Main menu:

Site search

Recent Posts

Posts by Categories



Validating “Alice’s Looking Glass”

At the 23rd Annual Baldrige QUEST for EXCELLENCE conference (April 4-6, 2011), as I listened to the team from the MCPS (Montgomery County MD Public Schools) tell their story of what had been happening on the road to their 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, I realized how it was  validating the power of Alice’s Looking Glass as a way-of-understanding.  For 13 years I had been focusing the biology-based way-of-thinking incorporated in the lens on MCPS, and feeding back what I “saw” in 20,000 ft. Memo’s. And, as a way-of-understanding, thinking and predicting …it worked.

But, as told elsewhere on the site, it’s been working as a personal mental model for me for a much longer time. I realized how long recently when, in going through a box of old papers, I ran across something I had written 40 years earlier -1970. Then, near the beginning of my career, I was not a professional “educator,” but was (what would be called today) an “educational technologist.” And I can see in the article  —Misfits in the Public Schools — the ways this perspective helped me understand the actual context of schooling – and then what technology’s fit could be in it.

What’s also interesting about the article is that it’s a review of a book about special education but it was published in a magazine read by people only involved with educational technology.

For example, I can see the lens’ perspectives reflected in its opening and closing paragraphs:

“The trio of authors, all recognized authorities in special education, communicate the frustrations and second-class-citizenship feelings of professionals dedicated to individual human development who must work within a larger system which tolerates, and often seeks to protect, “mediocrity and endless ineffectiveness.” A reader in any of the other sub-systems of education could substitute the name of his field every time the words “Special Education” appear and be highly pleased with the relevance of this book to his concerns.” They examine “the roadblocks to effective education for the exceptional child and in so doing, deal with the problems of effective education for all. The system that can be truly responsive to the needs of the exceptional child has the capacity to respond to the needs of any child. The solution to the problems of introducing innovation into schools is seen as the immediate task for all concerned educators.”

And it concluded with

“For the technologist, the challenge today is to create in society an awareness of the basic role that communications technology, in particular, must play in facilitating the above institutional and human processes. The authors suggest that it is basic that any innovation be understood in terms of its consequences. This may be difficult because of the stimulus-orientation of most viewers of technology that causes judgments to be made on the basis of what stimuli are carried rather than the effect they create in a recipient. The consequences of the appropriate use of communications technology to “link” human beings together in more broadly based, effective systems, however, CAN be the self-renewing institution of education oriented towards the common objective of individual human development.”

I don’t know if this is just a case of “everything looking like a nail to a hammer,” but that was exactly what I had been “seeing” MCPS doing as they capitalized on the relational uses of communications technology to develop and sustain the process scaffolds that are enabling them to better respond to the needs of each child.

So, Alice’s Looking Glass “works” (for me)… but that means it also has the potential to serve as a practical and predictive tool for effective planning for others. Could it serve as the “window” Peter Drucker was alluding to when he said– “I never predict. I just look out the window and see what’s visible—but not yet seen.
… I look for things that have already happened, and have not yet had consequences
… and I foresee them.”

I believe it can, which is why when I set up this site’s basic structure I set aside a “space”– What can be seen…and learned?to hold any possibly new understandings that emerged from the way-of-thinking the lens supported, with the hope that  they might be used as catalysts for continued thinking and learning dialogues with those who wish to join in as thinking partners and co-learners.

At this point, the following five have been loaded in it:

New Understanding: The Complementarity of Policy and Practice

New Understanding:  Decision-making relationships

New Understanding:  A needed Role map

New Understanding: The X-factor at work

New Understanding: The Zen of data-driven decision-making

As the What can be seen…and learned? page indicates, there’s more to come….  stay connected.

Write a comment