Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Share the Good News - Start a Principal's Blog

One of a principal's most important roles is to advocate for their school. That includes sharing information with staff, students, families and community. Communication occurs in many ways but increasingly various forms of social media technology are used to spread the "good news" about your school.  One tool is a blog, basically a website that functions as an online journal. What's good about a blog is that you can control the content and make it what you want.

Partrick Larkin, 2012 NASSP Digital Principal, identified reasons for beginning a blog. Principals are generally pretty proud of their school. They want to share newsworthy things about students and co-curricular activities. They have great teachers who are doing great things in their classroom. And they want to improve communication with both families and community.  Once you begin your blog you can add a link from your school's website and you can share it with teachers and other staff. Here's a link to Larkin's article about how to get started. And here are some other examples of blogs maintained by school leaders.
I'd enjoy learning from you about how you communicate with families and community and what you think about starting a principal's blog.

Monday, August 12, 2013

BYOT - Bring Your Own Technology

Many schools have begun to encourage students to bring their mobile phone or tablet to school so that they can use it during class to access instructional resources, participate in online discussions and interact with curricular materials. It's called "BYOT - Bring Your Own Technology" and a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 73% of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers have students use the technology in class to complete assignments. Dan Domenech of the American Association of School Administrators reports that about 25% of schools now allow phones. George Fornero, a Chicago area superintendent described his districts rationale. "The kids taught us a lesson. They're still going to bring their phones anyway, so let's allow them to use them in a constructive way." More detail about these initiatives is available from a recent USA Today article

 I'd enjoy learning from you about whether your school welcomes student use of phones and tablets on campus. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mandating Social Media Education

New Jersey is considering a law that would require middle schools teach students about the acceptable use of social media. The law would have students learn about the appropriate use of social media, cyber security and preventing cyber bullying. Legislators say they recognize the powerful impact of social media on students and they want to assure that they don't make foolish mistakes that may impact them for the rest of their lives.

Sounds like a great idea to me. I'd like to know what you think about this proposal.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"Speed Geeking" - Students Introduce Teachers to Technology

I recently read a study about how educators are often reluctant to use new technology. Part of the reason is our comfort with what we currently do but other factors also impact the decision. For example, educators often don't want to look unsophisticated with technology especially if they're working with middle or high school students who may be far more savvy.

This week ASCD EDge introduced me to a new concept---speed geeking. It's essentially a speed dating model for technology. Faculty moved from table to table and learned from students about a new technology and how it impacted their learning. It reminded me of when my school had a group of students who worked with teachers on technology. They were basically the "geek squad" of Tappan Middle School.

It's an interesting idea for sharing, learning and growing. I believe teachers respect the knowledge and skills of their students and "speed geeking" is a fascinating way for teachers, and others, to become acquainted with how technology is used by students to improve their learning.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Power of the "Tweet" - Building a PLN

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is one way to stay collected with trends and issues in your field and to work, and share, collaboratively. Social media is a great way to create and maintain your PLN. PLN's are really useful because you can connect with those individuals and groups that best meet your needs. The benefits include
  • access to useful resources and information;
  • ability to search for new tools and innovative practices;
  • thoughtful suggestions and critique of your ideas;
  • helping you to think more deeply about your work;
  • meeting professional contacts for job growth.

A virtual PLN can be created using social media like Twitter. A recent article by Tom Murray, Director of Technology and Cyber Education for the Quakertown School District in Bucks County, PA describes the benefits of a virtual PLN using Twitter.

Howard Johnston and I describe how to create and maintain a PLN in our book The School Leader's Guide to Social Media from Eye on Education. We'd enjoy learning about how you use PLN's to improve your work.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Common Core and Digital Literacy Skills

As states prepare for implementation of the Common Core standards the focus is appropriately on the knowledge and skills students will need for success on the assessments. The Common Core changes instruction. But an often overlooked need is to assure that students have the digital literacy skills they'll need to navigate the assessments. Students will need to complement their analytical and evaluative skills with operational skills like keyboarding and use of spreadsheets.

But it's not as simple as teaching keyboarding and use of spreadsheets. Students will need more advanced skills like creating and analyzing charts and graphs, using tools to communicate and present information, and using online tools to conduct research.

The challenge is that students often have more knowledge, and greater comfort, in the digital environment that their teachers. They are often more familiar with the digital tools that can be used for these tasks. But it would be foolish to assume that every student has those skills and is comfortable with their use.

We'd enjoy hearing from you about how you, and your school, are preparing students to be successful in this new digital environment.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Free Resources for Flipped Classrooms

We're fascinated by the way digital technology is changing instruction. One of the more innovation approaches is the flipped classroom, a classroom where students spend time outside of class watching videos about new concepts while at home and then using in-class time for in-depth discussion and application of their learning.

Many teachers we've worked with understand the concept and would like to begin flipping their classes. But the prospect of developing their own videos and other materials is daunting. Fortunately, the May issue of eSchoolNews provides information and links to several free resources teachers can use to "flip their classrooms."

We'd enjoy learning from you about your experience with flipped classrooms.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Move to Digital Instruction

One of my favorite publications is eSchool News. The May edition has a story about the move in North Carolina to encourage school districts to purchase digital devices rather than traditional textbooks. A new law provides the incentive for districts to rethink textbook purchases.

In many of the school districts where I work this trend would force teachers and administrators outside their comfort zone. While many of us find our iPads and other devices an integral part of how we do our work, we just can't imagine how they can positively impact student learning. One district we work with in Oregon has embraced this digital trend. They report that as they reduce the budget for textbooks, they can provide funds to update technology for students and staff. They also find that students are generally careful with the devices and damage is minimal.

Perhaps most importantly, access to digital technology opens up incredible curricular and instructional resources for teachers and students. One school no longer spends funds on digital calculators. They simply use the free app that's available.

We'd enjoy hearing from you about your experience with the use of digital devices for instruction. eschool

Friday, April 12, 2013

Our Favorite Social Media Tools

Social media technology continues to transform how teachers, students and leaders do their work. We're amazed at the creative tools that have emerged to support our work individually and with one another. Here are a few of our latest finds.

This tool allows you to gather and organize ideas much like a concept map. It allows you to examine resources from different sources and organize an assignment or presentation. You can invite others in your group to add to the web/map. 

Educreations - www.educreations.com 
This tool allows you to create amazing presentations on a recordable whiteboard. It captures your voice and handwriting to produce short video lessons that you can share online. Created as an iPad app they're working on an app for Android devices. Public lessons can be embedded on blogs or websites. Ron uses it all the time in his online courses.

Idea Sketchhttp://www.nosleep.net/ 
This app allows you to draw diagrams and create mind maps, concept maps or flow charts. There is an option to convert from text or to text if desired. It's a great tool for brainstorming and illustrating concepts. Apps are available for iOS and Windows devices.

We also want to include a tool that's been around for a while but just keeps getting better.

Prezi - www.prezi.com 
This presentation tool allows you to organize and share ideas on a large whiteboard. A wide selection of templates makes it easy to get started. Once you begin you'll find Prezi easy to adapt to a whole variety of presentation needs. It allows you to embed photos, audio, video and links to all sorts of information on the web. 

We hope you enjoy trying out these social media tools and would enjoy hearing from you about other's you've discovered.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Using Facebook with Students

Social media has become an useful instructional tool and is used by more and more teachers to interact with their students and by principals to communicate with families and community. A recent report found that more than 70% of Americans have an account.

But there are legitimate concerns about how teachers and other employees use Facebook and other forms of social media with their students. In a recent post, Lisa Nielson provided five best practices for teachers when they use Facebook with students. At the top of the list is the importance of maintaining a professional demeanor and not mixing your personal site with your professional one. Nielson says, "You can create a page or group that students can "like" or "join" without being one another's friend or seeing one another's feed." That's really important. Nielson's other tips are equally useful.

In The School Leader's Guide to Social Media Howard Johnston and I share other ideas about how teachers can use social media like Facebook to improve instruction and how school leaders can use social media to improve communication. We'd welcome your thoughts about the use of social media in schools.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Last "Backpack Generation"

Technology is becoming far more prevalent in classrooms. Some schools have adopted BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs that encourage students to bring and use their own tablets, Smartphones, and other technology in school. Rather than being a distraction, technology has become an indispensable tool for both students and teachers.

This morning I read an interesting article in the ASCD SmartBrief about teaching today's students, often referred to as the last "backpack generation." Zachary Walker captures the excitement about mobile learning and provides three really useful reminders for teachers. He emphasizes that mobile learning is not about the tools, but all about student learning. They are important reminders.

We'd enjoy hearing from you about technology is shaping your work and impacting your students and they're learning.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Social Media Policy: Current Trends

Social media is a term used to describe a lot of things. For many of us we associate it with Facebook or Twitter and we never think about the countless other ways we use social media technology in our professional and personal lives. Our most commonly used social media device is our phone, often called a "smart phone." Cell phones are no longer used for just making calls. They are now used for locating things on the Internet, sending short messages to friends or family, watching television shows or even movies, reading books, and locating a good restaurant or a nearby coffee shop. In other words, for many of us, our social media device (our cell phone) has become indispensable.

I work a lot with principals, superintendents and people who aspire to those roles. When I mention social media they often describe the perils of its availability and use in their schools. But more recently the tone of these conversations is changing from "how do I ban them" to "how do we use them effectively." That's a monumental shift and recognizes that social media technology and social media devices are just not going away. Some schools have adopted BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies that encourage students to bring and use their social media devices for instructional activities.

As a school leader how do you manage social media technology among your students and your employees. What sort of policy might you consider? What type of policy would be appropriate given the prevalence of social media devices and the powerful tools that social media provides for communication, collaboration, and teaching and learning? 

One of my favorite online journals is THE Journal, a publication about current and emerging issues involving technology. Ruth Reynard wrote a really insightful article discussing current policy trends that try to control social media. She offers really useful ideas about how to shape policy so that social media is used appropriately and not in a harmful way.

In The School Leader's Guide to Social Media Howard Johnston and I discuss many of the same issues and provide examples of tools and strategies for using social media in schools. We'd really enjoy hearing from you about how social media is shaping your school and its instructional program.