In a recent conversation with a parent whose children attend my school, the book "Tribes" by Seth Godin came up. I picked up and have started reading through it. Its really a book about inspiring people to be innovative leaders in areas that are what Clay Christianson and Michael Horn have called disruptive innovations. The basic premise is that we are all part of different tribes and that the internet has allowed those tribes to not be constrained by time or geography. But the kicker is not just being a member of a tribe, but rather gaining credibility and becoming a leader of those tribes so that you can move out of the muddle and be amazing. The vignettes in the book speak of members of corporations and communities who have taken ideas and spread them and fertilized them and nurtured them into existence and allowed them to flourish. It is about influence, power, and innovation and that leadership is really about harnessing the tools to rally folks to an idea and then give those who follow the ability to flourish with freedom. None of the ideas are really new ones or groundbreaking from other leadership texts I have been exposed to, but the tone and energy is definitely spirited and designed to enthuse and inspire.
I mention this in this blog because I would like to have our push to build a blended learning environment inspire our staff and faculty to be leaders of a new tribe of teachers who are not constrained by budgetary constraints or bureacracy and are able to push out and expand the possibilities of individualizing instruction and learning for students. As Michael Horne writes in his blogs at the Innosight Institute and how he highlighted in a recent open letter to Massachusetts Secretary of Education, setting up barriers to blocking the improvement of online learning and access and funding for students is a no win situation. It merely maintains a system that relies on the social contract tacitly agreed to by schools and parents that we will provide a safe orderly day care environment for your child so that you can go to work from 8-4 and if your lucky, we will educate your kids a little along the way. The prevalent thinking is that they will get educated if they want to learn, if they work hard at it, and if they learn in the ways and pace that adults, who have different degrees of investment in the process, set. We also all agree that mastery of any content or skill level isn't really that important as long as the "grades" are good and my child doesn't get in any big trouble. It extends to say that we would really like our child to go to a good university or college when they are old enough to no longer need the supervision schools provide. This link to a blog posting from Innosight talks about the how the structure of school supports this social contract.
Now, that view highlights the more cynical parts of the institution of public schools in America, but if we are honestly examining ourselve, we realize that it isn't really that far off from reality. Seth Godin's book would suggest that those who want to move away from this social contract schools have entered into and create a new one could be leaders of the Tribes. The power of his book is that tribe leaders come from anywhere and can be at any level of an organization. Who will be the leaders of these tribes?