Sunday, 31 August 2014

My Diigo Links of the Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, 25 August 2014

My Goals for the 2014-2015 School Year

I want to share my goals for the coming school year, in the hopes that others will do the same and these others will also take the time to help me reach these goals.  These aren't our school goals, they are just my personal goals.  Not SMART, Not necessarily measurable.  But DOABLE!  They are not in any order

  • Continue to build relationships that will allow us all to achieve our goals.
  • Help staff and students see that change does have its benefits.
  • Successful integration of 21st Century skills for the entire school.
  • Help our teachers and students adopt a Growth Mindset.
  • Help staff adopt web 2.0 tools and a better understanding of new technology to their teaching and professional work.
  • Help students and staff realize their awesomeness!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Getting Comfortable with Change, I mean TRANSITIONS

I am just going to put it out there - Change is good!  This is the perspective every modern leader needs to have.

As I look back over the last school year and a half, I have gone through:

  • 3 principals
  • 3 Superintendents
  • 3 Schools
  • 6 vice principals.
  • Sharepoint rollover
  • Office365 Implementation

In fact in the last year our staff moved our entire site from one location to another.  These are just small examples of the amount of physical changes we go through as digital leaders.

Many say I should have fallen apart with all of the change, besides the fact that I had a great staff keeping it together and I more than loving and supportive wife at home, it was my use of technology schools as well that helped me stay on track and not loose focus.  The use off technology remained as everything around me was changing.  The apps that I used to help me lead through the change were indispensable in my success.  Here is a brief list of them:

Evernote - notes from meetings, ideas, thoughts (@evernote)
Pocket - collected all the information and ideas I would need to be successful (@pocket)
Wunderlist - My second brain and essential task manager/to-do list (@wunderlist)
Twitter - connecting with other educators to seek advice through my PLN (@twitter)
Hootsuite - to manage all of the information as it was coming at me (@hootsuite)

The above apps were essential in managing the transitions that I have gone through, the many changes I was able to lead through.  Our students are also going through change.  Rapid change, but they have not be taught how to manage it.  They have not had the opportunity to have change management modelled for them.  We can show them how to manage the change with web tools.

Change is good.  Our students do not always realize that.  Think of when are students have the hardest time with things, the days leading up to holidays standout for me.  Students have a hard time managing through change and we need to model this change for them.

The first thing that I like to do is switch the term from change to TRANSITION.  A change is more like doing a u-turn on a highway or a complete stop.  A transition is more like a lane change, a slight shift in direction.  By modeling these transitions for students, and in fact staff as well, we are showing true leadership.  Whether it is some of the physical school changes I mentioned above or a shift in pedagogical direction we can help students and staff though them by taking the first steps.  We can show them that the more transitions we make the better we are at handling the transitions of life, such as moving houses, changing schools, or even changing friendships.

We also need to highlight how, over time, when you keep doing the same thing we wear a path into the ground where we have been.  These paths in the grass may become deeper the more we walk over them and eventually become ruts.  As we know people can get stuck in rut and have a harder time getting out.  We need as leaders to model how we can stay out of ruts and stay in the groove.  This groove is more of how we manage our daily lives a process rather than a track.  We can show how to go with the flow and take control of our situations and better handle our transitions.  The last thing we want our students and schools to become is stuck, embedded in the mud.

As leaders in a modern world, it is important for us to model effective change management or transition control for our students.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Nobody Said It Was Easy...

Today here is a soundtrack from my mind as a read a blog post, here are some lines from Coldplay's, "The Scientist":

Nobody said it was easy
It's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh, take me back to the start.

This chorus came to mind after reading the blog post entitled, "The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher" by Steven Conn and posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Thanks for the great writing that caused me to reflect on my practice and the purpose for what I do.  The following are my thoughts on point from Conn's post, so perhaps read it first.
Just some of my thoughts  as I read the blog are below.

So you don't use rubrics, not at post secondary education? Now, not everything requires a rubric, but major assignments/tasks should at least be put forth with, at the very, very, very least a set of expectations so that students know how they will be evaluated. Scaffolding anything we do provides the structure for success and better student product. Even when we evaluate teachers it is an open conversation where we inform the teachers of the domains we are looking at.  I even allow teachers to select several they would like me to pay particular attention to.  Its not just about rubrics its about information and everyone knowing how they will be evaluated.  I expect this for myself and I will ensure I give it to teachers and students.

As far as failing, there is nothing wrong with students struggling and failing, as long as they learn why they failed.  If you do not provide them meaningful feedback then how will they improve.  If they do not know how they are evaluated how will they learn? We need to ensure we nurture a growth mindset in our students, so they can see where they fell short when measured against criteria and how to improve for the future.

Yes technology has opened the lines of communication.  However, we need to take control and set limits of when you are available on email, twitter, FB or a chat room in a LMS.  We still have the control to set reasonable limits for students.  Students need structure, they crave it.  If you set ongoing communication framework for students, and have regularly scheduled hours for this communication to occur, then we can avoid the last minute rush of panicked emails, texts and DM's!

Face-to-face meetings with my prof?  That was horrific time for me, I would have prefered to build my relationship first and then move towards face-to-face interactions.  This is what technology allows us to do.  It is an evolution not a de-evolution!

When I was a student in school I was ahead of most, not because of my intelligence, not because of my time management skills, not because of my prioritizing, but because I learned how to play the game.  I was engaged only when I needed to be.  I drove teachers nuts.  Loads of potential but no motivation to play the game 24/7.  I did what I had to do in order to get by, I wasn't engaged.  I had figured out a framework for success without it being shown to me.  I was luckily, all my classmates were not.  By providing students with outlines of how they will be assessed or chunking larger tasks into parts we are providing a framework and structure for students who haven't figured out the game.  We are merely leveling the playing field for all, not spoon feeding.
When Conn states, "I can teach in a meaningful way only if students are prepared to learn" I can agree.  However that's where my agreement ends.  It is our role, our job, our task, or moral imperative to ensure that students are prepared to learn and are ready to learn.  Simply put in the words of Coldplay, nobody said it was easy.  We cannot just throw our hands up and blame students, parents, government, technology or the education system.  We must make all of these work together for student success.

We can do all the above, while still challenging our students with intellectually stimulating tasks. All the while, providing rubrics in order showing them what to do and how to do it.  This is our task. This is our job. This is what we signed up to do!  Conn is right, we cannot drag them around the dance floor, it takes more than two to do the educational tango.  However, engaging students in the learning process through rubrics, descriptive feedback, open communication, critically thoughtful assignments and providing frameworks for success are all steps in that dance.  Remember, nobody said it was easy...

Feedback and thoughts please....

Sunday, 3 August 2014

My Diigo Links of the Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.