mccoyderek

Digital Tools as Difference Makers – Your Blog

I’ve had some recent conversations with some of my PLN members about how digital tools are helping me make a difference in my practice. Its always an honor to share some aspects of what I do with others. Its gives me a great sense of community to engage in these real, share conversations but I also benefit from these opportunities to share because they give me the opportunity to reflect on not only what I am doing but some of the other aspects these tools bring to my administrative function.

One conversation this week was about blogging. I was sharing my personal journey as a blogger with a principal here in NC, a newly connected learner and [hopefully after our conversation] a prospective blogger. I shared with him my need to overcome my hangups about writing to get to the real need and goal for my blog – to be a resource to my teachers and school. I am not a prolific blogger like many of my PLN but I do rely on my blog for several critical reasons.

Voice & Vision

We all have conversations with teachers and community members about what we are trying to do in our classrooms and school to have a positive effect on learning and teaching – this is an ongoing function of school leaders in and out of the classroom. So between and after conversations with our stakeholders what serves as a placeholder for the conversations we have? What can serve as the place to go to get a question answered as far as what is this principal/teacher/educator trying to accomplish? The blog is a great tool to not only share your thoughts but to paint a very clear picture of what your organization is about, what the goals are and where we are headed.

For several years I had a personal blog where I recorded experiences and thoughts about what I was thinking and doing to make a difference. Earlier this year at the @NASSP conference, I had a chance to meet Dwight Carter @Dwight_Carter, 2013 Digital Principal of the Year. One of the great conversations we had was on blogging, specifically how he not only maintains his personal blog Mr Carter’s Office, but also his weekly blog for his school and staff filled with announcements and resources and a blog to keep his community informed about what is going on. Hearing and seeing this made me rethink my communication efforts. I always ask myself what else can I do help my teacher and staff and this was a small consideration. What a great way to celebrate, inform, inspire and lead groups!

My NC colleague shared how he creates weekly and biweekly newsletters. With this transition, he will be able to maximize on the archiving and search features of the blog – his staff and community will be simple searches away from accessing and re-accessing difference making information.

Resources

I shared my new school blog in our discussion and what drew the most conversation was the resource section. In every blog, after our celebration and upcoming events, I make sure to share resources that I have gathered from my PLN over the week that I think will make a difference with our instructional goals. These are mix of blogs, articles, infographics – anything that reinforces recent conversations and past and future trainings we have had in the school. This is section has helped reduce the number of emails I send out to my staff through the week [I’ve been told I may have a problem]. One of the best examples of this that I’ve seen is from Jason Markey @JasonMMarkey, 2014 Digital Principal of the Year. Check out his central hub site – from here he links to all the resources and communication blogs for his school. From here you can clearly see a focus on keeping everyone informed and keeping everyone resourced.

The different aspects and benefits of a good blog can’t be spoken of enough. It starts with intention – making a difference. I am fortunate to have some great examples in my PLN that I can continuously learn from and share with others in their journey.

School Leadership 3.0: Make Your Tools Mobile

photo-1This is a picture of my office desk. I’ve also made it the background for my Twitter profile.

I was inspired to take this picture after a teacher visited my office and she immediately remarked about these tools that cluttered about my desk [this picture doesn’t reflect my typical work organization]. She questioned if it was absolutely necessary to have all these to do my job. After I rationalized that there were only three tools here, an iPad, my Smartphone and a desktop with and attached monitor, I came back with a firm yes! I can’t do my job as a school leader without these tools.

My primary function is to improve student learning and how teachers teach. I do that effectively by choosing the right tools. When we talk about tools, sometimes the conversation leans towards hardware and functionality. This talk will be about on the web tools I use as a 3.0 school leader.

We can’t say enough about the critical functionality of mobility in our jobs. Being able to carry out duties, no matter where I am helps me maintain consistency and improve my efficacy in my daily and long term practice. Cloud computing has dramatically changed society and how we function as schools and organizations. Being able to transfer information from one device to another is how we make a difference in teaching and learning and allow us to remain current on tools and thinking that will help us change how teachers, community and students see the value of these  tools and how they aren’t future practice but current necessities.

Social Media – Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress all contribute to my continuous professional development and learning. They help define me a lifelong learner. As we endeavor to design personalized experiences for our students, we can also embrace the flexibility and impact of our dive into social media.

Coaching – Using an iPad or smartphone to record lesson and direct instruction is the best way to take the people out of instructional coaching and make it about a change conversation about practices, behavior and learning. Keeping continuous, synchronized notes helps me and my administrative team maintain a singular focus in our change talks.

Administrative Organization: Evernote is a tool I’ve come to recently integrate into my practice. Thanks to John Robinson, @21stprincipal, and his blog and accounts I’ve come to rely on it to help me document my day, archive critical learning and quickly record notes needed for upcoming events. The synchronization between all my devices makes this a tool invaluable.

Communication and Organization: Its hard to imagine carrying out our functions and duties in this day and age without Google’s cloud services. Going beyond Gmail and Calendar [which are crucial] other Google products are vital to us moving schools:

    • Chrome – Once I log in, my bookmarks are with me no matter what device. I can navigate websites I need while at school, home or on the road.
    • Hangout – Participating in chat and discussions with my PLN grow my skills and understanding. I take this back to school and community to effect a change. As as a means of connecting with people, a quick video chat beats a phone call hands down.

3.0 school leadership is not about technology, hardware/software, it has to be about changing teaching and learning for the better. These tools are about making a difference in our schools. Future leaders have to have a willingness to dive into these tools, explore their usage and be willing to innovate. Future leadership and practice starts today!