We live in the knowledge age. It's a new age for voice and choice given the tremendous technological tools and research we have to lead our work. This leads to the question, What are the best vehicles for employing voice and choice in teaching/learning organizations?
As I think about this, I certainly don't have all the answers. It's a big questions knowledge age learning/teaching organizations are grappling with as they move away from old time factory models to models of distributed leadership and effort. I do have some thoughts however that relate to this quandary.
Share Facts, Articles, and Background Information Via Online Threads
There's no need for large groups of people to meet to read an article or review a page of facts together. That work can be done on an educator's own time via the Internet. That's how our mandated trainings are done, and it's a great replacement for the days of old when we would sit in a large auditorium to listen to a laundry list of rules and regulations. It is important, however, that time is set aside for online reading and review when assigned.
Use Collaborative Time for Meaningful Efforts
By placing all simple and surface information online, we make time for meaningful collaborative efforts. Time together needs to be well orchestrated using good process and focused on a question of mutual interest and need. How we design these collaborative meetings is important. We need to think about who will be there, what their experience is, and the processes that can best engender meaningful conversation and result. As I've spoken about many times Callahan and Ritzius's work on "Hosting Conversations" leads the way in this regard. Numbers need to be considered carefully here too. When I attended a meeting at Google years ago, venture capitalist, Steve Jurvetson, mentioned the power of groups sized with five plus one more or less. When groups get too big, meaningful dialogue is often diluted.
Bottom-Up Goal Setting
Goal setting plays an important role in knowledge-age organizations. I believe that bottom-up goal setting can be a very powerful effort. For example, at our school now, educators had the chance to share their ideas related to school goals. Then using a prioritizing process, educators have been asked to vote on those ideas. It's very interesting to read the ideas of many and then to have the choice to vote on school goals. Using a process like this invites voice, and the more processes like this are used the more educators will begin to use voice in ways that matter. As educators use their voices more, they will likely model and invite student voice more too.
With regard to system-wide goals, goal processes could be started with an effort like the one I explain above and move it's way all the way up the teaching/learning leadership ladder resulting in goals that reflect an entire organization by the end. Of course, it can't be a process of voting only snce it's important for their to be time to discuss and debate the goals too.
Good process is essential with regard to knowledge age collaborative work. Good process takes time to create, learn, and use. It needs to be revisited regularly and relies on trusting relationships and development over time.
Transparent, Inclusive Communication
If the news can be shared, it should be shared. Of course, it's great if the share is concise too. Also it's terrific to host well organized share vehicles such as websites that can be easily accessed, read, and revisited again and again if needed. The best communication includes what's happened, what is happening now, and what may happen. This communication invites reflection, knowledge, and vision building with the whole community. It's also important to create good communication patterns that people can rely on.
Openness to New Ideas
To invite voice and choice is also to be open to new ideas and differentiation of experience, perspective, and need. Openness leads to greater community and creativity.
I will continue to think about this topic as it is one that interests me with regard to building the best possible schools possible--schools that truly teach every child well.