Saturday afternoon I enjoyed a very stimulating conversation with an outstanding educational leader who told me about a fascinating, unconventional educational initiative at her school. Recognizing I wanted to learn more, I asked her if she had “posted” it. She told me they had presented it in several workshops and had explored doing a book, but that hadn’t come together. But I followed up: have you put it up online somewhere, on your school’s site or some other sharing venue?
Last month, NAIS President Pat Bassett emailed out a fascinating list of about a dozen schools which were leading the way in the use of “Backward Design” to advance the learning of 21st century skills for their students (I am proud to say that yes, our St. Gregory “Egg” was on the list).
As I scanned the list, my instinct was immediately to look for the links to where I could learn more. There were only email addresses for the Heads of School. I followed up by visiting some of those schools’ websites and searching for pages about the programs, and using google to search more widely, but with only a few exceptions, I found nothing.
In my presentation yesterday to the school heads of Virginia, I shared my 8 steps for leading learning forward; the list has grown by a step since my similar, (though shorter) presentation at NAIS last February.
The added 8th step is the shortest and perhaps simplest, but, I think, incredibly important: Documenting (Posting) and Sharing.
We live in an incredibly exciting and valuable age of networked learning and connected educators, and we al
l have in common improving the education of students, all students everywhere, in every way we can. We know this is best for kids, to whom we are all so dedicated, and to the future of our society, for which they will very soon be assuming important responsibility.
For those who share this common commitment (and really, who among us does not?), there is, I am arguing, a moral responsibility, a strong one, to share our educational initiatives and innovations: to summarize them, share their key elements, show examples of them in practice, and, at best, reflect upon their successes and lack thereof.
This is also an essential element of educational leadership. Leadership is showing the way to others and making it easier for them to follow, it is empowering others to benefit from your example, take inspiration, and improve upon your advances– to stand on your shoulders.
Now, in fairness, until only a very few years ago, the obstacles to sharing widely made the practical possibility of sharing very small. Resources for publishing and distributing newsletters, booklets or books, or heaven forbid films or movies were rarely available.
But that world and those limitations, are behind us. Sharing is free: it take zero dollars and not a great deal of time to share online in posts which are searchable by search engines and linkable to other sites. The obstacles having been eliminated, there are no excuses: sharing should become the expectation of all who wish to advance and improve learning in our society and on our planet.
I’ll even go one step further, but perhaps it is a step too far. Don’t ask for or expect recognition for your excellent or exciting educational innovations if you haven’t, or if you aren’t willing to, post them up and share them for the consideration, review, and inspiration of others.
I am sorry, but if you haven’t posted it, you haven’t earned ethically the admiration of others, because how can they really know what they are admiring or turn that admiration into useful activity on behalf of students and our society’s future? How can they effectively stand on your shoulders if you haven’t provided them a helpful foundation upon which to build?
Perhaps that is a step too far.
Perhaps there are times or places where schools use trade secrets or transact in propriety information, and you might not want to share every detail or every element of your program. Perhaps you want to share only a summary, because you are saving the more thorough articulation for a book or article. OK. Use some discretion, make some choices, protect as absolutely necessary.
But please, let your bias be, as strong as it possibly can be, toward sharing by posting, posting as sharing, your educational advances. All our boats, and all of our students’ boats, will lift so much higher in the rising tide of educators sharing their practices and successes.
For a very similar take on the same topic, one that certainly inspired me in the preparation of this post and the addition of Step 8 in Leading Learning Forward, be sure to see the K12 online conference keynote by Dean Shareski available here (or the edited version embedded below).
As Dean says, wonderfully:
Given the technology and our ability to connect, I say that sharing, and sharing online, is no longer an option.
I’m asking you to think deeply on your new obligation to share you need to be sharing online and sharing regularly, and helping others to do likewise.
Not as a cool thing to do, but because you owe it to others to teach students beyond your classroom and your district.
It is an ethical responsibility.
Post and Share.