“Optimizer responsibility is the positive, inspirational emotion that leaders bring, especially when confronted with meaningful change (Marzano).” We all know that change is inevitable, just as well that we know how difficult change is to accept – indeed, one of the most foundations of humanistic contrasts. Regardless, as leaders, encouragement to embrace, perhaps even search out change (and subsequent failed events) can be a powerful approach. If possible, selling the concept of change can be more palatable when presented in parallel with efficiency models. Everyone wants to save time, even when we know that the chances are we will quickly fill up our every waking minute.
One potential change agent aligns well with the type of work that we do everyday as teachers. The ability to be able to capture our voice and movement can be accomplished with an application called Screencasting. Screencasting allows you – and/or your students – to write or draw on a device and talk about what you are doing. This could be a conceptual lesson, or a student sharing how they are currently able to apply concepts. The outcome is an mp4 audio file, which can be reviewed, reflected, shared and ideally both teacher and student (and/or parent) used to monitor misconceptions, level of understanding and skill sets.
There are several companies who offer screencasting apps at low costs, which include ExplainEverything (creates an mp4 file); Show Me (specific audio file on their website), and screen-cast-o-matic.
- Email is probably the most common form of asynchronous communication that occurs today. The convenience has allowed it to become overused to the point that people delete without reading. Thus, the user must ensure emails are sent only to those who need it, use subject lines that indicate the importance, and ideally require some sort of action. Otherwise, email may be overlooked.
- Infographics provide information at a glance with pictures and statistics that make lots of information easy and quick to grasp. Statistically speaking, people are much more likely to remember data presented with graphics and numbers than with one or the other.
- Instagram provides immediate posting of a picture than can be worth more than words, and allows for it to be posted simultaneously on Facebook and Twitter if set to do so.
- Facebook is a great way to share school information with not only faculty and staff, but parents and the community. Why? Facebook allows you to set up a website, post information, create groups, share photos, send invitations, and most importantly, reaches a large community of followers simply because so many people already use Facebook. They will get information from Facebook before they will go the extra step to go to a school’s official website, because it reduces the number of places they have to go for information. Most websites allow for certain postings to be automatically posted to a Facebook account as well, if set to do so.
- Twitter is generally used for asynchronous communication for posting links, comments, pictures, or combinations. These are generally sent in the midst of an event so information can be shared instantaneously.
- Instant Messaging/Texting/Chatting
- Podcasts are digital audio recordings that can be uploaded to iTunes or other similar sites. Users can listen or download at their convenience, or may choose to set up an RSS feed to get updates each time there is something new. . Links to them can be posted on other social media such as Twitter & Facebook for immediate access. Consider the weekly callouts some leaders make to the phones of stakeholder; if podcasts were used instead, even those without phones or those whose numbers have changed could access the podcasts at their convenience.
- Blogs such as this are also ways to provide ongoing communication and allow for feedback or comments. Blogger and the tool we are using, WordPress are two such resources. A blog provides a history of communication that is searchable and in general, informative, and allows for inclusion of graphics, polls, calendars, and other widgets.
Communication and Collaboration. As educators, we hear (and speak) these two words frequently and believe that these are two areas are ones which we can always improve upon! Communication has an impact in every area of teaching, learning and leadership, so attention to effective communication is key to being a successful leader. Today all it takes is one Tweet, email, Facebook, Vine, YouTube, or Instagram post and some version of a message is communicated (perhaps not the most important aspect of the message). Depending on the audience, the message through these modes of communication will reach people at different times. Rather than discuss the importance and impact of how, when, where, why and to whom to communicate, this post will focus only on free resources to support effective communication and collaboration. First we will share free and relevant resources which include:
- Face to Face (F2F): Often best, but not always possible when timing and distance are factors. These options make F2F virtually possible and depending on familiarity with the tools can provide more options than F2F (recording for others to view later):
- Skype desktop videoconferencing allows you to see and hear the person with whom you are meeting, share your desktop, chat and send links or view files, and maintain a personal relationship while being miles or continents apart.
- Google Hangouts allows for video conferencing, sharing of documents, and recording of the sessions to view later
- WebEx (free version) allows for sharing for up to 7 people with live video; recording of the session, and sharing of documents, information, and resources
- Virtual F2F: Second Life is for the bold leader. It is possible for educators to meet, teach, learn, and share. High end users may choose to pay to set up places to teach students, and amazing interaction happens! If you have never experienced a virtual world, I challenge you to test it, and determine for yourself if “seeing” another person (avatar) and having a conversation doesn’t evoke internal signals similar to what you experience in real life (IRL).
- Google Voice allows one to do several things. Participants can use voice only, or use voice and chat to have on-going synchronous conversations.
- Skype will allow voice only; great for when you’re out of the office but need to connect but prefer not to be seen, or have less than stellar wi-fi access for high quality video.
Let’s hangout or chat sometime! See you in the virtual world?
Marzano states that “specific feedback is critical to teacher success, therefore subsequent student success.” The ever-pursuit of quality in everything we do is highly sought and it is well known that it requires substantial amount of time. Assessing behaviors of ourselves, our educators and learners is essential, and somehow we need to find the time and methods to monitor, evaluate and provide useful feedback as often and critical as possible. Technology can assist in our pursuits in offering more efficient methods to gather data, especially meaningful qualitative data, which can be difficult to measure. To be able to fully monitor our outcomes, we need rich, humanistic data gathered on how educators interact with learners. More than student evaluations or administrators standardized classroom observations, the ability to allow educators to create media-rich e-Portfolios, which can be shared and peer reviewed for the educator to further reflect upon and continuously improve upon.
Examples of applications, which can help us gather and share our instructional activity include:
- Explain Everything screencasting to create active presentations, which can be shown in class, and/or at home;
- Google Drive for storing, sharing, editing and presenting our efforts;
- Edmodo can facilitate communication between teachers, as well as hold discussions about teaching and learning;
- Nearpod allows teachers to engage, create and assess their own unique approach;
- Class Dojo, allows teachers to monitor and give feedback instantly; and
- Duolingo is one of the best apps for those of us who wish to add another language.
Of course, we can always use a variety of Blogs, Wikis, Twitter, Social Networking, Websites, etc. to capture, share and gain feedback from our colleagues.
Intellectual stimulation is an exciting concept, which most, if not all of us as educators have eagerly engaged in the past, however, we may find it increasingly difficult to maintain regular interaction with applied research on teaching and learning. Marzano defines this as “learning about learning and inspiring the organization to grow, which allow educators to experiment and implement new effective instructional strategies.” I would predict that most of us recall times in our lives, when we were able to engage in exciting conversations about teaching and learning, especially aligned with direct interaction with our students. I have observed many of these moments of ‘saving the world’ when teaching large Introduction to Education courses for preservice teachers. A combination of reality, over-worked, politics, red-tape bureaucracy, etc., etc., etc. can quickly help us forget why we selected education as our passion and quest. We certainly do not have all of the answers, however one way to remind ourselves of our passion is to find ways to talk about the art and science of teaching and learning with our colleagues.
To help, there are many Research and Reference Tools that we can incorporate into our PLN. These tools range from ways to organize and share to connecting resources and thoughts with colleagues. Some useful and free tools include:
- Thinkature, offers real-time collaboration online for creating PLNs;
- PBwiki will create an easy-to-update digital footprint;
- del.icio.us allows us to save favorite sites and share with your PLN;
- Gliffy creates and shares flowcharts, diagrams and infographics;
- Exploratorium Digital library offers digital collections; and
- SONIC is Library of Congress’s Sound Online Inventory & Catalog.
Marzano states that it is the Instructional Leaders beliefs that shape the culture of the campus and creates (or not ) followership. Leadership beliefs are derived from many sources. Through their educational experience, work experience and personal experience. Finding a way to capture all of these experiences and developing the tools to share them when appropriate may be the challenge. There is a great TED video on how to create a movement by Derek Sivers. In this video, he shares a video of a movement taking place as he analyzes and narrates. The example may seem odd at first, however, when it is broken down into component parts, I believe that most of us can translate this experience into our leadership goals. We all want to see a movement of ideas, especially if they are embraced in the way in which the video portrays.
So, the question is, “will you be a lone nut?”
One relatively recent movement is on creating digital citizens. Integrating appropriate, relevant and meaningful (ARM) instructional technology into teaching and learning is, of course, on-going and important. However, what is the ARM outcome of using technology? Ideally usability is one outcome, as well as creating digitally literate citizens with significant and appropriate digital footprints. Creating thousands of text messages or Facebook posts may create the illusion of a digital footprint, however, it may not functionally demonstrate the outcomes and abilities of our learners. In addition to these approaches to technology, along with gaming and other personal uses of technology, we should be integrating technology which enhances productivity, access, business acumen and perhaps even coding. There are several resources, which can assist with this approach, which include: