Read Distributed Leadership Matters: Perspectives, Practicalities, and Potential by an author
I have been wondering about the idea of leadership with a little l for quite a while now. I first came upon Alma Harris’ distributed leadership in an article within ACER’s Teacher magazine. This then led me to Harris’ book Distributed Leadership Matters.

What stood out was the focus on conditions of learning and trust, rather than particular actions and attributes. Coupled with Disciplined Collaboration, Harris provides something of a vision for empowering staff to lead the change from the ground on up. It clearly addresses the how and why, leaving the what up to you.

Although not designed to replace traditional leadership structures and expectations, it is hard to imagine that things remaining the same. Below then is a collection of my notes and quotes from reading.

Marginalia

Distributed leadership is primarily concerned with the interactions and the dynamics of leadership practice rather than a preoccupation with the formal roles and responsibilities traditionally associated with those “who lead.” This book argues that it is the practice of leadership that is most important if the goal, in schools and districts, is to secure better instruction and improved learner outcomes.

Leadership distribution has to be first and foremost focused upon improving learner outcomes.

It is impossible to imagine how sustainable innovation and change in complex times can be secured without broad-based and sustained distributed leadership.

Professional collaboration can be a powerful routine that effective organizations can deploy to support distributed leadership practice.

The reality is that without actively and purposefully distributing leadership within the organization, long-term survival is not guaranteed. Without leadership, that involves the many rather than the few, those in formal leadership positions will continue to be vulnerable and exposed.

Too much of what passes for professional collaboration equates with loose or unfocused professional groupings, partnerships, or networks. While professional partnerships or networks have a variety of uses including knowledge and information sharing, the jury is still out on their ability to directly change learner outcomes for the better.

While there is no shortage of anecdotal evidence about the benefits of networks and networking, in reality, it is hard to substantiate any positive or lasting impact on learners.

Distributed leadership is characterized by high levels of trust, interdependence, reciprocal accountability, and shared purpose (Harris, 2008).

While there are rare occasions when distributed leadership is a by-product of a particularly positive school culture, most usually it happens by careful design.

The fact remains that in terms of a school’s performance, leadership is second only to the influence of teaching and learning on student outcomes

High performance leaders invested heavily in building strong relationships, sharing leadership with others, developing collaborative teams, and generating high levels of intraorganizational trust

It is not just the structure of teams that keeps PBE organizations moving forward, as every organization has teams, but the vibrant nature of the teamwork itself. PBE organizations have cultures of creativity and risk taking. They allow and encourage workers to have freedom and flexibility to innovate and play.

So how do we change what happens in classrooms, where it matters most of all? How do we encourage teachers to move away from normative practice and do something new or different? How do we get teachers to step out of their comfort zone and take some risks? What form of leadership is required to support innovation and change? How do we change professional development so that there is an expectation of a change or improvement in classroom practice?

Many approaches to reform and change are “top-down,” imposed on schools without any attention to building adequate capacity or creating sufficient social capital for the change to work.

It remains the case that most systems have everything they need to raise their performance within the system, but at school and district levels, better connections simply need to be made.

The second lesson therefore is one about capacity building. It points out the need to ensure that at the system and school level, there is sufficient expertise, energy, and resource in place to actually deliver.

A third reason for the failure of so much top-down reform is the reckless and often unprincipled speed of change.
Looking at the best performing education systems around the world, like Finland, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, there is one consistent and powerful common denominator. They all invest in teachers’ professional learning and heavily subscribe to models of systematic professional collaboration

The whole point of professional collaborative learning is to generate new practices, ideas, and knowledge. It is to engage in focused collaboration that will ultimately push the boundaries of professional learning.

The real question should be, what type of leadership do we need to secure the best outcomes for young people, and how do we change our structures to make this happen?

Keeping things the way they are isn’t any guarantee of success either. In fact, it’s a certain way to hold back progress. In the natural world, the absence of change means one thing and one thing only: extinction.

The world is changing, learning is changing, and so should leadership.

The Fourth Way underscores the need for professional learning communities (PLCs) within, between, and across schools that are dedicated to improving the learning of students and adults alike.

Unless there is disciplined inquiry at the core of collaborative professional learning, it is unlikely to make a difference to learner outcomes (Harris & Jones 2012).

His book The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki (2005) argues that “diversity helps because it actually adds perspectives that would otherwise be absent” (p. 29).

Rather than waiting for the right individual, the question is, why not tap and realize all the leadership potential that already exists within the organization?

Distributed leadership is best understood as “practice distributed over leaders, followers and their situation and incorporates the activities of multiple groups of individuals” (Spillane, 2006, p.12).

Distributed leadership is concerned with two things: The process of leadership—how leadership practice occurs within the organization Leadership activity—how leadership is enhanced, extended, and developed

Distributed leadership does not mean everybody leads but rather that everybody has the potential to lead, at some time, depending on expertise and experience;

To be most effective, distributed leadership has to be carefully planned and deliberately orchestrated.

If distributed leadership is viewed as inauthentic or as simply being used as a subtle device or mechanism to manipulate others, it will be destined to fail. If so, there will be no point in trying again as those within the organization will, quite rightly, be reluctant to engage.

Essentially, if formal leaders create the time, space, and opportunity for colleagues to meet, plan, and reflect, it is far more likely that distributed leadership will be viewed as genuine and will be sustained.

A distributed model of leadership focuses upon the interactions, rather than the actions, of those in formal and informal leadership roles.

Distributed leadership involves two elements—the leader-plus and the practice aspect.

The differences between high performing and low performing schools can be attributed to different degrees of leadership distribution

Distributed leadership is not intrinsically a good or a bad thing. Like any form of leadership, it depends upon the situation and context and how it is enacted.

Much depends upon how distributed leadership is understood, deployed, and framed.

It is important to be clear about intentions and expectations as, when not adequately explained, distributed leadership can be easily misconstrued as delegation or even subtle coercion (Hatcher, 2005).

While failure in the sporting, business, or, indeed, educational world is not uncommon, the response to failure is what defines outstanding and exceptional leaders.

The real issue is not about finding extra time but in using the existing time more productively.
learning collaboratively depends on trust and authentic interdependence. It depends on generating social rather than individual capital.

Social capital is essentially concerned with the norms and networks that support and facilitate collective actions for mutual benefit

While relationship building is important, relationship building with purpose is far more likely to secure productive and positive change.

While it may be true that two heads are better than one—if the two heads think the same, then collaboration will yield relatively little.

The quality of an organization, that is, its efficiency and its effectiveness, comes down to one thing and one thing only: how far and how quickly you trust others within the organization.

Building collective capacity implies that people take the opportunity to do things differently. They opt to learn new skills and to generate more effective practice together through mutual support, mutual accountability, and mutual challenge.

For professional learning to have an impact, then systematic and sustained professional collaboration is needed

Where teachers work in self-managing teams to develop goals, curricula, instructional strategies, and staff development programs, students can achieve at higher levels.

The implicit assumption is that attending courses equates with professional learning and that by participating in these events somehow professional practice will change. Now, without question, there are some good courses, powerful programs, and effective professional learning sessions. But the return on this large-scale investment, in the form of improved professional practice that leads to better learning outcomes, is still highly questionable.

There is still far too much professional learning without impact. There is still too much professional development that makes little, if any, difference to the classroom.

If a “learning conversation,” whether in the guise of mentoring or coaching, is to really change practice, it will require much more than simply sharing or processing ideas or questions through mutual reflection or discussion.

The job of a PLC can be summed up in three words: “improving learner outcomes

Communities of practice are groups of people who share a passion for something they do and learn how to do it more effectively as they interact regularly and learn together.

The core idea behind professional learning communities or teams is that they operate as a catalyst within an organization to secure change and improvement. They have a central responsibility for generating new ideas and practices so that organizational outcomes improve. They can also drive change at scale.

Developing leadership capacity, particularly at scale, does not happen by default but has to be purposefully crafted, designed, and carefully implemented.

If we are serious about changing things in schools and districts rather than simply rearranging them, then it is imperative to invest in the most powerful forms of professional learning (PL), i.e. those that make a difference to student learning.

Within effective PLCs, professionals work together in a collaborative way, with an emphasis on mutual inquiry, interrogation of data, and scrutiny of evidence in order to establish a specific focus for the PLC to address.

Professional learning communities provide opportunities for staff to look deeply into the process of instruction and to learn how to become more effective in their work with students.

Teachers can only become more effective in their own practice through disciplined collaboration and inquiry.

The central role of the leader in a professional learning community therefore is to provide pressure and support, to ensure that the group works effectively, and to ensure that there are outcomes to show as a result of their collaboration

In professional collaboration, the learning belongs to the group; it is a collective enterprise.

The main challenge for formal leaders who want better performance and better outcomes is to actively build the leadership capacity within their organization, so that productive change and continuous improvement can become a real possibility. To build the leadership capacity within their school, formal leaders need to harness the collective will, skill, and leadership of all those in their organization in a carefully sequenced way so that the organization, as a whole, benefits

Replied to Craig Mod’s subtle redesign of the hardware Kindle (Doug Belshaw's Thought Shrapnel)
This is user interface design, or UI design for short. It’s important stuff, for as Steve Jobs famously said: “Everything in this world… was created by people no smarter than you” — and that’s particularly true in tech.
I must admit, I am new to the whole design world. Even though it drives me crazy at times – often because I have little control or influence over it – it is one of the things that I have enjoyed about my current work. Thinking deeply about users and how to streamline various processes has been really interesting.
Here is a collection of quotes from Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale:

Fraternize means to behave like a brother. Luke told me that. He said there was no corresponding word that meant to behave like a sister. Sororize, it would have to be, he said.

The young ones are often the most dangerous, the most fanatical, the jumpiest with their guns. They haven’t yet learned about existence through time. You have to go slowly with them.

There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.

Would like to believe this is a story I’m telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance. If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it. I can pick up where I left off. It isn’t a story I’m telling. It’s also a story I’m telling, in my head, as I go along. Tell, rather than write, because I have nothing to write with and writing is in any case forbidden. But if it’s a story, even in my head, I must be telling it to someone. You don’t tell a story only to yourself. There’s always someone else. Even when there is no one.

I read about that in Introduction to Psychology; that, and the chapter on caged rats who’d give themselves electric shocks for something to do. And the one on the pigeons, trained to peck a button which made a grain of corn appear. Three groups of them: the first got one grain per peck, the second one grain every other peck, the third was random. When the man in charge cut off the grain, the first group gave up quite soon, the second group a little later. The third group never gave up. They’d peck themselves to death, rather than quit. Who knew what worked?


Rise of the Robots by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Detailing the rise of automation over time, Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford outlines a number of possible futures and the choices that we have.

This is a part of the acceleration of technology and machine learning. This has led to improvements in productivity, but not in pay. The average workers are not benefiting. The implication of this is that there is less to spend on other things beyond beyond the essentials, which has a negative impact on the global economy.

The reality of this situation is that the future is not set. A number of outcomes are on the cards. For example, if fast food and retail is automated then this could lead to mass unemployment, with the rich investing in gold rather than goods. Another possibility is a market based solution, where we embrace something like a negative income tax. Whatever the answer is, Ford argues that we need to adapt.

Here then is a collection of my quotes:

As of 2013, a typical production or non-supervisory worker earned about 13 percent less than in 1973 (after adjusting for inflation), even as productivity rose by 107 percent and the costs of housing, education, and healthcare have soared.

Machines themselves are turning into workers, and the line between the capability of labor and capital is blurring as never before.

The top 5 percent of households are currently responsible for nearly 40 percent of spending, and that trend toward increased concentration at the top seems almost certain to continue. Jobs remain the primary mechanism by which purchasing power gets into the hands of consumers. If that mechanism continues to erode, we will face the prospect of having too few viable consumers to continue driving economic growth in our mass-market economic system.

According to the International Federation of Robotics, global shipments of industrial robots increased by more than 60 percent between 2000 and 2012, with total sales of about $28 billion in 2012. By far the fastest-growing market is China, where robot installations grew at about 25 percent per year between 2005 and 2012.3

Vending machines make it possible to dramatically reduce three of the most significant costs incurred in the retail business: real estate, labor, and theft by customers and employees.
the problem is not that more jobs are being destroyed in downturns; it is that fewer are being created during recoveries.

From the perspective of any one individual, inequality can be very difficult to perceive. Most people tend to focus their attention locally. They worry about how they are doing relative to the guy next door as opposed to the hedge fund manager they will, in all likelihood, never encounter.

Among the forces poised to shape the future, information technology stands alone in terms of its exponential progress. Even in nations whose political environments are far more responsive to the welfare of average workers, the changes wrought by technology are becoming increasingly evident. As the technological frontier advances, many jobs that we would today consider nonroutine, and therefore protected from automation, will eventually be pulled into the routine and predictable category. The hollowed-out middle of the already polarized job market is likely to expand as robots and self-service technologies eat away at low-wage jobs, while increasingly intelligent algorithms threaten higher-skill occupations.

Moore’s Law is the best-known measure of advancing computer power, but information technology is, in fact, accelerating on many different fronts. For example, computer memory capacity and the amount of digital information that can be carried on fiber-optic lines have both experienced consistent exponential increases. Nor is the acceleration confined to computer hardware; the efficiency of some software algorithms has soared at a rate far in excess of what Moore’s Law alone would predict. While exponential acceleration offers valuable insight into the advance of information technology over relatively long periods, the short-term reality is more complex. Progress is generally not always smooth and consistent; instead, it often lurches forward and then pauses while new capabilities are assimilated into organizations and the foundation for the next period of rapid advance is established. There are also intricate interdependencies and feedback loops between different realms of technology. Progress in one area may drive a sudden burst of innovation in another. As information technology marches forward, its tentacles reach ever deeper into organizations and the overall economy, often transforming the way people work in ways that can further its own advance.

Even if the advance of computer hardware capability were to plateau, there would remain a whole range of paths along which progress could continue. Information technology exists at the intersection of two different realities. Moore’s Law has dominated the realm of atoms, where innovation is a struggle to build faster devices and to minimize or find a way to dissipate the heat they generate. In contrast, the realm of bits is an abstract, frictionless place where algorithms, architecture (the conceptual design of computing systems), and applied mathematics govern the rate of progress. In some areas, algorithms have already advanced at a far faster rate than hardware.

IT has evolved into a true general-purpose technology. There are very few aspects of our daily lives, and especially of the operation of businesses and organizations of all sizes, that are not significantly influenced by or even highly dependent on information technology. Computers, networks, and the Internet are now irretrievably integrated into our economic, social, and financial systems.

Information technology, to a degree that is unprecedented in the history of technological progress, encapsulates intelligence. Computers make decisions and solve problems. Computers are machines that can—in a very limited and specialized sense—think. No one would argue that today’s computers approach anything like human-level general intelligence. But that very often misses the point. Computers are getting dramatically better at performing specialized, routine, and predictable tasks, and it seems very likely that they will soon be poised to outperform many of the people now employed to do these things.

Today’s computer technology exists in some measure because millions of American middle-class taxpayers supported federal funding for basic research in the decades following World War II. We can be reasonably certain that those taxpayers offered their support in the expectation that the fruits of that research would create a more prosperous future for their children and grandchildren. Yet, the trends we looked at in the last chapter suggest we are headed toward a very different outcome.

The Quill narrative-writing engine is just one of many new software applications being developed to leverage the enormous amounts of data now being collected and stored within businesses, organizations, and governments across the global economy. By one estimate, the total amount of data stored globally is now measured in thousands of exabytes (an exabyte is equal to a billion gigabytes), and that figure is subject to its own Moore’s Law-like acceleration, doubling roughly every three years.6 Nearly all of that data is now stored in digital format and is therefore accessible to direct manipulation by computers. Google’s servers alone handle about 24 petabytes (equal to a million gigabytes)—primarily information about what its millions of users are searching for—each and every day.7

All this data arrives from a multitude of different sources. On the Internet alone, there are website visits, search queries, emails, social media interactions, and advertising clicks, to name just a few examples. Within businesses, there are transactions, customer contacts, internal communications, and data captured in financial, accounting, and marketing systems.

The evaporation of thousands of skilled information technology jobs is likely a precursor for a much more wide-ranging impact on knowledge-based employment.

I would argue that “free trade” is the wrong lens through which to view offshoring. Instead, it is much more akin to virtual immigration.
When offshoring is viewed in combination with automation, the potential aggregate impact on employment is staggering.

Innovations like MOOCs, automated marking algorithms, and adaptive learning systems offer a relatively promising path toward eventual disruption.

If the individual-ownership model for cars ultimately falls, the impact on broad swathes of the economy and job market would be extraordinary. Think of all the car dealers, independent repair shops, and petrol stations within a few miles of your home. Their existence is all tied directly to the fact that car ownership is widely distributed. In the world that Google envisions, robotic cars will be concentrated into fleets. Maintenance, repair, insurance, and fueling would likewise be centralized. Untold thousands of small businesses, and the jobs associated with them, would evaporate. To get a sense of just how many jobs might be at risk, consider that, in the UK alone, about 200,000 people work in car washes.24
the first place where self-driving cars make serious inroads might be exactly the area that directly impacts the most jobs.

Workers are also consumers, and they rely on their wages to purchase the products and services produced by the economy.

Markets are driven not just by aggregate dollars but also by unit demand.
Eventually, technology will advance to the point where low wages no longer outweigh the benefits of further automation.

The complexity that operates in the real-world economy is, in many ways, somewhat analogous to that of the climate system, which is likewise characterized by a nearly impenetrable web of interdependencies and feedback effects.

The most important things—food, housing, energy, healthcare, transportation, insurance—are much less likely to see rapid, near-term cost reductions. There’s a real danger that households will end up being squeezed between stagnant or falling incomes and major-expense items that continue to rise in cost.
one is nonetheless left to wonder just how long we have to wait before the promised labor shortages begin to put a dent in unemployment among younger workers.

Consumer markets play a critical role not just in supporting current economic activity but also in advancing the overall process of innovation. While individuals or teams generate new ideas, it is ultimately consumer markets that create the incentive for innovation.

In most areas, no amount of education or training—even from the most elite universities—would make a human being competitive with such machines. Even occupations that we might expect to be reserved exclusively for people would be at risk.

It’s becoming increasingly clear, however, that robots, machine learning algorithms, and other forms of automation are gradually going to consume much of the base of the job skills pyramid. And because artificial intelligence applications are poised to increasingly encroach on more skilled occupations, even the safe area at the top of the pyramid is likely to contract over time.