Monday, March 15, 2010

Dealing with all of the information, ideas and projects

Supporting innovation and continual growth is an important part of the job of an administrator. Seeking ways to model and encourage integration of technology, building a vision for the future and staying on top of new developments and research can be a full time job. The use of social networking tools in my professional life like Twitter, and Ning helps me access the information I need to do my job. However, I find that often when I am filtering the information flow that my focus is on tools, research, or ideas that will empower  the teachers and meet specific needs they have identified.But sometimes we also need to ask what tools are best suited to support and help administrators?

Looking through my toolbox, I rediscovered a tool, which I would argue, has huge potential to organize and simplify my life as an administrator. There are other tools I use but Evernote is a game changer. One of the most difficult things about administration is the multitude of roles, concerns, projects and stakeholders we work with on a daily basis. Evernote works with all your computing devices and is a place to put all of that information whether it is project ideas, to do lists, expense receipts, business cards, web pages, notes from a meeting or conference, or a voice memo about a classroom observation. This blog post steered me back to Evernote and one of the things that really makes this work for me is the concept he mentions of keeping it simple by having a default inbox where everything goes. Often I am clipping web pages, making notes or collecting business cards on the fly and then I can take a few moments at the end of the day to reflect, tag and categorize. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Evernote, in my opinion, is its ability to search photos of hand written text, or of business cards. At the conference I attended last week I snapped a picture of each business card as I received it and through Evernote it was synched to all of my computing devices and I could search by any information on the card to find it again.

Every day is a busy time for administrators and right now we are looking toward the end of the year and planning for next year. Perhaps, Evernote is one way to make all of that work easier. What tools would you suggest to support and help administrators?

Cross posted LeaderTalk

Photo from Flickr by verbeeldingskr8

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Does Twitter cause writer's block?


Does Twitter cause writer’s block?
Last year at NECC ( now known as ISTE) several well known bloggers talked about how in many respects twitter had replaced blogging. I was aghast, thinking how can twitter take the place of blogging. Now one year later I am on twitter everyday and writing…well almost never. I do not necessarily think this a good thing but it may be an acceptable thing….a stage in finding an equilibrium in this information rich, interactive world.
I feel strongly that blogging and twittering can serve fundamentally different purposes but there is also some significant overlap. Twitter and blogging can both be about exchange of ideas and conversation. The development of lists in twitter, tools like tweetdeck which helps you organize your feeds and the use of hash marks all have made to concept of twitter conversations a reality. In many ways twitter is a better platform for conversation than blogs are unless you have a strong readership and comment base on your blog.
The fundamental difference, in my opinion, comes from the nature of the two platforms. Twitter is just in time connections, instantaneous discussion, and a ready source of resource for cutting edge developments in news, technology, software, productivity tools , classroom applications and educational research. Blogs can provide similar information and in fact twitter often points me to useful blog posts. On a personal level however it seems to me that “to blog” is an essentially different experience. Blogging is a place for reflective thinking. For me it means taking time to pick and choose from the information stream those things which resonate with me and/or challenge me and/or connect with the reality of my community. It means taking time to ponder those things to formulate my own understandings and then write about them to help reflect, clarify my thoughts and open these ideas to conversation.
Twitter has increased my contact with my personal learning network (PLN) and increased my exposure to ideas and information. Everyday twitter provides new links for my diigo account and new resources or tools to pass on to my colleagues at school. It is easy to get caught up in what seems a prolific and productive connection with my PLN but it is not enough. I need to take time to process, to think, to reflect and therefore I need to write…. It is time to find my way into the next stage…

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Moving Forward : 1:1 with Netbooks

Moving Forward : 1:1 with Netbooks

Tenacity and flexibility have been important character traits for us during the roll out of our 1:1 program. Last year in a discussion on 1:1 implementation at EduBloggerCon, just before NECC, someone asked how you know you are ready to move forward. It was an interesting question because those of us who were going 1:1 were in varying places with our infrastructure, teacher tech skills and funding. Though our answer may not have been satisfying the consensus was that it had to do with building a vision and a willingness to be risk takers. We all agreed that there comes a point when you need to move forward and be willing to deal with the messiness that is inherent in change.

We were scheduled to start our 1:1 program on August 26.the first day of school this year. We spent time in the summer working to prepare, discussing a move toward a textbook free environment, and curricular planning. But alas, on August 21 all of our brand new, imaged netbooks were stolen. It has been a rocky road but on Tuesday October 13 all of the 6th, 7th and 8th grade students got their netbooks. It was a happy day! But in all reality the delay has been positive on many levels. Even though we still are in the midst of learning a we go, during those initial 7 weeks we were able to put in place some important protocols and do some introductory work with the students.

As we all know there is head knowledge and then there is application of that knowledge in a real classroom. What looked, well almost easy, last spring required many adjustments when students and teachers walked in the door this fall. For the teachers, even though they had visited other schools and were committed to the vision, the importance of changing teaching /learning became very real. They did not want these netbooks to become expensive paper and pencils. Lessons plans needed to be revisited with a more realistic perspective of what ubiquitous connectivity would mean. Blogs were set-up for these new classes and instruction and discussion of how and why we blog moved forward. Student scribing was explored and begun and the teachers had time to work with Dyknow which we are using for lesson delivery and classroom management. In many ways this buffer time has allowed the teachers to build their confidence and competency in administering a 1:1 program which has helped the deployment go very smoothly. Walking through the rooms the day after we distributed the netbooks students and teachers were moving forward almost seamlessly.

There will still be bumps in the road and lots of “just in time” learning but I am more convinced than ever that there comes a point at which you have to be willing to take the risk even when you do not have all the answers. We already see student engagement increasing in our Junior High and we are looking forward to rolling out a 1:1 program for grades K to 5 over the next 2 to 3 years.

St Elisabeth School serves students from Preschool through 8th grade and is located California. We have a multicultural student body and 69% of the students live at or below the poverty level.. Over the last 18 years, as a teacher and then as principal, I have always been committed to the integration of technology across the curriculum and over the last three years I developed a program of global collaboration for our school.. As an administrator I have made it a priority to build a common vision, helping the staff become risk takers and to invest in the future. Together with the staff we have also done the same for our parent community helping them to embrace the needs of their students in a connected world. As a community we have developed a common vision for the future, which includes a commitment to digital equity and ubiquitous connectivity for our students

Originally written for 1:1 Sig Newsletter)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Going 1:1 Rethinking Learning and Curriculum Resources

As the year winds down the work speeds up...at least at my school. One of the projects we are undertaking is the transitioning to 1:1 with netbooks for our 6th, 7th and 8th grades in the Fall of 2009. It is both an exciting and daunting task. Our school has worked for three years to build a vision for the importance of technology integration, connectedness, global awareness and the skills the students will need for their futures. We are a tuition based school and with 63% of the students living at or below the poverty level and therefore it is not easy for the parents or school to make this a reality but we believe it is a critical component in assuring the students an excellent and relevant education.

In brief we are committed to the idea that students:

Must understand how to function professionally in a digitally connected learning environment and workspace
Must be able to communicate clearly in the global arena
Must be able to find and use information not just memorize a textbook
Must be creative, collaborative, problem solver who use critical thinking to come up with innovative solutions

Among the many tasks this project demands of us over the summer months one is spending time refining our understanding of the paradigm shift in pedagogy that 1:1 requires, and building a set of curriculum resources which take advantage of this change. (We certainly do not want to use new technology simply as an expensive pencil or worksheet). . With the news of California moving toward online textbooks the discussion on the web have increased about textbooks , their relative worth and what the ideal scenario might be for such an online resource..In a live discussion on Friday with a number of people on this topic there were a few principals that resonated with me. In part, what I want for our students is access to primary sources, to multimedia, resources, interactivity, real time discoveries, connectedness with other learners and with experts ( locally and globally), and an opportunity to contribute. I realize that this is a tall order but in my opinion it is also supports authentic learning that will produce life long learners,

Building our set of resources is one of the fun parts of this project and so I freely admit, it is what I work on when everything else is overwhelming. It has lead me down some interesting paths and into a few very promising discoveries. Two of which I want to share with you. The first is Flexbooks which from CK-12. Their mission statement says it all.....
“CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the U.S. and worldwide. Using an open-content, web-based collaborative model termed the “FlexBook,” CK-12 intends to pioneer the generation and distribution of high quality educational content that will serve both as core text as well as provide an adaptive environment for learning.”

The second resource is entirely different but very interesting because it harness the power of being connectedness. It is the Open Source Teaching Project. This site provides a platform for connections between business professionals and students from Middle School through College. It provides for dynamic interactions, real world connections and the assignments posted so far are al about critical thinking and application of knowledge.

Both sites are worth exploring , both have tremendous potential and both need our involvement to help them grow into the rich and flexible resources our teachers and students need. Exploring what it means to go 1:1 pushes us to consider more fully exactly what it means to be a learner in a connected world and it challenges us as educators to envision, locate and develop the best possible resources for our students.

Barbara Barreda
Cross posted to Leadertalk

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Things worth another look

Things I have read or come across recently which I do not want to loose track of and which are worth another look.

From Digital Voice Awards- an application I had not hear of called MonkeyJam
And the award winning projects

Google Docs Blog Educational Spreadsheets gadgets- word search, flash cards and Word Study

Soon to be released DVD of Presentation Zen - Promising for Fall in-services

Just came across Jalbum another online photo album ( found on Susan Seedro's blog)

And finally 4 blog posts

2 from Scot Mcleod
Top 10 TED talks for educators and top 10 podcasts- So who needs summer books for Professional development ...okay, ok I read to but now I have some listening for those drives ...

An interesting discussion ( so read the comments too) on Jeffs blog about a third grade project, Presentation Zen, and whats behind tech integration

And finally Susan's post that is a transparent discussion of a transformation from static teacher blog pages to a more personalied and interactive presence on the Web.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pondering the Implications of Presentation Zen in Our School

A four day weekend at this point in the school year has become a real chance to gain some rest and perspective, If you have been here before you can see I even had time to change up the site a little. By the way the picture above is from the California Poppy fields in Antelope Valley.

I have finally gotten around to reading Presentation Zen and I am sorry I had not gotten here sooner! It is not just a good book with good ideas, at least for me, it is life changing. I got about half way through the book before I decided to go back and read it again so I could take notes.

Two things that the book has me pondering right now....

A whole new approach to parent meetings- especially budget meetings. What if instead of graphs and figures I used pictures. Pictures that will create an emotional connection for the parents. So while I am talking about needing funds for the arts, or clubs or???? I play a group of pictures showing their students engaged in these activities. Why didn't I think of that! The boring facts and figures can go in a handout for the end of the meeting!

The other thing is a very different question about creativity and process. In the book he talks about stepping away from the computer and sending time planning in an analog fashion. That I know works for me. Even though I feel guilty about it there are times when a notebook and a pen really works for me. The question all of this raised for me has to do with our students. We are going 1;1 next year in grades 6, 7, and 8. Do these students have the same needs to help them be creative? If so how do we build that in? I know in some 1:1 classrooms , especially those with tablets, you see no paper. What about for students using netbooks, what do they need. A yellow pad and portfolio, a portable at their space white board....

What do you think?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sound Bytes from CUE 2009

(Cross posted to LeaderTalk)

Last week I attended the Computer Using Educators ( CUE) Conference in Palm Springs California and so I thought I would post a few of the ideas that caught my attention. It is always good to meet with other educators and discuss the needs of today’s students, best practices and unfolding developments, especially in the area of technology integration.

One of the things I noticed at this year’s conference was a subtle shift in the conversation. Most of the sessions I attended which spoke about technology tools did so from the perspective of the pedagogy and learning application instead of being “how to” sessions focused on learning the tool itself. This is a very important shift because it underscores the concept that the technology needs to be transparent and that the Web 2.0 revolution in education is not about the tool it is about learning. As one presenter stated “technology is the way to achieve the learning goal where the kids live.” This year there was also more discussion of data and research. eg. Robert Marzano presented data on the integration of technology and student test scores, and Hal Davidson spoke about a study from BYU on the use of video/media in Math instruction. While there is still need for more researched based data to support the anecdotal evidence on technology integration and best practice it was nice to see this data included in the presentations.

While there were many take always from the conference there are three that I want to focus on here. First is the book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton Christensen , Curtis W. Johnson and , Michael B. Horn . Perhaps you have already heard about or read this book but I encountered it for the first time at the CUE conference and I believe it is an essential read for all administrators. We know change is needed, we know change is coming but this book pushes the envelope and can be the catalyst for some deep thinking and conversation. It also reminds us that the change that is coming will be anything but business as usual.. I have not finished the book yet but I hope there will be future posts and conversations here about its message. One thing is certain the revolution is not about how much technology we can put into our classrooms but it is about how we meet the needs of our students. in addition to this book you may want to take a look at the authors blog of the same name, Disrupting Class, here.

Next, if you have not already done so, take time to review the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE). current draft of the National Technology Standards for Administrators. While I was at CUE I attended a discussion of the draft for these standards and if they are to be effective it is important that we all take time to read them , reflect on our role as technology leaders and offer our ideas and insights to clarify that role.. If you do not have the opportunity to attend a live session to discuss the draft of the standards there is an online survey which you can fill out to share your ideas and reflections ( or you can offer to organize a discussion in your district).

Finally I would like to share a tool that is new to me and which makes the top ten in my list of technology tools for administrators. It has a very easy learning curve and it has made my work easier. Do you have to transfer files between computers? Do you ever use email files or a flash drive to transfer files from home to work, or from you laptop to your desktop Do you email files to a colleague or work collaboratively on documents? If so, take the time to look at Dropbox . It is free, and it automatically syncs all types of files, from spreadsheets and documents to photos or pdf files between computers. It is a very simple download and now all of my documents are on each of my computers and also stored on the internet. Yesterday a colleague wanted a copy of a lengthy document and with one click of a mouse I shared my folder with him through dropbox. I know I sound like a commercial but I can’t resit a free tool that actually makes me more efficient because both time and money are rare commodities in my world.

*PS For those Kindle folks like me there is a Kindle edition available of Disrupting Class