Sunday, January 29, 2012

Free Digital Tools Help with Tight Budgets

eClassroom News recently shared ways that schools can access free digital tools that will help stretch tight budgets. High-quality resources can be found online at little, or no, cost. The dilemma is that there is so much available, educators need help in making decisions about the tools that are most useful. The article discusses several valuable online resources but we'd like to highlight just a couple.
  • First is, a site managed by a nonprofit foundation in California. Originally designed to provide materials to students in impoverished countries, its mission has recently shifted to serving American schools as well.
  • Another resource is run by the Khan Academy that provides over 2,700 videos each linked to assignments, tools for keeping track of student progress, and other tools for teachers. The Khan Academy recently received funding by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Google.
Other sites providing free teacher resources and ways to stretch your technology budget provide other ways to improve your instructional program at minimal expense.

We'd enjoy hearing about other sites you find useful and ways you're using technology to stretch your school's budget.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A new article by Laura Devaney in eSchoolNews reports that 'School leaders play an important role in guiding educators as they strive to improve student achievement. School principals, charged with so many tasks already, also must be confident instructional leaders who can help teachers organize instruction, comprehend standards, and develop curriculum.

During a Jan. 12 Education Trust webinar about how principals can be strong, positive, and effective leaders, three school principals shared their tips and strategies for creating a school atmosphere in which instructional leadership thrives.

“Instructional leadership is one of the hardest things for principals to bring about in their schools, because of the historical nature of teaching [as] a closed-door profession,” said Ricci Hall, principal of University Park Campus School in Worcester, Mass.

“I think the notion of instructional leadership being led by the principal and carried out and enhanced by teachers is one of the hardest jobs to really get into the culture of the school,” said webinar leader Kyla Wahlstrom, director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota.

Click on the following link to read what these thoughtful school leaders have to say about leadership, and pick up some of their best strategies.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bad Online Behavior and College Admissions

A recent study by Varsity Outreach reported that many colleges are using Facebook as a recruiting tool. Over 80% of responding schools said they used Facebook for admissions purposes and 89% said that Facebook is "very or somewhat" important in their process. But many of the same colleges are also using Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to learn more about applicants. Education Week reports that a 2011 survey by Kaplan Test Prep found that 24% of colleges said they viewed publicly available pages to get a better idea about potential students. 20% used Google. 12% said they found evidence of bad online behavior like underage drinking, vulgar language, and other behaviors. The Washington Post reported on a study conducted by SafetyWeb where 38% of college admissions directors said that "an applicant's social profile 'negatively affected' their views of the applicant.

These data remind us of the importance of teaching students about responsible online behavior including information about how easily accessible most of their online postings are to others. It provides an opportunity to discuss online safety, and how to set controls on their accounts.

It raises some interesting questions. Should college's be prohibited from searching online to learn about applicants? What should families do to monitor their children's online profile? We'd enjoy hearing from you about this subject.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tips for Use of Digital Communication

We're always looking for useful tips about how school leaders can use social media technology tools. The January 2012 issue of eSchool News includes an article with tips on the use of social media technology to enhance communication with families and communities. Nora Carr from the Guilford County Schools in North Carolina describes five tips. I was fascinated with the use of QR (quick response) codes for lunch menus, schedule changes, reminders about parent-teacher conferences and other information for parents and families. QR codes are those "goofy looking" bar code squares that are popping up everywhere. You use the camera on your phone to scan the code and retrieve the information. This can be particularly useful for the new generation of parents who are much more comfortable with technology. The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently found that more than half of US adults use social media and more than 6 in 10 say they use it to stay in touch with family and retrieve useful information.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Changing the Culture of Low Performing Schools

Changing a school's culture is one of the toughest jobs a principal faces -- especially if that culture has supported low performance and diminished achievement.  Culture, or "the way we do things around here," is one of the most powerful forces operating in a school, and it is deeply embedded in all aspects of the schools operations, from the way we teach to the way we participate in faculty meetings or work with parents. Eschoolnews has published an excellent article on how principals can begin to change school cultures, especially those that foster poor performance and low expectations.  Best of all, it showcases some things that principals can use social media tools to achieve.   This is a great way to start thinking about the New Year in your own school, so be sure to check it out at

Monday, January 2, 2012

Internet Etiquette for Students

My granddaughters (ages 6 and 8) each received an iPod Touch for Christmas. I was fascinated at how comfortable they were with each of the technologies included on the Touch and how adept they were at communicating with their parents, friends, siblings and their grandparents. But I was also reminded about the importance of Internet etiquette and of learning how to use new technology in a safe and responsible way. I've included a link to a recent article in USA Today about how schools recognize the importance of teaching "digital etiquette" to students. It describes initiatives underway in several schools to address this issue. One principal described the importance this way. "Handing a kid a computer without safety training is a bit like handing over a car and expecting a driver to emerge." The article reminds each of us of the need to help the "digital natives" in our classrooms learn how to use these marvelous technologies in productive and appropriate ways.