Friday, March 22, 2013

The Importance of Communication -- Football Analogy

On a football team, when the huddle is called and all eleven offensive players gather together, the quarterback announces the play to the entire offensive -- not selective members. The transparency of communicating with all members of the offense at once allows the entire unit to execute the play seamlessly. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if the quarterback only communicated the play to the fullback and/or tailback. How would the linemen know who to block? What  patterns would receivers run? Now imagine the scenario if the quarterback only told the play to the linemen, but not the other members of the offense. Where are the fullback and tailback going? As you can see, the quarterback needs to communicate with all members of the offense in order to execute the simplest play in the playbook. Without communication, nothing productive happens. Within organizations, leaders need to communicate with the entire organization. The leader communicates the vision, mission, and knowledge to the entire team, so that everyone can execute the play together.

But you ask me, "What about when the quarterback improvises?" Glad you asked! The quarterback improvises based off the original play communicated to the entire offense. As the leader on the field, the quarterback needs to react to changes and problems that develop during executing the original play. The quarterback may decide to throw the ball to the wide receiver running the post route, because he sees that the player is open and will be able to score a touchdown; where as, the original intended receiver is double covered. This is a modification to the original play, not a different play. Leaders need to be able to modify and adjust plans as problems occur, but based off the original plan that was communicated to the entire organization. When a plan needs modifying or adjusting, the leader communicates the changes as quickly as possible to the entire organization, so that everyone can execute the new plan seamlessly and without confusion.

Is your organization trying to run a play but the play has only be communicated to certain members of the offense? How can you get all team members executing the play seamlessly?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Using Google Spreadsheets for Meeting Agendas

Do you really want your team to collaborate? Do you want to be able to digitally track your meetings, decisions made, actions assigned, and who and when items will be followed up on? The EdTech Team at Korea International School wanted to have these options. During a meeting Steve (@stevekatz) was introduced to this amazing tool by Rolly (@rollymaiquez) from Chadwick International School. It has revolutionized our team and dramatically increased our productivity. I have created a Template that can be used by any group or team; in addition, the instructions on this post will have you ready to be more productive and more collaborative for your next meeting. After following the link, make sure to create a copy of the template from the File Menu. This will give you your own copy in your Google Drive. PLEASE DON'T EDIT THE ORIGINAL! 
The Template looks like this and you can customize all the features.

You can input your team members with this trick. You can also adjust the Priority/Status list this way. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Twitter Feed on Blogger

Once you follow the steps in this blog post, you will have a Twitter feed in your side navigation bar.

Do you want to add a Twitter feed on your Blogger? If the answer is yes, then this is the blog post for you. There are several steps in the process, but the reward is having a Twitter feed in your Blogger sidebar. I have added several screen shots to walk you through the process. Good luck!

Your journey begins at Twitter. You will need to log in to your Twitter account and then go to the following URL

Select the type of widget that you want to create. You can make a feed that follows one person, a list of people, or hash tag. Hit create widget and you will receive the embed code you need for your Blogger.

Your embed code will magically appear in the window. Copy it! Now you are ready for Blogger!

In Blogger, go to Layout. You will now click on the Add a Gadget button in the side navigation bar.

The list of Gadgets will pop up and you will scroll down to the HTML/Java Script. Pick this option.

Give your Gadget a title and paste the embed code into the window. Hit the save button and you have a Twitter feed on you Blogger site. Congratulations!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Engaging a Student's Passion

I'd like to talk about student engagement; I'd like to talk about allowing students to follow their passions and supporting them.  I'd like you to consider how Facebook and other social media sites can make your students develop and grow in ways they are interested in, not in ways they are told to be interested. This is a piece of evidence from Korea International School. Colin is on of our students; Colin happens to be a very gifted piano player. This is Colin's SoundCloud page. Look closely. Do you see the number of followers he has on his page? 12,958. 12,958! Almost 13,000 people listen to this kid's music. By the time you read this blog post, he will have more than 13,000 followers. Amazing! And how has this impacted Colin? His confidence in his musical abilities has grown; his confidence in himself as grown; he is a musician with an authentic audience. This has occurred because we do not blog Facebook or SoundCloud at KIS. In fact, we don't block any social media sites at KIS to encourage innovative collaboration among students and teachers. We don't recommend teachers friending students in social media sites, but we do encourage using features like groups and pages within social media sites. Many of our teachers supplement course instruction with Facebook groups; almost all of our clubs are ran by Facebook groups and most of these are student led. Below is a screen shot from my Film Makers club. More correctly, I should say the student's club, because three students who are passionate about film making approached me last fall about being an advisor for their club. Here are three students who are very passionate about a topic that used Facebook to promote and manage a club. Now there are 20 students in the club and they organize and arrange filming for club block and outside of club block via the Facebook page. They remind each other to bring costumes, props, equipment. This type of engagement could be done in Schoology or Edmodo, but the students prefer Facebook. They feel like they have ownership when they use the tool that they prefer, not the one we prefer. If you are blocking social media sites at your school, stop. You can tell yourself that you are protecting students and teachers; you can tell yourself that you are modeling best practice with technology; but in reality, you are simply slowing down the learning and collaboration for everyone.

Monday, March 11, 2013

School Law Case Study -- The Twenty Dollar Bill

As a part of School Law course for my MSE in Educational Leadership from ASU, Professor Curtner had students work on several case studies. I personally found these quite interesting and meaningful as a tool for leadership development. The scenario was supplied to me by Professor Curtner, but the answer is my original content. I hope this will generate some discussion about exactly how to handle a situation like this one in a school setting.

Scenario: “The Twenty Dollar Bill”
Debbie Mason stood in the hallway facing Mrs. Johnson and Mr. Hall. In her 2 years as assistant principal of Ridgewood Elementary School, Debbie had found Mrs. Johnson to be a reasonable and effective teacher. However, right now Mrs. Johnson did not appear reasonable. In fact, she was obviously angry and had sought the aid of Mr. Hall, who was quickly working up to her level of indignation. Just to make sure everything was clear, Mrs. Johnson restated her position: “No one is leaving here until I find out who stole the money!” Debbie quickly learned that Rebecca Smith, a student in Mrs. Johnson’s third-grade class, had informed Mrs. Johnson that someone had taken $20 from her book bag. After some questioning, Mrs. Johnson discovered that the bag had remained in the classroom during recess and had been in the classroom unsupervised for 5 to 10 minutes. Mrs. Johnson had vainly searched desks, book bags, papers, and books. She was now determined to enlist Mr. Hall in a “bathroom search” of the students in the class. Something about the idea of a “bathroom search” made Debbie anxious, but Mrs. Johnson seemed absolutely determined to find the money. 

Although it is easy to sympathize with Mrs. Johnson’s anger over the matter of the missing $20, she has placed the school in a difficult situation by searching book bags without individualized suspicion; any type of strip search will certainly be questioned by parents and will likely end up in court. Students do have a right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment. The US Supreme Court ruled in New Jersey v. T.L.O. that teachers and administrators do not need to have a warrant in order to search a students’ belongings, but school officials must have a reasonable cause to conduct a search. The more intrusive the search, the higher the standard of reasonableness; therefore, a strip search requires a very high standard of reasonableness, because it is a complete invasion of personal privacy.

When it comes to matters of student and staff safety, the right to search a student’s belongings or body is much easier to defend. For example in Brousseau v. Town of Westerly, a pat-down of several middle school students leaving the cafeteria was ruled justified because school administrators had found a large knife was missing from the kitchen. The only time strip searches should be conducted is if there is a clear and immediate threat to health or safety of students or staff. The matter of the missing $20 is sad, but no student or faculty member’s life is in danger.

Under the given scenario, the bathroom searches are ill-advised. In Watkins v. Millennium School District, a strip search of three third grade students was considered unreasonable. Although at the time the money went missing, there were only three students in the room, the court felt that a strip search for $10 was a ridiculous over step on the part of the teacher. Even if Mrs. Johnson had been able to narrow down the suspects to one or two students, she would have found it difficult to be considered reasonable. Violating the privacy of several students in a hunt for $20 is beyond the legal rights of the school. Even the search of the student desks on this scale is questionable at best. A teacher or administrator must have more than a simple hunch or gut-feeling in order to search desks. Had Mrs. Johnson or a student witnessed the theft, then searches of desks and book bags could be considered reasonable.

Debbie Mason should get control of the situation before more damage is done. As the assistant principal, she should instruct Mrs. Johnson calm down and continue class immediately; Mr. Hall should return to his room as well. Mason should then explain that she will call students out one at a time and talk with them, but only the students who returned from recess early. She will get the names of the students who returned from recess early from Mrs. Johnson. Hopefully, with some gentle questioning and no screaming or threatening, some students will be able to supply information that will lead to finding the missing $20. 

If the money is not recovered, she should write a letter to the parents apologizing for the loss of the money, but pointing out the section of the student handbook that states that students should never leave money in lockers, desks, or book bags unattended. Money can always be left with the building secretary who will place it in the school safe. Without at least one student stating that they witnessed the theft or heard another student talking about the money, there isn’t much that can be done. The principal should be informed of the entire situation.

Assuming that a student did witness the theft or heard another student talking about the money, then the student seen with the money or heard talking about the money should be questioned (possibly for the second time). The student’s book bag and desk have been searched, so if the student has taken the money it is possibly on his/her body. At this point, the principal should be informed of the situation. The principal and assist principal should consult the student handbook and follow the procedure listed. The parents of the student should be contacted. Any type of intrusive search is difficult to defend in court, so it is very important to seek the cooperation of parents. The situation should be explained to the parents and they should be asked for permission to have the child empty his/her pockets and remove his/her shoes. If the parents refuse to grant permission, then the child should be sent back to class with no further action taken. If the parents grant permission, then the very limited search of the pockets and shoes should be conducted. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Attention Posterous Refugees -- Posting via Email with Blogger

If you are a Posterous refugee as I am, you are probably missing the old ability to post via email. Guess what? You can do it in Blogger as well, you simply have to turn the feature on. The attached photo should help explain this, but go to your Blogger Dashboard. On the left navigation bar, go to Settings, and then to Mobile and Email. You will need to add some secret words between your username and for it to work. Now go write an email and send it to that email address and you are blogging via email again.

ELCC Standards for Educational Leadership as a Professional Development Tool

As I finish my MSE in Educational Leadership from ASU, I am busily working on creating my portfolio as part of my internship. The seven ELCC standards are mostly focused on students demonstrating competency in the various areas of school leadership. But once your internship is over, then what? This got me thinking about professional development for educational leaders. Are any schools, associations, or individuals using the ELCC as a vehicle for professional development? Because on the international school scene, I'm not seeing it.

It would be easy to do. As a school, the Leadership Team could focus on one of the standards they want to improve for a school year. They could develop a Leadership Portfolio as a team and include their artifacts that demonstrate forward progress in this area. Another option would to to create a portfolio for yourself as an educational leader. The same basic principle as the group portfolio would apply -- choose an area you would like to develop and include various artifacts that demonstrate your growth within that standard for the year. Making this portfolio public and open for faculty and peer review is an important idea. A blog would be an excellent method for sharing your portfolio with colleagues.

Professional development is an important tool in education and all members of the faculty and staff, including administrators, need to work on continual growth. The infamous life-long learning we keep hearing and talking about -- time to walk the walk! Be a real leader. Don't accept excuses from yourself that for too many educational leaders fall into. You know the ones I'm talking about.

  • I'm too busy to create a portfolio.
    • Everyone is too busy! Make time, be a leader, be an example, be a role model. It is your job!
  • I'm not a "blog" guy/gal.
    • It doesn't necessarily have to be a blog, but a blog is an easy and powerful tool for doing it. If you want your faculty using technology, you need to use technology. Finally, don't think of it as a blog, it is a public portfolio.
  • Portfolios and professional development are for my teachers, not me.
    • If you don't take ownership of professional development, how will your faculty? Your faculty and staff will work as hard as you do. If they perceive you are slack, they will be more slack. If they perceive you are a professional engaged in improving yourself, they will as well.

Monday, March 4, 2013

An Idea for Educational Leadership Professional Development

In my MSE program through ASU, I have worked on several case studies in Educational Leadership. Some were about community relations, some were about school law, and others were about student or faculty issues. I've posted a few examples on my blog. I realized how valuable they are as a professional development tool. Do any schools have leaders who use case studies as a PD tool? I'm envisioning group discussion focused on a case study. Talking through the situation and coming up with different solutions. We have students role play so that when a real situation occurs, they have the tools to deal with it. Why don't educational leaders to the same thing? Case studies are like an opportunity to role play a problem and think of the correct response ahead of time. Everyone is busy and the job can be overwhelming at times, but surely everyone can find an hour in a month to do this type of constructive PD with colleagues. If you can't get people in your school to buy in to the process, you can look for people in your PLN to share ideas with. I think this is a great idea and I'm hoping to develop a community forum of some type to expand this idea. Please let me know if you are interested in it.