I think that leadership may be mostly a commitment to the constant mediation and care required by love, that place where both individuality and relationship must assert themselves and somehow walk and dance together.
I have spent the last few months thinking about the role leadership plays as we transition our learning into the Open. I keep coming back to this definition from Gardner. He was responding to a quote pulled from Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky. In that quote the authors go on to describe many of the acts we see in open learning spaces:
And every day you must decide whether to put your contribution out there, or keep it to yourself to avoid upsetting anyone, and get through another day. You are right to be cautious. Prudence is a virtue. You disturb people when you take unpopular initiatives in your community, put provocative new ideas on the table in your organization, question the gap between colleagues’ values and behavior, or ask friends and relatives to face up to tough realities.
Leaders Who Teach Me
This made me realize when we create opportunities for open learning we create leadership engines. I see this in the actions of so many people I have come to know and respect through a variety of open learning initiatives. There are too many to list. So I will share the next three that come across Tweetdeck:
Maha really needs no introduction. I got to know her through connected courses, and rhizo15, and a variety of other online learning experiences. She, along with Rebecca Hogue, founded virtually connecting. This online space connects on the ground conference participants with virtual buddies. This has expanded conference access to thousands. Maha and Jennifer see this as an issue of advocacy and equity. Conference attendance comes from a place of privilege. The learning that occurs there should not.
Laura needs no introduction…if you are one of Google+’s seven users. I kid Laura, but in actuality no on has pushed my teaching in the open through RSS more than Laura (Jim Groom and Alan Levine aside). I met Laura first on Google+ and maybe through #ds106.
Kevin, much like Terry Elliot, has always pushed my thinking on the boundaries of storytelling. I actually met Kevin IRL before following his every move online. He has inspired me to rethink what is possible when we allow children to play with meaning.
I have met so many awesome leaders during my journey through open learning: Doug Belshaw, Verena Roberts, Karen Fasimpaur, Emma Irwin, Sarah Honeychurch, Anna Smith, Simon Esnor, Lee Sakallerup, Laura Hilliger and everyone in our Slack channels. They commit as leaders through learning. Through teaching they bring “the constant mediation and care required by love” to help ensure the Open Web remains a place where we can feel safe to put ourselves out there.
I try to make my little donation back to Open teaching through a collective project called #walkmyworld.
Teaching Leaders Teaching Me
I grow as a leader and learner through #walkmyworld. In this annual social media gathering we come together to explore the boundaries of texts and identities. We complete a series of ten learning events and share them with the world. What I have realized is we have also created a pathway to leadership development.
A great turn of events. I now sit back and learn while others lead. Many of our first participants now organize #walkmyworld.
Kate is one of the most amazing teachers I have ever met. She works in Australia and has participated in #walkmyworld since 2014. She has helped to organize the last two iterations. In looking back at #walkmyworld Kate notes:
I have always felt comfortable experimenting with new digital tools but participating in this project and becoming an organiser has certainly enriched my pedagogy and self-confidence as a teacher. I now have access to a number of ‘literacy experts’ and colleagues that I feel comfortable enough to be quite open and honest with. They support and validate what I am doing, not only with the project, but also with my class and the experiences I am creating for my students.
In her post Kate goes on to note that #walkmyworld has improved her classroom management and what Ryan Rish calls, “pedagogic imagination.”
Stephanie credits #walkmyworld in shaping her journey into a doctoral program. She took part as local node when Ryan Rish used some of the learning events in his class. She notes:
It was the first iteration of the alternative MOOC-like-thing. The learning events and poetry of Robert Hass made an impression, but for me, the connection between students and professors and teachers across the world was both fascinating and exciting. I barely recall the events of that year, but I do remember the people.
Fast forward several months to an unexpected invitation to collaborate with the creators for the second iteration. I was still working on my M.Ed., but suddenly I felt like a valued member of academia. Considering I was just over a year from being told that my background wasn’t good enough to teach high school, I was floored. And excited. I had something to offer that someone actually wanted. It doesn’t get much better than that for someone like me.
Katarina organizes #walkmyworld after being what she called a “rogue participant” last year. She is drawn to the scholarly aspect of an open research project:
I think technology and the multimodal composing that I’ve done in #Walk and in other projects since has been critical for me really getting to the heart of concepts like visual literacy, modal affordances, and where modes are present in everyday life without digital technology.
She goes on to explain that research community around #walkmyworld has lead to new creative activity:
I’m not teaching a class right now, but I’ve done a case study of the planning and implementation of #WalkMyWorld 2015 for both the LRA annual conference and a class paper around situated learning and communities of practice. I am thinking that #WalkMyWorld 2016 will pair nicely with my New Literacies class this upcoming semester!
Good open communities create pipelines of participation. Leadership emerges from learning. I know when I look back at #walkmyworld I am thankful for the lessons that people like Kate, Stephanie, and Katarina have taught me. I am proud to say we all walk and dance together.