Thursday, April 20, 2017

Time Management Tools -- Google Keep and Tasks

Do you have a problem with time or task management? Do you know a student or colleague that does? Do you have GSuite for education? If you answered yes to either of the first two questions and yes to the third question as well, then you are in luck, because you can actually solve the problem with GSuite. Google Keep is a rather new product from Google and I like to think of it as an Evernote-lite. Tasks exist in your Gmail account and you probably never notice them at all. Either one of these products can help your organize your time and tasks better.
This presentation walks through the basic features of each product and also makes a comparison of the two. The basic choice comes down to what you want to be able to do with your task list. Do you want to share it with others you are collaborating with? Then Keep is best option. Do you want to use it on your own (and possibly sent a list to someone)? Then Task is part of your Gmail account already, so why use another tab?

Monday, April 10, 2017

The 20th Anniversary!

March marked the 20th anniversary of my first trip to Korea. I had graduated from the University of Montana in December of 1996. It was the middle of the school year, so my option were limited. My choices were basically work another job and try to sub when I was available or to sub as much as possible. Neither option really appealed to me. And then it happened... I was walking through the education building and came to the announcement board. Someone had posted some EFL teaching positions available overseas in Korea and Japan. I spent the next few days doing some research with at the computer lab and found several options. The pay in general seemed a little better in Korea when the cost of living was factored in to the situation. I wrote an email to one of the recruiters. Within a week, I had signed a contract with a small language school in Dong-jin and my overseas career essentially began without me even really knowing it. The plan at the time was to get some practical teaching experience and then return for the U of MT job fair the following spring. My hope was still to work in Alaska.

The year passed with some great adventures and wonderful experiences to look back on. I returned to the US in late-March and picked up some volunteer work with the Office of Career Services where I had work in my work-study job. The job fair came in May and I was signed to be dorm advisory and sub in Galena, AK. During the summer, one of the teachers would back out of his/her contract and I switched to full-time teaching and living in the dorm. It was a crazy two years in rural Alaska and the itch to travel and live aboard resurfaced in Galena's -40F temperatures.

I was hired to work in Turkey where I met my wife, Aysem. We decided to leave Turkey together and traveled to Saipan to work at Saipan International School. After four years there, we went to a job fair and got hired to work at Korea International School. I was back in Korea and loving it. After a long run at KIS (seven years), we were offered the opportunity to return to SIS when I was hired to be the Headmaster. I thought for sure that my Korea days were behind me for good, but then the typhoon happened and we changed our minds about island life.

We started looking for work and finally landed at Cheongna Dalton School. We were back in Korea! It was like returning home. We have both been happy to be in Korea again and I strongly doubt that we will consider leaving again. In those 20 years, I've seen some amazing changes on the peninsula, but the basics have stayed the same. Korea is clean and wonderfully efficient; the culture is incredibly unique; and the people are diligent, intelligent, and kind. I've left Korea twice before, I don't think I'll leave a third time.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Innovation Takes Time

There is an old adage that is very true -- if you don't make time for it, it isn't important. Lately I've been seeing a load of articles, blog posts, and tweets about encouraging student innovation. I have nothing against it; in fact, I'm happy to see educators take notice of it. Innovation is a wonderful thing and if we really want students to understand the world of creative thinking, innovation is important... But are you making time for it? It follows all of the other initiatives that get thrown at us in field of education -- reflective practice, rigor, standards, the list could go on and on. We are really good at adding, but not so good at subtracting. It is a major problem. We cannot do it all. We can't. No, seriously, we can't do it all. At some point a quality leader will look at the amount of initiatives and say, "We are going to cut the number in half and do the items we decide to keep really, really well." Or at least that is what a quality leader should do, it doesn't happen too often in my experience. It is so easy to add more.

Which brings me back to innovation. Let me tell you something about innovation that I know is a fact -- it takes time. A lot of time. Innovation doesn't fit into 55 minute or 75 minute blocks very well. It is difficult to plan innovation, because to have novel ideas that can turn in to meaningful and useful products or programs, it requires the mind to be in a state flow. We basically need to be in a state of structured play. Play doesn't really work well without time to engage in it. So, are you planning time for students to play? To explore? To be fascinated by something? If you aren't, then innovation really isn't important to you or your institution and you should focus on something else. If you don't put time in the schedule, the message is that it isn't important. Period. End of story.