Josh Bernoff, co-author with Charlene Li of the book “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies,” has specific recommendations for organizational revolutionaries who want to use social media in transformational ways to change cultures of work and service. In this ten minute interview, Josh discusses the importance of winning over the top leader in your organization FIRST before embarking on a social media initiative involving a wiki, blog, or other social media platform. Michael Dell and Dell Inc. is one example he cites as a case study. Social media can and will threaten existing ways of “doing business” and operating, and support from top leadership is essential to insure as a change agent that you won’t be taken out by co-worker sniper fire. It is also important to not hide what you are doing, but rather bring your idea to other leaders in your organization for their input and feedback. Not everyone will be supportive, Josh says, but it is better to bring your innovation out in a transparent way so pushback can be openly invited, made visible, and addressed.

In schools and educational organizations, we can apply these lessons from Josh and Charlene as well. I had a phone conversation with Kevin Honeycutt last night, in which we discussed how often we see a mid-level administrator in a school (often an IT director or network manager) stifle and stop educational innovation involving Internet websites and social media. Addressing these issues is one goal of the “Unmasking the Digital Truth” wiki project. My thought on this is, if the leaders of the organization don’t “get it” and support it (the proposed changes to organizational processes and culture catalyzed with social media) then the revolution is going to be stopped in its tracks. This happens quite often, I think, in our schools when it comes to web 2.0 technologies and creative, “different ideas” more generally.

We cannot and must not underestimate the importance of educational leadership, and our top level administrators both understanding and embracing an agenda for change in learning as it relates to social media as well as blended learning more generally. This agenda should not focus exclusively on the use of technologies: It can and should be focused more broadly on ENCOURAGING CREATIVITY within the organization. Creativity does not thrive in many cultures, and without supportive leadership creativity is often stifled.

Just as Josh encourages business revolutionaries for social media to “point to the success stories” of other companies who have and are utilizing social media platforms effectively to improve services and results, in educational organizations we need to do the same thing. We need to more effectively highlight and amplify those organizations who are finding ways to embrace and leverage, rather than ban and cower before, social media technologies. Kevin Jarrett tweeted a link yesterday to the article, “CHS lifts ban on social networking sites,” telling about a North Dakota School (Century High School) in which teachers are able to use websites including YouTube and Facebook for the first time at school. Sites like Twitter and PollEverywhere are available for both student and teacher use this year at CHS. Amplifying school district policies and positive experiences with social media like this is an important part of the process of not only leveraging the power of social media for school public relations, but also for learning (on the part of teachers as well as students) and student achievement.

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