Category Archives: learning

Productive Group Work

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Productive Group Work

by Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher and Sandi Everlove

In Productive Group Work, the authors discuss the importance of effectively working in groups. As most people have discovered, not everyone knows how to work in a group. In fact, many people have difficulty working collaboratively to accomplish a task. This isn’t to say that students don’t work collaboratively – most share collaboratively online and, if they are gamers, work in a team-oriented situation online. Many students play school sports and are aware of team dynamics. However, working collaboratively in a work environment isn’t always the same as some of these other situations. The company softball team has a different dynamic than the company team responsible for sales and advertising.

The introduction outlines how, for the most part, group work, especially in schools, isn’t necessarily effective. In the first chapter, they provide the characteristics of productive group work and it’s essential role in learning. Learning theorist Lev Vygotsky and his work on social learning outlines the essential role that groups and social learning have in the development of the child. The learning that children do takes place on two levels:

first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people … and then inside the child

Learning is more effective in a social context where interactions with others pushes one’s understanding to new and deeper levels.

“we must view group work as more than a means of completing a project or task. Productive group work is an essential stepping stone to learning and mastery.

The book focuses on the five principles from the work of David and Roger Johnson (1975) -Learning Together and Alone :

1. Positive Interdependence
2. Fact-to-face interactions
3. Individual and group accountability
4. Interpersonal and small-group skills
5. Group processing

Through explanation and specific classroom examples, the authors demonstrate and explain how a teacher can effectively help students to work collaboratively and develop the necessary skills to be effective in a collaborative group situation.

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http://newspaper.neisd.net/macarthur/2013/02/01/a-students-worse-nightmare-group-projects/

Each of the chapters combines sound theory and practical information so that teachers can begin to use the information in their own classrooms. The book is 117 pages in length but provides some very good charts, formats and questions for consideration that will help any teacher to develop a comprehensive plan for collaborative work.

Templates like the Peer Response Techniques are helpful in planning and working with students to develop skills in working with other people.

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p. 78

Classroom Implications

As a Social Studies and Humanities teacher at the middle years and senior levels, I began my teaching thinking that I could just put the students in group and they would know what to do. Wrong. I found out quickly that didn’t work and the work that was done and the classroom chaos that ensued did not allow for very productive learning. So I began to experiment and over the years learned that what is described in the book is, in fact, essential to effective collaboration. As an administrator, there are practical points to consider when thinking about collaborative groups with staff. Defining group norms and expectations before doing any work is an important part of effective collaborative efforts.

Grading/Marks

This is always a hot topic when it comes to group work. I struggled with this for some time being aware that students within groups didn’t always equally share the load. However, after starting to plan using Understanding by Design I began to develop group projects that had an individual component to them which required students to gather information that would then become part of the greater group product but would be their individual assignment. Then, after reading Ken O’Connors – A Repair Kit for Grading I did some more adjusting to this so that the group projects reflected a number of Social Development attributes which were reported separately – this is the current format of many report cards – but individual assessment comes from an assignment related to the work done in the group.

Classroom Example

To introduce students to systems, they are required to build a lego project using different system formats which allow for different types of interaction among the group members within a specified amount of time. Each group has a different type of system model to follow. This allows students to see how communication might work in different systems and how individual interpretations affect the effectiveness of the work within the system.

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Students then had to reflect upon the model, describe the strengths and weaknesses of their role, where they might find this model in a working situation, the effectiveness of the model and how they would improve the model to make it more efficient.

I also began to work with students on presentation skills – reading the information word for word off of a powerpoint was not an effective presentation. This video was one I have used to begin a discussion of what effective presentation might include. Because we read some of the book A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, we also view a few of the videos to have students determine what makes an effective presentation. We create a rubric which is then used to provide formative feedback. Summative assessment comes from an individual assessment.

From an Administrator Point of View

What I especially like about this book is that it provides practical information that teachers can use within their planning that will make a difference. It identifies that working in a group requires that they model and teach students the expected behaviours. A co-teaching model would be very beneficial to demonstrate to students how two people work together to complete a specific task – describing to students the role of each person – maybe including other support people that students might not be aware of their roles – to diagram and visualize the group processes.

Within a staff, some of the information is a powerful reminder that as lead-learners, we need to be cognizant of the roles people take on on staff and be sure develop a collaborative culture where all members work toward a common vision and not a few people doing a lot while others let them – characteristic of what many teachers probably saw while in school. As leaders, we need to ensure that we refresh ourselves with the different principles outlined in the book – ensuring our groups at the school level work effectively.

Telling and Doing are not the same

Telling – Why not?

Smoking – We all know it’s bad for your health, is linked to cancer and is the root cause of many other physical problems. Yet people continue to smoke, we continue to sell tobacco products and our youth continue to be swayed to using them. Why? In the 21st century with so much advancement, why does this continue? Why can’t everyone just quit?

QUITTING

As someone who smoked for years, quitting smoking was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I didn’t do it on the first try, in fact it took many years to go from wanting to doing  and finally being able to state that I had quit. I still get cravings and I’ve needed to change my lifestyle so as to avoid being in certain situations where I willpower just won’t work. It was a very HUGE difference between saying “I’m quitting” and actually doing it. People who have never smoked don’t understand. Bill Engvel, an American comedian, talks about quitting smoking and how hard it is. Getting advice from non-smokers who’d tell him to “just quit! Why can’t you just quit?”  And it’s true, people who have never smoked will give all kinds of advice on how to quit, bombard you with all sorts of health information, which makes you feel even worse – sometimes like a complete failure. Someone who has smoked isn’t as quick to offer advice and will be more willing to offer support if asked but they aren’t as full of the “I know how” advice or the “you’re an educated adult, what’s wrong with you?” tone.

Technology Integration

What does  smoking have to do with technology integration?. For one, it’s kind of hard to sneak around the corner to “integrate”! How they are the same is that many people will tell you that’s it’s easy or that you should be doing it or how you should do it or why you should do it and provide you with all sorts of data – making you feel like that failure as their finger-wagging tone continues the “What’s wrong with you?’” But, they’ve never really done it. They’ve never looked at year/lesson plans and tried to imagine how they might integrate technology. They’ve not had to assess or evaluate students in order to provide a “mark”. They’ve not had to look at the long term of how does this fit into where I am now and what I do everyday. They might have classroom experience or put together a lesson or two but not the day-in day-out year-long experience.

They can tell you you should do it, that it can’t be that hard and will provide you all kinds of stats/articles/data about why, as a teacher, you should be doing it. They’ll throw out phrases that will include “21st Century Skills, digital citizenship, digital natives” and others. Some will be able to point you to teachers who “didn’t know a thing about technology but are doing it” just like there are some smokers who quit, first time, no problems. Well, for the rest, it wasn’t so easy.

A Plan

As you move to integrate technology, you might want to think of these things along the way – they’re things I’ve learned from experience in my classroom:

1. Decide why you are doing this and make a plan. Base your decision on learning not because you think you should or someone says you should. Cool might look “fun” but focus on the learning that will be taking place and how it will become part of the strategies you use in class and how might you assess the learning. I use tools like MindMeister and Gliffy to do brainstorming – sometimes. For some of the work, they are the best option for getting students involved and helping them to make connections between parts. They’re relatively easy to use. Now, there are other options like Popplet, text2mind and Mind42. This year I’ll also be looking at aMap and wikimindmap in some of my classes and I might even give Pinterest a go. Now, I’ll look at them but I won’t force them to fit and if I can’t use them, that’s okay. We’re way past the “wow” factor – our time is too precious.

2. Find your support people are and USE THEM. Teaching is not a solitary endeavour. Although there are a great number of resources that show you how, having someone to go to for support is essential for success. Whether it’s IT support or planning support or assessment support or delivery support, you need to have someone who can give you a hand. In the division where I teach, we have different people who support me in each of the above areas but because they are a distance away, it is important to find someone within the building or within you PLN that you can look to for assistance and help. This is where those connections via twitter or Classroom2.0 or Ed Administrators2.0 help.

3. Be prepared for setbacks. It will happen and there will be times when things don’t work out. Instead of tossing in the towel, getting down on yourself and forgetting it – reflect on what happened. That is why it’s important to plan – so you can assess for yourself and then make adjustments. Make notes of what went well and what you need to do to be successful.

4. Allow the students to guide some of what happens. You don’t have to control the whole process. In fact, it’s better if you build in various opportunities for their own exploration and sharing. Build the capacity of the room – make learning, not control, the focus of what is going on.

5. Have a backup option. I’ve been using technology in my classes since the mid 90′s – wikis and the LMS HotChalk since 2006 or so and have found out through experience that I always need to have an option that will allow us to continue to learn even if the internet is down or the system is buggy or ….. I’ve amassed a pretty good collection of items, articles, pictures that provide alternatives if things are working. Now, having more students BTOT, I rely on them to provide a buffer if our school system isn’t working. Heck, I’ve created my own  hotspot to allow students to work. But you need to think about these types of things and have alternatives. Having 26 grade 1′s all being frustrated because “It won’t work” can lead to great issues.

6. You need to lead with your strengths. I’m really good at the big picture – putting things out there so students/staff can see the parts fitting together. I’m not as good going from parts to whole – so I use my strengths and look for someone who can support me in areas where I’m not as strong. As an administrator, I have staff who have strengths which I encourage them to use and develop. When I first began teaching, I wasn’t very good but I was surrounded by a whole team of great teachers, each with their strengths. I visited them, watched them, had them help me, give me ideas and suggestions. I focused on making improvements while still using my strengths.

Telling and Doing are not the same

I’ve noticed that people who have quit smoking aren’t the first to offer you advice. In fact, they usually only offer suggestions or ideas because they know that whatever you do, it won’t be easy. They listen to what you have to say – will tell you a story or two of their failures before they were successful.  I know very few people, actually only 2,  who were successful the first time and did it with no plan. It’s kind of like that with technology integration – people who are successful usually have many setbacks, have learned from their mistakes and will share but will do so through stories which will usually include a failure or two.

Then there are the “Tellers” – they’re experience is vicarious – they’ve talked to all sorts of people who have done it but they really haven’t had the experience themselves – they don’t know what it’s actually like to have those successes – they just tell you that they will come. They’ve never been in a room with 29 grade 7′s when the computers aren’t working and things are going south fast – the panic as you realize your plan isn’t working, the sinking sense of failure, the “what do I do now panic” that sets in. They’ve heard about it, maybe even seen it but working through it and learning from it and watching or hearing about it are two different things.

So, as you begin to make plans, looking for tools to use – I like the site http://www.go2web20.net which has all sorts of sites that give you many different options that are searchable by tags – remember that you aren’t alone – you have supports around you and you need to use them. There will be setbacks but it’s only a failure if you don’t learn from it and move forward. You don’t have to control everything – it’s about learning and not control. Use your strengths – we all have them. Give yourself time – you are making changes in “teachingstyle” much as I did with having to make adjustments in lifestyle. One of them was exercising – I still remember my first “run” walking to the end of the block and back. Don’t compare yourself to what others are doing.

It’s about the season – not the game

This weekend the Sr. Girls basketball team played in another tournament final. We didn’t win. Now, many people who watched made comments like “Well, you had the chances, the ball just didn’t drop” or “You just couldn’t find your groove” or similar things. These statements are true – on the surface. However, as the coach/leader, I’ve learned to evaluate not just the team performance but mine as well. On reflection, this loss was more about me, as a coach, not making good decisions as it was about the team not shooting well.

As a coach, I’ve never had to cut a player because I’ve never been in a position to have that many players! Each player on our team plays. They have to because we don’t have a long bench. In fact, with everyone there, we have 9 girls. They each have strengths and weaknesses and we work at improving both throughout the season. Our team needs all the players to play – we need everyone to go out and give it their all. It’s just our reality. We don’t have a bunch of height this year but we have other strengths. Last night I didn’t coach to those strengths. I had a game plan and we stuck to it – too long – too late I realized it wasn’t going to work. By then the girls were frustrated, tired and somewhat disheartened. We regrouped at half but it was too late. Next practice, I’ll let the team know that the loss was probably due more to my decisions than their playing. It was a coaching error not a playing error.

Was the loss a failure? Absolutely not! It’s only our 2nd all year and it provided us with some more incentive to work hard at practice, focus on the drills and put in the time. Although it was a disappointment it was by no means a failure. It was LEARNING! We all learned – the team and I – we learned. It was important learning – critical to our future success.

Behind the Bench

This is my 17th year as a basketball coach. In fact, I’ve coached most sports over my teaching career. I’ve had the honour of coaching a team all the way to provincials and a few to Regional Playoffs. Basketball has been the sport I have coached the longest and the one I knew the least about when I started. In fact, when I first started, I didn’t really consider basketball a sport. Growing up on Canadian prairies, I did what so many other youth do, I curled. And played hockey and volleyball and badminton and did track but there was no basketball. None.

17 years later, I’ve learned quite a bit about the sport but I still know very little. That is why I watch video on YouTube, subscribe to newsletters, check regularly a few key websites and, whenever possible, watch what other teams are doing. I have to be willing to learn and adjust what I do as a coach so that the each member of the team can continue to get better. Having coached primarily teenage girls, I’ve also developed a sense of what works with motivating them, what helps to keep them focused, when to push and when to lay off. Today we didn’t have our usual practice because the team needed time off. They needed to rest. Some of the seniors will be going over the game throughout the day and will come to our next practice determined to improve. The juniors will follow them.

Being a Leader

What I’ve described above is somewhat of a mirror reflection of my journey as a teacher/administrator. I started teaching not really knowing what it was about. The first few “seasons” were losing seasons. None were winless but some were pretty darn close. I became determined to improve since I couldn’t cut any players, I needed to figure out how to help each of them. I eventually figured out that if I stuck to “my game plan” and didn’t pay attention to what was happening with the team – we’d lose. ALL of us would lose.

Now as an administrator, it’s the same thing. By no means do I know it all as a school administrator but I have become better at leading because I’ve become better at using all the talent in the room. I can’t cut anyone! Instead, my role is to seek out those strengths and talents, encourage and grow them while at the same time working on the weaknesses. For teachers, each day is game day – 5 days a week. But it’s about the season – we want to have a winning season with students. However, will there will be days when it just doesn’t flow and it won’t be a “winning game” or you’ll have a bad “quarter” and that is when, as an educational leader, I ask teachers to reflect and critically evaluate what they did, the decisions they made and the “plays” they called. Sometimes it’s a student having an off day. But sometimes, it has nothing to do with the students – it’s our actions/reactions/game plan that needs to be adjusted.

To Err Is Human – To Forgive Divine

We will make mistakes. It will happen. In fact, if it doesn’t, I’m thinking that you have a talented group that isn’t being challenged. It’s like being a 4A team playing in a 1A league – you’ll be a winner but what will the players learn? No challenge – little growth – little development – limited progress. If you challenge them, there will be mistakes and unsuccessful attempts  but it will be how you react that will be critical in development. Are you willing to self-evaluate critically? Will you admit it was partly your error? Will you point out how you made the error and discuss it? Will you change that loss into growth and improvement? Will you be willing to forgive – them and yourself? It is a critical step – letting go and moving on – not dwelling on the mistake but focusing on looking for improvement – in yourself and your “team”.

As a coach, I serve my team. That is my role. Yes, I push them at practice, find the drills and make game decisions but I serve the team – building individual talent to make us a better team. As a school administrator, I have a similar role. In both cases, I cannot play the game/teach for the others. I have to relinquish control of the play  - I am there to serve. So, when I err, I must be willing to accept it but then, demonstrate that it is a learning experience – model life-long learning – seek out solutions and then begin the task of working with the team, learning from what has happened. As a coach I server – I lead – as an educational administrator it’s the same thing.

 

You Can’t Stop the Rain

Singing their Song

So often when we talk about schools, students, parents and teachers, we discuss things in arm-lengths type of way. We discuss how they need to have richer and more meaningful learning experiences, how we need to provide them with the opportunities to use the technological tools in authentic learning experiences. What we don’t discuss is how schools need to be places of living not just of learning. They need to be places of community where children can experience life-lessons not just academic lessons. The story that follows is about one such event that took place at our school this past year.

The Idea

Tyler came to see me after basketball practice. I coach girls basketball so he had to wait until after I was done to see me. This isn’t necessarily unusual as I often have students come to see me after school, some because they want to work, some need help and some just want to be able to stay at the school for awhile longer. On this occasion, Tyler wanted to talk. He had this idea that he wanted to put on a Coffee House to raise money for Cancer. As he explained to me, he just really felt he needed to do this. His grandfather had passed away earlier in the year from cancer and he wanted to do something. He had been involved in other Coffee Houses, he played the guitar and thought it would be a great idea. We discussed times and dates. Another teacher who happens to play in a band was willing to help Tyler with setting up. A date and time was picked and the school was booked. Tyler was excited about the event which showed in his eagerness to get started on preparing. On December 8th, our school hosted the Coffee House where over $1300.00 was raised for Cancer Research.

The Rest of the Story

The story is a bit more than just the Coffee House. It’s a story about life. Tyler spent the next few weeks after our initial meeting working on the event. He put up posters around the school. He put out jars to collect money and advertise at various businesses around the town. He put up a sign-up sheet at school and began to spread the news that this was taking place. He spent a few days after school practicing, as did a number of the other students who were going to be taking part in the event. He promoted and had his friends promote. He arranged for a local band to take part.

The evening of the event, there were about 80 people in the school foyer ready to watch the different performers. In attendance was Tyler’s family, including his grandmother. This is where the real story starts. As Tyler got up and welcomed everyone, he explained that his reason for doing this was because he really needed to help others. He described how much it hurt when his grandfather had passed away, how the pain had been so great and he had hurt so much and he wanted to help others because it hurt so much. He explained that his grandparents would have been married 50 years this summer and his first song was dedicated to them as he had been practicing to play it at their anniversary. Beautiful. Powerful. Here was an 18 year old young man doing what many other adults could never do, would never do.  Then, with each performer that took the stage, there was a story. One had lost a sibling, another had lost a parent and a third had recently lost a sibling. They sang and danced in remembrance. The band,  which one of the staff plays in, took the stage.  One of the members had recently lost their spouse. It was an incredible evening. It all happened because one young man wanted to give – give to others because of the hurt he felt. Throughout the evening, people laughed and people cried. They applauded the efforts of the performers, enjoyed coffee and dainties and shared in conversation. All because one young man wanted to give.

Schools Are Real Life

Too often I hear the phrase “Well, when they leave school and experience real life…..” In fact, school is real life. To try to explain that to anyone who isn’t in a school is difficult. Schools reflect, to some degree, the society of which they are a part. Some of the resistance to change is, in fact, a resistance of society to the changes taking place. Schools are more than just places of learning, they are places of living which are changing and evolving. For so long schools have tried to keep the changes taking place in the society  from disturbing what was going on within their walls. This is no longer acceptable – our schools need to be living and growing, adapting and changing. But it’s more than just technology – it’s about all aspects of life. Too often when people discuss school reform, they focus on technology and learning but it’s so much more – it’s about life long learning. You can’t stop the rain from falling but you can use it to power your ideas and grow your dreams if you quit complaining about it falling

Tyler ended  the open mic portion of the Coffee House with a classic Tom Petty song – Free Falling.

Free Falling

Schools are real life – real life for our children. Things may not be where we expect them to be but then again, when does life ever go according to someone’s schedule or plan. Let’s not diminish what does take place through focusing on one narrow aspect like technology. Life is so much bigger.

A New Year – Kinda Part 2 – Technology

2011 – 2012 – Mid-Year Round Up

In my last post, I discussed the whole New Year thing and then began a reflection of where we are as a school.  This is a mid-year round up of life thus far at PPCS a brand new K – 12 school in rural Saskatchewan. The school is a combination of two schools – a K – 6 Elementary School and a 7 – 12 High School which came together on May 1st 2011.  This year is our first as a K – 12 school. In this post, I’ll discuss where we are and where we are going technology wise.

Tech for all – all for Tech

We live in a world in which technology surrounds and permeates almost every aspect of our lives. We see it everywhere, from our cars to the dining room table to, well, everywhere. And it’s not just kids that are using technology. Smartphones are being used by all ages. This Nielsen chart is one of many that you will find that shows the use of smartphone across age groups.

source:  http://socialtimes.com/nielsens-smartphone-usage-by-age-groups-study-intriguing-age-group-differences-for-blackberry-and-windows-phone_b83254

What you’ll notice is the increase in all age groups. This means that a great many people have a computing device to access all the time. If they have a data plan, they won’t have to worry about whether there is wifi or not and, if they have the ability to share their wifi, then others can access the internet without needing a local wifi system.

With this in mind, we decided at PPCS to scrap our policy for smartphones and other BYO devices and, instead, began to look at how we could harness the use of these in the classroom. Our division AUP focuses on the proper use of these devices within the school – puts the emphasis on students using these devices in the context of learning. Our policy basically states that the devices can be used during the school day for learning purposes but the use of these devices for such things as bullying, access unacceptable material at school and activities that distract from the learning environment will require the student to put away the device and may result in their putting it in their locker and have restricted use during class time. So far, we have had a total of 3 students sent to the office for excessive use that is not classroom related – texting and gaming.

Computers – being a new school we were provided with a new computer lab with 27 desktops, a teacher desktop with various software and a connection to projector. All our classrooms have ceiling mounted projectors that connect the teacher desktop, or any other computer, to the projector and Soundfield surround sound system that allow teachers to use a portable mic or connect the system to the computer. Each classroom has 2 laptops in the room. We have a portable cart of 22 and another mini-cart of 9 netbooks which can be used by the cart or individually – students sign them out at the library. We have wifi throughout the school which allows our students to go anywhere in the school to work – even the bathroom!  Just before Christmas we purchased 10 iPad 2′s and 10 iPod Touches. We will be deploying the iPads in the K – 3 rooms and the iPod Touches are for use by teachers for recording – video, pictures, audio or individual work. We also have 3 projectors that students/teachers can use throughout the school for small group work and presentations outside of the classrooms.

Technology Vision

Our vision was to get the technology into the hands of the teachers and the students so they could use it. Period. We would then support the use through tutorials and one-on-one sessions with lead-teachers supporting other teachers. To make this happen, our admin team would cover for one of the teachers during a prep period so the two could work together. We have also tried to manage the upkeep through a system where teachers ensure they let the admin team know of any problems with technology so we can then determine the appropriate action(s). The school does not have anyone who has release time for technology issues so it has become part of our admin team responsibilities so that we do not end up with a teacher being disturbed while they are teaching. This has also meant that some issues take a little longer to resolve so we encourage teachers to always have an option B when it comes to working with technology!

Before we did any purchasing, we discussed what we wanted to see our students doing with technology. We had a number of teachers who are familiar with using technology – 2 of our staff teach online classes – but we also have a number of teachers who have little technology experience. Our year began with all teachers indicating that they were interested in increasing their use of technology. As I indicated in my last post, we use technology for communication on a regular basis at the school – we support the staff to access the information and use technology but we also expect that they will use the technology to make themselves aware of what is going on, what they are required to do and what they can expect to have happening at the school. (We are still working out the kinks of some of these processes but remember we are 5 months old so we sometimes fall as we are learning to walk!)

 We had to do a number of brainstorming sessions on how we access computers when we have a few classes that are booked into the computer lab all the time – this limits who can access the lab because in our old schools – we had access to three labs and 2 mini-labs for the same number of students. It has meant that people are needing to adjust to this new reality. We haven’t been able to add as many portable devices as quickly as we wanted which, again, has meant some adjustments. What we have seen is teachers sharing the lab which has led to team teaching as the two teachers share their resources and talents.

Our division IT department has worked with us as we work through some of these things and has been willing to examine ways to make some of these things – like teachers taking the netbooks out of the building on evenings and weekends to use – so that teachers can have access all the time. This has also meant that we have had to introduce online services like Diigo and Dropbox so teachers can save their information to a web-based service so they can access it from any device they are using. More supporting and learning. With the recent addition of Evernote and OneNote as documentation tools, we are again having to support teachers as they work through learning to use these tools.

The one area in which we will be focusing in the remainder of the year is supports for students with learning needs. We have identified a number of students and a number of technology aides to assist them. We now need to make the two come together! Since this requires additional resources, it is taking us a bit longer to develop this part of our technology plan. However, with a renewed focus on this in the upcoming months, we hope to have these assistive technologies in place shortly after we return to school.

There is No Silver Bullet

Anyone looking for quick answers or shortcuts will be disappointed, I think. We have made great strides as a school in recognizing that our students and teachers need to have access to technology, to use it as they would use it outside the school and to be provided the necessary supports to be able to successfully make that transition from outside to inside the building. The factors critical in successfully using technology within the school, I believe, are:

  • A focus on learning and growing by everyone in the building
  • A realization that support for everyone is critical to success
  • A plan for using technology within the classroom – meeting outcomes and student growth
  • A willingness to learn and learn and learn – change is the new constant
  • A shared leadership where people with strengths share with others and are given time within the day to do this. It’s not an add-on.

As the educational leader within the building, I realize that my willingness, or lack there of, to look at different solutions, to listen to what teachers are saying and then examine and re-examine our practices is crucial to our success as a school. Supporting the teachers so that we can do what is best for students is the foundation upon which we focus. It doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes but we are willing to own up to them, admit it was a mistake and then look for a solution. At PPCS, everyone is a learner, seeking to improve each day.

Next topic: RtI and DI in the K – 12 school

Being with myself

This past week has been a great time. First, we have 8 children and there is nothing in this world that can compete with children and Christmas. From the pre-day activities to the morning joy and wonder followed by our time at Mass to the 3 days afterward when we gather with 100 or so of my wife’s family for our annual (26th consecutive) 3 day event, it has been a week filled with excitement, joy, sharing, laughter and family.

During all this hustle and bustle, I’ve learned that like the rest of the year, I need to take time to be with myself – to listen to the quiet. Sometimes it can be hard, like the past week when we’re running about getting last minute things done, preparing for a meal (which seems to be always when you have 8 children), going out to visit friends and relatives or just being at home but I have found it is essential to be able to find that time to be quiet – meditate and reestablish my own inner equilibrium.

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, I would often make excuses about why I couldn’t do such a thing – I don’t stop moving, ADHD people don’t meditate, I need “noise” around me, I think better, I write better, I….. on they went. That changed a while ago when I was searching to improve my skills as a school administrator. As I read through various books and articles about leadership, I began to notice a theme that many of the great leaders of the past – Plato, Caesar, Ghandi, Jesus, Mother Theresa, saints, presidents, … – many of them emphasized spending time in quiet. They called it different things but all had time where they would spend time with themselves, quieting their mind and listening.

I Gave it a Shot

I decided to give it a try. I tried a few times but just couldn’t do it. There was always something – I couldn’t stop the thoughts from swirling, I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t …. Besides, in today’s fast paced world, there wasn’t any real need for it anyway. I decided, instead, to make lists of things I needed to do and then plan how to do it. That was a much better use of my time. I let the idea slide. But the seed had been planted and I began to notice that “being quiet with oneself” is a theme that runs deeply – from Star Wars through Lord of the Rings, NCIS and CSI and everything in between. We don’t always see the time it takes but it is mentioned again and again.

Do or Do Not, There is No Try

You can’t just “try” to spend time in quiet. You have to do it. It takes practice. For me, a great deal of practice. Increasing from a mere 5 minutes of just sitting to now I can spend 30 minutes “being quiet with myself.” It didn’t just happen at once nor was it easy to explain to others why it was important or what it does. But, like so many people who all of a sudden see the greater purpose of something, say like twitter or blogging or a PLN, spending time with myself has allowed me to become better at what I do – a husband, father, teacher, administrator, friend, … It is a very personal thing but, I believe, absolutely important to helping me to improve. Just like practice helps an elite athlete continue to improve through continually practicing and preparing for competition, being quiet with myself helps me prepare for my time with others. During highly stressful times when things have been very difficult, I find that this time is critical to assisting me in being able to discern what is important, what needs attention and what is  the “noise” I need to allow to quiet.

Filtering 

We are living in times of incredible “noise”, when we are bombarded 24/7 with information and the demand and expectation to keep up and keep ahead drive people to distraction. Clay Shirky said we don’t have an information problem but a filter problem. I believe this is absolutely true. We can get information all the time – but what we need to discern is what is the question?

As a leader, it has become very important that I learn new skills – to listen, attentively; to ask questions and seek answers – even if they weren’t what I expected/wanted; see the possibilities/opportunities – in people, in situations, in risks. This requires that, in the flood of information, I take the time being with myself to allow for filtering. We can always find something else to listen to or watch but sometimes it’s not what we need. Instead, we need to take time to listen in the quiet – it’s advice that comes from the greatest leaders. Information can be overwhelming – if we allow it but if we follow the advice of the ages, we’ll spend time being quiet – with ourselves and allow the leader within to filter through the noise.

Prelude to writing

So, Dean Shareski has suggested that I should start writing. He even sent me this Seth Godin’s blog. I figure what the heck, let’s see what comes from this.

What got this all started was Dean threw out a comment on twitter “Teachers or leaders who say they don’t need to be liked to be effective are likely not liked and probably not effective.” to which I replied “but really, I am effective. “

Now, it’s not that I don’t want to be liked – in fact, being a principal in a K – 12 school means that I DO want the students to like me. This can’t happen all the time. There is a huge difference between being liked and being effective.  I’m the person that gets to come in after someone has worked at trying to be liked. I have spent most of my administrative career working at helping schools to move from being ineffective and dysfunctional to being effective, functional and doing “What’s best for students!” Don’t worry, this isn’t a story of how to do that – (secret NO MAGIC SOLUTION)

Do I want to be liked? Who doesn’t? It’s way to draining and soul sapping to work at being miserable. Something I point out to students, usually at odd moments when discussing something in a class I am teaching (which is another topic I really need to address), is that, for the most part, older people who are miserable were probably that way most of their lives. They’ve practiced at it and have become very good at it. They know how to suck the joy, fun and life out of any occassion. (Just take a look at some of the most recent articles written about THIS generation.)  Not always but more common than not. I also point out that it’s an attitude - and that they have complete control of theirs. No one makes you be miserable – you choose that all by yourself.

No, there is a difference.

You see, it’s like this – I love my children but I don’t always like them. Heck, I love my wife but I don’t always like her. It’s what I do because I love them that makes the difference during those times when I don’t like them. At school, I love what I do. I don’t always like some of the decisions or some of the situations but I love doing what I do because what I do is so very different from what many administrators do. How do I know? Well, in working with administrators for the past 10 years, my stories aren’t the same. In fact, many of the stories I hear, begin where mine end.

Sometimes you aren’t liked. Sometimes you have to make very tough choices and they are hard to make and rarely do people agree with you …… at the time. In fact, it is not until much later and only through another source, that I have learned that people who have come after truly appreciate the difficult decisions and the tough choices.

I don’t like not being liked but sometimes you have to be willing to move through that in order to do what is right for students.

*Small aside – I do know that many will not understand and will disagree. But, and I read this somewhere, via a link on twitter, until you understand the road I have tread, you only glimpse a shadow of what I have walked.

 

I do do Technology but …..

I’ve been reading the discussion on the blog post “Why “I Don’t Do Technology” Isn’t Acceptable” over at Connected Principals and it’s very interesting and there are some good comments that have ensued, sign that the topic is very much on people’s’ minds. I also happened to follow a link to this post by Doyle where the discussion continues.

As usual, I find myself somewhat agreeing and yet disagreeing, which most of you who read here know is consistent state for me! I was intrigued by the post because it’s not the first time I’ve heard it. In fact, it’s been said a number of times by such well know bloggers as Will Richardson, Marc Prensky and Scott McLeod, as well as others. It’s been said again and again that it is not acceptable for teachers not to use/have a basic understanding of technology because students’ lives are immersed in it or something akin to this. And I don’t completely disagree. I just might look at things a bit differently because of my experience and background.

But, before I get fully amped up here, I really would encourage you to read through the two posts that I have mentioned.

Making Analogies

Gerald Aungst’s post begins with these two analogies:

Imagine an episode of CSI where the main character doesn’t “do” technology:

“Tonight, on CSI: Miami, Horatio Caine investigates a brutal crime wave using only his wits and his sunglasses. He matches fingerprints, tire tracks, and fiber samples…by hand! His new motto: ‘DNA? We don’t need no stinking DNA! Sherlock Holmes got by with a magnifying glass and a deerstalker! Why do I need technology?’”

Imagine the conversation you have with your doctor when he diagnosed you with cancer after a brief examination.

“Aren’t you going to run some tests? Do a CT scan?” you ask.

“No, I’m really not comfortable with technology. I manage just fine without it.”

Ridiculous, no? Then why do we tolerate similar comments from educators?

Although there is a good discussion in the comments about this, what I take from this is that, in both cases, the two people mentioned aren’t necessarily users of the technology that is supposedly being used. Given, Horatio does have access to other people who use technology, he really doesn’t use that much himself. Instead, each member of his team uses technology at different times to assist in providing pieces which build a picture but Horatio is really a master of pulling together all that information to solve the crime. It’s not about the technology but about Horatio’s incredible understanding of people in combination with the different information he is provided that makes him great at what he does. This rings true for one of my favourites, NCIS. In fact, if I could work on any of those teams, it would be with Gibbs and his team. If you could bring that mixture and chemistry together in a school, whoa! But I digress…..

In the second instance, the medical profession, my experience is that it isn’t the doctor who actually uses the technology which is touted but other people with specific skills who use the technology. My latest visit to the optometrist involved me sitting down with 5 people, each with a particular skill-set, as part of the entire experience. The optometrist hires people with these skills to assist them, they don’t have all the skills themselves. With my luck, I also had to have my yearly physical just recently. During this procedure, the doctor used the following technologies – electronic thermometer, blood pressure machine, stethoscope, wooden tongue depressor, electric flashlight, digital scale, rubber hammer and some other items that are rather personal in nature. Some are indeed new but some are, well, very old technologies. He then sent me for blood work, which he did not do but two other people were involved in this procedure plus a number of others in the lab section, each doing a particular specific set of analysis. Some required high-tech equipment while others, that needle thing, isn’t new at all. But, it wasn’t the doctor himself that did all this. He had a team working with him, each with a specific skill set that may, or may not, have used certain technologies.

Where is this leading? Well, it isn’t the doctor who uses the technologies but others around him, those he has hired or who have been hired to assist. The doctor doesn’t need to know how to use them, she/he only needs to know they are available and then only has others use them as she/he sees fit. She/he may use new technologies but, then again, may not.

As Doyle points out in his post:

I’m a retired doc–before I stopped succoring the afflicted I saw the mess high tech mania produced in medicine. Mr. Aungst’s example of the CT machine is an interesting example, because of the quandaries it has created, and because of the change in skills that have resulted.

Classic appendicitis (and many subtle variants) can be diagnosed by history and physical exam alone if the practitioner has learned how to do this. CT scans are quite useful in certain situations, but are often superfluous, and can, at times, mislead. They certainly tangle up a few DNA molecules (which are usually repaired), and they are very expensive.

The obvious downsides to CT imaging is that it takes time (and time is an issue with appendicitis), and it requires tossing some radiation through a living critter. Less obvious is the erosion of skills in tech-dependent docs. By the time I left medicine, CT scans were evolving from an overused, nonessential tool to standard of care, partly because the less experienced docs felt no need to refine the clinical skills needed to accurately diagnose appendicitis–because they had CT machines….

Most teachers I work with and know do not have the luxury of several other specifically skilled people ready to perform a specific task waiting for their referral. There may be others who can help them but often it isn’t immediate, or nearly as quickly as when I visited the different professionals on my visits. And teachers do not work with one patient at a time. Most importantly, they do not deal with a constant such as doctors do with a human body. The human body, for the most part, is the same for each of us. When we visit the doctor, there is no need to look for the heart, liver, lungs and other such things, they are usually in the same place for all patients. But, imagine if you will, if every patient was unique – had a unique body structure. That each heart was unique and, although it pumped blood, it might not be the same as another heart – it was composed of 8 different compartments, the size of a football and beating at a unique rate. Do you think that the technology for heart surgery would have evolved as rapidly as it had? I mention this because the oft used medical analogy doesn’t do justice to what teachers are doing each day in dealing with an ever-changing group of people who each have unique needs and who may have needs beyond the experience of the teacher…..

Experience is important

The following article was one I found just today. Larry Ferlazzo makes some good points about the importance of experience. Although there are many dimensions to this topic, the real reason I bring this up because I’m going to draw on my own 20 odd years of being a teacher/teaching administrator and a father of eight children. I sure hope no one is offended by me doing this!

There are many people advocating technology usage, whether for collaborating through social media for PLN learning purposes or within the classroom. However, a great many who have developed great followings are, in fact, not teachers. They are consultants, technology coordinators, system technology coordinators or others who’s livelihood is directly related to using technology in education or depends on people learning to use technology in education. They may at one time have been teachers but, now, that role has changed and that change has meant a change of perspective. They may still have a passion but the focus has changed because the experience has changed. I have mentioned this a few different times only to have people say “Well, do you think they don’t know what it’s like in a classroom? My goodness, they’re _________________!

Usually I stay away once this happens because it won’t turn into a win/win in any way. Most likely, this is happening as some read these lines. So, instead, I’ll relate a situation in which I was interviewing someone for a position at a school where I was principal. This person was an experienced teacher, had taught at many different grade levels, had been an administrator for a number of years, had taught at the university level as well as being an author and other such things. This candidate had moved back to the classroom the previous year after being away for a period of time and, for personal reasons, was moving to the area, saw the job app and applied. As we discussed what had taken place over the years, I was intrigued on how the transition to the classroom this past year had been so I asked. The candidate stopped, paused and then proceeded to explain that, with all the experiences, they were not prepared for the changes that had taken place since last being a full-time classroom teacher. The work they had needed to do with new curricula, assessment and expectations for sharing were much greater than expected even though they had been part of some of it as an administrator. I knew from experience that this was someone who was a master storyteller and who would have students engaged but to hear that moving back to full-time teaching had been much more difficult reaffirmed for me that with that change comes separation and the longer one is away, the less aware one is of the magnitude of the changes taking place.

Duties of a teacher

In the rapid-fire changing field of technology, it is hard for someone to keep up with the changes that are occurring unless that is part of their job or how they put bread on the table. Some say that teachers have a duty to keep up with these changes. I’ll call bu****it on that one. They don’t have a duty. We seem to be confusing wants with needs. Teachers need to provide an educational environment for students that will allow them to successfully experience the outcomes as outlined in curricula. You may not like it and may have a personal philosophical belief that teachers/schools need to be doing more but that is yours own belief. It doesn’t matter how loud you shout, how often you print it, how many ways you disperse or how many people you get to follow it, it is still a personal belief. To foist that on others by somehow making it a moral issue or an issue for the good of “future generations” is still a case of you, as an individual, believing you know what is best for the rest and, as Tom Whittby points out:

If there is one thing that can be learned from politicians it is this: Facts do not matter! If you say something often enough, and long enough, people will believe it, regardless of the facts. That seems to be the case when it comes to adult perceptions of youth and Technology. (Tom is referring the Digital Native discussion)

It seems it has been said loud and long enough that you can’t be an effective teacher without using technology.

(Play interesting music in quiet interlude – signal that I’m about change my hat)

As a father with 8 children ranging from ages 2 to 19, I would like to think I have gained some experience as a parent. Having moved my family 7 times and myself as an educator/administrator 9 times, I hope to have also gathered some understanding of children in different places and the impact that moving has on children. Now, having been an early adopter of technology and having made to the move to the much hated “Dark Side of Mac” before it was the cool thing to do, I’ve seen the impact that technology has on children who have access, especially when they are able to work with an adult who can help them with the technology. All this to say that great teachers don’t need technology to be great teachers! You’re thinking, where the hell did that statement come from. Well, because I’ve moved around, I’ve witnessed the impact that teachers have had on my children and other children in many different school settings. I’ve also witnessed a seriously insane number of “programs and learning systems” that my children have learned within and, can say with all confidence, it’s not the program or material or the technology but the wielder of that which makes the difference in learning. I’ve watched incredibly talented young teachers miss something with a student – for lack of experience – that a veteran teacher will bring to my attention. I am deeply worried that these judgements of people which are perceptions based on “doing this or not doing that” are being held and carte blanche statements are being made and supported. “Well, any educated person can see…..” Really?

Having supervised my fair share of teachers and worked within PLC’s before most anyone knew what they were, my experience is that those teachers who connect with their students don’t need to use technology. They may use it but they don’t need it. Teaching is about touching others just like reading is a contact activity. When you begin to make “need” statements about tools, the essence of what you are discussing becomes lost in a debate over which tool is better.

Rambling on

One of my favourite things to do is to put movie posters, interesting facts or other such things on the ceiling in my room. Why? Because when the students start to look up, it signals that I’m losing their interest. I also believe the same for cellphones and texting. I’ve learned that, for the most part, if I am making a connection with those students, they won’t need to text. At one point, I had students create interesting posters to put up on the ceiling – for some it was a way to help them with focusing. I allow students to use cellphones in my classroom and plan for their integration if possible. I also have students randomly text someone not paying attention telling them to pay attention. They love it! That is my experience. I also work with a teacher that captivates students without using technology – they learn a great deal in the class. How do I know? I have an in – my own children sit in the class. I’ve learned a great deal about what is important for students by listening to the conversations of my children and their friends. You know, technology rarely enters the conversation. What is important is the connection – the relevance that the teacher has for the students – the willingness to meet the student at some point and then move them along in their learning.

As I have documented, my own children span the spectrum of learners from highest class average to learning disabled to my one son who we’ve yet to really identify – he’s just a very eager and energetic young boy! To be absolute about what skills these children will need in their future is something I’m much too humble to predict. What I surmise is they will need to have empathy for others, whether in their own home or across the world, they will need to be able to adjust to change in a way that many of us could not imagine a few short years ago, they will need to be able to work by themselves and with others in order to achieve a goal, they will need to understand there are many different opinions about almost every topic but, at some point, you will have to decide what you believe until it can be proven otherwise – not just by those who are the loudest and they will need to be able to adapt and overcome, continuing on without blaming the past or others. Of course, you can disagree but they aren’t your children.

So as a school administrator, I must be wary of my own advice since the students we get are the best their parents have and, although I have particular views about learning, technology and schooling, parenting, discipline and expectations, my responsibility is to follow the guidelines that are set out – those determined by the division and province – because I chose to be in this position. Those are the expectations that parents have for learning and to which we, as a school, will be held accountable. It, therefore, includes those teachers who use technology and those who, for whatever reason, do not.

Ineffective vs Different

I’ve always been a little different – as most people who know me in any way can attest. My experiences, mostly garnered from an inability to leave well enough alone, a bit of a stubborn streak (my parents’ side of the family) and an understanding that knowledge and learning are vital to growth, have brought me to this juncture as an administrator. It was not where I expected to be. As a teacher, I was always looking to those I saw as being experts, master teachers, from whom I could learn because, well, I really wasn’t. I read which led me to be involved in graduate studies and other online studies and initiatives, international symposium and other educational learning experiences. I was different. Now, as an administrator, I have worked with a number of teachers who fit that mold and are always striving to improve.

I’ve also had to work through the dismissal process a number of times because the teachers weren’t different, they were ineffective. Ineffective teachers are those who aren’t doing what needs to be done in the classroom for learning to take place and aren’t interested in improving. Effective teachers come in all sorts of shapes and colours but they are effective as teachers – remember as it is required of them. Some are master teachers. Having been through the dismissal process a number of times, I often wonder why people confuse those teachers who don’t conform to our vision of “good/effective” teachers with truly ineffective teachers? Yet there seems to be a growing stereotype that has “non-technology luddites” as being ineffective which is far from true. Different maybe but not ineffective.

Do Technology I Do

I do do technology. I have done technology for years. I use to be frustrated by people who didn’t do technology – like my wife. Then, one day, I had a epiphany. Actually, it was my wife hitting me with a verbal 2X4. I had shown her, yet again, how to do something with email. In doing so, I was obviously less than kind in my actions. It was email for crying out loud. Now, just to add context, my wife holds two degrees, is a French Immersion teacher, has travelled to various countries, has studied not once but twice in France and picked me as a husband. She’s one smart lady. But technology isn’t easy for her. On this occasion, she stopped me, looked me straight in the face and said ” I am not stupid. I am not incompetent”. I hadn’t said that. Really. She then continued – “The way you look when you have to explain again how to do this makes me not want to ever ask again but I need this to get done. You make me feel useless.” How do I know that is what she said? Because one doesn’t forget such things. EVER. My wife is a tremendous teacher who has taught at almost every grade level. Yet, there she was, feeling less than useless because of my actions – remember I didn’t say a word. From that point on, I have never looked/interacted with anyone who cannot/does not use technology without first stopping to ensure my own superiority isn’t plastered all over and remembering that occasion. Great leaders are humble, they look for ways to help people without bashing them with their superiority and then lift them up to heights neither of them imagined possible. Yeah, in my world, it’s okay not to do technology. But, it’s also okay to stare at the ceiling once in awhile;)

Agent of change / Leader of change

Change is the new constant

flexiblelearning.auckland.ac.nz

I’m not always sure that the world outside of where I am is real. I read so often on other admin blogs of how harmoniously teachers  are working with technology, don’t seem to have any teachers who resist change and are seemlessly addressing the needs of all their students and are schools of example. In my 20 years, I’ve experienced this at one school where I taught as a  teacher. And, by no means was it easy, seamless or without all kinds of struggles and difficulty. In fact, as a teacher, it was very hard work as we worked together to match our teaching with the current research on learning and teaching, reach out to our community, develop parent-partners and enhance our teaching through technology integration. It was late nights working on, at that time, Adapting for the learners, after-school meetings in grade alike groups, student support meetings, parent contacts and developing a culture that had a high expectation for student learning. That was more than 10 years ago and, in all my stints as a vice-principal and principal, I’ve encountered only a few other schools that had such characteristics. They are places where teachers, like those with whom I taught, had a very good understanding of lifelong learning, were themselves lifelong learners and were able to bring that to the classroom. They understood that it was the process of learning that was key, not the grade. They were determined, patient, risk-takers and thick skinned.

My experience since that time, with teachers, even online, is that change is very, very difficult, takes a great deal of time and requires someone who has is willing to move people forward through the process. Granted, many of the people who will read this will understand and “get it” but not all of them are teachers and many have backgrounds that are not rooted in the classroom but, instead, are supporters such as I have become as an administrator. I do teach but I am not a full-time teacher and my main responsibility is supporting the learning of the students and staff in the entire school and trying to facilitate and secure the resources and personnel to assist teachers and students to achieve their best.

Agent of Change vs Leader of Change

My role, in many of the schools where I have been, has been to be an agent of change. In fact, in some places, my role was to start the change process and then allow someone else to continue. I’ve been asked to start change, introduce new ideas and promote new ways of doing things. In fact, this has been my role since I began my administrative career, being an agent of change.

This has changed with my new position. I will be ushering in change but this time, instead of being a mere agent, my role is to lead. What’s the difference? Well, as an agent of change, you are working towards bringing about a change in practices, preceptions and product, starting people to see things from a different perspective and sometimes pushing people out of their comfort zone but with the idea that further changes will take place later on and, in fact, you will not see how things work out. Being a leader requires a different take on the situation. As an agent, the main goal is to begin the change process on its way. As a leader, its seeing the whole process through, from defining the vision of where all of you are going to working through to the end, all the while being very aware of where the people you are working with have been and moving them along the change continuum. It means that you have to manage the change process and help people with the process, especially if some are very resistant to change. It’s being able to remain calm and focused on the vision even when it seems it’s all coming apart – and some days it truly does feel like this. But, it’s seeing the appreciation in people’s smiles and their genuine enthusiasm as they begin to recognize the fruits of their labours.

I’ve had the great pleasure to revisit a number of places where I was the agent and I’ve seen what is taking place now, happy to see that the process continues with someone else.  Not that the goal is ever reached but overcoming the initial inertia is huge. For any administrators that have ever had to do that, you know how difficult that can be. Sometimes, without the support, it doesn’t happen. For anyone who is working in a situation where that change inertia has been overcome, you have someone, somewhere along the way, who expended a great deal of energy to bring about that initial movement. For those who have been lucky enough to start  new without having to overcome such inertia, keep things rolling!

The power of the network

The network

This article gives 10 good reasons to join a social network. For me, this power has been exemplified through the new blog Connected Principals started by George Couros a principal from Alberta. Now, the thing that really grabbed my attention was that this blog has just started and, through the power of the network, has grown and is getting a huge amount of publicity via twitter through retweeting, the use of hashtags and such things as blastfollow.

I’ve been following George for a short time and it has been interesting as he has used the network to build a PLN of administrators in a relatively short period of time through his connecting, following and writing. I juxtapose this with some of the other administrator‘s who I know who have been  writing and working via the web for the past few years and to my own attempts to build a network for administrators and to help administrators through various other online activities.

Building your network

With the use of hashtags and the use of twitter and other social networks, educators have the opportunity to connect and join together to share, discover and learn. There is no reason for any educator not to be using these tools to enhance their knowledge and grow their learning network.

Word of Caution

My one word of caution is that educators need to keep build balance into their lives and with all the opportunities that are available, it is easy to become overwhelmed by what is going on. I don’t know about others but I know that I’ve had whole days go by as I spent time online. It was great learning and wonderful but, being a father of 8 children, I have to remember that there needs to be time for all areas and, sometimes, the drive to “globally involved” needs to be tempered with a larger view of life. So, as much as I’d like to be doing, reading, participating, writing, publishing, making videos and coordinating all sorts of different learning opportunities for administrators, I also realise that I will not get these years back with my own children who deserve to have as much face time as I can give them.

Learning from my Past

As an educator, I realize that I have the opportunity to influence students in so many ways. So, as much as I spend time working online, I also realise that working with students directly is the most important thing. Once again, it is so very important to realize that, as educators, we need to spend the majority of our time with students, building relations and developing a rapport. It is the relationships with the students, parents and other people in the community that are the foundation for what will happen in the school. All of this takes time and educators, as social networking grows and becomes more important in their lives, must learn that there is no way to “do it all” and be selective on how they spend that precious time. As an administrator and someone who has been using technology for the past 15 years or so, the one thing I make sure is that teachers’ time is valued and guarded. As I introduce new strategies and work at building their familiarity with technology, I constantly check to ensure that what we are doing is, indeed, not wasting their time.

So as you build….

The network that is developing, especially for educational administrators, and the opportunities for sharing and connecting are seemingly exploding, it is so important to ensure balance. Now, for me, that balance means spending as much time with my own children as I can – someday I’ll write a post of what I’ve learned from having a large family – really 2 families and knowing that, although it is important to grow and learn and get better, it is also important to not let things get out of balance in that pursuit. The network is a very powerful thing – one that each educator needs to tap into but it can also become very time consuming which requires one to reflect on the importance of balance. A piece of wisdom that I reflect on more and more – “No one has ever looked back on their life and declared “I wish I had spent more time at work!” Be sure to identify what is important in life and allocate your time accordingly” Enjoy the power of the network – don’t be consumed by it.