Data Use, Technology, and Educational Leadership
One of the things I’m interested in is how knowledge about helping students (i.e. the academic stuff, the “whole kid,” technology) gets used and shared among educators. Last week I described the overall technology advice network of a Catholic 1:1 school I’ve been studying. I shared a sociogram and little bit about how to read it. It was evident that at this school, some people were definitely seen as “go to” people for advice about teaching with technology. Although I do no think that having “go to” people is necessarily a bad (or even avoidable) thing, I do think there are strengths and weaknesses to the dynamic that may affect leading and managing schools.
For example, if certain people do serve as key resources for information about improving certain aspects of their teaching, are they the right people? Do the expertise and attitudes you want flowing throughout your school do so with gusto? Here are some wicked preliminary ways to begin thinking about these issues using social network analysis.
Are your experts also “go to” people? Are non-experts “go to” people?
I explained last week that the sizes of Figure 1’s circles helped to demonstrate how often a particular person was sought after for advice. Astute readers might have also noticed that those circles were either blue or pink. The colors of the circles help to tell a little more of the story of this school by describing frequency of technology use. People who “use technology more than everyone else” (ranked at or above the 50th percentile) are shown as blue circles. People who “use technology less than everyone else” are shown as pink circles . Right away, you see that the biggest circles are blue. In other words, the people who use the most technology are also the ones that other teachers are most likely to go for advice about using technology. You might also notice, however, that some pink circles are bigger than the blue ones. In other words, these are people who are below average on their tech use, but get sought after for advice nonetheless.
Frequent vs. Infrequent Talkers
We can understand more about advice at this school of by looking only at those people who talk frequently. Whereas Figure 1 showed the advice network for anyone (with any frequency), Figure 2 shows only strong ties (interactions at least once a week). The first thing you’ll notice is that the blue circles (the frequent technology users) are connected to other blue circles. In other words, the school has a core of regular tech users that also talk to each other. As circle size suggests, these are also often “go to” people for advice. The plus side to this image is that you don’t have a bunch of wizards who never leave their caves. They talk to each other.
Is there a minus side? Maybe. If you look only at low users, you see that they’re pretty isolated. It’s basically a shotgun pattern. School leaders might ponder whether it’s good for these people to be so disconnected from the core– and being disconnected from each other is a totally separate issue.
Also, one risk to any tightly woven core is the issue group think (failing to grow or make good decisions because we’re all really hot on our own ideas). My gut says that this probably is not happening at this school: as the original Figure 1 blob suggests, high users do connect at least somewhat with low users. I haven’t run the numbers yet, though.
Stuff to Ponder
Until then, you might find it amusing to ponder if your school has an “in club,” and whether that influences how people do their jobs. Although I’ve focused on the big blue circles (high tech, highly sought after people), think about the small circles of any color at your school. Above, the small blue circles are higher frequency technology users that don’t generally get to share their expertise. Also note the small pink circles off the corner—low-frequency users who don’t talk to anyone about technology regularly.