mccoyderek

A Review – My iPad Improves My Administrative Functions

ipadI was inspired to write this post after visiting one of our classes where students were using iPads to complete an assignment. I asked a group of kids how they like working with the iPads and did it help with their work. All three gave resounding affirmations that the iPads were a great enhancement to the lesson and just fun to ‘play and learn’ with. It was good to hear this and more importantly, see in action. As I was carrying my iPad, daily practice, a clever student flipped my question and asked me how I liked using the iPad. I smiled and responded that I really liked my iPad and couldn’t do a lot of my functions as easily if I didn’t have a mobile device.

This got me reflecting on my first year of having an iPad and how I’ve started embedding it into my practice. I’ve always been a proponent of having a mobile device, mainly a laptop and definitely my smartphone, to help me carry out my duties but this is the first year I’ve had a tablet to use regularly and help me in my administrative functions. It has helped me tremendously. My administrative team and I rely on them for a big part of our instructional supervision and data talks but there are countless ways to have iPads/tablets enhance the jobs of school leaders. I’ve outlined two posts below from a couple of expert #edleaders who have shared some of their impactful tips and useful app the use of their iPads. The last posts were written by me and how our iPads are a key part of our instructional supervision.

EvernoteJohn Robinson, @21stprincipal, is a fellow #ncadmin and a great educator to follow and learn from. John’s written a lot of great posts over the years but these two have really impacted my outlook and have helped my practice. School Administrator Uses of Evernote & Must Have Extensions and 7 Ways Administrators and Educators Can Use Evernote are must reads for all educators who want to take productivity to the next level. They go into detail about the usefulness and practical walk throughs including Evernote in your practice. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend it. Dive into possibilities on keeping notes, archiving articles for later reading and the great use of tags and notebooks. Having changed school districts and not having access to Outlook [this was a big adjustment], Evernote replaced a lot of key functions. It has helped fill a lot of gaps I was missing and didn’t know I should miss.

Common CoreEric Sheninger, @NMHS_Principal, wrote a post a couple of months ago that struck home. His post is titled  Common Core in the Classroom and its about the free app from Mastery Connect. I had already downloaded the app and referenced it a couple of times but I got away from it to focus on some of our local resources. More importantly, I never shared it with my team. This post stuck with me because it made me revisit a resource that I once heavily relied on and that has good, sustainable information. I immediately took it back to our instructional team to further our talks and planning efforts. This app is a great resource for references what our focus on Common Core should be.

Instructional Walk-Thrus with Feedback – I’ve blogged this year on our instructional supervision efforts using iPads, particularly for walk thrus and informal observations. The convenience of the iPad makes classroom visits and data collection easy to manage. We use that data from the spreadsheet in our instructional leadership talks to determine what we should discuss in our PLCs and Instructional Support Days. Originally, we weren’t able to provide feedback to teachers but after some research and exploring, I learned how to add that script into our form that will allow feedback to be given directly to teachers. There are several steps, nothing way technical, but well worth the effort. Committing to this process with the iPads has help set the tone with our school of where our focus lies.

images

The responsibilities of a school administrator are immense, everyday is different, dynamic. At a principal’s meeting, my superintendent was talking about how everyone – teachers, the public, students, politicians – EVERYONE, underestimates what we have to do. In general, educators today have a very different duty set from when I started teaching 16 years ago. Significantly different tasks and responsibilities require us to be willing to not only explore new tools and technologies but modify our methodology and incorporate new tools into our practices.

I’m grateful that I am able to dive into my PLN and am able to connect to practicing experts and professionals from whom I can learn better practices. There will always be learning on the job, stuff that isn’t covered in a class or pd session but we can all grow from the collective knowledge and experiences of our PLN.

Boomerang – A Gmail Enhancement

Boomerang

My district, Cumberland County Schools [@CumberlandCoSch] is a Google district. Like a lot of districts, many of our functions have been sent to the ‘cloud’. In addition to benefiting from the integration of many Google apps, our email is now hosted on Google’s servers.

This is the first district I’ve not used Outlook for my email client and as such, I’m missing some impactful features. One feature is the ability to schedule emails. Email is an essential communication tool and most people see it as tool for communicating in the present. Understanding and utilizing a scheduling feature is a is a must of school leaders.

Plan and write your follow ups
All school leaders have important talks with all stakeholders and often need to have them followed up. Using the calendar is a great way to build reminders for follow ups so that we don’t forget but even after the reminder comes, we still have to craft the message [specific for this, write the email]. What better way to plan the follow up than to write the actual email and schedule it to be sent at the specific time you deem would be most beneficial.

The Danger of the Draft
One makeshift solution that’s been shared with me is to type the email and don’t send it, leaving it in ‘Drafts’. While this saves typing the email down the road, you have to remember to go back to your drafts and send the email later. The obvious danger here is without a good reminder in place, you can forget to revisit the draft to send it.

The Boomerang Solution
Boomerang is a third party solution for the scheduling problem. I’ve been using it for several days and it has tested out great. Boomerang is a quick download for Chrome or Firefox. After a couple of quick ‘how-to’ videos, the Boomerang menu item will appear on the Gmail menu bar. When you compose your first email you’ll see a change to your email appearance. I’ve attached a couple of pictures below to show you the changes.

Picture1Picture2

The videos will define how to utilize the ‘Send Later’ feature but curiosity will guide you just as well.

My Use
Next week is our district’s spring break and I don’t plan on sending any emails to my staff as they enjoy their time off. This current week, I’ve had talks with several groups about rigorous instruction and student engagement. Instead of waiting for the Sunday before to sit and craft the email, I have already created the message while it was fresh and scheduled its delivery. This method ensures teachers feel the impact of the conversations we have recently and I can count this task as complete.

Use this feature to help ensure your message gets where it needs to go, when it needs to go and more importantly, is written how you want it to read exactly.

Mission POSSIBLE: Our iPad Planning Team

The Mission: Recruit several highly trained and motivated professionals for a secret iPad mission [not really top secret, in fact no secret at all]

The Team: 2 Instructional Coaches, 2 first year Science and Social Studies teachers and an veteran math teacher.

The Objective: To search and gather iPad apps and resources and plan for training delivery to our staff

Our instructional leadership team came up with this great brainstorm. With our newly acquired iPad Project Carts, we wanted to give the teachers good support in coming up with and implementing project based/cooperative activities with our new technology. Our project carts were designed for collaborative experiences, requiring students to work in pairs or small groups. The members of this team all have prior, deep experience with iPads either personal use or professionally. We’ve had talks and presentations on good collaborative work. Its our goal that these resources will help change what goes on in the classroom.

I truly regret not being able to participate in this planning. The teachers did a great job and we have some great outcomes:

  • Resourcing: The teachers searched the internet, combed apps and any resources that I have shared with them [check out the resource on the whiteboard] to find apps to begin framing projects for teachers to begin using in their classrooms. 
  • Integration: The iPad team made sure that all the work done, all the apps and programs found are not blocked and cost free. A major consideration and planning point they drew on was to plan for use of the apps and resources with Edmodo! We are an Edmodo district – ensuring that there is seemless integration will help tremendously with our teaching efforts.

The operatives selected for this mission proved to be valuable assets. We have realized two important mission parameters for all future missions and future teams:

    1. snackCollaboration is key! 6 great minds working on a singular vision is much better than 2
    2. Keeping operatives well fed [and on a sugar high] helps and is a prerequisite of mission success!

Connecting with Community – 21st Resources

I’ve been an administrator in several districts. One of the many resources used to connect and share information with our parents and community is the call out system. Call out systems are standard protocol in school districts. Its a great way to make sure our stakeholders are kept current on school happenings using a popular medium.

My current district uses a connection system called ParentLink. I expected this to be like most of the other systems I’ve used before with a lot of similar features. During the training, that’s how it started to look but there is one great feature ParentLink has that has made a world of difference in use and implementation – an app!

I use this app on my Droid phone and iPad regularly. The app makes a world of difference. For other call out systems, I’ve had to use a computer in tandem with a phone to send a message out. These were simple combinations – use the computer to select the delivery time and audience and the phone to record the message. The app makes is this a lot easier by making this a one stop shop. From my phone or iPad, I can record a message, select and audience and delivery time. The interface makes this an easy process as well.

Digital Divide Experience

I love this app! Compared to earlier systems, the apps really make our job easy. I communicate this to my APs regularly. Its funny to see our different approaches and enthusiasm about this tool though. They are both beginning their great careers and haven’t had years of experience with the previous systems so their appreciation of these new features is not as full as mine. To them, its just another app or tool they have on their phone or iPad to use. They have learned it and know how to use it and make call outs when they have to.  I almost view this as a liberating tool and enjoy the new freedom it provides.

Despite our different enthusiasm levels, its exciting to see that companies are responsive to the needs of school systems.  I applaud efforts companies make to be provide 21st solutions and resources to reflect changing needs. And .., its fun to play with apps ; )