not the place to get into any topic in any depth.  The 140 character limit is frustrating and I think it encourages shallow thinking.  I will still use this tool every day, but not to connect to my colleagues for advice on issues of concern in our district.

This could become a tedious post if I worked through a variety of social media tools that certainly allow for professional sharing, but have yet to be picked up by the people I work with and are questionable from a security point of view.

Maybe I am under the influence of the Academy Award winning film Citizen Four (you really should watch this), but most of the forms of social media we use are compromised and we have to be wary.

Don't get me wrong, I think we need to communicate with the wider educational community and also within our own district.  We had a great conversation in Joe Mazza's @Joe_Mazza Voxer group, but we never reached a consensus on what is the best way to communicate.

One contributor suggested going to where the people are, but what do you do when the people aren't anywhere?

So I put it out there - how do we communicate?  Not LinkedIn or Google+ - both tried and failed. Facebook? WhatsApp?  Snapchat? Twitter? Voxer?  What will work?

Maybe a combination of tools - a small Voxer chat with very strict social convention rules (no sharing without permission) supplemented by a less private Twitter chat with a unique hashtag - not private, but maybe its good to use more than one tool.

What works for you?  I would love to hear your ideas!