Wednesday, August 13, 2014

5 Ways To Be A Technology Leader in Your School

Do as I say, not as I do.  Don't be that administrator.

Many times, this is the way school administrators encourage technology use. We, as administrators, need to stop saying that teachers and students need to use technology for learning and start modeling how to do it.  This is how you will begin to see real gains in effective technology integration in your classrooms and with students.

Like all of us, the idea of starting something new with technology can be overwhelming. We worry about having the time and the skills to do it well.  As administrators, we need to be OK with finding new ways to incorporate technology into our daily work and modeling the learning process along the way. If you improve as you go, doesn't that send a great message to staff and students?
For this school year, pick one new technology tool to use and make a commitment to use it regularly and to continue learning how to best leverage it in your work.

Here are 5 ways you can use technology to be a leader in your school.

1.  Start Blogging

"My fellow bloggers can attest to how easy it is to blog. 
If you can type a word document then you can blog." 

- Patrick Larkin, Principal, Burlington High School (MA)

What do you have to blog about? Tons!  An excellent way to build community and improve school culture is to share your vision and goals for the school and provide updates on progress toward school learning goals and achievements. Blogging will improve your reflection and encourage collaboration.  Visitors to your blog can join the conversation through comments and with moderation tools you can pre-screen these.  You will be surprised how respectful comments are and how much your blog is appreciated by teachers, parents and the community. Blogging models writing for a purpose and for an audience and encourages your teachers and students to do the same.   To learn more ready Patrick Larkin's blog post, "Every Principal Needs a Blog"

Tip! To build your audience post a lot about athletics and school events initially so that parents and the community visit the blog on a routine basis.

Take a look at these principal blogs for ideas to get started.
Principal Greg Miller - Educational Leadership in the 21st Century
George Couros - The Principal of Change
Darcy Moore
Eric Sheninger - A Principal's Reflections
Patrick Larkin - Learning in Burlington

2. Take Up Microblogging  

It can take less time than a regular blog, but provides a huge impact in communication.  Use Twitter to send our brief updates about the learning happening in your school. Tweet about upcoming activities and events, highlight student as well as teacher learning and accomplishments, spotlight safety information and other announcements.  Make a goal to send at least one tweet a day.  You can utilize tools like Hootsuite to schedule tweets ahead of time so in just a few minutes you can have tweets scheduled for the entire week. Promote your twitter account and let parents, students and the community know that this will be a consistent way for them to connect with you and the school. Unsure about how to use Twitter? Try my Online Twitter Workshop for Educators.

Here are some Twitter accounts from connected principals:

Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal)

Ryan McLane (@McLane_Ryan)

3.  Keep everyone informed with Remind

As many of us know from experience, the one device we have on us almost all of the time is our phone. One of the easiest ways to connect with parents about their students is to text them. However, not everyone is ready to share their personal cell phone number. That is why Remind (formerly Remind 101) is a perfect way for educators to maintain an open line of communication to parents, guardians and the community. You can send out reminders out daily or weekly with the safe, one way communication of Remind. It is a broadcast system that allows users opt in using their cell phones to receive school updates.
Awesome features in Remind 101:
You can send a message to one class, several classes or individuals in a class
Attachments can also be added to the message. Go ahead and attach the field trip permission slip or other document you need parents to have. No more lost papers on the way home from school!
Insert links to online resources. You can add websites and other resources to your messages. We use Google Docs and I was able to add a link to a flier for a school event to my message.
Messages can be scheduled for later - you can sit down on Monday and schedule all messages for the day, week or month!

Message History: All messages are stored in your account and can be exported from your account for auditing purposes

To read more about Remind and how to set up your account check out my previous blog post.

4. Get Vocal With Podcasts

Use a tool like Audioboo for Education to embed voice messages on your school website. Take that boring "principal message" page up a notch with an Audioboo recording that conveys your passion and enthusiasm better than any typed message. Commit to making one voice recording a week and give your administration a voice.  Audioboo enriches your message and engages your community like never before.  Inserting a short audio recording (or podcast) is easy and reinvents the principal relationship with the school community.

Here is a short recording I made with Audioboo. I recorded and embedded this is under 2 minutes!

5.  Tech Smash With Multiple Tools  

Really impress by incorporating more than one of the tools listed above = Tech Smashing!

Here are some ideas:  Embed an audio recording on your blog and and make that your new principal page!  Promote your school Twitter account and blog by using Remind to push out when new updates are posted. You can probably come up with dozens of other ideas as well.  Using more than one tech tool can streamline your work and improve engagement.

Make a commitment and make it happen

No longer can educators and schools 'opt out' of technology integration.  Lead your school and model using technology for learning with one or more of the ideas presented in this post.  Set a reminder on your phone or calendar and commit to doing something every week.  You and your school will be amazed by the benefits.