Monday, November 07, 2011

The Blogging Supers

I find it interesting that most of the "blogging supers" on the list are using this tool for an authentic, thoughtful web presence that respect their local context and challenges. I wonder if the supers were strongly encouraged to start blogging, as a third of B.C.'s supers starting blogging around the same time this year... if so, it must have been a convincing workshop, directive, suggestion, whatever. A quick survey shows that most of them go beyond newsletter or generic edubabble and engage educators and the public (by allowing comments), or celebrate local successes because they have a deep and evidenced understanding of their schools and the kind of work done by students, teachers, and principals. Most of them take a corraborative view of the new BCED plan (not unexpected), although a few of them, like Chris Kennedy (still a fan of BCED plan), are willing at times to deconstruct cliches and go deeper than the acronyms and buzzwords that characterize most educational discourse these days. Elsewhere, Mr. Kennedy is immersed in the digital media jargon: I watched him speak at 1:05:00 in this video and I'm still not sure what to make of his energetic flurry of ideas. I don't think the "game" they speak of, or the nature of technology as tools, is fully understood. I think the first steps for this level of understanding would be an anthropological one. The iphone and social media connection might seem like a flint arrow and preparation for the hunt (tool/game), but in both cases they are also cultural extensions and identity markers that bear more scrutiny than inert objects or ritualized pastimes. What do these tools do to us as social animals? What is the neurological consequence of playing the game? Is it o.k. to remain eternally optimistic if the evidence suggests that all is not positive?

I am both troubled and challenged by the super's blog (as of Nov. 7/11) from my own school district. Troubled a bit, as it is not yet inviting a local dialogue that most of the supers have demonstrated as central to their blogging experience. Troubled a bit more because it describes innovations & approaches to technology and blended learning that are currently blocked or postponed by our board office and school administration. The Pacific Slope Consortium's report "Chilly Climate for 21st Century Learning" gets into this in more detail; rejected proposals, suspended collaborative groups, and reactive policies, as well as a blueprint for change and many suggestions for principals and teachers to try "workarounds." I am challenged by the blog because I am left confused by the apparent disconnect between what is being said and the restrictive mindset regarding teacher innovation at a variety of levels in our district. I am also challenged by the blog as it suggest many areas of inquiry with which I should probably be familiar.

To be positive about it, I think it is a good start... for educational leaders to put their thoughts, plans, and professional learning on the interwebs. Perhaps in committing to various ideas about educational change, and slowly shedding the popular cliches and ubiquitous references to 21C Learning, etc. all of the supers' blogs will come around to a high standard for engaging local educators on educational issues. I think it is a reasonable expectation, and I write this as an encouragement and not a baseless criticism. It is also possible that the discrepancy between the local blog musings and actual district practice are deliberate, perhaps a challenge from our superintendent to the thinking of his peers and colleagues. I really don't know, other than noting the apparent dichotomy. Being in the middle of a job action, I may not find out for quite some time!

The local disconnect between management and teachers on a variety of issues features in a number of the statements made by trustee candidates for the upcoming school board election. The parallel between the BCTF/BCPSEA gap is not lost on most of them, although some realize that our local gap has its own peculiar history and is related to the erosion of almost every district-level opportunity for district staff and teachers to sit down together, share visions, discuss projects, examine issues, etc -- inflamed by this year's job action but going back about 6 years. I think that working on the relationship, restoring committees, sorting out the inconsistencies in the district plan, discouraging talk that doesn't match the walk are good projects (or habits) for the new trustees. To see them in conversation, less guarded and more direct than their official statements, I would really suggest joining the CORES Rural School Facebook group where many relevant issues are being discussed.

I was also intrigued by our super's blog because it seems relatively easy for him to post, and his message is rebroadcast on every website in the district, and yet many of our schools' websites are virtually empty of any other content. The CMS webtool used to build these sites is a real pain and prevents teachers and students from making the rich, varied, quirky, and detailed content additions that used to characterize school websites, with a few exceptions. Some of our dedicated staff who are willing to suffer the design tool have "broken through" the code, perhaps the same ones who actually enjoy BCeSIS!  Our biggest school, PGSS, has embedded a renegade working website within the shell provided by the district. This is a kind of policy violation, I suppose, but is pretty hard to argue against -- they've opted for a web presence of higher quality, impact, and authenticity than they could with the tools provided. In the area of dynamic, attractive, relevant, engaging websites we are painfully behind almost every other district in the province. Our great DPAC site, however, and many teacher blogs, sites, fb groups, twitter feeds etc., help make up for the emptiness elsewhere.  

A web presence isn't necessary to be a good teacher or caring school, but the parts of "us" that are online should reflect the same level of professional pride and personal resolve that define our classroom practice and the public face of our schools.

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