Topic: Leadership Issues
This is what I originally planned to write about yesterday. With a few exceptions, use of Web 2.0 tools and other communication technologies in schools almost always leads to a showdown somewhere along the line. The players vary, depending upon the situation or even local culture-- it might be IT staff vs. teachers or parents vs. administrators, etc. For example, a teacher wants to use a classroom blog to increase home/school communication only to encounter resistance from IT staff whose primary concern is to protect the integrity of the network. Or, school officials and parents clash over whether student cell phones on campus are a distruption or a safety measure.
Often, when I listen to any of the parties involved explain the situation, it's clear that they perceive the problem as an either-or situation. Someone's right and someone's wrong (usually the other party!), making it a win-lose proposition that can't be resolved without someone giving in or losing face.
I've known that this position of right-and-wrong is...well...wrong, but couldn't put my finger on exactly why until I read an article in Sunday's Seattle Times. The topic of the article was a request the FBI made to Seattle's two major newspapers, the Times and the Post-Intelligencer.
Two men (apparently of Middle Eastern descent) had raised the suspicions of ferry staff because they rode at least 6 different routes within a few weeks, asked questions about ferry operations, and took photographs of odd things like ferry doorways. One employee became so suspicious, he took a photo of the two men. The concerns and photo were brought to the attention of the FBI.
The FBI asked both newspapers to print the photo to ask the public's help in identifying the men and both papers refused, saying there was not enough information to justify tying these men to terrorism. A day later, after additional investigation, one paper printed the photo, while the other still refused. Both papers heard loud and clear from readers who thought each decision was dead wrong. This is where the ephinany happens for me.
Apparently, one reader identified this as a right vs. right decision. It wasn't a matter of someone being wrong. Instead, it was a matter of trying to make the best decision between two correct courses of action. This idea comes from a book called "How Good People Make Tough Decisions," by Rushworth Kidder.
The author of the article relates this idea to what he calls the "shrill, mean-spirited and absolutist" posts appearing in a variety of online venues these days. This is what led me to think about the conflicts I see in schools and districts related to technology and also helped me begin to get a glimmer of why it's so tough for the people involved to work toward resolution that's good for everyone involved.
Anyway, the book's on it's way. Once I've had a chance to dig into it, I'm sure I'll have more thoughts to share here.