Interview with Sandy Hirtz: Leading by Example

The Literacy and Language Professionals Who Lead by Example Series is dedicated to highlighting the impact made by exemplary literacy and language professionals who lead by example. They share their inspirational tips and stories. Check out those who were honoured in the 2010 series.

I’m thrilled to start off the 2011 series by showcasing the work of a leader who works tirelessly from her home base in British Columbia, Canada. She’s a leader when it comes to literacy, technology and collaboration. A true inspiration!

What is your name, affiliation, and connection to language learning?

My name is Sandy Hirtz.  I am an independent e-learning and social media advisor. I primarily work from home juggling a plethora of projects. I moderate online forums for the BC Ministry of Education: Literacy branch, E-learning branch and Leadership branch.  I am involved in an Open Educational Resources for open schooling project with the Commonwealth of Learning.  I am project manager and editor of two books collaboratively authored by professionals from around the globe—Education for a Digital World, Edition 1 and soon to be released, Edition 2.0.

What are your thoughts about leadership and literacy?

I think the age-old philosophy of autonomous leadership is no longer adequate for dealing with the complex problems inherent in communities and organizations today. The current intensity and speed of globalization compounds the urgency of addressing the issue of literacy for all, especially among the poor and marginalized on as many fronts as possible.

As people concerned with education, literacy leaders have a critical role to play in fostering, supporting, encouraging and, above all, equipping learners with the values and skill-set necessary to be successful in the 21st century. What better way than by modeling and mirroring this world in our own practice.

Today’s leaders need to be tech savvy, think globally, collaborate, and create partnerships. They need to have the ability to anticipate, envision, maintain flexibility, think strategically, share responsibility, and build community.

In your opinion, what’s the most important aspect of a language or literacy professional’s job?

Raising literacy levels! Illiteracy is a critical problem that affects all corners of the earth. It has no boundaries and exists among every race and ethnicity, age group, and economic class. This silent epidemic threatens over 785 million adults worldwide; one in five adults is still not literate, two-thirds of them are women.

Improving literacy is a commitment to taking on a collaborative, cohesive, coordinated and holistic approach that involves families, communities, and government. It means taking the best of what is happening and making it accessible to all. It means looking at literacy as a lifelong skill. It means considering where and when we can best reach those in need of resources, training, and opportunities — in school, at work, at home, in healthcare environments, and in the community. Literacy is everybody’s business.

What are some of the projects you’ve been involved with that you would like to share?
BC Literacy Forum – advancing literacy and learning
The Literacy Forum showcases literacy initiative, innovation, experience, and best practice. Our goal is to engage in dialogue about literacy and improve literacy education.  Literacy is the key to opportunity for individuals, families, and communities. Come join us! If we band together, we can boost literacy levels from coast to coast to coast.

Community of Expertise in Educational Technology (CEET)
CEET is an online community for educators interested in teaching with technology.

Collaborative Authoring
Education for a Digital World: Advice, Guidelines, and Effective Practice from Around the Globe, was published by the Commonwealth of Learning and BCcampus in July 2008. It can be downloaded at the CoL website:
Education for a Digital World 2.0: Innovations in Education is being published by the Ministry of Education and will be available in print, pdf and as an e-book in March 2011.

The collaboratively authored books represent a shift in how educators are sharing their research, experiences and best practices in online teaching and learning. Facilitated completely through virtual interactions, this new model of authoring went beyond writing and editing to become an international effort in community building and professional growth.

Open Educational Resources for Open Schools An initiative of the Commonwealth of Learning in collaboration with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Ministries of Education and Open Schools in Zambia, Lesotho, Namibia, Botswana, Seychelles and Trinidad and Tobago.

Professional Learning Potlucks

I host free and open Moodle Meets or Professional Learning Potlucks.  Ursula Franklin says that an analogy of the perfect society is a potluck supper. “A society in which all can contribute, and all can find friendship, that those who bring things, bring things that they do well and in the end there is a variety of things. All share their talents and all belong. ” Her analogy fits perfectly with these collaborative professional learning events.

What keeps you inspired?

Working collaboratively to create meaningful, relevant and accessible learning opportunities.  I envision a world classroom, whereby people from every country; regardless of age, color, race, gender or wealth, have equitable access to completely free, on demand, personalized education.

James Martin (The Meaning of the 21st Century: A Vital Blueprint for Ensuring Our Future) says the people of today will, “more than at any other time in history, make a spectacular difference to what happens this century – and there needs to be an absolute crusading determination to bring change about.” (James Martin, page 398).  It is change, and the promise of global unrestricted access to knowledge, that is inherent in my professional activities.


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