Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Curse of

Whether you approve or disapprove of President Barak Obama or the Tea Bag rallies, this piece in Newgeography is certainly a clarion call to leaderships concerning the double-edged sword that is social media.

The days of politics as usual are over. The Obama team will have to play the game under a set of rules that have not all been written yet. This new era in politics will be much more open and subject to more public scrutiny than at any time in history.

The same communications tactics that won President Obama an election in 2008 may prove to be his greatest challenge in building public consensus for action going forward. In the age of “buzz” our young President will face challenges like none other. His greatest challenge may be in learning how to tame and control the inherently unruly politics of the information age.

There are unintended consequences to all leadership – be it politicians, business executives, or educators – to giving the masses an unfettered voice. It can be invigorating or frustrating since everyone is talking at once and those who would lead us are incapable of deciding whom to address first.

Even if they do make a decision, many will stop listening and starting talking themselves which will further infuriate and insult the leader. The leader unprepared for this eventuality will likely dismiss those individuals as we witnessed this summer with the Democratic leadership in Congress and in the old “media” where leadership is still struggling to come to grips with the loss of power that social media has stripped from them.

From an educational perspective, leadership must come to grips with the fact that social media is stripping the last vestiges of the “sage on the stage” from their hands. Sure they talked a good talk about being the “guide on the side” letting learners explore topics on their own, but make no mistake that as long as the “guide” was controlling the curriculum and the timing then the “sage” was still present as a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing.

In fact the guide on the side is even more insulting than the sage on the stage because the guide only provides a veneer of autonomy to the student, but it was the “sage” that continued to hold the ropes and was the ultimate arbiter of whether the student had mastered a specific skill.

With social media students are free to draw their own conclusions and post them without the pressure of meeting an instructor’s predetermined outcomes. Conflicting ideas that gain grass roots support cannot be ignored or silenced by the leader without serious repercussions. I’m not sure there are many leaders out there that are willing to take that chance.