Something very interesting happened to me at our last School Board meeting and I’ve been contemplating how I was going to share this and with whom. Then I thought, why not find the learning opportunity in this event and share it with those in whom I have been learning the most in hopes that I could continue to learn.
First, by way of background it is important for readers to know that I work as both the Assistant Superintendent of Schools for SAU 16 in Exeter, NH (3+ days per week) and as an administrator at the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (2 days per week). At December’s Board meeting, my Asst. Superintendent’s position was officially reduced to part-time for 2010-2011 school year, meaning that there is no “full-time” position for me at the SAU next year. All of this was not unexpected and I am not sharing this story to stir debate about the merit of the full-time Asst. Superintendent position. More interesting to me is my role in that meeting (or lack there of) and an asynchronous conversation I had while attending the meeting.
Like most Board meetings, I was simply a bystander. As an Assistant Superintendent, I only speak when called upon at these meetings and, predictably I wasn’t called upon while the fate of my position was being discussed. Earlier in the meeting, however, while other business was being discussed, I read this post by David Warlick about backchannelling and wrote a comment about my experiences learning in the backchannel. The following day I received an email from “David” asking if he could use my comments in an upcoming book of his.
So, here’s the irony… As I sat in the same physical room with those discussing the future of my position without the option to comment, I participated in an asynchronous discussion with a leading thinker and driver of conversations in which he valued my comments so much that he is asking me for my permission to use them in his book. This was something that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing a year ago, after all, why would David Warlick be interesting in what I have to say? The idea of putting myself “out there” was so foreign for fear of being vulnerable to scrutiny and/or ridicule.
But, the real irony here is that in a face to face conversation, where I had no say and no vote, I learned little. In a virtual conversation, where I had all the say that I wanted, where there was no hierarchical structure to limit my voice or maintain order, where I had no “face” or personal connection with others participating, I learned more about the power of connective technologies and my voice in them. It only helped solidify in my mind the power of these technologies to reach beyond my physical limitations and be part of a much larger, and frankly more important conversation.
I’m wondering what experiences others have had in realizing the global connectivity of their PLN’s. Have others had a similar experience as I had, ones in which being a participant and being transparent has allowed you to grow beyond the fear of showing your vulnerabilities? Please share.