Wednesday, March 23, 2011

BSU Blogfest -- Day 3

Blogger for Hire

Last year, I sent a note to the publisher John Wiley & Sons about a technical problem with one of its online resources. I must have mentioned that I was trying to connect to it from one of my blogs. In any case, the editor took a look at my blogs, and invited me to start blogging for Wiley. I had written for Wiley before, with mixed results, and was a bit reluctant because the last product had followed such a tight formula that I felt I really contributed nothing to it. Moreover, I do my blogging as a way of trying to interest new people in geography, and I did not want to create blog behind a pay wall. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Wiley was really interested in something like the blogging I already do, as part of a new site is open to all web users and promoted to Wiley customers.

My posts there are less frequent – even though I’m paid for them – because of a few ways this blog is different from my main blog, even though the subjects are nominally the same. Although the editor has assured me that they want “my voice,” I do verge into more radical territory on my blog, though I like the opportunity to get critical ideas out to a new audience through Wiley from time to time.

A greater limitation is that a corporation-owned blog is more concerned about potential lawsuits than is a strictly academic blog, which results in a much more conservative approach to posting images. On my own blog, I consider a clearly cited image, linked back to origin, to be within copyright fair-use, and I’ve actually had this view validated on several occasions by various copyright holders.  The other differences is that the publisher likes for me to highlight “key” words, which many of my off-the-cuff posts do not really have, and that it can take a week or so for a post to appear. Still, I have enjoyed posting these, and I invite readers to choose the following links: my posts , all the posts, and Concept Caches.

The project has forced me to diversify slightly in terms of blogging interfaces – all of my other blogs are on Blogger/blogspot, but Wiley uses Wordpress (which I do not find substantially different) for its main blog and a proprietary (I think) database for its companion Concept Caching site. The latter allows users to load geolocated photos with brief captions. It is not limited to hired authors; anybody can set up an account and share examples of geographic images from the field.

Now for today’s Blog Fest theme question:
What does the phrase “effective leadership” mean to you?

Since I first read the list of themes a couple of weeks ago, I have been giving this question the most thought, and a constant stream of both positive and negative examples have been running through my mind.  The common threads are closely related to what I have written earlier this week about learning: leadership is listening. And like leadership, listening is rare.

I have many opportunities to witness different leadership styles as I travel from school to school with Project EarthView (whose blog I mentioned on Day 1). Almost every Friday, our team – usually a retired teacher, an undergraduate student, and one or two professors – visits an elementary or middle school in the area. We have found that whether the school seems to be a positive, constructive learning environment has a lot to do with the on-site leadership – that is, the principal. Simply put, the best schools have excellent principals, whose personal styles may run the gamut – from flighty to regimented, quiet to loud, funny to serious. But the good leaders communicate with clarity and respect to everyone around them, and they are clearly listening. They know that their purpose is not to achieve, but rather to facilitate the achievements of those around them. They command respect because they give respect.

Weak leaders -- and I have seen them -- lead from a position of scarcity. When asked for resources, they respond, “Why can’t you do without that?” In these days – years, decades – of criminally underfunded schools, the worst leaders are those who cave in too quickly to outside demands, “leading” their schools to please their outside taskmasters.

Good leaders -- and I have seen them, too -- lead from a position of possibility. When setting priorities, these leaders listen to the ideas of the people they lead more than they impose their own notions and theories of what will work. When asked for resources, they respond, “I will figure out how to get that for you” or “How can we make this happen?” And because they have not squandered resources -- and staff morale -- chasing their own agendas, the resources might actually be available!

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