Technological Relativity: Exploring My Journey

When I started working at my new position at a non-profit education organization on March 21, 2016, I had no idea how I would be handling a fresh challenge–providing professional learning about Microsoft products. The team had its Google advocates, but the position that I was filling as a Director of Professional Development, well, that was meant to fulfill the partnership that the organization had with Microsoft (not that Google or Apple were excluded).

In fact, some people came up to me in workshops just this month. “Miguel,” said one young educator, “I read your Around the Corner blog. I know you write about GNU/Linux a lot, so I was surprised to see your support of Microsoft products.” I laughed at this observation that I’ve often made over the last few months. Yet, I discovered a path forward that allowed me to reconcile differing perspectives. As someone who seeks balance (hey, I’ve been labeled a Libra and grew up seeing the “scales” as my personal symbol without embracing astrology). May I share it with you?

“The journey that I have undertaken, meeting people from all walks of life and learning from them, has been my biggest achievement.” -Aamir Khan

#1 – Give voice to the Community.
Early on, a participant at a Microsoft workshop said to me, “We have been waiting for so long for someone to support us.” I documented this story in a blog entry that was published here and described it in this way:

“We are longing for a community,” said a session participant. “Most of us have adopted Office 365 tools, but we don’t see ourselves in the numerous edcamps and workshops offered. Each of us is struggling to connect.” As instructional coach and author of The Art of Coaching Elena Aguilar says, “With a powerful community I can do so much more. I am happier. I learn and expand and, possibly, I can transform.” The 5 strategies below seek to answer the challenge of community building. Read Build a Community

I detailed this journey in a Skypechat that I gave to Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE) Trainers. Wow, that’s a LOT of people to connect with and I’m grateful to RH for making it possible.

I realized that our (e.g. bloggers, instructional tech specialists, edtech pundits) fanatical focus on Google Suites, via edcamps/unconferences, being buried in tweets, blog entries, books, articles, how-to videos has left an entire community of educators in the dark. Sure, there are TONS of folks using Google Suites. But there are also lots of folks using Microsoft tools and they have no interest in switching to Google Suites.

No one had stepped up to connect all the wisdom and expertise that this Microsoft-focused community had. So, there was an opportunity to reach people and amplify their voices. And, doing that has been such a rewarding journey! I can’t tell you how much fun it has been to chat with educators who have chosen to embrace Microsoft tools (whether by choice or district mandate) to make a difference in their classrooms and offices. Passion excites, no matter how it expresses itself.

Did you know? I had the opportunity to work with 369+ educators during the 2016 calendar year, exploring Microsoft solutions face to face! Isn’t that incredible? Obviously, I also worked with about 50-60 folks earning Google certifications.

And, there’s been fun in tapping into the cognitive dissonance between these two perspectives. Use one idea to ask, “How would doing this in Microsoft look like?” You can read one example in my Classroom Smackdown blog entry. Often, reading how to do something in one system inspires me to discover how it may be done in another. What fun!

#2 – Connect with a global community of educators.
In addition to building a Texas-wide community of educators, I have been awed by the global community of genuine, authentic educators excited about enhancing teaching, learning and leading with Microsoft tools. I remember my amazement when joining the various Facebook groups in support of Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE) and thinking, “Wow, these folks are very committed to ‘hacking education.’ That is, they were as passionate about bringing about change as those in the Google camp. And that’s really great!”

“Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter.”  – Izaak Walton. 

I can and do interact with people around the nation and the world every day. It has been incredible. And, the Microsoft Education Community–offering tons of professional learning in video format, badges and online certificates, empowering trainers to easily track professional development–has been fun to explore and grow into. At every turn, I have found Microsoft team members who extended their knowledge and expertise to provide assistance. Instead of an impersonal web site, there are many smiling faces willing to reach out and help.

“Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life.” -Pythagoras

#3 – Warm Welcome.
What a warm welcome I’ve received since I began my journey in March. Sure, I had to learn a lot (earning Microsoft Certified Trainer, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, and Minecraft Certified Trainer) in a short time but it’s been phenomenal to be able to provide support to folks who didn’t see themselves in the flurry of professional learning opportunities available in Texas. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve enjoyed a warm welcome. And, in the meantime, I’ve also picked up my Google Educator Level 1 and Google Administrator certification. I’ve learned (again) that technology skills and ecosystems are additive, not subtractive.

For fellow bilingual educators, I need not explain that some detractors refer to learning a second language as a process that must diminish the first. Or to be inaccurate, I added Microsoft and my expertise in Google was diminished. Jim Cummins’ theory is described in this way:

Cummins draws the distinction between additive bilingualism in which the first language continues to be developed and the first culture to be valued while the second language is added; and subtractive bilingualism in which the second language is added at the expense of the first language and culture, which diminish…. (Read Source)

This isn’t true. I love the fact that adding a language, adding technology tools and ecosystems allows one to develop greater expertise and deepens the relationships one has with others.

What is Technological Relativity?
The possibility that access to different technological capabilities could result in differences in thought patterns. (Source)


#4 – On the Shoulders of Giants.
As a bilingual person, I often find myself switching between languages, looking for the right way to express an idea in my head. When I’m chatting with a fellow dual language learner, what’s incredible is that the right phrase in Spanish or English can capture a different nuance of meaning that appears non-existent in one language.

The language I use impacts my perceptions and thoughts about a particular situation or action. This is known as linguistic relativity, which I was introduced to many years ago as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis:

The principle of linguistic relativity holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ world view or cognition. Popularly known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, or Whorfianism, the principle is often defined to include two versions. The strong version says that language determines thought, and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories, whereas the weak version says that linguistic categories and usage only influence thought and decisions. (Source)

By embracing Apple, Google and Microsoft, learning the way these seemingly opposing systems focus my learning and reflections from my experiences, not unlike the triangle magnifying glass shown above, is exciting. I’m really looking forward to sharing an unpublished blog entry with you, entitled, Dystopian Learning with Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Our brains get more efficient as we do things. Our brain function improves as we learn something, then move onto the next. If we dwell on the same activity then our cortical energy decreases as our brain gets more efficient (Source: 5 Ways to Maximize Your Cognitive Potential). 

It explores solving the same problem from different technology worldviews (e.g. Apple, Google, Microsoft). This kind of technological flexibility is fun to cultivate and keeps me learning new things.

“Every single journey that I’ve embarked on, I’ve learned something new.” -Shailene Woodley

As I reflect on my experiences with these technological companions, I wonder what’s in store next.


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

Good Enough

“Good is the enemy of great. Say goodbye to good so you can say hello to great.” You’ve run across this sentiment, haven’t you? While it is a truism people strive to embrace, doing so can be difficult. Achieving the great can be daunting, when failing again and again.

What I learned…is that I…need to make students more aware of the importance of iterations…[and]…how to learn from them. (Source: Iterationists at Engage Their Minds).

The struggle itself, how we learn from our experiences is what matters. Often, I find myself struggling with my own writing, trying to find a way to make it better. More recently, I look for that spot along the way where I can declare, “Good enough!” and then move on to the next project.

For blogging, for life, good enough means clearing away the unnecessary. Then, love what remains.


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

Reaching for Transcendence: Servant Leaders Journey (Updated 2x)

When I first wrote, 4 Questions for Servant Leaders, I remembered previous opportunities for taking on jobs others found undesirable. Having been in the manager’s seat, I have had the opportunity to experience the opportunity to assign and receive jobs others felt beneath them. In both situations, the difference maker involved having a fresh attitude, without the baggage of organizational drama of “I have one more thing on my plate.” The fresh attitude enables newcomers in a position to embrace work.

What a gift, right? How do you renew your attitude, renew your spirit so that you can take on undesirable tasks like a newcomer?

Image Source

The defining question, and one that I keep coming back to reflect on, is “What are the jobs that need doing that no one wants to do?” It’s a question that can define you. Think of actors who carefully say “No” to a million different roles, seeking the perfect one that will make their career. Then, think of the actors who say, “Yes, I’ll do that.” Not only do they bring an attitude of willingness to a job that others dislike, they find a way to excel.

As I’ve gotten older, I find I’m attracted to these actors–several come to mind even now–because viewers get a glimpse into who they are each time they play a part others thought were beneath them. While these bit parts, as some like to call them, are only a small part of the actors’ career, collectively, they represent much more. At the end of their journey, these actors may get a lifetime award, never having had a single role that distinguished them. Or, it is only late in their careers that they find themselves receiving the Oscar or Emmy for the role no one wanted, but that they played masterfully.

That idea of small parts adding up to a career of winning can be eye-opening. A video game my son introduced me to, Clash Royale, suggests the value of persistence in garnering small wins leading to great success.

In the game, you square off another person somewhere on the globe. You marshal your forces to fight and win chests of gold and silver. To win, you must win 2-3 crowns, that is, overcome 2-3 castles your opponent has.

Each day, you can win a gold chest, even though you may win only 1-2 crowns per battle. Eventually, you obtain the 10 crowns you must gather to obtain the gold chest, even if you lose every match but manage to win 1 crown. Persistence is key.

Life lessons abound in this effort to win the gold chest even though you may fail to win in decisive ways. We are all beset by challenges, and some times, we are fortunate enough to escape, having learned but one or two lessons from the experience. If we persist in forward movement, no matter how painstaking, we may yet achieve the prize–a life well-lived, fraught with peril yet victorious because no small measure of wisdom has been earned.

In this blog entry at ReadWriteRespond, the focus is on servant leadership. On doing the job, of giving one’s all for others. This focus on servant leadership plays out within the confines of team leadership. Yet, much of those involved in the bit parts may play the role of follower or supporting roles. They may not be the “servant leader.”

In the end, a solitary leader may be the one who reaches for transcendence, not distinguishing herself in team servitude. Transcendence in this case means gaining wisdom from completing jobs none wanted. For this leader, a person out taking a walk without followers, reaching for the joy of lessons learned, wreathed in failure, growing successfully as a result. I suppose that such a follower isn’t a servant leader, but something else.


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

Make Your Work Worthy of Sharing

Image Source: http://tinyurl.com/hu25jue

Change jobs recently? Your experience may yield some nuggets of insight that Harold Jarche found in his gold pan.

Harold Jarche just put his finger on one aspect of them:

Would you still be a leader if you lost your positional authority? How would you know? In networks, your authority is derived from your reputation and the value of your connections to others in the network. Value and authority come from engagement with a network, usually over a long period of time. It’s the sum of many small interactions. So what would happen if you suddenly lost your positional authority? (Read more

The answer to Harold’s question is, “Yes, you would still be a leader if you changed your positional authority IF your authority is derived from your reputation and the value of your connections to others.”

When I worked in large urban school district and leadership changes took place, everyone on staff had to “re-establish” their value, to “prove themselves” to the new boss. Not surprisingly, only some were able to accomplish this…worse, it seems to happen frequently in schools, shaking loose existing staff (some who need to be shaken loose, others who are just frustrated, and others who are indifferent).

Protecting my team and I, at least for awhile, was a lesson I learned many years ago in my late twenties. That lesson was that you had to get your story out there, to define your projects and programs before the Central Office did it. In fact, if you could do this, then you “took the stone out of the sling pouch.”

And that story needed to be shared with as many people as possible. Not because it was false, untrue, inaccurate, but because it was worthy of being shared, warts and all. And, you had to do your best to encourage others to share their stories. Before social media, we relied on email, press releases, etc. Did I tell you about the time I won an argument with my boss because I took advantage of the Texas Education Network (TENET) to get emails out to a district-wide email list? It was inconsequential, I don’t remember what the argument was about, only that losing the argument would have hurt edtech in that District.

It’s not just about winning petty arguments with people who don’t get it. From email, we’ve moved to better tools with a broader reach. Now, social media makes sharing those stories much easier. That’s why Harold’s point is so important–we have moved beyond organizational hierarchies that control individual’s lives.

Image Source: http://tinyurl.com/gwrn8px

When you build a successful professional learning network (PLN), one that connects you to global learners committed to improving teaching, learning and leading, then what happens to you in a school district or organization is less likely to upset your apple-cart. I can look back over countless interactions with Texas educators and confess to being grateful, profoundly appreciative, for each.

Am I a leader? I’m less interested in being a leader, and more of helping others and sharing ideas and information. That’s why I really like Harold’s point here:

Do people refer to your work? How often do people quote, cite, or repeat your work? If not often, then perhaps it’s time to start working out loud and contributing to your knowledge networks.

The inclination for most folks in leadership position is to lock things down. Do you know district staff who aren’t allowed to share their district’s intellectual property, whatever they create during the day? I do. And have for years. In every case, keeping data locked down in a school district was the WRONG thing to do. Beautiful, wonderful work only benefited a few people, and because technology changes so quickly (heck, everything changes quickly), work that would have stood as a shining beacon for all to see, to recognize the organization that served things up rather than locked it in a safe, died a quiet, lonely death. What’s more, the people who made that work moved on.

The Internet now makes the shelf life of great thinking accessible and easy to share. Each of us, individuals and organizations, are building a reputation that says, “Yes, we are trustworthy and what we make is worth using to change the world.”

Harold says, “Start working out loud and contributing.” Whether you’re getting the word out via email and paper newsletters (wow, that was a long time ago) or social media, for goodness sake, get it out there. If you don’t, you may find yourself stuck with some new boss who doesn’t understand the value you bring. Harold shares more in a related blog entry, Leadership for the Networked Age:

Hierarchy is necessary for (and only for!) building compliance. It is not networked. As formal power, It is not a form of leadership – but of management. In the presence of formal power, leadership is actually quite impossible to happen. 

Influence is necessary for social density and connection. It is networked. It is a form of leadership.
Reputation is necessary for value creation. It is networked, as well. It is the second form of leadership.

The response to Harold’s question, How would you know? Your network would help you.

Thank you.


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

4 Questions for Servant Leaders

While digging through an app on my phone, I ran across a paragraph that prompted a few questions worth pondering, no matter what role you are called to serve in an organization. And, drafting those questions immediately made me think of the term, servant leadership.

If you’re not familiar with servant leadership, here’s a quick review:

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types.
The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?” (Source)

When you walk into new position, you have to ask yourself, are you willing to serve? Here’s another way of looking at the servant-leader:

He is willing to do the unpopular jobs, the jobs he might think are beneath him, the jobs that no-one else sees, that are left when everyone else has gone home. That is leadership, whether you are labeled a leader or not. (Source: BibleGateway app)

Here’s an idea. Make an online form–Google Form or Excel Online–and have your team respond to the questions…then see how they differ from each other.

  1. What are the unpopular jobs in your organization?
  2. What are the jobs others think are beneath them?
  3. What are the jobs that need doing that no one wants to do?
  4. How do you seek out new jobs like the ones alluded to in the preceding questions?
What do you think? Worth doing?

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

Why We CAN Get Along

The attitude of “why can’t we all just get along?” has no place in the academic community: validity of arguments come from questioning and the constant, rigorous challenge of debate.”Source: Geoff Cain’s blog entry on Siemens and Downes

In exploring the academic disagreements between George Siemens and Stephen Downes (I regret I found the kerfluffle boring, a sure sign of my roots in practicality or at least, shallow thinking), Geoff makes the point shared at the top of this blog entry. 

There’s no reason why debates and disagreements can’t be civil, but I know that the more violent and flowery language that is used, the more interesting reading it is. Consider this excerpt from an engaging piece by Carol Morgan:

Elections have consequences and unfortunately those consequences are leading to the death knell for Texas’ public education system. Texans have thrown away their right to a public education system (which is guaranteed by the Texas Constitution) because they elected fools and charlatans like Dan Patrick, Donna Campbell, and Larry Taylor to the Texas Senate.
These three political prostitutes got where they are today through the love and determination of a teacher and free public schools. How dare they criticize the institution that bestowed the opportunities they enjoy today! They should be thanking teachers rather than criticizing and belittling with the words “godless” and “monstrosity”. Source: Carol Morgan, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Online


Aside from that dramatic open line, I loved the fun implied in the next paragraph about political prostitutes, daring criticisms asserting godlessness among Texas public school teachers. Now, that’s discontent you can sink your teeth into! 

Reasonable discourse isn’t necessarily a goal when it comes to politics, which is why it should be kept as far away from education as possible…but facts–like those Carol Morgan cites–can illuminate aspects of the conversation:

  • Around 8.2 percent of public school campuses are classified as failing, but nearly 17 percent of charter schools are designated as failing. 
  • In fact, within three years of being included on the low-performing list, only seven out of approximately 8,500 traditional public schools are still designated as failing. 
  • If you are mathematically inclined, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all Texas public school campuses are rated IR or AU for more than three years.

 I find it a great jumping off spot for revisiting something the authors of Crucial Conversations describe as The Sucker’s Choice.

Either / or choices are Sucker’s Choices. The best at dialogue refuse Sucker’s Choices by setting up new choices. They present themselves with tougher questions that turn the either/or choice into a search for the all-important and ever elusive and. 

In Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler write about how to search for the elusive AND. (Source: Refuse the Sucker’s Choice)





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

Leadership Moves: The Jobs No One Else Sees

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“Are you still here?” I asked a friend and colleague. It was an empty building, and the business day officially had already ended 30-40 minutes.
“Yeah,” he sighed. “I have some work to catch-up on. What do you have for me?”

That conversation, like many others that followed it, came to mind as I reflected on the following passage from a “book app” I was reading. I’m reminded about the conversation because it highlights a willingness to get work done, but also a willingness to receive more work.

Here’s the passage that reminded me:

He is willing to do the unpopular jobs, the jobs he might think are beneath him, the jobs that no-one else sees, that are left when everyone else has gone home. That is leadership, whether you are labeled a leader or not. (Source: BibleGateway app)

I wonder what would happen if I asked these questions and did my best to answer them in my new job:

  1. What are the unpopular jobs in your organization?
  2. What are the jobs others think are beneath them?
  3. What are the jobs that need doing that no one wants to do?
  4. How do you seek out new jobs like the ones alluded to in the preceding questions?

Do you think these questions would help me do well? What would these jobs look like in your situation?

I’m reminded of the custodian at my post in a large urban school district…we had a chance encounter when I went to splash water on my face at the end of a long day. I was tired after a day of meetings. He was joyfully cleaning the restroom.

I remember the enthusiasm with which he approached cleaning a toilet, whipping out an ice-scrapper to be sure that he had cleaned the scum from inside the toilet bowl, leaving it sparkling-white. Some might have seen the extra effort needed for that job as beneath them, but the old man–who retired that year–approached that job with an enthusiasm all of us would do well to emulate.

Here is a quote I learned early on in my education career and need to remember again:


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