TESS Article 4 – Learning Logs and Leadership


In the last week I’ve twice been described in introductions to people as “Don blogs”. It’s as if by blogging someone can draw some conclusion about me from that fact – regardless of what I write about.

I did a quick Google search for “blogito ergo sum – “I blog therefore I am” – apologies to Descartes. Maybe you can tell something about someone who blogs?  But when I think about the range of people whose professional blogs I read there doesn’t seem any common stereotype which could be applied.

I think a key factor which is influencing some people’s perception about blogging is that it’s seen to be connected with ego. The very word “blog” has the potential to be an obstacle and cause an immediate negative reaction.  If the word only serves to exclude – rather than include – then it becomes serious handicap. That’s why I prefer the term “Learning Log”.

A “Learning Log” can be captured in a relatively simple tri-colon: “Where you’ve been; where you are; and where you’re going”. I’m not talking here of travel in any sort of geographical sense, but more about the journey which relates to our opinions, ideas and perceptions.

A Learning Log imposes a discipline upon the reflective process, which, although it may be going on informally, or tacitly, all of the time, can often be lost in the ‘jungle’ which forms much of our daily, weekly and monthly work.

The Learning Log just gives you that brief – and, for me, ever more valuable, opportunity to step outside and look back upon your practice and direction of travel.

The reflective power of the on-line Learning Log is magnified when the contribution of others’ comments is taken into consideration. The Learning Log therefore provides an invaluable strategic map, in that it enables you to retrace your steps and see where you’ve come from, identify where you are at any one point in time and, hopefully, enable you to explore the future in a relatively safe environment.

The other, incredibly useful role for the Learning Log is that it enables you to see connections between various things that you are doing that might not be apparent if they were contained within their normal silos.  For me it’s this connecting function that helps me to make sense of some the very disparate things that I do in my day-to-day work.

If this seems focused upon the benefits to the Learning Logger then that has been deliberate – the benefit of a Learning Log to other people is very much dependent upon the reader’s perception – although one would hope that it might be of some interest.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been looking for other educational manager’s blogs from across the globe. The result of my search has been to find a quite disproportionate imbalance towards bloggers who are not in significant management positions. Such a perception only serves to reinforce the notion amongst some that blogging is essentially a subversive activity, which in turn reinforces the traditional “them” and “us” mentality in education.

There appear to be three main obstacles which prevent educational managers from keeping a Learning Log: lack of time; confidentiality; and status.

To which I would respond:
1. Time spent in open and honest reflection is never time wasted, it was John  Dewey who said that “We only learn from experience, if we reflect upon experience”
2. There are many things which do need to remain confidential but in reality it only relates to very small parts of our jobs and even then it’s possible to reflect upon the underlying issues without breaking any confidence.
3. Keeping a Learning Log which is open to the world challenges the traditional hierarchy – anybody can respond and have an influence upon your thinking – but just as importantly gain an insight into your world – which for so many is remote and shut off from their realities.

I’m not suggesting here that keeping a Learning Log necessarily means that anyone will become a better manager or leader – but I would argue that it’s this kind of collaborative engagement with others which might help education break free from the predominant hierarchical culture where the expectation is that “the leader thinks and the led act”.


Intellectual chat – (Mark Walker is in the centre of the photo)

I received an unexpected, yet very welcome, comment on my Log today from someone I’d met at Harvard in the summer (had I mentioned I’d been in Harvard?)

Mark Walker and I had I struck up a mutually abusive friendship during the course which our American hosts couldn’t quite understand – how could two people who had never met before be so rude to each other? For an Australian he was a decent enough chap! – if a bit “dull” – yet the Scots and the Aussie groups formed an formidable alliance.

It’s one of the joys of keeping a blog that people can keep track of each other and I’m looking forward to reading Mark’s own version when he sets it up – that is assuming he can master the technology and manage to write – two significant feats for an Australian!

Open Source Leadership

I’ve just finished reading and can recommend Wikinomics, by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams.

The strapline for the book reads: “How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything”

How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

The dustcover describes the book as follows :

In the last few years, traditional collaboration—in a meeting room, a conference call, even a convention center—has been superceded by collaborations on an astronomical scale.

Today, encyclopedias, jetliners, operating systems, mutual funds, and many other items are being created by teams numbering in the thousands or even millions. While some leaders fear the heaving growth of these massive online communities, Wikinomics proves this fear is folly. Smart firms can harness collective capability and genius to spur innovation, growth, and success.

A brilliant primer on one of the most profound changes of our time, Wikinomics challenges our most deeply-rooted assumptions about business and will prove indispensable to anyone who wants to understand the key forces driving competitiveness in the twenty-first century.

During my time in the U.S the I was struck by the idea of Open Source Leadership – as a metaphor for a leadership approach where collaboration was the key factor in moving an organisation forwards.

Of course on returning home I googled “Open Source Leadership” – it came as no surprise that others have been here long before me. However, if I were to try to capture the type of approach which I think education needs to develop in the next few years then “Open Source Leadership”  – with a focus upon peer production and mass collaboration – would appear to have massive potential.

Post Script:

It’s nearly two years since Robert Jones first introduced me to the concept of Open Source – now here I am using it a metaphor for leadership in education.

Blogito ergo………..


In the last week I’ve twice been described in introductions to people as “Don blogs” – another one went “you’re the person who blogs”.

It’s as if by blogging someone can draw some conclusion about me from that fact – regardless of what I write about.

I did a quick search for blogito ergo sum – “I blog therefore I am” –  apologies to Descartes – but I’m not the first here (rarely have been)

Maybe you can tell something about someone who blogs? – but when I think about the range of people whose professional blogs I read there doesn’t seem any common stereotype which could be applied. 

So why the “you blog therefore you are…….” perhaps it’s just part of the process we need to go through until it becomes a more common activity, or perhaps it’s just another convenient/shorthand way to characterise people in this busy world we live in?

Or maybe by blogging you really are…………………………………….?

Edubuzz Open Meeting


We held an Edubuzz Open meeting this afternoon.

We made some key decisions:

Make use of the Edubuzz blog as the front page to the site as opposed to the current page (which we would aspire to in the future) –  we felt the current front page did not enable people to easily understand the purpose and background to Edubuzz, nor did it allow for easy access to blogs of particular interest, nor enable them to set up their own blog with ease.

Promote the edubuzz platform to teachers through: more direct promotion to Head Teachers – Ronnie Summers will make a brief presentation at our next HT conference; and more direct delivery sessions, such as Teach Meet, in schools; develop the Extreme Learning format which requires access to the platform; encourage blogging by probationers and students.

Organise a Saturday conference in the Autumn, probably at Musselburgh Grammar School.

Encourage a support more parental blogs

See Tess Watson, Lynne Lewis, Ollie Bray , Stewart Meldrum and Dave Cain for further insights

Agile Software Developments


One of the delights of keeping a Learning Log are the comments and suggestions you receive from other people.

And so it was when Kenneth McLaughlin left a comment on one of my recent posts.

Kenneth pointed us in the direction of Agile Software Developments:

The modern definition of agile software development evolved in the mid 1990s as part of a reaction against “heavyweight” methods, as typified by a heavily regulated, regimented, micro-managed use of the waterfall model of development. The processes originating from this use of the waterfall model were seen as bureaucratic, slow, demeaning, and inconsistent with the ways that software engineers actually perform effective work.

I was fascinated to read about the Agile model of development as I think it corresponds, in many ways, to how we are trying to take things forward education in East Lothian.

Without access to the Learning Log such a link could never have been made and an opportunity of reflecting upon our practice would not have emerged. It’s this kind of lateral engagement with other fields of study and enterprise that can help education to break free from some of the more traditional development models which have so singularly failed to bring about productive change.

Blogging made easy!


David Gilmour has done it again. 

If you are feel you don’t have the technical knowledge to keep your own blog then take look at David’s quick guide to starting your own blog. 

It’s all very well telling people that creating a blog is straightforward – but there’s no substitute for showing them. So to demystify the process, he’s made a short “screencast” animation that takes you through the process step by step.

The whole thing can be easily viewed in under 2 minutes – maybe under one minute if you’re in a hurry and your network connection’s fast enough.

It’s a 3MB Flash movie, so best viewed on a broadband connection.

So farewell Exc-el.


We had very useful Exc-el Open meeting this evening.

Look out for our forthcoming skype (or equivalent) conference – Ollie Bray will be setting this up – participants are welcome.

For me one of our most significant decisions was to move from Exc-el.org.uk to www.edubuzz.org during the Easter break.

I was personally fond of Exc-el as it’s been with us from the start of this development which started nearly two and half years ago. Exc-el (which stood for Excellence in East Lothian) was maybe a bit cheesy but I remember coming up with the name driving over Soutra one wet and windy evening and thinking it was very clever. Anyway – we’ve decided – and I wholeheartedly agree – that it’s not the most user friendly name and edubuzz more accurately reflects what we are trying to do. 

With over 660 bloggers and nearly 4000 visits a day to Exc-el (soon to be edubuzz) sites, we are really on a point of take off.  We are committed to the concept which drives open source software in that everything we do is open to colleagues in other authorities – or countries for that matter – and hope to share our ideas and practice as widely as possible. I think the following extract from the Wikipedia definition says it all:

The open source model of operation can be extended to open source culture in decision making which allows concurrent input of different agendas, approaches and priorities, in contrast with more centralized models of development such as those typically used in commercial companies.

“Open source” as applied to culture defines a culture in which collective decisions or fixations are shared during development and made generally available in the public domain- – – as seen with Wikipedia. This collective approach moderates ethical concerns over a “conflict of roles” or conflict of interest. Participants in such a culture are able to modify the collective outcomes and share them with the community.

Greetings from Sydney!!


I was delighted to receive a comment from Vince Campbell a school principal from Sydney, Australia. As readers of this blog may be aware I’m an avid follower of the curricular developments taking place in that country so it was particularly gratifying to think that we might have something to offer our colleagues in Oz. 

Greetings from Sydney, Don. I have been following your learning log for some time now with a great deal of interest and it is proving a great source of learning for me. I also read many of the blogs on your blogroll – some great work going on in East Lothian.

It’s this type of contact that reinforces the power of the web by enabling people to come together to share practice and experiences. I look forward to following Vince’s progress and learning more about education in his country.

Exc-el Parental Roadshow


We held an Exc-el Open Group meeting this evening.

We discussed the permission forms which parents will be asked to sign to enable their children to participate and have their images displayed on school websites.

Christine – AKA guineapigmum – suggested that it would be good to speak to school boards about blogging/use of images/learning through the web.  The idea quickly developed into a Parental Roadshow which we intend to offer to each cluster group in the summer term. 

We thought me might be able to link this with the associated developments surrounding the Parental Involvement Bill

The evening might look something like this:

  • start with a presentation by teachers, parents and children relating to how they use the web.
  • Followed by a “come and try” session.
  • Rounded off by an opportunity for questions and answers

This might prove to be a popular event and enable schools to draw more parents into involvement whilst also reinforcing  cluster identity.

Who wants to go first?