Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Leaders Need to be in the 21st Century Too!

I was a bit surprised to learn from a recent investigative report that there are a number of Congress members who have never sent an email. The reporter of this story did a little digging and discovered that nine such members of Congress proudly make this claim. I thought, really? How does that even work? The use of email has become so ubiquitous in society I can't imagine a productive work day without it. Further, for a member of Congress to make this proclamation hardly seems praiseworthy. These members of Congress certainly have email addresses that are answered by staffers. Many of them also have Twitter accounts--although they too are probably run by staffers.

To illustrate the importance of 21st Century communication, the reporter on this story decided to see if she could go a mere 24 hours without sending or receiving email. She found it incredibly difficult and the antithesis of efficient. Instead of emailing sources for information, she first had to locate a phone number, only to call and not have anyone pick up on the other end of the line! The reporter was then greeted with a message that said something like, "Thanks for calling. Please send me an email and I will respond as quickly as I can."

I have shared in this blog numerous times the importance of 21st Century communication tools. We have discussed how the business of school relies so heavily on the Internet that it makes it practically impossible (if not incredibly inefficient) to do business without this connection. To not use them does a disservice to constituents and fails to accept the fact that the steady beat of time marches on. 

Along with our members of Congress, there is another group of folks who need to stay up to date with emerging technologies or they too will find themselves slowly fading into obsolescence. I speak about those who live in our schools, leading them and working daily in classrooms with young people. Luckily, I am not aware of anyone that doesn't at least understand the basics of sending and receiving email.

But the use of email is a mere fraction of the tools available that enable schools to create a more transparent and robust system of communication. In our efforts to share our message, we must be willing to engage our constituents with the tools they are currently turning to when looking for information. We must not be afraid to use social media--we should instead leverage these tools to broadcast our message and share our story!

All too often I hear examples where this is not happening in schools. Perhaps there is a fear of the unknown. A feeling that we are too busy. Or that this is a tremendous waste of time that could better be spent on something else. Maybe we feel this is just something that is for the amusement of our kids. But shouldn't we be engaging our kids where they are?

Our failure to use these tools robs us of an opportunity to engage our communities. It forces us to be so naive as to believe the only place where people get information is through the tool of our choosing. 

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