Friday, July 25, 2014

Whether You Like It or Not, You MUST Embrace BYOD!!!

I just finished reading chapter 9 of Eric Sheninger's book "Digital Leadership" (click here). In this chapter he talks about the different ways that technology can be infused in schools through every day instruction, but his section on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) really spoke to me.  While I have always tried to embrace students using their personal technology to enhance instruction, I only scratched the surface of what this concept really means for students and their learning.

"As we move even further into this century, technology becomes even more embedded into our society."

Think about this. When was the last time that you left your cell phone at home? If you left it at home, did you go back home to get it? Children are bringing their devices to school everyday, so there's really not a question of whether or not to have BYOD, Bring Your Own Device.  Your school is a BYOD school because parents have equipped their children with devices, and now the question has morphed into this:  

How does your school embrace devices?

There are 3 different ways that schools embrace BYOD. 

1.  Negative Embracement

For fear that students will use their devices for inappropriate purposes, schools ban them altogether.  They institute fine systems for pulling them out in class; therefore, students learn to use personal devices in a very secretive way. The result of this form of embracement is negative in every way: time wasted correcting students and negative student perceptions of school.  Even worse, there is a negative impact on learning because kids will find a way to use their device regardless of punitive tools at your disposal. 

2. Neutral Embracement

Because school personnel know that devices are everywhere, and they can't eliminate them, they choose to put policies in place that tolerate cell phones. Students are allowed to use them at times where learning does not occur such as during class change, during lunch or during "free-time" at the end of class. In this system students are conditioned to believe that devices carry no real potential to enhance learning. They are explicitly taught that personal devices are for personal business and nothing more. The result of this form of BYOD is negligible.  Time isn't wasted, but it isn't really maximized either.  Learning isn't really enhanced either.  The status quo keeps pretty much everything stagnant. This form of embracement puts learning in neutral.

3. Positive Embracement

Since the potential found in devices is limitless, schools are finding unique and innovative ways to incorporate technology into every aspect of their system. Schools are eliminating announcements in place of using social media to communicate with kids. Research is being conducted on screens instead of in books. Technology is being leveraged.  Positive effects are abounding because with proper procedures and training for staff, students are more engaged, more connected and more focused. Their learning becomes more relevant, more purposeful and more productive. The more successful the integration, the more positive rewards students will reap from their learning.  Positive embracement of technology occurs only when technology is infused into areas where learning is expected to take place. 

So Which BYOD belongs in your School?

Vilifying and tolerating devices are virtually the same thing. They both essentially reject the notion that devices are real learning tools.  It's just that one is overt, and the other is covert.  Kids deserve an advantage in the workplace and using technology to learn is pretty much a requirement for most high paying jobs. Our kids will be interviewing for those jobs, and they won't be competitive if they don't learn the art of leveraging technology. That's not a problem that'll hold kids back in school, but it will be a problem for them in life. The choice is yours.  I hope you will make the best choice for kids and their future needs by incorporating the most powerful, yet underutilized, resources that have been sitting in America's classrooms each and everyday for the last 10+ years. 

5 Ways to Assess Learning without Giving a Test

I ran into a little push-back about assessment.  The chief complaint was that increasing the number of assessments requires teachers to give up more instructional time to test kids.  I couldn't agree more with. We don't need more tests. We need more instruction. 

But here's the deal. Assessment is not testing.  Assessment is determining if learning is actually taking place.  In fact, assessment is a vital component on excellent instruction, and without assessment, you're not delivering instruction.  You're disseminating information and opportunities to learn. 

So here are 5 ways to assess without testing.

  1. Listening - If you listen to kids, and they can't talk about their learning or content, they aren't learning the content.  
  2. Observation - Watching kids interact with content tells you what misconceptions they have with content. 
  3. Conversation - A conversation with a kid about his understanding of the content will tell you so much more than any test ever could. 
  4. Portfolio - Collecting samples of authentic student work over time gives teachers the full picture of a child's learning from initial instruction to the end of the unit. 
  5. Anecdotal records are similar to observations, but they are more detailed as the teacher can make record of all the informal learning a child has demonstrated over time. It also shows patterns of incorrect learning

Here are some bonus ideas from my PLN. I posed the following question, "How do you assess without testing or grading?"  I really enjoyed their perspectives, and hope you do as well.

Drop a comment.  How do you assess without giving a test?

Monday, July 14, 2014

7 Secrets of Excellent Deskside Manner

Being in the hospital with my daughter for the last 3 days following her accident taught me one thing.


With all of the nurses, doctors, social workers, therapists and other medical experts coming in and out of the hospital room, my confidence in their abilities was greatly affected simply by how they treated my daughter, my wife, me, and other people in the room. The more empathic they were, the more I trusted in their ability and advice.  The more indifferent they were, the less faith I had in their prognosis and their prescription. 

How good is your bedside manner with your patients (i.e. students and their parents)?  No, you're not a doctor, but you do diagnose, prescribe and advise students and their parents.  You use your expertise to inform on the progress of student learning. Your ability to communicate that information, AKA your Deskside Manner, matters. 

So How Good is your Deskside Manner?

Do you give it the attention it deserves?  Here are 7 secrets to consider before you make your decision. 

1. Do you make your guests feel comfortable or uncomfortable when you enter the room?

2. Do you greet people with a smile and positive tone in your voice or a pensive posture?

3. Do you speak with a confident or condescending tone?

4. Do you communicate progress using parent friendly terms or educational jargon?

5. Do you cut people off when they're talking or asking questions, or do you allow them to finish their sentence before speaking?

6. Do you validate people when they ask stupid questions or do you make them feel stupid for not asking a valid question? (BTW, there are no stupid questions.)

7. When the patient is stressed or anxious, do you calm their fears or amp their attitude?

The bottom line is this. How you treat people matters. People will pay attention to your intellect after you validate theirs. 

The Humanity in Tragedy

Over 3 difficult days, I have learned a lot about life. My daughter took a terrible fall on Friday and broke bones that immobilized both legs and her right hand. The prognosis is basically this, she will be almost completely dependent of us for the most basic of needs for the next 12+ weeks.

While this is a difficult pill to swallow (pun intended), we also recognize how blessed we are that first and foremost she's alive. Second, she will walk again, and third she and we have an amazing support system far greater than we ever could've imagined. 

Here are just a couple of examples.
1. My neighbor across the street has kept my little girls without hesitation to give them a break from hospital life. 

2. My other neighbor mowed my yard because he knew that I needed to spend my time helping my wife and daughter.

3. Numerous friends and family have stopped by with care packages  and comfort food. 

4. We have received hundreds of texts, phone calls, Facebook messages and visitors to let us know they are here to support us. 

In short, we are blessed to have witnessed the effect of tragedy, humanity.

The Moral of the Story

Life is not measured in accolades but in acts of kindness. It's not found in the breathes you take, but in the moments that take your breathe away. (Had to say it.) Tragedy reveals the world's humanity, and we are blessed to have experienced it firsthand. The rapid pace of life forces us to zip past the truly most important things, while tragedy forces you to stop and examine if you're really engaged with the people and things that matter most. 

My Message to You
Kiss your kids. Call an old friend and catch up. Take time to connect, for that is where humanity resides. Don't wait for a tragedy to reveal it for you. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Culture Cultivation

Culture eats structure for breakfast. Great PLC leaders always address this first. This tweet from Mark Clements @edunators makes it crystal clear. So how do effective leaders value culture? They realize that structure cannot be built until culture is developed first. They also realize that culture is best established and maintained through one on one conversations with as many stakeholders as possible.

A great strategy to use especially when you are new to a school is to set up 15 minute meetings with your staff and central office staff members that support the campus. The structure of the meetings is quite simple. Ask your guest these 4 questions and make sure you have a pen and pad ready to take notes. Taking notes shows that you are here to listen and that you value what your guest is saying.

1. Tell me about yourself - This ice-breaker communicates that you value the staff and what to get to know them personally. By getting to know the individual staff members personally, you are making major deposits in your campus culture bank account.

2. What are some great things happening on the campus that you want me to continue? - This question sends the message that you honor the work that has been done and that you don't want to change things that work on the campus. The answers to these questions also tell you what traditions are important to the school community.

3. What is something that needs to be changed or improved? - This question is critical because the leader must listen for patterns in all responses. Patterns will show what problems are isolated or prevalent among the campus. You must be looking for important patterns such as if communication is clear, if communication is 2-way, if teachers are supported and if there are structural or cultural barriers that prevent learning.

4. The last question is critical if you want to know what your expectations are as the leader from the campus. Ask your staff, "If you could give me one directive to make sure that I follow, what would it be?" I love asking this question because it is the strongest culture building question that you can ask. You are giving the employee the opportunity to tell you what they think is the most important thing that must be done on the campus. It also shows that you, the leader, are approachable, desire feedback, and truly need every employee to have a voice to make the campus the best place to work and learn.

Culture is massively important and highly successful leaders keep culture at the forefront at all times. The more positive and collaborative your culture is, the more successful your structure can make the campus. Structure with a negative or even toxic culture will certainly guarantee no improvement and quite possibly a decline in student achievement. So go forth and cultivate your campus culture one person at a time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"Draw Something" to Reinforce your Child's English Skills this Summer

I learn so much about technology from my daughters.  Right now, my middle daughter is into "Draw Something" and she gave me some pointers on why this is a great app for all parents to share with their kids.  I hope you like them.

1st - Challenge

The app has a 75 word challenge every week.  The interesting part about Draw Something is that the pictures are already drawn.  The kids just have to use their skills to figure out what each picture is.  Every week my daughter is being exposed to 75 new words that challenge her thinking.

2nd - Spelling

Draw Something gives parents an opportunity to work with their child on spelling words and teach them new words that they may not have discovered yet in school.  It is a fun way to reinforce spelling rules.

3rd - Vocabulary

Vocabulary is a huge skill that can be reinforced with Draw Something.  The pictures help students learn a new word and develop a pictorial model of its definition.  It has been amazing to see my daughter's vocabulary grow with this app.

4th - Experiences

As a parent, this app tells me what experiences I need to give my children.  From this app, I discovered that my daughter didn't know who King Kong was, so that was a great opportunity for me to give her the experience of watching this timeless classic.  Experiences are the key to comprehension.  The more experiences you give your children, the better reader and thinker they will become.

5th - Collaboration

This picture to the right challenged me and my daughter for a minute.  Was a it a concert or a circus?  We couldn't quickly figure it out.  Working together with my other daughter, the three of us figured out that the word was festival.  Draw Something offers opportunities for teamwork and problem-solving and this a a great 21st century skill that parents can teach their children.  

Draw Something Today

Technology in many ways pacifies kids over the summer, and English skills wane over summer break.  This great app gives kids a fun way to brush up on their English skills throughout the summer without even knowing it.