Amidst a bewildering array of technology tools that promise transformation, Stephanie Sandifer’s (image appears further down below) exploration of Wikis for School Leaders leave one breathless with anticipation. How could one not be enthralled by an introduction that includes a statement like the one below?

How do we leverage technology–specifically wikis and other web-based tools–to improve our collaboration, communication, creative thinking, problem-solving and change processes?…How do we model 21st-Century tools for better communication and collaboration across all levels of our educational organizations?

These are heavy-duty questions because they shift our focus from the tool to transformation desired, grounding our desire to use shiny new technologies within the needs that manifest from our daily work as leaders. Exploring the natural consequences of NOT using wikis in schools is important and Sandifer doesn’t pull punches when she reminds us that “wikis are not silver bullets…technology alone does not create a utopia.”
The simplest thing that could possibly work…wikis give us the opportunity to live up to our dream of connecting with others and collaborating, if only…if only we can escape our desire to avoid risk taking and be comfortable in learning “new ways of working.”
Sandifer’s book is replete with valuable take-aways, and below are a few that jumped out at me as I read the book one Saturday evening instead of going to the movies to watch the latest Marvel comic figure come to life to slay the tyrant or the mischevious miscreant:
  1. “Self-preservation of the institution becomes job number one, while its stated goal is relegated to number two or lower, no matter what the mission statement says.” Clay Shirky
  2. Sandifer asks, Can you think of specific instances where other issues took precedence over a focus on learning on your campus?
  3. A better way to manage all the complexity of school organizations, all the information is to use a wiki.
  4. All tools–blogs, wikis, googledocs–can be used as “a part of a strategic plan to increase and improve communication and collaboration across an organization, but it is helpful to first understand the different functions and features of each and the ideal uses of each.” Not sure I agree with the second half of that sentence. Use of technology tools is organic and dependent on individuals. Why not support one technology–wiki–and encourage the use of that one tool rather than introduce people to a variety and end up with them all going off trying this one or that one? Who has the time for that?
  5. “The overall purpose of a wiki is to improve the ability of a team or staff to collaborate on a variety of projects electronically in a more efficient manner than by using email or F2F meetings alone.”
  6. Love the “Before Wiki” story provided and the contrast with “After Wiki” experience. These are valuable scenarios to help people better understand the power of wikis to achieve transformative,  collaborative experiences.
  7. Use of a wiki in the even tof a natural or man-made disaster.
  8. “Wikis provide educational leaders with an easy-to-use tool for archiving work, managing documentation and information, and more effective and efficient team collaboration.” Amen!
  9. Using the wiki to avoid storage of documents in email (locked in) or hard drive and instead enable everyone to have access to documents.
  10. Use of the wiki to facilitate meetings.
  11. Use of a wiki to create personal profiles…some great ideas here on why this is valuable to the organization and the concept of knowledge management (here’s my own example)..and important for personal profiles / professional portfolio pages.
  12. Mention of Professional Learning Communities and how the work of PLCs ends up in silos. Wikis can help “open things up.”
  13. Using wikis for curriculum mapping and sharing lesson plans.
  14. “A school team can use a wiki to organize their notes and resources gathered from attending a conference making it easy for faculty to access the information for professional development.”
  15. Wikis for Home-to-School Communications and Collaboration – great idea and section!
  16. “The ability to understand the structure and function of a wiki was something that would have to be explicitly taught to users before they could effectively use the wiki in a fluent manner.”
  17. Suggestions on the use of wikis in the classroom
  18. “If you build it, they will collaborate, right? Not so fast.” Absolutely correct.
  19. “Don’t block access to free wiki sites.” It’s a shame when schools block access to, GoogleSites wiki,  and other sites.
  20. Great recommendations for campus leaders on how to model adoption of wikis in schools.
  21. Suggestions for community etiquette guidelines…nice to include these!
  22. How to embed web 2.0 tools in wikis…
  23. Using wikis along with a social network to create an “idea marketplace.” Great!!
  24. Popular quick reference cards for wiki syntax for various wiki providers (e.g. Wikispaces)
There is a lot to like about this book! It deals frankly and openly with the challenges of wiki adoption. My only wish is that it had dealt with failed attempts at wiki adoption, perhaps presenting a case study of how adoption failed. Failure can teach us as much as success can. That said, there’s no doubt in my mind that Sandifer’s Wikis for School Leaders will quickly become a quick reference guide for leaders interested in streamlining how they manage, organize interactions with staff, students, and community.

Full disclosure: I received an advance digital copy of the manuscript of the book for this review. Aside from that, no other compensation was provided or favors of any sort granted. I’m grateful to Stephanie and her publisher for allowing me to read the book in advance of the rest of you!!

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure