Saturday, February 25, 2012

Technology is Good - Now What?

According to a study by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released on Edudemic, teachers admit that classroom magazines and books (other than textbooks), along with digital resources such as web-based programs and technology, engage students in learning and help with student academic achievement.

Edudemic - See the study results here

While I agree with the results personally, I have not witnessed such an overwhelming feeling in my particular school. We have several teachers who are "old-school" in their teaching methodology. Some still lecture all 42 minutes while others attempt some activities but they mostly use the textbook. Perhaps some of the hesitation for implementing technology comes from fear of the unknown or limited exposure to the positive tools available. Because they do not choose the technology does not make them poor teachers; in fact, several are very good teachers. My question concerning these teachers is how can I, as an administrator, encourage and give the tools needed to attempt incorporating technology?

For a moment, let us assume these statistics represent the entire US teaching population. If so, what is the next step? Are we actively trying to implement more classroom magazines and books as well as technology into our schools? The cost of such materials can be astronomical and many school leaders or school boards do not understand the value of these purchases. If the leaders are not against technology, another obstacle can be the parents who have a limited knowledge of the benefits of such techniques.

Ultimately, the materials in the classroom are just one piece of the puzzle. The technology and other resources can certainly be a huge advantage to motivating students toward learning, but the teacher is the most vital. The teacher must facilitate learning and provide an academic environment even if he/she has absolutely no materials in the arsenal. We cannot put all our eggs in the "technology basket" without developing teachers who are skilled and passionate about education. With the properly trained and gifted teacher and the best tools including technology, our schools could improve drastically.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An Age-Old Teacher Dilemma - Procrastination!

In addition to being a Vice Principal, I am also teaching AP English Literature this year. I am once again reminded of the many teenage tendencies that frustrate a teacher. After talking to other teachers, I am encouraged that I am not alone in these frustrations. Understanding that "no man is an island entire unto himself" is comforting, however it does not cause the frustrations to cease. So, I come here to question if there is anything we can do to change this behavior.

One such behavior is the innate ability to procrastinate. Now I know I still have some of that tendency in me as an adult... at least in certain areas of life. For instance, when it comes to making doctor's appointments I have earned a Master's Degree in Procrastination. However, teenagers procrastinate incessantly. For example, I assigned my students a novel to read four weeks ago. They were able to chose a novel from a list and will now be using that novel to develop a research question and write a complete research paper. Out of my five students, the majority didn't begin reading the book until last week. As a teacher, I want to say "next year, I'll give my students a week to read a novel" but that is certainly not the proper response. Another teacher in our building has her seniors finishing their research papers. Since they are due tomorrow, many English teachers from years past had students asking for editing help today and the library computers were filled to capacity during lunch with furious typing fingers.

So my question remains, how can teachers deal with the procrastination present in the student body? If we give less time to accomplish tasks, parents will complain and it will also punish the few diligent students who use the time wisely. Are teenagers, whose brains have not fully developed, able to properly manage time and foresee consequences of procrastinating? Considering the procrastination factor, how can teachers effectively teach using projects or long-term assignments?

There you have it... my musings for today. Comment on this post if you see the same thing in your school or if you have any helpful tips for the rest of us.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Twitter to Connect Administrators with Parents?

I recently attended a webinar discussing the use of social media to connect administrators with parents. I admit, I have a variety of fears and concerns with this concept although I am sure it has mighty benefits as well. Whenever a new concept comes along, I must weigh the pros and cons.

1. Immediate access to information between parents and administrators is a huge benefit. Tweeting to parents about delays in transportation, upcoming field trips, assembly announcements, etc can only be a good thing.
2. If our families are comfortable communicating with social media and this is they way they typically communicate with others, to communicate in any other way is destined to fail. If social media is the most affective, it needs to be utilized.
3. Using social media also puts the school in a positive light using 21st century technology. A school without a webpage at this point is viewed to be in the "dark-ages". How long will it be until a school without a facebook or twitter will be looked down upon?

1. Opening up communication in such a public forum can lead to problems. The negative-nelly parents will be given full reign for their complaints in public. It mimics having an open mic outside the school for everyone to hear.
2. Some of our families are very anti-social media in their homes because of the amount of junk on these sites. I agree that there is junk present, but there are also ways to avoid the majority of it.
3. As with any technology endeavor, it requires a supportive IT department. I believe twitter is blocked on our computers at school right now so I'd have to completely sell the idea to the "powers that be" on the importance. Otherwise, I'd have to tweet from my smartphone.

I don't know where I stand right now on the topic, but it sure does have me thinking. What do you think?
As a parent, would you like updates from school via twitter?
As an educator, do you see value in such an endeavor? 
Please leave a comment below to let me know what you think.


Last night, I finally began using Evernote on my PC, laptop, and Android. This program allows you to create lists, notes, voice recordings, scanned handwritten notes, etc into one location where you can access it anywhere via the internet. Another nice feature is the search ability factor. You type in what you are looking for and it will find all occurrences throughout your documents.

So, how would one use Evernote? I have begun a work folder, home folder, and medical folder. This allows me to separate my notes into a system similar to a file cabinet. As I walk through the halls at school and encounter a teacher with a question, I can jot myself a note or use the voice recorder to remind myself to follow up. I can make a grocery list for home or keep track of how much chore money I owe my daughter. With my new medical issues, keeping a journal of symptoms will come in handy at every doctor's appointment. Rather than carrying a notebook everywhere I go, I can easily log into Evernote on my phone or computer and list my symptoms each day. 

No matter how you chose to use it, Evernote appears to be a one-stop shop for organization. I'll update everyone in a few weeks of how it is working for me. Until then, check it out for yourself.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Approximately 5 years ago....

Once upon a time... approximately 5 years ago, it all began. The administration at Calvary Christian Academy approached me about joining the administrative team. I was teaching English at the time and I must admit my initial reaction was laughter. I thought "how many administrators do they need?"

5 years later, I am so glad I left the classroom and joined the team. I have been a Vice Principal since August 2006 and have learned a ton in that time period. Much has changed in the past five years. I now have two children (ages 6 and 3), a Master's Degree in Educational Administration, and very different views of education and administration.

Looking back, here are five specific lessons learned:

1. Never underestimate the power of prayer - even in the realm of education. I am privileged to work in a Christian school where prayer is not only allowed, but expected. I have lost count of the amount of meetings with students, parents, or teachers that I expected to be horrendous and after prayer, I get to sit back and watch God work in me and through me.

2. Teachers can never understand the life of administrators. This is why I laughed when asked to join the team initially. From my perspective, all the administrators did was break for lunch in an office at the same time everyday. However, administrators cannot forget what the life of a teacher involves. In all my dealings with teachers, I need to constantly remind myself of what life was like and what I valued as a teacher. It makes all the difference.

3. I don't know it all. Sitting in a position of "power" makes it easy to become prideful. Each day I am reminded that there are others with wonderful ideas - teachers and students alike. I must be open to the thoughts of others both within my school and beyond.

4. Times are changing and education must change too. The biggest downfall of educators is to get stuck in a rut. I've seen plenty of teachers come and go that are unwilling to change the way they attempt to reach the student. While the curriculum and content of education stays the same or increases, the methods of motivation and ways in which we reach our students need to expand with the times. This includes technology and other means as well.

5. Education is all about the students. If you talk with students in my school, I would hope they admit that my door is open to them. I am typically in the hallways during the passing time between periods. I visit the cafeteria, wander into classrooms, and engage students in conversations daily. If it weren't for the children, there would be no purpose. I hope to never lose sight of that truth.

As I continue in my role of Vice Principal, I desire to continue on my quest to become the best educational administrator I can be. This blog is my way to contemplate personal lessons, question educational theory, connect with other educators, and write down my thoughts. Students are not the only ones who need to learn.