It was exactly one year ago today I found out that I would be the next Superintendent of Schools for the West Vancouver School District, a position I will assume this coming January.
It was also one year ago I used the power of my network to help me secure the position. Watching Dean Shareski’s excellent keynote from the K12 Online Conference 2010 really helped to give me a greater context for the support I received – it was part of the early stages of “a sharing revolution.”
While some have heard me tell the story at various events, I wanted to share how I used Twitter to assist me in the process.
On the day of my interview, one hour in-advance of its scheduled start, I was given a question. This is standard fare for many interviews. It is a process I had experienced twice before. I was to take the hour to pull together my thoughts and formulate a presentation I would then share in the first 10 minutes of the one-hour interview.
Time #1 – 2001 – I was given the question, a pen, and some paper. I madly scribbled my thoughts. I used a highlighter to remind myself of the key points. Like doing a timed essay from university, I rushed until the final bell, and emerged to present everything I had pulled from my brain over that hour in those 10 minutes.
Time #2 – 2007 – A very similar process, but this time I was set up at a computer. I took the question and digitized the process I had done six years earlier. I performed an almost identical process except I did it in PowerPoint. Instead of emerging with highlighted notes, I had organized slides.
Last October, my interview for the Superintendent position, was different. As soon as I received the question, the first thing I did was re-post the question to Twitter. Only two years previous, I would have probably considered what I was doing as cheating. I was sharing the question with many of the smartest, most thoughtful people I knew, both locally in West Vancouver, but throughout Canada, as well as around the world.
And over the next hour, 12 people in my 500- (or so) person, Twitter network responded. There were a few quotes, some links to helpful research on the internet and a couple of “good luck” wishes. I took their thinking, blended it with my own, and put together a presentation. I concluded that the Board was not as interested in what I thought, as they were in that I could find the best thinking, synthesize these ideas, contextualize them for our location, and share them in a thoughtful way – all in a timely matter.
My 10 minutes was not about what I knew – it was about the best thinking of my network, personalized for our very unique and specific context. Networks matter. Of course, nobody had any responsibility to share, but they did.
I like (and am challenged by) this quote from Ewan McIntosh:
Sharing, and sharing online specifically, is not in addition to the work of being an educator. It is the work.
I still haven’t come to terms with what exactly the power of our networks mean for concepts like “cheating” – I am sure there are some who might view what I did as dishonest. I like to think it offers insight into what personalized learning could look like and how doing the same old assignments, the same old way, is not good enough.
In the year since my interview, I have only become more reliant on my network – in all its forms – both in the face-to-face and digital worlds. What I saw as a risk a year ago would be an automatic decision now if I was placed in a similar circumstance. I am part of a sharing revolution.
As Dean encourages us in his address, “I’d encourage you to share those stories [of openness] with others and continue to retell them until they resonate with everyone around you.”
Here again is Dean Shareski’s keynote presentation – 25 minutes well spent!