Creative Education
2011. Vol.2, No.3, 199-207
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ce.2011.23028
Using Multimedia Case Development as a Critical Reflective Tool
for Revitalizing School Stakeholders’ Organizational Learning
Joseph Claudet
Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, USA.
Received May 20th, 2011; revised June 2nd, 2011; accepted June 8th, 2011.
This article reports design and development efforts associated with one school-university collaborative partner-
ship project focused on assisting K-12 school community stakeholders struggling with difficult school im-
provement challenges learn how to reinvent themselves as organizational teams to engage effectively in positive
school change and renewal. The project employs an alternative, immersive organizational learning design in
conjunction with available multimedia technology to leverage stakeholders’ own lived experiences and leader-
ship challenges as opportunities to engage school community participants in a unique organizational case devel-
opment and team learning adventure. Multimedia case development and production activities involving school
community stakeholders in one elementary school are highlighted. Insights derived from the use of multimedia
case development as an organizational leading and learning tool for educators and other stakeholders in school
communities are discussed.
Keywords: Organizational Learning, Multimedia Case Simulations, Colla bo rative School Leadership
As an organizational behavior researcher and school im-
provement consultant serving K-12 schools over the past two
decades, I’ve always been fascinated by the challenge of help-
ing groups of school community stakeholders who find them-
selves confronting difficult real-world teaching, leading, and
learning dilemma situations. And, my fascination is multiplied
when the educators and community members I am working
with are grappling with dilemma challenges that, over time,
have become so organizationally entrenched and intractable
that they often require school stakeholders to reinvent them-
selves as learning communities. This process of reinvention is,
by necessity, often systemic in nature and can be destabilizing
and fraught with uncertainty, as it demands that school com-
munity stakeholders find new ways to refashion their organiza-
tional identities and reenergize their capacities for collaborative
leadership. More often than not, this collaborative process of
“reinventing organizational shared identity and purpose” in-
volves large groups of school community stakeholders learning
how to come together to think differently and work together in
new ways—in short, to learn how to work together anew as a
genuine organizational team.
Learning how to work together as an effective organizational
team can be a daunting task, particularly when the dilemma
challenges organization members are facing are high-stakes in
nature, multi-leveled, and potentially game-changing. The
challenges can impact directly the organization’s continued
effectiveness and stability. Intriguingly, there is a fascinating
example of this very kind of “high-stakes” dilemma situation in
a suspenseful scene toward the end of Christopher Nolan’s
mind-bending 2010 movie Inception, in which a team of dream
inceptors, hired by a wealthy corporate entrepreneur to plant a
new, monopoly-busting “organizational idea” into the mind of a
competitor, becomes stuck in a multi-layered, multi-dimen-
sional dream reality of their own creation (a “dream-within-
a-dream-within-a-dream”). The team finally realizes that the
real challenge (and the only way to successfully resolve their
predicament and achieve their organizational goals) is to learn
how to “tag-team”. That is, the inception team members must
learn how to work together synergistically and collaboratively
as a real organizational team. Team members must find crea-
tive ways to genuinely collaborate in practical, meaningful,
results-driven ways with other team members operating within
the various dream levels through recognizing and valuing each
member’s core values and beliefs (each member’s individual
“dream perspective”) and how individual members’ various
“perspective-driven” values and beliefs inevitably inform the
group’s collective leadership vision. Because, as the inception
team learns, if you fail to take into account individual mem-
bers’ core values and beliefs and how these values and beliefs
can impact the organization, then team members collectively
will not really be “collaborating” (and, in fact, various team
members may even be working at cross-purposes with each
other). And, as a result, the team overall will not be able to
construct a coherent shared leadership vision (a group-con-
structed vision that successfully integrates multiple individual
perspectives) and will not function effectively. In short, the
intrepid band of dream inceptors must learn how to “tag team
as an organization” (viz., learn how to genuinely think differ-
ently and work together in new ways as a functioning team) to
be able to successfully implant the new organizational idea,
navigate through the multiple dream levels, and “kick” each
other back to reality.
Interestingly, the “multiple layers of dreaming” the Inception
team members must navigate in within the movie is akin to the
“layers of dreaming” (i.e., individual classroom lesson-planning
mindset, grade-level unit planning demands, etc.) that teachers
in schools can sometimes get trapped in. As a result of the
longstanding organizational “structures” in place in K-12
school organizations (individual classrooms, grade levels, etc.),
teachers in schools can often become so caught up in their own
individual classroom teaching and learning environment sur-
vival issues (their “individual trees”) that they are unable to see
the bigger picture (the “whole school-wide curricular and in-
structional forest”). As a school improvement consultant, the
challenge involves finding ways to help these teachers, along
with their school community stakeholder colleagues, mentally
expand their horizons—to get out of their own individual
teaching, leading, and learning “silos” (individual role perspec-
tives) and discover as a group how to connect the school’s
individual curricular and instructional dots into a unified or-
ganizational pattern (to develop a shared school leadership
vision as a functioning organizational team). In short, the or-
ganizational learning challenge is to help school stakeholders
learn how to “tag team” as a leading and learning community
(through learning how to think differently and work together in
new ways). It is through this process of learning how to think
differently and work together in new, creative ways that school
community stakeholders confronting tough, real-world dilemma
challenges in K-12 schools will be able to develop the collabo-
rative leadership capacity to forge and renew their own shared
organizational visions of who we are and where we should be
going as cohesive teaching, leading, and learning communities.
This article highlights a group of school community stake-
holders in one elementary school who were struggling with a
multi-leveled teaching, leading, and learning dilemma situation
of their own making, and reports on their collaborative efforts
within a multimedia case development project to learn how—
as an organizational team—to think differently and work to-
gether in new ways.
An Elementary School Community in the Midst
of an Instructional Leadership Dilemma
As part of my ongoing school improvement work with a
number of schools in the Permian Basin region of West Texas, I
was invited in the fall of 2008 by the principal of one K through
6th grade campus in the region to work with the school’s teach-
ers, instructional support staff, and other school community
stakeholders who were grappling with the difficult challenge of
finding a creative way to break out of the school’s recurring
pattern of low test scores and move their school community
forward. I was intrigued by the principal’s description of her
school’s challenges and the roadblocks she felt she and her
colleagues were confronting, and I agreed to meet the school’s
teachers and support staff and learn more about their situation.
After spending some time getting to know the teachers and
their school’s instructional setting, I began to sit in on various
academic team planning meetings involving grade-level faculty.
As I sat and listened to teachers during their weekly planning
meetings, one striking feature I observed that was reflected in
teachers’ discussions within and across different grade-level
teams was the evident passion that teachers brought to their
instructional work and their resounding commitment to their
students. Within one fourth grade team, for example, the teach-
ers involved spent a considerable amount of their planning time
(over a period of several weeks) discussing the “instructional
problems” they were experiencing as a result of their students’
evident technological savviness in being able to access and
download information about dinosaurs from the worldwide web.
As one teacher lamented, “my students are naturally attuned to
the wealth of information resources available on the internet—
I guess it’s just a natural part of their social heritage in this new,
interconnected age. They are already very adept at searching for
and downloading information from the net, and they are con-
stantly challenging me to keep up with them.” Several other
teachers in this fourth grade team nodded in agreement. As I
continued to observe these teachers during their planning
meetings, it became clear that one overall perception residing in
these teachers’ minds (reflected in that one teacher’s frank
comments) was that these teachers felt that many of the stu-
dents in their classes were far ahead of the overall “instructional
pace” that the teachers had designed and were attempting to
employ within classroom activities as part of their fourth grade
“dinosaur unit”. And, this created a growing sense among the
teachers that, rather than working proactively to “instructionally
plan ahead” for their classroom teaching, they were spending
much more of their planning time just trying reactively to “keep
up with their students”.
Other grade-level teams I visited seemed to echo, in similar
ways, the fourth grade team’s general instructional concerns
and reactive strategies within their own planning efforts. One
sixth grade team of teachers, for instance, was intently focused
on working to find a funding source and write a grant that
would support an intensive redesign of their sixth grade social
studies instructional units. In yet another team, fifth grade
teachers were spending a good deal of their planning time
brainstorming ways to actually limit the extent to which their
students could utilize “online learning information resources”
in completing their written lesson assignments. These fifth
grade teachers felt strongly that these online resources were
becoming a “crutch” that their students were relying on too
heavily—inhibiting students’ own creative thinking and writing
As I continued to sit in on various grade-level teams of
teachers during their weekly planning meetings, a similar pat-
tern of teacher thinking cutting across the teams began to
emerge. The various grade-level teams of teachers at this ele-
mentary school were fixated, to a large extent, on their own
individual and predominantly reactive approach to curricular
design and instructional delivery, and were focused single-
mindedly on grappling with their own perceived classroom (i.e.,
grade-level) instructional issues and challenges without really
considering any broader (i.e., school-wide) teaching and learn-
ing picture.
In my ongoing conversations with the principal, the principal
readily admitted up-front that she was not sure how to address
what she believed to be some of her school’s most intractable
challenges—the recurring pattern of low test scores and teach-
ers’ entrenched instructional attitudes and beliefs. To inform
our discussions, I shared with the principal my own observa-
tions regarding what I felt were the somewhat small-lens, reac-
tive instructional strategies many of the school’s grade- level
teams of teachers were employing within their grade-level
classroom planning. As our conversations progressed over the
span of a few weeks, and as the principal’s own reflective
thinking continued to evolve regarding the scope of her
school’s dilemma challenges, the principal began to articulate
her evolving suspicion that her teachers’ well-intentioned but
disjointed and fractured approach to instructional planning
might, in fact, be contributing to (and even exacerbating) the
recurring cycle at this school of poor teaching and learning
results (low test scores) and growing parental complaints—the
very di lemma challenges t hat were fueling the superintendent’s
insistent demands for improved academic accountability at this
elementary school. The principal admitted that she and her
teachers “are already implementing everything we can think of
to turn our school around, but the results we all want are just
not occurring”. Based on my accumulated observational data of
teachers and other instructional staff at this school, I suggested
to the principal that what she and her teachers needed was to
approach their school community challenges in a fundamentally
different way—not from the vantage point of individual role
players or even grade-level instructional units, but as a school
community-wide organizational team.
Because of my related work over the past decade with sev-
eral other school communities in the region who were also
grappling with the ongoing challenge of identifying and im-
plementing their own organizational visions of academic plan-
ning and instructional coherence, I was very familiar with the
power of organizational futuring as a useful tool for assisting
communities of diverse school stakeholders wrestling with
entrenched dilemma challenges and confronting the need for
systemic change. One of the best staff development applica-
tions of the organizational futuring concept I have used over the
years has involved conducting a series of future search confer-
ences with multiple role players within a school community.
Future search conferences (Weisbord, 1992) have been used
extensively in business organizations as a means for organiza-
tion stakeholders to come together to brainstorm collaboratively
in order to construct a shared sense of their organization’s his-
tory, its overall trajectory, and desired future. As such, future
search conferences can be a very useful technique for bringing
together “fifty to seventy people, drawn from all parts of the
organization and from external constituent groups, [to] work
intensely together to create shared visions of the organization’s
past, present, and future; the whole system is in the room, gen-
erating information, thinking about itself and what it wants to
be” (Wheatley, 1992: p. 66). The future search conference for-
mat becomes a unique opportunity for participants to share
member stories and perspectives on the organization’s past, to
assess the organization’s overall condition in the present envi-
ronment, and to leverage these multiple perspectives and as-
sessments to envision future scenarios, identify common
ground, and develop collaborative action plans to achieve the
kind of optimal organizational future members want. I have
found this organizational conferencing technique particularly
useful in situations where the challenge for the external con-
sultant is to help organization stakeholders (large groups of
educational and community leaders in K-12 school teaching
and learning communities) come together to build or revitalize
their collective organizational identity and collaborative lead-
ership capacity.
With some coaxing (and a little persistence), I was able to
convince the school principal—and, importantly, the school’s
expanded campus improvement team (consisting of teacher
representatives from each of the school’s grade-level teams, as
well as a number of instructional support staff, parents, and
community members)—to engage with me in January and Feb-
ruary of 2009 in a series of future search conferences as an
opportunity for the principal, teachers, parents, and other inter-
ested school stakeholders to come together and explore their
school community’s recent history and envision its future.
As the future search conferences commenced, I emphasized
to school community participants that the conversations that
take place in the future search conference meetings would be
challenging (and even unsettling), but the most positive results
would occur if participants were willing to share with each
other—with as much openness and honesty as possible—their
individual perspectives on the challenges facing the school. It
didn’t take long for individuals participating in the conference
meetings to start opening up and sharing their views regarding
their school’s challenges. Several of the same teachers who had
raised concerns during their grade-level team planning meet-
ings about the challenges of dealing with the widespread avail-
ability of internet-related resources and their questionable im-
pact on the quality of students’ learning voiced their perspec-
tives during the future search meetings. These teachers were
quite vocal in complaining about the added challenges to their
classroom instructional planning that they felt the proliferation
of online resources and communication tools had engendered.
Furthermore, these teachers expressed their belief that the chal-
lenges of navigating and dealing with these new technology
resources were compounding the difficulties they were already
facing in developing and delivering quality instruction in their
After listening to several teachers share their perspectives,
some of the parents in the conference meeting became fidgety
and began to share questioning glances with each other. One
parent who looked especially uneasy, eventually stood up,
turned to face the group, and stated that she’d like to share her
own, albeit somewhat different, perspective: “I’m speaking as a
parent, not a teacher. But, I currently have three children at-
tending this school in different grades. My children are all
growing up in an internet-connected world, and I want them to
be able to reap the benefits of technology to help them be suc-
cessful in their lives. So, I don’t understand why teachers are
complaining about the internet and how it’s disrupting their
teaching. I want my kids to learn with the internet tools that are
available, and I want their learning to be enriched through par-
ticipating in well-designed lessons that include web learning
activities. Rather than the teachers complaining about technol-
ogy, I think it’s high time the teachers in this school embrace
technology and learn how to work together to make technology
a vital part of students’ learning!” Several other parents in the
conference room nodded in agreement. This proved to be an
emotional tipping point in the series of search conference
meetings, one that, as an organizational learning consultant, I
seized upon to introduce to the school community members
present an intriguing idea that perhaps they had not yet consid-
ered: the idea of actually using some of the very digital tech-
nologies that teachers were complaining about in a new, crea-
tive way—as an organizational case development tool that
school improvement team members could employ together to
study and learn from their own instructional dilemma situation.
Further group discussion served to engender a heightened
sense among participants of the pressing need in their school
community for positive organizational change, and at the final
search conference meeting the members of the expanded cam-
pus improvement team admitted that they had exhausted their
ideas on how to address their school’s effectiveness challenges,
and that it was time to consider new, “outside-the-box” options.
Thus, with a sense of adventure (and not a little trepidation),
campus improvement team members along with the principal
agreed to take me up on my challenge to participate as a team
in an alternative staff development project for the coming
school year: to use multimedia technology and work together in
a new way to develop an organizational learning case about
their own school community instructional dilemma.
A School Community Embarks on an
Organizational Team Learning Adventure
Organizational case development efforts implemented over a
two-year period at this elementary school campus in the West
Texas Permian Basin were grounded in and part of a dec-
ade-long multimedia case simulation research and development
project supported through initial funding in 1996 through 1998
(totaling US $400,000) provided by the Sid W. Richardson
Foundation (Fort Worth, Texas), the Abell-Hanger Foundation
(Midland, Texas), and the Franklin Charitable Trusts (Post,
Texas). The initial funding supported the creation of a multi-
media case simulation research and development lab in the
Texas Tech University College of Education. This multimedia
R&D lab was equipped with broadcast-quality betacam SP
cameras, audio microphone and sound mixing equipment, and
digital nonlinear editing system hardware and software to en-
able teams of university project investigators to identify and
work with school stakeholders in a number of regional schools
and school districts across the West Texas and Texas Panhandle
regions who were grappling with a variety of interrelated chal-
lenges dealing with school improvement and instructional ef-
fectiveness. A central feature of this school-university partner-
ship endeavor involved university-based R&D personnel col-
laborating with teams of school community stakeholders in
participating schools and school districts to develop organiza-
tional learning cases focusing on difficult, real-world school
community challenges experienced first-hand by the educators
and community members in these K-12 school community
Project case development work at this West Texas elemen-
tary school began in earnest during the spring of 2009 with the
school’s expanded campus improvement team (consisting of
teacher representatives from each of the school’s grade-level
teams, along with a number of school instructional support staff,
parents, and community members—all of whom were familiar
with and fully involved in this school community’s current
dilemma challenges as real-life stakeholder participants) com-
prising the school-based case development team. This school-
based team began working collaboratively with the university
case project team (comprised of film crew audio and video
recording personnel, digital non-linear editing and post-pro-
duction specialists, and elementary school leadership consult-
ants from the regional education service center) who were as-
signed to this school to facilitate organizational case develop-
ment and to handle the technical aspects of case filming and
post-production work. These teams joined together in a unique
school-university partnering endeavor as a multimedia case
production team to develop an organizational case focusing on
the unique teaching, leading, and learning dilemma challenges
of this elementary school community.
Initial project activities involved assisting school-based team
stakeholders as they engaged in the process of storyboarding
and drafting of individual case scenes that would portray im-
portant interactive events, circumstances, and issues relating to
the overall case dilemma situation. This preliminary story
boarding and scene scripting work was a very important part of
the overall case development process, as it directly informed
stakeholders’ organizational learning. These initial case devel-
opment activities required school stakeholders to spend time
specifically discussing and reflecting on the history of issues,
interactions, and events at their school (including multiple and
often conflicting stakeholder perspectives on how to appropri-
ately address the school’s overall instructional improvement
and effectiveness challenges) that, over time, had accumulated
and were combining to form the contours of the school com-
munity’s present dilemma situation. School-based team mem-
bers worked diligently over a period of several weeks to de-
velop an accurate storyboard depiction of the history of their
case situation, along with carefully constructed scripted case
“scenes” that depicted representative multiple interactions a mong
various role players/stakeholders, highlighting their often-con-
flicting perspectives on important school improvement issues.
One important organizational learning feature built into the
case development project design involved the fact that, for the
filming of individual case scenes, individual school community
stakeholders who were members of the school-based case de-
velopment team were required to take on and “enact” different
stakeholder roles than the ones they played in real life. This
meant that all school-based participants involved in acting out
the various scripted case scenes had to spend a good deal of
time learning their new “case roles”—and, in so doing, neces-
sarily reflecting critically on the core beliefs and perspectives
of the alternate stakeholder roles they were acting out, rather
than simply staying focused on their own real-life role perspec-
tive. This “multi-perspectivist” kind of critical examination and
reflection by school team participants on case issues and multi-
ple role player values and beliefs was a key organizational
learning design element built into the overall multimedia case
development process. This level of organizational reflection
was specifically designed to assist school stakeholders in
learning how to think differently about each other, as well as to
develop—both individually and as an organizational learning
team—a more nuanced, inclusive view of the multiple factors
and perspectives influencing their overall school community
dilemma situation.
University-based project team members observed an inter-
esting phenomenon develop and intensify as they continued to
work with school-based stakeholder team members during the
overall case development process. Even during the preliminary
process of storyboarding and script writing in preparation for
filming of case scenes, individual school-based team members
were keen on making sure their own individual and/or group
perspectives (as teachers, parents, grade-level team members,
etc.) on important case issues were accurately represented in
scripted dialogue that would become part of multimedia case
scenes. As school-based stakeholder teams and project film
crews began in earnest on shooting case scenes, this tendency
by school stakeholders to insist on the accuracy with which
“their own” real-life role perspectives were portrayed became
even more pronounced. It became a frequent occurrence dur-
ing scene filming for one or more school team members to call
for a “timeout” from the shoot. “Wait a minute”, one role
player would exclaim, and then proceed to challenge another
role player: “You’re not articulating my perspective [on an
important case-related issue] in the right way—you’re not con-
veying convincingly how I really think and feel about this is-
sue.” Additionally, individual case actors were often heard by
project film crews during breaks in filming “coaching” their
school team colleagues (who were enacting their real-life roles)
on the nuances of their own specific role perspectives, and how
to accurately inflect and portray their strongly held values and
perspectives on case issues through the scripted scene dialogue.
The importance of these break-out coaching sessions as a
meta-analytic organizational learning dimension of case devel-
opment activities was recognized early on, and several of these
informal multiple team member “coaching sessions” were
filmed and later incorporated as a component of the final mul-
timedia case.
Some key features included within the overall multimedia
case simulation design template are illustrated in Figures 1, 2,
and 3. The primary multimedia case environment (Figure 1) is
designed as a “school leadership office” interactive interface
that enables users to access multiple kinds of school-related
information databases (e.g., student demographics, multi-year
school performance and accountability data, school district
policies, state and national school leadership performance
standards, etc.). Case users (the school’s case development
team stakeholders themselves, as well as other educators who
may want to use the case to inform their own school-specific
organizational learning) can navigate this multimedia environ-
ment to: 1) access and review case video scenes; 2) obtain in-
formation regarding specific school leadership national and
state standards relevant to the case; 3) interact with online
mentors (e.g., regional education service center curriculum and
instruction consultants, state education agency personnel, uni-
Figure 1.
Multimedia case school leadership office interface and interactive
Figure 2.
Case video scenes database with video mark functionality.
Figure 3.
Expert panel video sequences presenting vari ous case perspectives.
versity professors); 4) search case-relevant information data-
bases contained in digital file folders included in the multime-
dia environment; 5) develop (both individually and in groups)
their own critical reflective analyses of case scene portrayals
which can be archived digitally for future sharing with school
stakeholder team colleagues; and 6) work together as a col-
laborative team to brainstorm and develop case-specific school
improvement action plans.
Users can access the case’s video database of interactive
scenes portraying critical incidents relating to the school’s case
dilemma situation through the Case Video Scenes Database
(Figure 2). This database includes a special “video mark” func-
tion capability that enables users to digitally mark specific sec-
tions of video for further analysis (Figure 2). Utilizing the
“video marking” tool, users can frame and analyze individually
selected sections of the various case video scenes, and hyper-
link their selected scene clip analyses to relevant information
available in other video, graphic, and text databases included
within the multimedia case environment (e.g., school commu-
nity demographics; grade- and school-level student perform-
ance information; expert panel perspectives; etc.). Working
individually or in groups, school stakeholders navigating within
the multimedia case environment can utilize their selected
video clips to carefully examine specific interactive elements of
the multi-stakeholder case scene portrayals and develop reflec-
tive narrative analyses which can then be directly entered and
stored digitally in the case’s organizational learning program.
The simulati on’s Case Reflective Decision Making Area pro-
vides an opportunity for case users to directly apply organiza-
tional leadership insights about the case dilemma situation
gleaned from their scene clip (video mark) individual and
stakeholder group reflective analyses to develop case-specific
school improvement action plans. This area includes short “ex-
pert panel” video sequences featuring the leadership perspec-
tives of a number of seasoned administrators, school commu-
nity leaders, and educational consultants as they discuss some
of the key organizational issues and stakeholder interactive
dynamics portrayed in the multimedia case scenes (Figure 3).
School community stakeholders can reflect on how these expert
panel perspectives might inform their own collaborative lead-
ership thinking as they work to forge and refine their school’s
leadership team vision and craft their school improvement ac-
tion plans.
Collectively, the above interactive features incorporated into
the overall case simulation design template are intended to
stimulate school stakeholders to: 1) critically reflect on the
multi-perspectivist dimensions of their school community’s
organizational dilemma challenges; 2) leverage this critical
reflection to develop a more collaborative and integrated lead-
ership team vision of organizational change; and 3) then apply
the organizational leadership insights gleaned to formulate
some practical decision making action strategies that might
result in positive school change and improvement. The final
context-specific multimedia case simulation that was developed
by the combined project team of elementary school community
stakeholders and university-based multimedia specialists re-
ported on in this article became one case installment in an on-
going series of K-12 school leadership case simulations sup-
ported by the multi-year project grants focusing on organiza-
tional change and instructional improvement.
The collaborative efforts of university-based research teams
partnering with school-based teams of school community
stakeholders in this and other regional schools in the kind of
multimedia case development project reported here have en-
gendered a number of insights among R&D project participants
on the potential of multimedia case development as a creative,
alternative staff development design and development tool for
revitalizing K-12 school stakeholders’ organizational learning.
Several of the insights derived are discussed below .
Immersion in Organizational Case Development was
Seen as a Catalyst for Enge nderin g New Kinds of
Multi-Stakeholder Reflective Thinking
School community stakeholder involvement in the year-long
multimedia case development project reported here served as an
alternative, immersive organizational learning opportunity for
the grade-level teams of teachers, parents and community
members, and the school’s principal who came together in a
new way to explore their school’s instructional leadership di-
lemma challenges. The interactive, multimedia case story this
school community case development team constructed enabled
team members to explore and critically reflect on their collec-
tively-shared lived experiences in new ways through harnessing
the representational power of multimedia technology. A central
thrust of this case development project was leveraging available
digital story-telling tools to empower school community stake-
holders to approach their own professional and organizational
learning in new ways. In particular, project activities enabled
participants to work together in a new way as a multimedia
development team to recreate their lived experiences with the
added advantage of being able to critically explore—collabora-
tively and reflectively in hindsight—the multiple layers of
stakeholders’ perspectivist beliefs and thinking that were con-
tributing to and infusing the organizational fabric of their di-
lemma situation.
A number of stakeholder team participants (including several
experienced teachers) came to the case development process
harboring their own deeply ingrained beliefs regarding what
they considered to be the limited possibilities of the internet and
related information technologies for creating any real added
value to the teaching and learning process. For these partici-
pants, teaching and learning was a clear and well-defined proc-
ess framed by the curriculum and contained within the familiar
“bounded” structure of the classroom environment. Other
teachers on the case team openly acknowledged the wealth of
information content available through the newer internet-en-
abled technologies, but were less than confident in their own
abilities to sort through and leverage these resources in instruc-
tionally appropriate ways. Overall, teachers participating in
case development activities, in general, were not as yet open to
what these new information tools—as well as their own stu-
dents—might be able to teach them about the evolving nature
and possibilities of 21st century classrooms. As “digital immi-
grants”—individuals who had to make a conscious effort to
learn the new digital language of computers and the internet—
these teachers were not as comfortable with the internet and
information search and communication technologies as their
students. Their elementary grade students, by contrast, were all
born “digital natives”, for whom computers and the internet
were a natural part of their digital heritage (Prensky, 2010).
Because of this, several teachers during case development team
reflective sessions shared their fears about not being able to
“keep up with the learning curve in being able to identify and
incorporate appropriate internet resources into their instruc-
tional planning” and not being able to “stay ahead of their
tech-savvy students”. As these educators and school community
members participated in case development activities, a key part
of team members’ ongoing group reflective thinking processes
involved: 1) critically examining both their own individual and
instructional team members’ ingrained curricular and instruc-
tional beliefs; and 2) gradually enlarging and evolving their
consensual view of what a 21st century elementary classroom
can be. For team participants, this included arriving at a new
generative metaphoric way of thinking about instructional
planning for technology-integrated classrooms—a new way of
thinking about teaching and learning as information-rich, glob-
ally-connected, and “unbounded”.
Stakeholders’ involvement in developing case scenes and re-
lated reflective components of the case simulation provided
these school community members with a unique opportunity to
critically reflect upon and develop more nuanced understand-
ings of the web of interacting (and, often conflicting) role
player beliefs and perspectives that was so central to the evolu-
tion of their current dilemma situation. Through immersing
themselves in the project’s creative development and refine-
ment activities, case development team members became, in an
intriguing and fundamental way, collaborative problem solving
bricoleurs—“mental tinkerers” working with whatever materi-
al s and ideas they have before them (Papert, 1980: pp. 21, 7 6)—
as they critically examined each others’ role perspectives and
explored new avenues to inform their constructivist learning.
Importantly, the case simulation development process itself
provided a means for team participants to arrive at a critical
organizational learning insight: that in order to be able to effec-
tively address their school community’s intractable dilemma
challenges, these school community stakeholders would have to
embrace the broader collaborative payoffs of learning how to
work together to find a creative way—as an organizational
team—to reconcile their perspectivist differences and build a
practical, working consensus on “who we are and where we
want to go as a collaborative teaching, leading, and learning
community”. In short, this group of educators and community
members was challenged as collaborative stakeholder partici-
pants in their own multimedia case learning project activities to
learn how to become a cohesive and critically reflective organ-
izational learning team.
Multimedia Case Deve lopment Project Activit ies
Were Found to Be Useful as Creative Opportunities
for School Community Stakeholders to Identify and
Leverage Their Own Unique Organizational Core
Competencies to Reinvent Themselves as Learning
One critical insight that emerged from the collective organ-
izational case learning activities school community stake-
holders engaged in during the project development year was the
consensus that developed among case development participants
that the “real challenge” for teachers, administrators, parents,
and other community stakeholders in this school was to tap into
their collective potential as an organization to learn how to
think differently and work together in new ways. And, this new
way of thinking and working together required these educators
to recognize, more fully understand, and leverage the power of
collaborative teaming—one of their newly discovered, and
potentially very powerful, unique core competencies. Through
engaging in “collaborative team unit planning” (multiple-silo
thinking and planning) to enhance their instructional planning
efforts, rather than relying exclusively on “individual lesson
planning” (single-silo thinking and planning), educators in this
elementary school gradually became more open to the possi-
bilities of harnessing the internet as a collaborative team re-
source “tool” to energize and positively transform their collec-
tive classroom teaching and learning environments. Through
leveraging collaborative team unit planning as a means to
reconceptualize and revitalize how they planned together, these
teachers began to find new, context-specific ways to utilize the
internet and available digital learning resources to help them
connect their classrooms together—to “connect the dots” for
their students across lesson content, across classrooms, across
grade levels, and across the street to the real world. In short,
these teachers began to see the value—the “instructional pay-
offs”—of working together to leverage the internet and related
digital learning technologies as integrative tools to more effec-
tively enhance teaching and learning for all learners throughout
the school’s broader instructional environment.
Perhaps one of the most important organizational learning
insights team members took away from their collective case
development project experiences was the realization that, in
order to be able to develop the capacity for “refashioning
shared organizational identities” to move their school commu-
nity forward, educators in this elementary school would need to
make the critical, reflective examination of their own core be-
liefs about teaching and learning, the nature and purpose of
learning environments, the curriculum, and the instructional
units that operationalize that curriculum a central conscious part
of their daily shared professional practice. In short, these edu-
cators learned that they would need to develop—as one of their
key organizational core competencies—the ability as a school-
wide team to continually assess in practical ways the extent to
which their individual and collective instructional beliefs are in
sync with the challenges and demands of 21st century class-
rooms and 21st century learners.
Stakeholder Involvement in Organizational Case
Learning Holds Potential for Fostering an Emerging
Culture of Distributed Leadership and a Renewed
Collaborative Commitmen t t o Positive School Change
Stakeholders’ collective experiences in this elementary
school’s organizational case learning project activities seemed
to reinvigorate participants’ collective sense of organizational
efficacy and provided a new avenue for reenergizing stake-
holders’ commitment and capacity for positive school change.
Teachers’ involvement in the case development process forced
these elementary teachers to confront head-on and to con-
sciously reflect upon some of their own entrenched “attitudes
and beliefs” about classroom teaching and learning—beliefs, in
fact, that were holding these teachers back and preventing them
from working together to develop an effective academic team
mindset. Through participating in organizational case develop-
ment activities, teachers were able over time to begin to fashion
among themselves a new sense of shared ownership in the
school’s leadership challenges.
In essence, a growing collegial understanding began to
evolve among stakeholder participants in the case learning pro-
ject that the responsibility for active change leadership at their
school did not and need not reside exclusively within one or
more individual stakeholder role positions, but that this change
leadership responsibility could be most usefully thought of as
being distributed dynamically among all the school’s stake-
holders. And, it is this evolving sense of the power of distrib-
uted leadership (Harris, 2009) that enabled these school stake-
holders—as an organizational case learning team—to be able to
take that crucial change leadership step to begin to address
directly their own “crisis of instructional and organizational
leadership confidence” and, in doing so, begin to foster in their
school community an emerging culture of shared leadership
responsibility for positive school change.
The organizational case development strategies that were
utilized in this school-university collaborative initiative as the
basis for assisting these elementary school stakeholders in
building a revitalized culture of shared leadership responsibility
within their school community were firmly grounded in a phe-
nomenological approach to human learning (Van Manen, 1990).
As a form of qualitative inquiry, phenomenological analysis
emphasizes the relevance and importance to individuals and
groups of reflecting critically on their own lived experiences—
their real-life perceptions and perspectives—as a central start-
ing-off point for evolving insightful understandings about and
making sense of those experiences (Smith, et al., 2009). The
multimedia case development project activities engaged in by
these elementary school case team participants and reported
here were designed specifically as a structured means to enable
these school stakeholders to immerse themselves in a unique
and highly context-specific organizational team-learning en-
deavor. A central focus of this endeavor was on engaging par-
ticipants in working together in a new way as a collaborative
case development team to critically analyze and reflect on their
collective interactive experiences within the context of their
own real-world school leadership challenges. Coming together
in this manner as a case development team, school stakeholder
participants were provided with a new means and a unique
vantage point for engaging in focused critical, reflective analy-
ses of their overall school community interactive experiences.
School stakeholders’ collective case development and analysis
project efforts represented for participants an alternative team
learning platform for gaining new shared understandings about
important school community issues and challenges, and an
opportunity to interpret and make sense of their shared reality
in new, creative ways (Weick, 1995).
The advantages of developing and nurturing an organiza-
tional team reflective mindset as a means for energizing and
revitalizing a positive culture of distributed leadership within a
school community were discussed openly by university and
school case team participants both during and following the
completion of case development p ro je ct work at this el ementary
school. One teacher’s comments at the conclusion of project
activities summarized the renewed sense of positive change
leadership capacity that developed and was felt among case
team participants: “We realize that no single initiative, in and of
itself, can solve our school improvement challenges. But this
project has forced us to think differently about ourselves and to
reevaluate how we might work together to better understand
who we are as a school community and how to effectively ad-
dress our challenges. We already knew what many of our
school improvement challenges were and the general overall
direction we needed to be moving in, but, as members of the
same school community, I think we now have a better sense of
the kind of common school culture we need to build together,
and how important that culture will be in helping us be able to
achieve our school improvement goals.”
Of course, nurturing an energized culture of distributed lead-
ership within any school leading and learning community is an
organizational challenge that requires sustained effort over time.
Thus, using multimedia case design and development as an
alternative, immersive organizational learning tool may be best
employed as one creative component of a larger, integrated set
of short- and long-term organizational learning and develop-
ment strategies to help build and maintain among school com-
munity stakeholders a revitalized sense of shared organizational
purpose and a lasting commitment to positive school improve-
This article has reported on activities and results associated
with a multimedia case learning and development project in-
volving educators and school community stakeholders in one
West Texas elementary school. The project’s design utilized
concepts and techniques associated with dramatic theatre,
cinematography, and collaborative staff development to involve
stakeholder participants and project personnel in a unique or-
ganizational case learning and development experience using
available multimedia technology.
A key feature of the case development process described
herein was the leveraging of school stakeholders’ own lived
experiences and school community challenges as the context-
specific basis for immersing stakeholders in an alternative staff
development and organizational team learning adventure that
forced stakeholder participants to examine critically and reflec-
tively their real-world dilemma situation in new, multi-perspec-
tivist ways. Project activities enabled school community stake-
holders to come together in a new way to examine and explore
their own real-world school dilemma challenges as a creative
multimedia case development team. As a result of their in-
volvement in project activities, stakeholder participants at this
elementary school were able to glean new real-world insights
on how to transform themselves into effective organizational
leading and learning “inceptors”—that is, to develop the capa-
bility to critically and reflectively refashion their communal
“idea” of themselves as collaborative and transformative school
leaders. In doing so, these school community stakeholders were
able to reshape and revitalize their owned shared sense of or-
ganizational identity to build the collaborative leadership ca-
pacity to help them move their school community forward.
Most importantly, all of us involved in this school-university
partnership endeavor (both university research and school
community teams alike) gained valuable new understandings
and respect for the potential of multimedia technology as a
useful tag-teaming tool for helping stakeholders in organiza-
tions think differently about leadership and learn how to work
together more effectively in new ways.
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