FISHing for IT:
Applying Organizational Concepts to Instructional Technology

Copyright 2002 Miguel Guhlin

“What? Something else to read?” I groaned as I stared at the brightly colored book in my hand. “I’m an administrator now. I don’t have time to review the latest research and play the book reading game...meetings are my game now.” As I muttered this with a smile under my breath, I was fascinated by the title of the book in my hand--FISH. Was this my boss’ way of calling me, a new director, a “Fresh fish?”

As I reminisced about high school, freshman year, and what the implications of finding this book in my work inbox, I heard the chime of the email message. Sure enough, there was the note. It read:


I know you have better things to do this weekend than to take some time and do some reflection. We have begun a new school year and with it comes a lot of little surprises. Consider this a little surprise................. for those of you who like surprises. In your box is a book called FISH. I want you to come by and pick it up and when you have some down time, read it. It is short and could be easily read in 15 to 30 minutes! Well maybe a little longer since it has very few pictures.

I want to start Wednesday morning with a conversation centered on the book. I want to have a healthy conversation about organizational culture beginning with this book. This whole year, we will be disussing organizational culture and what it means to our organization and the people who make the organization.

Please be prepared to share your thoughts and how the book relates to what we are trying to accomplish.


As I stuffed the book into my laptop bag, on top of the mountains of paperwork that are the mundane minutiae of every exciting project ever imagined, I wondered--Am I someone who likes surprises?

The FISH book (find out more at http://www.fishphilosophy.com) shares the story of Mary Jane Ramirez, a manager charged with reviving the third floor of an organization. Caught up in her story of tragedy and triumph, I paused at the significance of the 3 of the 4 main points in the story. Then, I reflected on how an instructional technology office could address these points. This article shares those 3 points and some examples that helped me understand the point of the book. I encourage you to read this book. It’s an easy read and packs a powerful punch.

1) Choose Your Attitude: No matter what kind of work you have to do, you can choose the attitude with which you approach that work. When I get up in the morning, my brain is working before I even get in the shower. There’s an excitement to solving problems, working on projects that will radically transform how we interact with others. Sometimes, our solutions work...sometimes they are not approved. This is the reality of work, yet, I can still approach that work with an attitude that keeps me refreshed and engaged.

For example, a curriculum director shared that they were working on a request for proposals involving a computer-assisted instruction program for their district. Despite their opposition to this approach to using technology, they were able to approach the CAI issue with a positive attitude. This attitude allowed them to collect research, raise issues and approach this from a pedagogical, literature-based point of view.

Even if the CAI approach is implemented in her district, she knows that she did her part in getting the word out. After all, after she shared the research done, it was worthwhile to review the CAI pedagogy versus tool based systems. It helps one appreciate the journey we’ve all had to make from drill-n-practice to the technology applications Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. Her literature review, along with some I have collected, is available online at http://www.mguhlin.net/portfolio/writings/2002/ilses.html

2) Play: There’s a dynamic energy present when children play. A lesson we forget as adults is how much fun it is to just play. I like to think that Instructional Technologists have not forgotten how to play. It’s that wonderful attitude of playing with the gadgets that makes sharing how they work with each other so much fun.

This has been especially true in selecting products to use to create online staff development modules. With a staff of 4 people for a large school district, it’s clear that the training needs have grown beyond our capacity to deliver. How can we better deliver professional development via the web?

Being able to combine video, audio, and multimedia presentations in a cohesive, easy to download package can be difficult. When you consider bandwidth, you realize the solution must find a way to compress video and audio.
That’s why my team and I played with different software tools to discover which were the best. We reviewed 3 products including Viewlet Builder, Impatica On Cue (and Powerpoint), and Camtasia. In the end, we selected Impatica On Cue (http://www.impatica.com) and Camtasia (www.camtasia.com). These tools allowed us the most room for “playing” and ease of use. You can see the selection criteria for these products online at http://itls.saisd.net/prodvmt/onlinlern.htm

3) Be There: Our responsibility to each other is to be truly present. For Instructional Technology and Library Services, this can change our interactions. It can also change how we reach out to others. For example, being present for me means not only being there face to face but also having a web site shares.

In designing a web site, making sure that the web site continues to reflect the needs of the people we serve is key. It is key because a responsive, web site meets the needs of people, as well as points out how committed we are to being responsive. That’s why a web site needs to tell a story, a story of how we interact with each other. “What do you need?” “Ok, let me get that for you. Let me share something else with you, too....”

I encourage you to read the FISH book and share its principles with your staff. The book reading game, I’ve found, isn’t all that bad.