Leading from the Edge Published 2006-07-05

Leading from the Edge
by Chris O'Neal
Wednesday July 5, 2006 (8:30am)

Have you ever experienced the phenomenon where someone tells you about something, then all of a sudden you are hearing about it all over the place. This was the case for me when someone ask what was my "elevator story". For those not up with this concept, consider this: You are on vacation returning to your hotel room to get your daughter's favorite stuffed bear she left forgot to pack. On the elevator ride up, you are joined by Bill Gates who expresses interest in what you are doing. You have the attention of a known supporter of both technology and education and only ten floors to express your ideas. What do you say?

Since hearing of the "elevator story" idea, I have read about it several times and have even had the opportunity to try a few versions out. I found myself amused to hear Chris O'Neal telling a group of educators that we need to be able to speak about our projects and visions in bullet points. In others words, we must be able to condense our story to the salient points necessary to capture or at least interest the listener.

In his NECC session this morning, Chris offered more suggestions on how we can be more effective technology leaders. For me, the highlights of the presentation were:

  1. Know and accept "the givens" which include
    • you will need to justify expenditures
    • you will be dealing with change
    • you will have to prove technology's worth ("evaluation starts beforehand")
  2. Personalize your message
    • Know about your "higher-ups" so you can speak to things that interest them
    • Personally invite people to your next meeting or workshop. If your program/project will significantly benefit from their presence at the event, it is important that you take the time to craft a personalized invitation for these participants rather than sending out a general flyer or mass email. Even if these folks do not attend the event, they will appreciate the personal invitation and at least be aware of the event.
    • Take charge of your public relations. Craft different messages based on the recipients. For example, if you are speaking to administrators, include funding issues in the conversation and when talking with teachers include benefits to learning in your message.
    • You should not only target your message to those who make the decisions. You should also should get to know those who work with the "higher-ups". Have coffee with the administrative assistant.
  3. Be your best
    1. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Utilize folks who are strong in areas where you are weak.
    2. Develop a set of resources from which you can grow. Technology and how it is enhancing education is constantly changing and you need to keep up.
    3. Take time for reflection. Schedule time in your week when you are not available - time for yourself to reflect, think, daydream, create, innovate.

Chris also added some fuel for your next elevator ride:

  • 80 percent of parents BELIEVE that the Internet helps teens do better in school.
  • 86 percent of students BELIEVE that the Internet helps teens do better in school
  • "There is not really an avenue at school for me to share, or create original work, or publish my stuff - that's really the only reason I love MySpace so much." student quote

Overall, Chris' presentation was well done though only offered a taste of the type of things that helps us be more effective technology leaders. Now we can develop and expand on his thoughts.