Data Use, Technology, and Educational Leadership
At the moment, I’m working through how to report some of my findings regarding school leaders’ uses of Twitter. As I’ve mentioned before, they love it and feel like they are learning. But one of the questions I pressed them on was something to the effect of “did your Twitter use actually lead to changes in your school?” Responses to this issue seem to have been mixed. The floodgates of change didn’t explode, but they did seem to creak more open.
On one hand, I got plenty of answers about “soft” changes. Stuff like feeling smarter, better connected to teachers, to the community, etc. I think a skeptic would respond to such answers with something like, “Yeah, but those aren’t really changes, are they?”
“Real” changes to policy, practice, or how schools went about their business were infrequent but interesting.
Adjusting the metric on “making a difference.” These results could be interpreted as saying that Twitter doesn’t make much of a difference to schools. After all, these are not huge, widespread, revolutionary advancements to how schools go about their business. But I think that anyone who maintains such a high bar is setting themselves up for disappointment.
I think that what we see here is a “proof of concept” that PLNs can be helpful, but that it is also hard to (a) make change; (b) leverage external knowledge toward change; and (c) be aware of where knowledge/dispositions come from in the midst of our trying to actually do our jobs. Further, I think it’s worth musing about whether such changes would have happened at all were it not for Twitter.
And those touchy-feely “soft” changes? Things like relationships (trust, social capital, etc.) do matter for how people do their jobs. Turning to others for advice or knowledge doesn’t happen all day every day, but we’ve all fallen into situations where having a little expertise to rely upon in a pinch was useful but difficult to predict or measure.