What does good leadership look like?

December 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

I think “good” leadership looks different to different people. Maybe it’s a strong person who puts the hammer down. Maybe it’s a compassionate person who has lots of interaction with their staff. Maybe it’s someone with a vision and a way to get everyone on board with that vision.

I think, though, that there are some traits of a good leader that are universal, and I’m not exactly sure that some of them can be taught or learned. I think the best leaders simply have these qualities as part of their personality.

Genuine – if the people you lead don’t think you are genuine about what you say, you’ll have a hard time getting them to follow. Someone who is genuine earns the respect of the people who work for them and with them. They do this by backing up their words with similar actions, or by acting without speaking. Someone who is a “people person” doesn’t have to tell you that. They show you by the way they interact with others on a daily basis.

Someone who is genuine truly believes in what they are doing. They don’t do it just to make things look pretty, or because it makes them look good. They do it because they believe their actions are going to make their workplace better, more efficient, and make everyone come together. It is pretty easy for people to tell if you’re genuine. Humans are pretty adept at being able to see through someone pretty quickly. Remember, actions speak louder than words.

Compassion – not all leaders have this quality. For me, personally, at least in education, it is critical to the success of a school or district. In school districts, we are compassionate by nature. Children come to us from circumstances we may never know, experience, or understand, and in order to be able to serve those children, we must have leaders who understand what it means to be compassionate, and treat their staff with the same compassion and understanding that we expect our teachers to treat their students. Compassion, to me, means listening, and remembering. It is not something I do because I feel like I have to. It is something I do because it is who I am.

Listening means you’re not just listening in the moment and asking questions about the current conversation. It’s coming back to a conversation a day or two later, asking how things are going, remembering what was said before. Remembering people’s names, remembering things your employees told you they were going to do outside of work, and genuinely (there’s that word again) caring about those things. Compassion  also means that the rules within the organization can’t be hard and fast. Letting someone leave 5 minutes early before a holiday when you know they have a long drive ahead of them isn’t compassion. Especially if that person works their tail off.

Rewarding hard work by being flexible is another trait of a good leader. If you have someone who stays late or works through lunch or works on things from home after hours, being flexible with them is a nice way to say thank you.

And speaking of saying “thank you,” you should. A lot. People like to be thanked for the work they do, even if it is just doing their job. Saying “please” is also something that should be worked into your everyday vocabulary. Yes, you are the boss. Yes, people will do what you ask because you are the boss and for no other reason, but it is just good manners to say “please” and “thank you” when people are doing things for you.

Something else I’m a big proponent of is knowing what other people do and being able to do it yourself. I’m not saying that you have to be an expert at every job your staff does, but it helps if you know what they do, show that you’re willing to help, and ask questions that show you’re genuinely interested in the work they do. And if you don’t know anything about a job a person does, ask them to explain it to you. It shows that employee that you want to understand and that their work is valuable to you. Be child-like. Observe. Ask questions. When you do that, you’ll see the pride your employees have in their work.

These are just a few of the initial qualities I think of when I think about a good leader. I’ll follow up with some more, and maybe some anecdotes, later in the week.

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And yet…

December 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

I promised in my previous post that it wouldn’t be another year before I posted again. And it hasn’t. It’s been a year and 10 months. I’ve gone almost 2 years without writing a word in this space.

For me, the things that I used to post here turned into discussions with my colleagues. I had, at last posting, still been adjusting to my district and a new superintendent. I was fortunate to be able to hire a couple of staff members in my department, and over the course of a couple of years, we really gelled together. We were able to work really well as a team and so a lot of the ideas I would post here, just to help me reflect, ended up becoming conversations within my own department.

I never really received much feedback from this blog. I’m not a prolific writer as some of my Ed Tech colleagues are. But this space served as a place for me to talk about ideas and think through things. When those conversations were taking place in my own office, I didn’t really need this space anymore. So I stopped.

I am now in a new district, with new challenges. A much larger district. A much more structured district. A much more urban district. I have a larger staff, who I’m still getting to know. I have a new boss, which requires a little bit more planning and informing when I want to try things. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but it has been working out pretty well.

I think the new few things I’m going to write about are going to be not technology related, but geared more toward leadership. After reading through my last post, I realized that I was able to let go, a bit, of the desire to constantly be in the classroom. I’ve take a step further back now in my new district, and I’m trying to be a good leader to this team who is nervous because I’m their third boss in as many years. I know how stressful that can be.

I have now worked in 6 different school districts through my 20 years in Education. I’ve learned a few things from all of the different supervisors I’ve had. I’ve learned some really great things, and I’ve also learned a lot about what not to do as a leader.

So, look for a couple of posts (no, really, I do plan on writing!) on leadership in the coming days.

So, what have you been up to?

March 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

I have neglected this space for over a year now. I have neglected a lot of my social media for the past year. The only excuse that I have is that I turned inward. I became too focused on what was going on with my job, in my district, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I have definitely felt as though I’ve become stagnant in my delivery of new ideas into the district. My district hired a new Superintendent about a year ago, so much of what I’ve been doing is trying to feel out where he is on things and where I fit in. This past year, I became focused on the direction we were going to head in my district, and trying to figure out how to get all of our administrators on the same page, going in the same direction as far as technology goes. I’ve also become more focused on the business, hardware, and financial side of things, and much less involved in the direct instruction of students.

I’ll be honest. Writing that last sentence makes me sad. One of the reasons I got into education in the first place was because I enjoyed teaching. Moving into an instructional technology role, I was still able to teach, and impact instruction in the classroom by teaching teachers. I’ve always felt that I still had my foot in the door of the classroom until this past year. I just couldn’t continue to cull ideas about classroom instruction while also getting proposals ready, managing a department, making purchasing decisions, and trying to come up with a vision for technology use.

I am still participating in discussions about technology use, just at a much higher level. I suppose that you could say I’ve achieved my goal of being able to make decisions about what direction technology will head in my district without having to cut through red tape and get approval from people above me, but I feel like I don’t have my thumb on what’s actually happening in the classroom, nor do I feel as though I have as much of a say in how that technology gets used in the classroom, although I am trying to change that.

Here’s where I’m trying to make the biggest degree of difference at the moment. Sitting around a conference table at an admin meeting, trying to get the administrators in our district to think in technological terms first. We are taking baby steps. I have managed to get our Superintendent to move to electronic agendas and documents for meetings, rather than printing, copying, and handing out packets of paper to everyone. To me, that is a victory and a step in the right direction. Now, at our admin meetings, everyone has a laptop or iPad open. Some of our folks still take their notes on a notepad, but there are some of us who prefer to make notations on the electronic documents that are shared with us. It isn’t explicitly stated that that is an expectation, but I think the more we show our administrators what they can do with technology, the more inclined they will be to try it themselves.

My goal is, by the end of the year, to get our admins to stop turning to Microsoft Office first and instead choose to create documents in Google Docs. I hope to show them the power of not having to worry about which device their document is on because it will be on every device. This will also allow for greater flexibility when it comes to sharing things via google docs.

At the end of this summer, we will have a three-day technology integration workshop. I have asked, and will continue to ask, all of our admin team to be there on the final day to help teachers plan lessons using the tools they learned about during the previous two days. I want there to be accountability for what they are learning. I want there to be a plan for integration, and I want the teachers to see that they have support and an expectation of use from all of the administrators in our district.

I actually feel like part of the job is being done for me already. We are currently reading the book “Instructional Rounds in Education” and much of what is talked about is exactly what we have been talking about in Educational Technology for the past 20 years. Taking risks. Changing instructional practices. Changing expectations. Having accountability. I find myself sitting in meetings where we’re discussing that book smiling to myself because it all sounds so familiar.

I’m encouraged by the change in culture I’m beginning to see here. I’m also encouraged that I’m being asked to help people push their boundaries. Exciting things are happening around here. We are making some big changes this summer, which I know will help impact instruction.

More to come soon. I promise, it won’t be another year before I blog again.

Animoto vs. Google Auto-Awesome #edtech

February 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’ve been playing with video tools after our trip to the rodeo this weekend.

Remember when creating a video was a long, arduous process of getting the video from the camera onto your computer, then putting together your clips just so, editing them down, then choosing music, transitions, titles, and the like?

Well, no more! Animoto has been, for several years, the king of quick online video. It started off with just photos, but has progressed over the years and now offers the ability to include video clips and text in your video. Animoto is pretty intuitive to use, and can be done both online and via an app on Android or iOS (so big win for being completely device agnostic). The biggest drawback to Animoto is that free videos are limited to 30 seconds and at 360p resolution. You can upgrade your account and get full length videos and full HD resolution for $5/month or $30/year.

To create your video, you choose the photos and videos you want to put in it. In the free version, you’re limited to 12 items.

Here’s the free Animoto video I created of our day at the rodeo.

Google Auto-Awesome videos are the relative newcomer to the online video space. The feature is meant to be just like auto-awesome photos, where it takes a series of photos and videos you took around the same time and stitches them together automatically to create a video. It is supposed to work with both Android and iOS devices (I don’t have auto-backup turned on, nor do I ever shoot video with my iPad, so I can’t claim for sure that it works on iOS as it does on Android), but I haven’t found a way to put together a video on Google+ yet using these features. When my Android phone creates and auto-awesome video, a notification shows up on my phone, and I can go in to view the video and choose to edit it, save it, or delete it.

Here’s the auto-awesome video Google created of our day at the rodeo:

You can also create your own video using photos and video clips that you choose, just like Animoto. You also have your choice of music, you can edit the clips down, split them into scenes, and choose a theme to use with your video. Again, I only have experience with this on Android, not iOS, and cannot find a way to do it online. The biggest advantage here is that you are not limited on length or time of video, and you can export every video you create with at full HD at no cost.

Here’s the video I created earlier on my own, before Google auto-awesomed a video for me.

I think for students, at the moment, Animoto gets the win just because of the diversity of platforms you can create on. If/when Google allows video creation online using the auto-awesome features, it will be the king. Of course, you do have to have a Google+ account to create these videos, so if your school does not open Google+ for students, that could still be a major drawback.

For me, for personal use, I really like the power and simplicity of Google’s tools. I just wish there was an easy way to edit online, instead of having to do it on my phone.

#tcea14 notes – Google Academy, Districtwide Implementation for GAFE, @kernkelley

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

www.kernkelley.com

 This wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, but Kern still had some great information about going Google within his district. The state of Maine has had a 1:1 program for middle school students for the past 10 years. I would love to be in a state like that because giving every student a device really levels the playing field and removes a lot of the obstacles and excuses for not using technology. My notes from the session are below.

#tcea14 notes – Google Academy, Google Apps Scripts, Wesley Chun (@wescpy)

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

I really enjoyed this session and can see the benefit for students learning how to code with Google Apps Scrips if their school is already GAFE. It ties in really nicely to the apps infrastructure Google has put in place and can really be a powerful addition to GApps. My notes from the session are below.

#tcea14 notes – Google Academy, Google Glass – Leslie Fisher

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

This was a great session because Leslie was very honest about what Glass is really good at and what it still needs a lot of work on. I think it will be as transformative of a device as the iPod was. I think Glass, and it’s imitators, will forever change the way in which we interact with our devices and our world. My notes from the session are below.