Connected Principals Reflections

cc licensed flickr photo by jeremyfoo:

Patrick Larkin and I had the honour (he had the honor) of leading a conversation at Educon on Sunday and had some fantastic learning experiences ourselves with people from all areas of education. It was great to see so many of our “Connected Principal” colleagues able to attend both virtually and in person as it is great that we have supported each other. The whole point of starting Connected Principals in the first place was to build a network of administrators so that we could learn from each other along with others. I could not have imagined the network of learning that has been created. I am truly humbled every day by the passion of those that share and write.

I just wanted to share some of the quotes that we had collected from our session on this shared Google Document that was created for this:

Why is being involved in social media worth the time for administrators?

  • Principals like to lay claim to the “instructional leader” title, but convincing teachers that you have the intellectual curiosity to serve as an instructional leader is difficult when they have no evidence of what you know and can do.
  • We need to lead by example. If you want to get your teachers and students connected, you need to be connected and share the value of these connections.
  • It’s a way to connect and converse with people who are thinking deeply and taking action in education. Those connections and conversations make your own learning more efficient. Professional growth in a social media spaces can save you time in the long run.
  • Is it reasonable to ask teachers to be intellectually vulnerable when that same expectation isn’t modeled by their leaders? Social media spaces make it possible to model that intellectual vulnerability.

How will administrators being connected improve opportunities/learning for students?

  • When principals see value in the kinds of tools and services that make social learning possible, they’re more likely to work to provide access to similar tools and services for their students. The flawed perception that learning in social media spaces is risky quickly disappears when you spend a bit of time in the digital pool.
  • Being connected opens your eyes to experiences beyond those in your district, county, or state. If you don’t pick your head up and look around, innovation will pass you by (therefore passing your teachers and students by).
  • It shows our students we are not stuck in the 1950 modality of instruction. It models appropriate behavior for our students. I think it’s important to teach them responsible usage and not just lock them out.

How will administrators being connected improve opportunities/learning for staff?

  • Staff members need to see administrators taking risk in front of them. I often tackle an unfamiliar online tool in front of my faculty in faculty meetings so they can see I’m willing to take risks as well. Also, they get to see me struggling and understand that it is ok to fumble around with new tech.
  • Learning in online spaces is far more efficient than learning in offline spaces. That efficiency will determine who is successful and who isn’t in tomorrow’s world. If you’re not working and learning in new social spaces, you can’t possibly understand how networks can make learning more efficient—-and if you lack that understanding, you can’t pass it on to your teachers and students.

How will administrators being connected improve opportunities/learning for themselves?

  • (Love this) They will be more interesting people. that helps everything.

Here is a question that was added by participants…

What barriers/challenges stand in the way of seeing more principals in connected learning spaces?

  • Principals are public figures in a profession that can be controversial. Making yourself transparent—opening your thoughts and ideas to push-back—can be a risky move.
  • Many principals are inflexible. “I have been doing this for 15 years. I have this down, I don’t need to improve or change how things are running in my building.” Serious roadblock.

There are many other points that are in this session, and it was amazing to see all of this information compiled as we did not even give participants the time to work on the document; the conversation just took over.

One thing that I came to realize from this whole conversation has stuck with me. I flat-out stated that I want to be great and the only way that I can achieve this is by creating opportunities of greatness for my staff and students. Why would I not want to do well? Only through them, will I ultimately achieve success as a leader. Not all principals may want this for themselves, but they must want this for their staff and students, which ultimately would lead to their own success. I believe that through this continuous opportunity of learning and the ability to connect, we create the opportunities for our staff, and more importantly, our students to be great.

Hopefully through this continued learning that I am able to be a part of, and being connected, I have the ability to better serve my staff and students. Isn’t that why administrators do this in the first place?

Thanks again to those who attended the session. It was a great opportunity to improve my own learning and the conversation was fantastic.


  1. Jill Geiser said:


    The value of this is clearly there. Is it me or do other industries completely outpace education in the social media space? It seems that to even make it in private business, for example, your work depends on navigating and communicating through social media. Nevertheless, it is becoming more critical for educators to engage digitally. I am only embarking on it myself and I find the first barrier noted above is very real for me. Also, there is a time factor. The hours during the school day do not allow for me to jump on Twitter (how to other administrators manage that?) so I spend the evening hours trying to catch up on the day’s conversations.

    The benefits to note here, among many, though are that I am accessing other sites, blogs, articles, etc. that I might not otherwise be exposed to (a benefit I anticipated) and that I can witness, read, and feel the inspiration and passion of other leaders (I didn’t anticipate this but certainly welcome it!).

    This is definitely an area we need to pay more attention to if we want to push our students towards higher levels of learning.

    Jill Geiser

    February 2, 2011
    • I think that at first it seems overwhelming, yet as your brain adapts to the stimulation, you learn to navigate a lot easier. There is a lot to process early but you will find a pace that is manageable. I know that I used to be worried what I was missing during the day but I have learned that if something is really powerful, it will find its way to me :). We are hopefully trying to lead business eventually by some of our practices but educators definitely need to make a shift. I really appreciate your comment 🙂

      February 2, 2011
    • Fantastic Kirsten…Loved the reflection. Going to comment on your blog 🙂

      February 2, 2011
  2. Thanks, George and Patrick, for the session and for sharing these “take aways”. It was such an important conversation to have.

    In addition to all of the above, I recall a brief conversation about how some people are challenged to write blog posts because they want them to be well-crafted pieces of writing. I am thinking about that because I want my blog posts to be “great” so I take too long crafting them. I need to get better at just getting my thoughts down because the sharing is more important than the craft.

    Your session gave us all plenty to think about. I hope we can all stay “connected” and continue to share.

    February 2, 2011
    • I wish I felt there was a need for editing my ideas but I tend to just spew them out! I have kind of went with the Clay Shirky and Seth Godin philosophy that I would publish, than filter. Also, an idea that is sitting in your draft folder is an idea that is not shared. The “network” is very forgiving of imperfections, but the ideas and the content are what is important.

      Thanks so much for coming! Looking forward to connecting more 🙂

      February 2, 2011
      • I was at your session too and I’ve been thinking about our principals ever since. At the session, I said, “wait a minute, the writing process is really hard for some people”, despite the fact that I wrote constantly at G-Town Talks while I was a principal. I know the two principals who work at RCS with me find it to be excruciating.

        I know I need our principals out here in the social learning spaces. Reading. Thinking about the ideas of others. Learning. Lord knows they’re accustomed to receiving endless articles, links and books from me now. I’m just not sure they have to write, to blog. Maybe they start on twitter with our parents, if writing more isn’t comfortable or maybe they contribute more to our school FB page? Lyn Hilt said how important it is that principals communicate and connect. I totally agree. I just can’t reconcile my expectations for principals who find writing for our community to be as difficult as I would find it to start a blog on which I’m doing calc publicly!

        As a supt., what’s a fair expectation for me to have for our principals?

        February 2, 2011
  3. It takes time to become connected digitally and I’ve discovered that you need to just “start” to get going. It’s too easy to postpone that blog thinking I could revise and edit it before hitting post! I find as a middle school principal that I’m able to learn from my students! I can remember several years ago sitting at a lunch table having the girls teach me how to text. Now, I can’t imagine living without that capability. Blogging and podcasting happened soon after that and now learning how to tweet from my phone while walking the hallways is a skill I’m gaining. I can’t say my first attempts where very exciting or glamorous or even for that matter – good! But, like any new skill we pick up in education, my capacity increased with usage.
    The hardest step is the first one! Now there are weekly blogs, podcasts and even tweets. Next up -Facebook. Our students are begging our teachers to move their classroom websites over to FB so that they can access it off their phones!

    February 2, 2011
  4. PrincipalJ said:

    Wow…very interessting to read the reflections. I can relate to some of the barriers (that I talk about in my blog as well). While there are many reasons to not connect, the pros outweight the cons for us to connect online.

    February 3, 2011

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