The Story of the Log Jam

What a privilege to attend my first ever admin conference. The featured speaker was Will Richardson. He enriched my life in two short days.

@willrich45 has numerous credits to his name, including co-authoring, Personal Learning Network: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education“. I came away feeling pretty good about my techno intelligence, but better yet, discovered many areas for expanding my PLN.

During breakfast on Friday morning I was fortunate to chat with one of our school trustees. She shared a metaphor about educational log jams. This story was told to her by a former School Superintendent,  Richard Bulpitt, a beloved man who sadly passed away several years ago.

Here’s my version of his metaphor.

 The Story of the Log Jam

      Once upon a time in a land not far away families connected together in community. They had many children between them and realized that these children needed to learn. They also needed to help with the land, farm, stores, and all other things family related, thus they couldn’t spend too much time with reading, writing and arithmetic. In their collective wisdom this community of families decided to pool the children in one place and give the task of teaching them to a wise person. They called this person the teacher. And this was successful for many, many decades. 

     More communities were planted, more teachers were chosen. Growth required the wise community members to establish separate, yet connected boards of education. These BOE’s were good managers of money, time, and teachers. Soon there were many boards, to oversee the many teachers and ever-growing groups of learners. These boards looked to their leader, the Minister of All Things Educational to lead them. And this was successful for a time. 

    BUT THEN…all the logs; for each participant from student to policy maker is indeed a log, converged not just with each other but with environmental and techno factors thus colliding in a GREAT BIG JAM.  

       And everything stopped.  

                                         Almost.  

     Along the way some of these logs got caught up in side bars and eddies. Some attached themselves to river banks and hunkered down in safe alcoves, but most continued down the river. Eventually leader logs; full of wisdom, integrity, creativity, and a LARGE twitter following floated to the front of the jam. They were persistent in their hue and cry for a new way and eventually they broke free. The next log, not to be left in a position of stuckness broke away as well. At last there was room to move. One by one; sometimes three, four, or five logs at a time went forward. Sadly some chose to head back and remained spinning or stuck, but most found a new place to flow. 

 And they gained speed,

                     and they gathered new logs, 

                                  new ideas, 

                                            and moved swiftly down the river. 

It’s 2012 and we’re in a bit of a log jam. The question is:  How do we get unstuck? 

  iPads!   iPads for all! 

Technology is the answer. 

Or is it?

Perhaps it’s simpler than that. Perhaps we must collectively pull (or push) out a log, one of the big ones that is blocking the rest. It could be money? fear? lack of clarity? too many choices? It might take getting more than one out-of-the-way. Imagine the relief when that blocker log is gone (fear, time, control, add your own) and the river is flowing again.

I posit that the log jam at each level from the MOE to the school level has started its shift. Some barriers are being removed gently, nudged forward by the build up of pressure from behind, others are/will be moved more robustly. Out of the log jam existing leaders are being re-energized to continue leading; new leaders have emerged.

I still have more questions than answers but this I do know. It’s an exciting time to be in the river. I feel the current gaining power and influence. I see the junk being cleared out. I can smell the freshness of clean water; not much opportunity for stagnating.

We are connected whether we like it or not. We have little choice other than to move forward. To resist will surely result in a stinky, algae filled mess.

As an aside and on a more personal note, this conference was more than learning how to make connections online. I was able to put faces to administrators. Interesting!

The welcome I received; the inclusion into a new group was phenomenal. I lost count of the number of people who extended words of encouragement and invitations to call with any questions…any questions at all…

So, what does one wear to admin meetings?

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