“Inspiration” for the #SDUHSDchat October 13, 2015, 8:00-8:30PM

UntitledI’m excited to be moderating my district’s Twitter chat next week. I’ve had co-hosting duties with some amazing educators from the San Dieguito Union High School District for more than a year now, and #SDUHSDchat is an event I look forward to.

With wit and occasional wisdom, educators from across my district (as well as a few others who know it’s a safe place to make a point, learn a bit, or crack wise) gather to share ideas and inspiration, and to know that we’re not alone in our classrooms or offices; we’re part of a dynamic community whose purpose is to educate kids.

With an eye toward highlighting those connections, my topic on the 13th is “Inspiration! Where do you draw online  inspiration (and information)?

I’ve got four questions for the half hour chat, and if you’re reading this I’d encourage you to take a look and see if you’d be willing to join the conversation. The questions:

  • Q1 You’re here on Twitter right now. Who are two educators you follow and why?
  • Q2 What is the most valuable content you find online? Where do you regularly find it?
  • Q3 Is there a blogger or a particular post that you would recommend to a colleague? What? Why?
  • Q4 How often are you interactive on social media? Is it as valuable to “lurk” or is it important to engage?”

It’s not cheating to start ahead of time. Writing out answers and saving them (with the hashtag SDUHSDchat) is totally okay! I love it when I can get a head start, knowing that my main answers are set and I can put more energy into the responses I can offer to what other folks have to say.

The risk is low; the reward is high.

I’m not sure what will happen on the 13th. Part of the fun of a Twitter chat is the unexpected. But I do hope that when it’s all said and done, we’ll all walk away with the names of a few folks to seek out online, a blog to follow, a couple of Twitter handles that might provide some inspiration. Heck, I’m optimistic that we might even leave inspired to add our own voices to the greater conversation.

See you on Tuesday at eight o’clock!

 

The next #SDUHSDchat takes place on October 13, 2015 from 8:00-8:30 PM. Come on by and sit a spell. 

#FF

I find that more and more my professional development comes via Twitter. The professional educators I follow (as well as some folks not technically in the education business, but who write about thinking and doing) are amazing identifiers of meaningful content. From their feeds I see links to articles and blogs that provide me insight, inspiration, and ideas. Among those I follow, there are a few whose blog posts I always look forward to reading. My top three include a teacher in my district, a ToSA just up the road, and a daring librarian across the country.

karneyDiegueño Middle School teacher Jacquelyn Karney’s blog http://mrskarneysenglishblog.blogspot.com/ never ceases to make me smile. A great example of a passionate teacher’s foray into online communication, it is part celebration, part confessional, and part handbook for new teachers. My favorite line of all time came from a post on school projects, when she said “What really gets my goat is that teachers say to use things you have around the house for the aforementioned projects.  We have lots of dog hair, leftover lasagna, and dirty laundry around the house.  We do not have a Costco sized case of sugar cubes, we do not have pipe cleaners, we do not have clay, we do not have lion figurines.” Wit and wisdom in equal measure.

kfWit, wisdom, and technology find a home at http://sduhsdtech.blogspot.com/ my district’s edtech blog, managed by Teacher on Special Assignment Kevin Fairchild. Collected here are smart posts on everything from “Cell Phones in the Classroom” to the folly of “Locking Down the Browser” during tests. Go back a bit on this blog and you’ll find some thoughtful entries from teachers from around our district. Keep up with it, and you’re sure to come away with something you can use.

For inspiration and good humor, I turn to http://www.thedaringlibrarian.com/ whose blog is consistantly delightful and provides me with both hope and perspecitve. Writing from a middle school in Maryland, her take on schools and schooling pushes me as a principal to think, see others’ points of view, and celebrate the great things happening on my own campus.

daringI wish I could make two of her posts required reading: “How to Train Your (New) Principal” captures the spirit of a new principal coming to a school. As a fellow who has done this twice in the past two years, I can say from experience that I’ve always been thankful for the teachers and staff who have brought to life the advice she provides.

Her post “The Art of the Follow” is a marvelous primer for any educator thinking about her digital footprint. It’s one I wish I’d happened upon earlier in my Twittering life, but things happen as they should, so maybe it’s simply my job to spread the word that this is a great resource for up and coming Twitterbugs out there!

Taken together, these three bloggers provide a great example of what’s right in education today. Honest, passionate, and clever too, these voices for hope make my professional life richer every week and inspire me to add my voice to the greater conversation.

#mozzarella

photo (7)One night I think it was just me and two nice teachers from Escondido. They were kind to me, answering questions, bantering a bit. It felt, by the end, like I’d made some friends.

Not every experiment in social media is an immediate success. #SDUHSDchat, my district’s foray into Twitter chat, is still a work in progress.

Like the others who have banded together to get #SDUHSDchat up and tweeting (a ToSA, a fellow site administrator, and a pair of strong teachers), I see in this weekly multi-school conversation great potential to strengthen the ties that bind our district together, to share innovative ideas about teaching and learning, and to support and inspire each other in our profoundly important work.

If people come.

And so, with an eye toward broadening participation, and knowing that nothing draws educators like free food, this Tuesday (1/13) #SDUHSDchat will break through the fourth wall and we’ll do our best to lure some dynamic (and hungry) teachers to join us for a #PizzaChat!

Our plan is to meet here at Diegueño, bring in enough pepperoni and cheese to feed the masses, and help teachers and other district educators feel comfortable with (and maybe even inspired to try) Twitter in good company, in an afternoon version of our scheduled #SDUHSDchat. I like that our chat is half an hour long, not a huge commitment, but enough to provide some connections and ideas to take into the week ahead.

For folks not familiar with a Twitter chat, we’ll explain how using the #SDUHSDchat hashtag can connect them with comments from a host of educators, some from our district and some beyond. We’ll reassure them that they can lurk, and encourage them to try dipping their proverbial toe in the water, and celebrate their participation. We’ll show any who don’t yet have a Twitter account how to set one up, and learn from those who are already tweeting how to build our Personal Learning Networks (PLNs).

chatrevisedI’ve heard Twitter described as a place where people become colleagues without ever working at the same place. I like this, and I’ve found it to be true. And for those who haven’t tried Twitter, I’m optimistic that by starting face to face we might be able to lessen any anxiety about an unfamiliar tool.

I see the possibility of more teachers taking advantage of each others’ knowledge and insight online after they’ve had the low stakes high carb introduction of our #PizzaChat. I have high hopes for the discussion, both online and over grease stained paper plates, on Tuesday.

…and I hope that those two teachers from Escondido will stop by the Twitter part of the chat too. Heck, if they drive out to Diegueño, I’ll give them some pizza.

 


For any SDUHSD teachers who might be interested, you should be getting an RSVP form emailed to you soon. If you don’t, check with your site administrator, so we can know you’re coming. This should be a fun afternoon, beginning at 3:30 on 1/13, at Diegueño Middle School.

Turkey Day

horseThere are times in the life of a school site administrator when things happen that are so goofy it feels like I’m being pranked: the knock on the door to interrupt a meeting with the news that every toilet on campus was overflowing just hours before back to school night, the report that someone had made a full sized origami sword, and word that students were unloading a life sized horse statue in the parking lot have all interrupted me in the last few years. All turned out to be true, but they’re hard to believe until you look the golden horse in the eye.

It’s a little like that online too, with the idea that folks actually read this blog and look at my tweets an odd notion, at least until I meet them in person. Sure I get the occasional comment on a post and the retweet of a photo or link, but the disconnect that exists can be a tough gap to bridge.

A parent helped me see the impact of my social media outreach at one of the first Coffee with the Principal meetings I held this fall. She came up to me at the end of the morning and said “I feel like I know you. I read your blog!”

I was happy to see a smile with the introduction. It’s always my hope that anyone reading can get a sense of who I am and where I work as they’re getting my take on any particular educational topic. We talked for a bit and I realized how important it was for me, in my first year as principal at Diegueño Middle School, to work hard to be more than a guy in a tie. Face to face meetings are great for this, and increasingly so too is having an online presence where I can give people a chance to know who this fellow is who is working with their kids.

It’s not just parents, of course, who have access to social media, and about a week ago the work that I do to show off the great teaching and learning going on at Diegueño was validated when a teacher from another campus told me: “You have such a great school culture.”

My first thought was, yes I do. My next thought was, you haven’t ever visited Diegueño. I asked her why she said that and she told me that she’d been watching my tweets and read my “Dad Magic” post. “There’s such a great energy at Diegueño,” she told me. “You can just tell.”

To show off that energy, I try my best to tweet every day, posting a photo or short description of what’s happening on campus. This has led to more than a few students who follow my Twitter feed, and even a handful who see me walk in to their science class and point to the lab they’re working on with the refrain: “Tweet us!” There is a great energy on campus, and it’s a pleasure to be able to share it with the world.

Social media allows me to celebrate my school in a way I couldn’t have a generation ago. In seconds I can have a photo of a great student project up in the twittersphere. In minutes I can have a short post on something fantastic I saw in a classroom. Over time I can help stitch together the individual squares of what’s happening on campus and develop the quilt that shows the beauty of my school.

Of course there are still days I feel like I’m being pranked.

Just a few weeks ago I checked on the stats for my blog. I don’t do it every day, but occasionally I like to get a sense of how many folks a looking at the posts. One feature of the report is where the views are coming from, mostly the US, with an occasional Canadian curious about US education, and handful of folks from Mexico.

When I looked that morning, however, the report had me puzzled and thinking of who might have the wherewithal to pull together the joke I was looking at: 16 views, 6 from Turkey.

Now I’m not going to say that my blog wouldn’t appeal to Turkish educators, but I will admit that Istanbul Unified School District isn’t my target audience.

turkeyI was never able to figure out why I had the blip of popularity in the Ottoman Empire, but it was a nice reminder that social media has a reach well beyond a photocopied flyer or all call to parents.

As I tell my school’s story I do well to keep my target audience in mind and also allow that once I hit “publish” anyone can have a look. Some might even be wearing a fez.

SDUHSDchat

On Tuesday evening I’ll host my first SDUHSDchat of the school year. For those folks who don’t know what a Twitter Chat is, think of a group of educators all sitting around a table discussing a topic, dividing about half an hour into answering four questions. Now imagine that the table is so large that everyone can gather around it, that everyone who wants to speak gets a chance, and people who’d rather just listen can do so without feeling awkward.

Twitter isn’t a social media that everyone uses, though I’d wager the majority of those reading this post have at least a passing familiarity. For educators it’s been a boon to professional development and connections. In my district we’ve joined the growing number of teachers and administrators who host a weekly online meeting place where we can exchange ideas with each other (and with anyone interested in joining the conversation).

Led by a Teacher on Special Assignment, a math teacher, an English teacher, and a middle school principal (that’s me), SDUHSDchat is a low risk way for teachers and those interested in teaching to come together for thoughtful (and sometimes witty) talk about the world of education today.

Heck, as a parent I think I’d be curious what teachers and other educators in my student’s school and district had to say about things.

And it’s easy.

It doesn’t even take a Twitter account to follow along on the string of short posts in the “chat,” just click on twitter.com/#SDUHSDchat at 8:00pm on Tuesday (9/23) and watch what people have to say. If you want to join in the conversation (and it’s really worth doing, even if it’s just to add a short thought or two) then you need a Twitter account, which is free, easy, and fun. Just go to: twitter.com.

For anyone with any anxiety about Twitter, a friend showed me this article that helped me wrap my head around what tweeting is all about. You may want to take a look at: Mom, This is How Twitter Works. It’s funny and informative at the same time. Who could ask for more?

Well, you say, I could ask for more… I don’t want to be caught flat footed when all this “chatting” starts up. You could tell me the topic! You could even give me a peek at the questions, so I can get ready and feel comfortable before I try this thing out.

Done and done.

This week’s SDUHSDchat is about “Motivating Students / Classroom Management.” I put that slash in between the two terms on purpose, thinking some would see it as an “and” and others as an “or.” Some would start thinking about how the two are related; I think they are. Some would say you can’t have one without the other. All cool starting points!

Now, the questions… I’m still polishing these up a bit (it’s not yet Tuesday night), but what I have right now (spaced 5-7 minutes apart) is…

 

  • What is the relationship between motivating students and classroom management?
  • What has worked best to motivate your students this school year?
  • What classroom management challenges have been the greatest this year, and how have you addressed them?
  • What are the most important elements in a classroom with good classroom management and motivated students?

 

I might adjust the questions a little before we go live on Tuesday. I’d really like to weave in something on Growth Mindsets (while still being sensitive that not everyone is super familiar with Carol Dweck’s work). But this gives you a head start.

So what do you think? Feel adventurous? Want to dip your toe in the water? I’d love to hear what you have to say, and think you might find it fun too. We’re all part of this grand adventure that is education for the same reason: the kids, and SDUHSDchat is just another way we can help support each other. Think of us all as friends having a conversation around a table, a table with enough seats for everyone.


SDUHSDchat at 8:00pm on Tuesday 9/23/14 (and most Tuesdays during the school year).

“That’s not writing, that’s texting.”

At some point cutting edge technology was a Viking in a cave pointing and mumbling: “Hey look, Thor’s got a spoon!” In education technology changes apace; twenty years ago students used typewriters and social media meant the school newspaper. Even in the past five years technology in the classroom (and extending learning beyond the walls of the classroom) has changed the school experience of students, teachers, and parents.  It’s a brave new world, and we’re the people in it.

And yet technology isn’t the force that drives learning. If they were alive today, Capote might just as easily have said of Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s texting.” What it can do, however, is support learning in the classroom, allow students to engage in a larger world than they could before, and connect us all (students, teachers, parents, and school community) in ways almost unimaginable only a few decades ago.

I see this in classrooms every day, the document camera to show math tiles to the whole class at once, the chromebooks in the science lab to record data and write lab reports, the use of cell phones and tablets in English class to complete a survey instantly and have the results projected for the class to see.

Equity is word that should crop up here; we want to be sure that every student who crosses the threshold of our campus has equal access to the technology they need to learn. This could mean the ease of checking out a chromebook to use at school or borrowing a portable device in a classroom, and it must be a commitment we have at a public school that every kid has the ability to participate with his peers. Many students bring powerful communication devices to school in the form of smartphones or tablets, and rather than asking them to power down when the walk on campus, we do well when we harness the power of this portable technology for learning.

You’ll hear some say that texting is the end of good writing; as a fellow who loves a well placed semi-colon I beg to differ. Every interaction our students have with words has the potential to make them stronger writers. Knowing how to use a different voice with a supervisor as opposed to a chum is part of learning, and practice (which I hear makes perfect) can be a part of what students learn at school.

Technology helps parents too: in our district our Aeries system allows parents to see in real time their students’ attendance and grades. Curious parents can know more about what’s happening on campus by following the school’s Twitter and Facebook, or even see what the principal and assistant principal are tweeting. Many teachers keep detailed websites and online calendars, and technology has made the connection between school and home more immediate than ever.

Whether it is Twitter, Aeries, or Edmodo, technology is a tool. Transformative, perhaps, but always in service to learning. “Good teaching is more than a YouTube video” Personal connections matter most. Technology doesn’t replace great teaching, it enhances it. Technology doesn’t make a school great, but it can let people know about the great things that are happening on campus, and help support the kind of creativity that does make a school great.

We can’t stop technology or even slow it down. Nor should we; where would Thor be without his soup? But as educators we benefit our students when we keep our minds open and use technology as we can to enhance the great work we do with students.

photo (6)

#PLN

What if the conversation had no bounds? What if we could talk about what we do with the people at our own campus and with kindred spirits across the country when we needed them, not just in those snatched seconds between classes or while we wolf down a sandwich at lunch? If, as a teacher I admire likes to say, “the smartest person in the room is the room,” then how fortunate are we that the “room” of our professional learning doesn’t have any walls?

A few years ago the notion of a Professional Learning Network (PLN) daunted me. How could I, a site administrator with enough responsibilities to fill my time (and maybe more) and with a few great people on my own campus (but hardly enough to qualify in any way as a “network”) put together a group of creative and interesting professionals who could (and would) support my own practice? Sure I’d phone friends who could offer advice. We’d exchange ideas and even proof each other’s written work (using that old technology: email), but this wasn’t a coherent group, and wasn’t anything like the think tank I’d imagined a PLN should be.

And then I got past the idea that it took a special kind of educator to be online, and that I wasn’t one of them. I put aside the anxiety of not being “techie enough” and took a leap. I decided to be one of the educators who was connected.

Actually, it wasn’t as quick as that. For me, joining the online world of education took some time, a few stumbling steps, and finally a recognition that I wasn’t going to throw a switch and change my world. Connecting online, just like connecting in person, takes effort, energy, and a positive spirit. And a bit of time.

I started with Twitter.

A friend and fellow site administrator mentioned the possibilities Twitter offered and I invited a Teacher on Special Assignment (ToSA) out to show me the basics. He was patient and funny, and gave me a couple of resources to help answer my questions, even as he laughed and said: “Just try it!”

I did, tweeting a couple of photos of campus life to start, and then going about deciding who to follow. Remembering my Shakespeare (“Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast”), I did a little more each day.

People smarter than me stressed the importance of engaging with others; lurking is a fine way to start on Twitter, but doesn’t build a PLN. At first I was uncertain about replying to tweets I liked, but I found that the “conversations” they started …no, I’ll take the quotation marks off that… the conversations they started (they were conversations) were fantastic. All of a sudden I was able to get (and occasionally offer) advice or inspiration to an assistant principal in Marin County, a librarian in Baltimore, and a teacher in Escondido. These weren’t people I’d met in person, but they were engaged, engaging, and people like me who love working in education.

I also learned how important it was to create content. Sometimes this was a graphic or a link to an article. Ultimately it helped to inspire my blog. I’ll be honest, I’m still figuring out this part of my professional life, but I feel like it’s something that I hope might help spark some thinking and discussion. …or maybe it’s just therapeutic.

As I recognized how much information and inspiration was out there I began trying new things: joining an edchat, replying to tweets that spoke to me, and going to an edcamp at the suggestion of folks I’d been following on Twitter. At the end of last year I even tried my hand a moderating an edchat for our district and was wowed by the response.

Dubious at first that Twitter could lead to such meaningful connections, I’ve been won over by the reality of how much this little blue bird has to offer. And…

Whether at edcamp or  face to face with teachers and fellow administrators who I interact with on Twitter, the line dividing online and real world has blurred as I’ve had opportunities to continue conversations started on Twitter with people over coffee or as we sit together around a table with other professionals.

Twitter (or any online system of connecting with others) doesn’t ever replace in person discussions, but it does provide opportunities to connect that broaden the conversation on this magical enterprise we call education. It takes away the constraints of time and makes geography irrelevant to interaction.

I’m still working on how best to learn and grow both online and off, but the concern I had just a few years ago, the worry that I wouldn’t find a group to connect with has been replaced by an optimism that while I’ll never be the smartest guy in the room, I’m part of something greater: a room without walls, big enough for anyone to join the discussion.

Admin Tweeps

photoI got to participate in a workshop for administrators on Twitter not long ago. That meant twenty or so principals and assistant principals sitting in a high school library taking selfies and trying to come up with professional Twitter names that walked the line between soulless and personal. I’m fortunate, with not too many Bjorn Paiges in the twittersphere, I get to go with my name.

Since I’ve been tweeting for a bit I got to help facilitate the afternoon, and as I walked from table to table, seeing some really outstanding educators working on creating accounts, I thought about the great possibility swirling around the room.

These are women and men I want to learn from. Kid focused, smart, and creative, this is the dream team of Professional Learning Networks. About once a month we get to sit in the same room, but, I got thinking, what if this PLN was able to communicate with each other (and others beyond our district) more instantly. What if we could share articles and ideas? What if our celebration of what happened on our campuses could be inspiration for each other? What if we really did all tweet?

We’re fortunate in our district to have a superintendent both familiar with and comfortable on Twitter. We have some ToSAs and teachers who use it often and well. A few of us site administrators are learning how we can use Twitter to connect with parents, students, teachers, and each other, and more than a few in our greater school community see Twitter as a way to see what’s going on on campus and to understand education a little bit better.

I’ll be honest, I’m still figuring it out. I know that I love the immediacy of Twitter for getting cool professional ideas, inspiration, and answers to questions that I have. I see it as a great way, in real time, to show off my campus: with major construction this summer I’ve been able to tweet photos of the progress, and gotten some nice feedback on how welcome this was. I also believe that Twitter may be the single most important improvement in my own professional development, as read articles I never would have found on my own,I engage with others in edchats and conversations, and make connections with fellow educators from around the country.

Now back to that library. These principals, assistant principals, and district office administrators are more than just colleagues; together we have the potential to support each other in person, on the phone, in texts and emails, and, collectively, using tools like Twitter. We have the potential to make everyone in the room better.

Will everyone in the room decide to tweet? I don’t know. One nice thing about Twitter is that it’s a world without expectation; when we tweet we choose to join in the conversation because we want to, not because we’re obligated.

So I look forward to the fall, and seeing how many of the administrators in my district will join me in an edchat, how many I can follow, and how many will decide that this might just be a way that we can really help each other. I like the odds.

#opportunity