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On culture shifts, transparency and motivation

A couple of thoughts about integrating technology into classrooms and curriculums. These are somewhat off the cuff, so forgive me if they’re a bit rambling.

Transparency: When thinking about using technology to enhance teaching and learning, it’s easy to get caught up in the latest thing–the nifty web application, software or hardware device–and think that what we need to do is to train teachers how to use these. The problem is that often then, the focus becomes the wiz-bang technology, when our goal should really be to make the technology invisible.

Because that wiz-bang web site is really just a tool, a vehicle to our greater destination–not the destination itself. Hammer’s are good, but for some jobs air-nailers are better. Not all jobs, maybe. But many. That’s for the builder to decide. But the bottom line is that a good builder is going to know how to use both and have both at their disposal. I mean, who’s going to want to side or roof a house using a hammer when an air-nailer will get you there 10X faster?

But my point is this: it’s not about the hammer, or the nailer. It’s about the house. The tools are cool. But for the skilled craftsman, they’re invisible because their focus is on the next piece of siding or the shingle. They have a strong vision of the end in mind and understand how all the little pieces will eventually fit together. “Hey, what’s that in your hand?” “Oh, this? It’s an air nailer . . .hand me that board there, will you?”

Resistance and The Million Dollar Question

If a certain tool or technology can clearly be used to enhance teaching and learning (the process of building a house), why might a professional be reluctant to use it?

Intrinsic Motivation: My thoughts on nurturing a culture of on-going professional development (be it tech or other related), are that the process is a bit like building a company, or running a campaign. If it’s good, people are motivated (to vote or buy or learn) by the story. It’s up to the leaders to craft and communicate that story–and stick to it. The bottom line is that the story has to engage participants. If not, nothing happens. I appreciated the following excerpt from this article:

The phrase “big hairy audacious goal” (or BHAG) was first proposed by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book Built to Last. They say a BHAG is “clear and compelling and serves as a unifying focal point of effort, often creating immense team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal …. A BHAG should not be a sure bet … but the organization must believe ‘we can do it anyway.’ “

Key phrase: A BHAG should not be a sure bet … but the organization must believe ‘we can do it anyway’. What might that look like for our organization, I wonder?

Extrinsic Motivation: Lastly, in support of a culture of continued development, I think we should give serious consideration to the idea of incentives. The government uses them, marketers use them, companies use them–because they’re effective. It doesn’t always have to be money. But I think a critical and creative discussion about when and how to use incentives, should be a part of the overall planning process.

6 keys to creating confidence in your leadership

According to an annual report (pdf file), Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership has identified six factors that inspired confidence in leaders in 2009:

Trust
Competence
Working for the greater good of society
Shared values
Results
Being in touch

The National Leadership Index survey also analyses people’s feelings about leadership in the following six sectors compared to each other and previous years:

Military
Nonprofits & Charities
Education
Executive Branch of the Federal Government
Business
News Media sectors because of the contrasts in the confidence

Interestingly, since this report’s inception in 2005, educational leaders are consistently rated in the middle of the pack when it comes to people’s confidence in them.

Which begs the question: As leaders, what do we do, and how do we frame the conversation in order to inspire feelings of trust, competence, shared values, results, the greater good, and “in-touch-ness” (I’ll make up words if I want to) with those around us?