“Skepticism has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere.”
Yesterday in a conversation with an elementary principal colleague, I allowed myself to become irritated.
I wasn’t irritated with Bill. He seems to be a genuinely great person who works hard to bring the best learning opportunities to his school. I’ve never actually met him, although I imagine I will engage in a face-to-face conversation at some point in the future, since his school is in a neighboring county in Pennsylvania. P.S. Bill is working to develop his PLN, so visit his profile and say hello!
Principal networking was the topic of our conversation. In our county, there are planned elementary principals’ meetings at our IU about once every two months or so. Turnout is low- maybe 12-15. Considering how many elementary principals there are in our county, it’s not an impressive gathering. They do their best to accommodate our schedules by beginning at 7:30 and striving to return us to our buildings by 9:30 to avoid interruptions to our day, which we all appreciate. They offer topics that are interesting and informative. There are robust conversations. We end up leaving with packets of paper. Not my favorite.
But I wonder – what about the two months between meetings? Surely we have topics to discuss, questions to ask, and may be in need of support during the “off” time? Why limit our network capabilities in this way? Resources are sometimes shared via a listserv (I didn’t even know to spell listserv), so needless to say there isn’t a lot of sharing and communication that is ongoing and/or powerful.
Bill shared that elementary principals in his county met for the first time using Elluminate. Wow! I was impressed to hear that they utilized that format to streamline the meeting process. Sadly, attendance was low. I believe he said there were about 2 or 3 participants.
2 or 3. Out of a county of 9 districts, one of which is a large urban district with 15 elementary schools. Imagine the power of bringing all of those principals together- each with unique skill sets, ideas, questions, concerns, and resources to share.
“If you build it, they will come.” Not always. Because, as we know, to delve into working with new technologies and interacting with social media in new ways requires a foundation of trust. In one another, in the systems, in the ideologies.
It takes courage and an open mind, too.
Here’s my irritation: A participant in Bill’s session voiced his concern about Twitter, in that you’re not able to trust who you follow online because they might not be who they say they are. Really? As building administrators, that’s the level of awareness we have about social media? I worry for our teachers and students in our schools if that is the case.
Could you possibly encounter someone online who is portraying themselves as an elementary principal but who really isn’t? I suppose. (And I could think of about a billion more glamorous personas to assume!) But a misconception that Twitter profiles are fluff comes from someone who has only encountered the portrayal of what social media could be. He has yet to experience this type of networking for himself. It comes from a need to learn more about digital literacies. And if he hasn’t experienced it, he surely isn’t modeling it for his school community.
So, as school leaders who find benefit in this type of networking, we need to do a better job of demonstrating how and why it makes a difference. Many of us share our ideas on our blogs, at conferences, in publications…. and I think we’re really getting somewhere with school administrators as a whole.
I know it is not the only way to network, and I appreciate face-to-face opportunities for learning. But I know the demands of this role become more incredible every day. And I know that we all experience the strain and stress this job can bring, and that having a network I can turn to is sometimes my saving grace on the rare occasion when I steer towards my wit’s end. They always have answers, and they always provide support.
So what I’m looking for in the comments section below are ways that administrators who are new to social media and professional learning networks can get started. Help their fears subside… help them battle the skepticism and preconceived notions they may have about the tools and the connections made. By sharing one real example of how social media has added to your learning, and/or by listing resources such as Connected Principals where administrators can go to gain a sense of community, or book titles such as Communicating and Connecting with Social Media, we can help grow our collective.
Please add to the conversation!