Friday, May 31, 2013

Social Media in Education at KIS

On May 28, 2013, I presented this Keynote at the Digital Educational Show Asia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This presentation supports my case study on how Korea International School uses social media to enhance student learning and motivation. If you would like more information about these material for your school, please feel free to contact me.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Leading by Example with regard to Evaluations

The old saying goes that the best teaching method is modeling behavior and I believe it is true. Which makes me wonder why so many international schools fail to have transparent evaluation processes for their leadership positions. I've been to three international schools as an employee and many more for conferences/workshops/presentations, and the rule has been a lack of evaluation for administrators. As a budding educational leader, I see this as a major hurdle in international education. How can we expect to judge the value of others, if we aren't held to the same standard? It is an ethical and professional dilemma in my mind. I know as educational leaders we are forced to make some tough decisions, and that those decisions leave us open to criticism that could be unfair or bias, but does that allow us to avoid transparent evaluation? I think not. 

In fact, it is more of a reason to have transparent evaluation and feedback avenues for faculty, staff, parents, and students. It is similar to the idea of a free press. When a truly free press exists, society's issues are aired openly and discussed in a public forum that allows for multiple view points. With a controlled media, the public feels disenfranchised from legitimate methods of discourse. This results in vandalism, violence, and revolt. A healthy democratic society, which I hope schools try to be, runs more smoothly with a free press. Think of transparent evaluation for administration as your school's free press; it allows the society to vent issues in a constructive manner rather than destructive.

West Virginia as developed a rubric and evaluation system for educational leaders that is an excellent starting point for schools that are looking to improve leadership and model reflective practice. I'm hoping that these type of systems become the norm in international schools in the future rather than the anomaly. In the past at KIS, Robin Schneider (@robin_ISH) used Google Forms to gather data on his job performance as the middle school principal, which was something I admired and appreciated about him. He was not required to do this by the school, but wanted to model reflective practice and the importance of evaluation for all teachers and administrators. It is too bad that his efforts ended after he left the school.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Teacher Evaluation

One of the biggest jobs of any leader is to help drive continual improvement within his/her institution. In US education they have decided that continual improvement should be done through teacher evaluation; even though the research on teacher evaluation has not demonstrated that is leads to improvement in instructional practices. According to Weisberg, Sexton, Mulhern, and Keeling (2009) teacher evaluation does not recognize good teaching, leaves poor teaching unaddressed, and does not inform decision-making in any meaningful way. In addition Duffett, Farkas, Rotherham, and Silva (2008) state that three of four teachers report that their evaluation process has virtually no impact on their classroom practice. Together you have a fairly serious argument for ditching teacher evaluation as a method for school improvement. When 75% of teachers state that evaluation doesn't impact their teaching, but this is the approved method the government wants to use to improve education, something is rotten in the state of educational research. Clearly we need to do something differently in order to improve student learning, and possibly that something different is to focus on learning, not teaching. The April 2013 issue of Educational Leadership is focused on the role of the principal and the articles have some excellent research based approaches and strategies for the improvement of student learning and institutional improvement.

Duffett, A., Farkas, S., Rotherham, A. J., & Silva, E. (2008). Waiting to be won over: Teacher speak on the profession, unions, and reform. Washington, DC: Educational Sector.
Weisberg, D., Sexton, S., Mulhern, J., & Keeling, D. (2009). The widget effect: Our national failure to recognize differences in teacher effectiveness. New York: New Teacher Project.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

2013 Summer Bucket List

House in BozKoy, Karaburun, Izmir, Turkey.
I've been noticing some folks in my PLN sharing out their 2013 Summer Bucket List and the idea intrigued me, so here goes my list. We will be heading to Turkey for the summer to finish furnishing our house. I will begin the list there:

  1. Furnish the house in Bozkoy. It seems like a lame task to many people probably, but it is very important for us to finish. The good news is that we should be finished with everything in a week or two and then we will be able to enjoy the house for the rest of the summer.
  2. Begin the landscaping around the house. For this summer, I don't expect to accomplish too much, but it would be great to get some top soil down and have at least 7-8 trees planted around the house. In addition we want to add some cacti along the back wall near the road to act as a natural fence.
  3. Finish reading Schooling by Design. The Leadership team at KIS has been reading the book this year and I'd like to be on the same page as them with regard to planning the future of KIS's EdTech team.
  4. Reflect on Out of Our Minds. Several of the faculty at KIS formed a think-tank to read Sir Robinson's book and discuss how creativity can be merged with the culture of learning at KIS. Due to several projects and conferences, I was unable to attend many of the meetings, but I want to take some time this summer and reflect on the book and what it means to us as educators. I'm envisioning some blog posts about this topic in the future.
  5. Study my Turkish more diligently. I have several relatives and friends in Turkey and now that I'm also a home owner, it is time to get serious about learning this language. It is nice to be able to get around and order things, but I want to be able to hold an actual conversation with someone. There is no better place than the village to do it, because nobody speaks English out there. My goal for the summer is to be able to communicate with a local villager that I don't already know for a full three to five minutes in Turkish. I have a great app for this by the way that works on both iOS and Android.
  6. Music and Movie production. Everybody needs some down time to engage in hobbies and creating music and movies are mine, so I'm giving myself an opportunity to do both as part of my summer bucket list. I will create at least five completely new songs inspired by Karaburun and I will create two three-five minute movies about the villages and/or village lifestyle. I've actually wanted to make a couple of short films about Bozkoy and Karaburun for years, but whenever we are back, we are always too busy doing something; this time I'm going to do it.
  7. International Ethical Educational Leadership website. This is something I want to plan during the summer and then launch in the fall. Sadly, I've seen some fairly dubious behavior in international educational leadership. Don't get me wrong, I've seen some amazing leaders, too, but I think overall international educational leaders could really step up their game with regard to ethics. The plan is to form a website community that would share case studies about situations with ethical dilemmas and then discuss our solutions to the dilemmas to encourage discourse and pre-reflection. Pre-reflection? Yes, to think through or role play a scenario that could happen to consider better solutions and alternatives before an actual problem occurs. This way, when a sticky situation does happen in real life, you can stop and reflect on things you role played before and have a better list of options to choose from than the ones that come to mind in the heat of the moment. I know, I'm a nerd.
If I can accomplish the seven items on this list, I will feel like it has been a very productive summer and I will return to KIS renewed.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

#beyondlaptops 2013 Take-Aways

     It has been a busy couple of weeks since the Beyond Laptops conference finished at YIS, but I have been thinking seriously about what went down and how it will impact KIS and me. But before I allow myself to wander aimlessly in writing, I'd like to thank all the attendees for sharing their thoughts and experiences for the collective good. "We all improve together," should be the motto of international schools. Of course, I'd like to say thanks to Kim Cofino (@mscofino). Without her passion for learning and amazing organizational skills, there simply couldn't be a Beyond Laptops conference. And finally, I'd like to thank the leadership of Yokohama International School. The vision to understand that hosting a conference (and picking up the tab on it) helps your community improve is a rare sight in these days. Thank you.
     After looking over last year's take-aways, I noticed that I still felt there was a need to break the bell schedule to allow more freedom for students to pursue their passions. On an upside, KIS has made some movement in the secondary school with regard to breaking the bell schedule. Next year we will be piloting a "free block" with seniors; although many of the juniors have said they would use the time to study and work on other courses, there are a few who mentioned pursuing other interests that the normal schedule doesn't currently allow. My plan is to approach a small group of seniors and offer the opportunity to explore something they are passionate about with support from a teacher (me). Hopefully with a few successes, the idea will spread and we can move toward more freedom for the students as a whole. The middle school is developing an experiential learning program to have some time without walls for the students. Progress! Along the same topic, the discussions with students also reminded me that we need to listen to them. They have valuable information about their learning, their goals, and their motivations that are beyond value to us as their teachers.
     After our discussions at this year's Beyond Laptops, I felt all four of the KIS members left with a reaffirmation of the importance of visionary leadership in education. If a school has a strong vision of what good learning is then changes in devices and strategic plans are less worrisome, because the vision will remain the same. As we discussed last year's conference, we shouldn't focus on the device or technology, but the learning. If we are focused on good learning, we will be heading in the right direction no matter what happens. Focus on learning and transferable skills and you will not go wrong, nor be held hostage by a certain device.
     Other big ideas that occurred to me were about cafeteria food and an accreditation portfolio for schools. Allow me to elaborate on the cafeteria topic first. Zest Catering makes the very best cafeteria food I have ever tasted. Period. End of story. Game over. But seriously, feeding students healthy, delicious food is a very important issue. We should be offering students healthy choices for lunch, it is a life style we are developing. My family has a history of adult onset diabetes because of poor dietary choices. If I had been raised and encouraged to eat healthier, possibly I wouldn't be staring a future date with diabetes in the face right now. I'm sure my brother, father, and mother could have put off their health problems until later in life. We, as educators, need to do a better job of teaching healthy lifestyle choices with regard to food to our students. OK, I'm off the soapbox.
     The last big take-away is about how most schools choose to handle accreditation visits and how they could do a much, much better job. We have students create portfolios to demonstrate their learning and growth over time, so why don't schools do it? That's right, build a portfolio for accreditation. Instead of looking at the calendar and suddenly realizing that the accreditation team is visiting in two weeks and then running around like a chicken with your head cut off, continually build upon what your school has done and is doing. It would be a much richer process and accreditation would actually do what it is intended to be -- a process of growth, change and improvement. #justsaying