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.

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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.

One of My Defining Days

I had one of those days this week that helped remind me why I became an educator and why I’ve always worked with kids.

The Meetingstem

Wednesday, at our principals meeting, three of our assistant superintendents met with me and four other middle school principals regarding a STEM program sponsored by Fayetteville State University. This program will target our rising 8th graders who will likely be 8th grade Algebra students. Dr Black, one of the assistant superintendents, had run lists of our rising 8th graders using EVAAS, an online data program for NC schools, that runs student and school data a number of ways. We received achievement probability reports for these students. It listed students’ probability of passing the Algebra 1 EOC based on past EOG performance. As I read the list of students for my school, I was excited to see the name of one of our students [for privacy reasons, I’ll call him Baxter]. Baxter is served in our exceptional children’s program for behavioral reasons. This list generated showed all students with a high probability of passing Algebra. Baxter’s position on the list places him higher than 2/3 of our current 7th graders.

I was excited for Baxter when I saw this! What a great opportunity for him. There is research that shows, properly identified students who are successful in the 8th algebra have a significantly high probability of post-secondary success. For a student like Baxter and his family this could be a life changer.

But my excitement was soon matched by concern. As I began playing out scenarios I began to worry about Baxter’s preparation. This probability model is great – I’ve used EVAAS in another NC district as a principal and as the Director of Curriculum and Innovation. We start the conversation with this data – who has best chance. Then we look at other data for consideration. This is where my concern began – have we done enough to support and prepare Baxter?

Divine Intervention

It just so happens that when I got back to my school that afternoon, Baxter and a couple of other students were a little talkative in class [ironically math] and were sent to the office for redirection. These are great boys and we had a great conversation. They all admitted what they did wrong, knew where they went wrong and promised to do better. Great talk!factortree

I kept Baxter back a little while. Given my talk earlier and the fact that I’m a middle school math teacher [having taught 6-8 math all levels, and 7th and 8th Algebra] I just wanted to see where Baxter was. I asked him what they were studying in math and he replied ‘trees’ [great answer]. He of course meant factor trees. I asked him a couple of questions and he answered them flat out so I dove straight into the heart and asked him to show me a factor tree for the number 24. I’ve attached a picture of his work.

I like Baxter and I’m not saying this because I like him but he demonstrated a clear understanding of concept including use of terms prime and composite, exponent form and when to use a factor tree. Clear ability. He wrote out this example and explained it without pause and without missing a beat. This conversation was as positive as it was concerning. Clearly he knows what he knows but I have to keep asking have we done enough to prepare him for the rigor of a high school course as a middle schooler?

Have we done enough to support this at-promise student’s natural ability to help him be successful?

Meeting with the Beginning Teachers

That same day after school, I was called into our beginning teachers’ monthly large group meeting. I was asked to share a couple of words with them while they were finishing up their paperwork. I had to talk about Baxter. Many of the mentors in the room and some of the BTs knew Baxter and they all attested to his good nature. When I shared the data everyone in the room shared a feel good moment and were genuinely happy for him. We help a lot of needy kids and its good to share promising news.

My talk with the BTs went a little deeper. I asked them a couple of questions:

  • What was their vision of our school?
  • What contribution or part will they play in helping take our school to another level?
  • What will you do to make sure we don’t miss kids like Baxter again?
  • We have proven success in helping kids grow but what about building something new, something supportive for kids?
  • What are we doing to create very different opportunities for kids?
  • What are we doing to change our approach to make sure our school is serving every child?

These questions generated a lot conversation.

As I said, this was a one of those defining days. It made me remember back to my days of teaching ‘below level’ students and ‘above level’ students and how frustrated I got because I needed some flexibility in identifying students and in most cases better support in preparing them. It made me remember previous days as an administrator committing to do all I can to ensure that every middle and high schooler, who was capable and ready, would get my support and help in getting placed in courses that would help give them a step up.

This has a been a great first year at a great school. We have had tons of growth conversations. I need to make sure that this topic doesn’t stay remain a conversation – but that it becomes what we are about, what we do and our vision.

Great day!

iPads and Google Forms for Classroom Observations – Team Solution

 The Spring Lake Middle Instructional Leadership Team had a great collaborative growth experience with the Cumberland County Schools Curriculum and Instruction Team.

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    The CCS C&I Teams makes regular visits to schools to observe classrooms and give feedback to the principal and/or other personnel. For our visit today, our Executive Director of Secondary Curriculum, John Gibbs, visited with our curriculum specialist in math, social studies, science and literacy. They spent several hours in the building visiting classes, having conversations and ended the day with a group share of plus/deltas. These visits are always positive – at the end we all have a clear direction of the successes and work throughs.

   During our conversation, I learned the C&I team capture walk  through data using a GoogleDrive spreadsheet. They set up multiple fields with specific information they want to collect and later review. All the specialists understand how to manipulate the information, including using colors to highlight certain information for various reasons.

   There is a high degree of synchronicity this week with Google Forms and Walk Thrus/Informal Observations. Earlier this week, after a lot of productive work, I made a post on how to send feedback from a GoogleForm [GoogleForm for Feedback Tool]. Utilizing the features of GoogleDrive is a great way to make sure a team is being data driven and all are going in a good direction.

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   I shared our GoogleForm Walk Through tool with them. We started the talk showing the parallels in both spreadsheets – exact same end results and capabilities of looking at data. We next went into a talk about how the GoogleForm streamlines the process adding the information into the spreadsheet. This process is made altogether easier with the use of our iPads. We shared iPads from one of our Project Carts and paired off with the C&I and did more walk thrus using our tool. We wanted the team to compare the experience with iPads vs laptop and reviewing the data at the end.

   This was a great collaborative session for everyone. We got to share our process and tools with a visiting team and we benefited from their feedback on our walk thru tool. This is value of finding the solution through collaboration.

Google Form as a Walk Thru Tool for Data & Feedback

Our school uses GoogleForms for an informal walk thru observation tool. Since we began using iPads at the beginning of the year, the GoogleForm is great, convenient tool to gather data we use for planning professional development and other needed training.  We’ve recently discussed the need for a good way to get feedback back to the teachers. From prior experience, I know there is no simple solution for this. I discussed with my team some alternative strategies but promised them a solution.

I turned to my PLN for the solution to this new century problem. I need to thank Jayme Linton, @jaymelinton, and Lyn Hilt, @l_hilt, for responding immediately to my request for help. I’ve spoken to Lyn before this and we made little headway. This time, she referred me to a tweeted post from Jayme on this topic. From these sources, I created this instructive presentation with text and screen shots. It starts with some basic instructions on creating a simple form then goes into the directions for creating the email feedback.

The data we collect from this form is a great step. Adding the feedback to it allows us to give teachers time and opportunity to reflect and modify instructional practices.

Hope this helps. I know it will go a long way in our curricular, instructional, and training talks.

Changing How We Look at & Use Data – Not Waiting on an Autopsy

Friday was a great day of collaboration and pd at West Middle School!! April Daywalt, our Instructional Facilitator [interviewed in the video below] led group instructional discussions during planning periods on using Data Connections, a program the district has subscribed to.


I love the Shift Thinking behind this training! Before Friday, West MS has only used this program during our quarterly benchmark testing. The problem with this approach is it only gave us 3 opportunities to planned reteaching, acceleration and reflection. For student achievement, we cant afford to wait until the end to look at and plan with important student data! Opening up this program, expanding training to every teacher and having people on board who can help with answer questions will go a long way in making this part of our planning, teaching and learning culture.


Below are two interviews about training implementation and purpose, the second is Daywalt:

I love the EQ in the back! Thanks to all the teachers for the being active participants and planning on incorporating this into their practice and thanks to April for her shift training!