Why do we follow? 5 Important Leadership Traits

What makes us latch on to a leader? Why do we follow their ideas, presentations, tweets, and/or conversations? I always enjoy learning about a variety of topics related to educational technology, professional development, and education in general.  The last couple years I have had a strong interest in leadership qualities that promote a positive culture and innovation in schools. There are lots and lots of qualities that make a strong educational leader, however, I had 5 come to mind and wanted to share some thoughts about them.

1. Trusting. Leaders instill trust in those that work for them. They get things done when they say they’re going to. There isn’t really a “back burner” to put things on. We trust in our leaders to provide us with the tools, resources, and time to do our jobs to the best of our ability.

2. Valued. A leader makes their people feel important and valued; bringing out the best in everyone. As Liz Wiseman calls it in her book, it is The Multiplier Effect.  Focusing on extracting the genius and best effort possible from everyone.  Not being the only voice at a staff meeting. Seeking out expertise from their own people. Crowdsourcing if you will.  Being a genius maker rather than just a genius.

3. Empathetic. It’s always good to show empathy as a leader. Now we all know that leaders sometimes have to make difficult decisions that not everyone agrees with. This is just how it is. Despite not agreeing with your leader’s decision, when they show empathy that lets us know they not only understand, but they’re not going to leave us stranded without support and resources that are needed even in times of difficult decisions needing to be made.

4. Encourage risk-taking. As my friend Adam Bellow puts it, “Innovation is the intersection of fear and bravery.”. As a leader are you encouraging teachers (and are teachers encouraging students) to take risks? To be brave, bold, and step out of that comfort zone? We all need that type of encouragement. We’re in a different time now. Teaching and learning is different. Leadership is different. It should be. In terms of technology and social media I think of it this way: don’t deny the existence, invest in the potential.

5. Growth. A leader should first and foremost remain a learner. We all should be learners first if we’re truly about doing what’s best for our students. Encouraging teachers to attend an edcamp, build a PLN, and giving teachers time to learn from each other are essential. It’s not a matter of finding the time, it’s a matter of making the time; for educational leaders and those that they lead.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure many of you can think of additional attributes that are necessary for a leader to exude. In my opinion the five characteristics mentioned above are key to not only being a successful leader, but also empowering those that we lead.

What other leadership traits would you add?


We have work to do – my #iste13 reflection

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ISTE 2013 has been over for a few weeks now and to be honest my brain is still swimming. There have been so many outstanding post-#iste13 posts already from the likes of Matt Gomez, Amber Teamann, AJ Juliani, Jimmy Casas, Angela Watson, and many more. I don’t want to just echo what so many of my friends have already said. I want to get out a few thoughts about the conference in general and I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about my good friend Adam’s closing keynote too.

A New ISTE

So ISTE received a rebranding that was unveiled in San Antonio. Not just a new logo but also a new tagline: Connected learning. Connected world.  This year the conference really felt different for me and I think this is what spoke to me the most. I have said this often in tweets, presentations, and conversations: We are better together. I truly believe this and I love that the conference seems to be embracing this more than ever. I had a sense of this more than any other year. This is because of the thousands in attendance in person and the thousands following the conference virtually. Yes, even those #notatISTE. I’d like to see ISTE offer even more learning opportunities to those not able to attend ISTE in person next year in Atlanta. Our world continues to get smaller because of the web and the technologies and media that it brings to our homes and our classrooms. We truly have global learning opportunities that put people, places, and experiences a few clicks away. No matter what buzz word you label it with, teaching (and more importantly learning) no longer has to only happen Monday thru Friday from 9:00 to 4:00 and within the walls of our classrooms. A phrase like “Connected learning. Connected world.” speaks volumes to this. It’s not just places but more importantly the people all over the world we can connect to; to become better at what we do for the students that we teach.

Learning while not in a session

The Bloggers’ Cafe. The Social Butterfly Lounge. ISTE Central. Poster exhibits. The learning opportunities available apart from the formal “sit ‘n get” sessions were numerous. People taking the time to stop and have conversations; establishing relationships of learning and sharing and growing together. Many will attest that this type of learning was more impactful on their practice than any formally scheduled session. Not that there wasn’t not strong substance in those sessions! I want to be clear that’s not what I’m saying. I think we should take a harder look at the value of the less formal learning opportunities at conferences in general, not just ISTE. I look forward though to seeing how ISTE and other conferences further grow these components for next year.

ISTE did livestream many sessions during the conference however. You can find them all here on their YouTube playlist. So much great stuff there you can plan our your own self-directed PD through the rest of Summer and the Fall probably.

Brave enough to do it anyway

Now, in full disclosure, Adam is a great friend of mine so I’m a bit partial to his amazing ability to bring a message. Adam has great stories and outstanding multimedia components to every presentation he does. I have watched his closing keynote now three times on YouTube after the conference was over. It was that good. I have seen my fair share of keynotes, even given a few myself, but none of moved me and made me even more excited to be a connected learner than Adam’s did. I said it to Adam right after he delivered his keynote and I’ll say it again: I’m proud to know you Adam. Alright, enough “bromance”. :)

One of the things Adam said during his keynote that has stuck with me is this: “Innovation happens when you intersect fear and bravery.”

This is the work we have to do between now and next year’s conference. Are we creating a culture in our schools and districts that encourages trying innovative things? Are our leaders modeling innovative practices? If we continue to let fear of failure rule our school systems then that’s where we’ll stay. In systems that are dated and resistant to change. It starts with us. How are you going to share with your school and district the great things you learned? What conversations do you plan to have with school and district leadership? Think about where we are now and where we could be by the next ISTE. Think of all the exciting new things that will be shared; but only if we make something happen.


Leaders to Learn From

Cross-posted at SmartBlog on Education.

Last month, I received the great honor of being recognized by Education Week magazine and the U.S. Department of Education as a 2013 “Leader to Learn From”. It was a tremendous honor to receive special recognition from Assistant Secretary of Education Deb Delisle and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The other 15 leaders receiving the recognition came from all around the country and the type of school systems represented was very diverse.

It was great to connect with these other educational leaders in the short amount of time we had together in Washington, D.C. We are making sure to continue to stay connected to learn from each other as we all recognize the variety of strengths we bring to the table. However, this got me thinking: if you’re a connected educator, a lifelong learner, striving to constantly be better no matter by what means, you are a leader to learn from. You have a lot to offer us. We need you.

If you’re a teacher that’s helping fellow teachers to grow professionally, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re modeling productive, positive, and creative technology use for your students, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re a principal that is modeling what it’s like to first and foremost be a learner, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re tapping into the power of social media for collaboration and communication, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re a district level leader that has a vision for the ways that teaching and learning are changing, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re a parent that offers unconditional support to your child, your child’s school and teachers, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re a district that’s putting more technology in students’ hands to make its use more seamless in day-to-day teaching and learning, you are a leader to learn from.

This can easily go on and on. Sure, the 15 of us mentioned above received special recognition (and many others do all the time), but it’s making me more thankful than I already was for the thousands of leaders I have to learn from. Those of you that I have become connected with over the last several years. Those of you whom I have come to call my friends. I appreciate your constant offering of your knowledge and expertise to myself and so many others.

I would encourage you to share in the comments section on what you think makes someone a leader to learn from.


Moving Existing Files to Google Drive – A Review

I’ve taught about Google Drive/Docs many times in person and virtually. Many teachers have decided to completely move all of their files to the cloud to store them and edit them via Google Drive. The idea of having access to your stuff from any device connected to the web is really appealing; coupled with the collaboration features that Docs offers.

As the school year comes to a close, you might be thinking that you’re ready to move files (upload) to Google Drive. We had several of our teachers asking for a reminder about how to do this, so I thought I’d make a quick tutorial that will walk you through the process. Something to keep in mind when doing this is if you want to be able to view the file via Google Drive or edit the file via Google Drive. Some of the verbiage I used in the video is specific to our teachers, but I decided to share it here on my blog too as I thought it might be helpful to others.

Enjoy!


The New Google+ Hangouts App & Extension for Chrome

This week Google rolled out the new version of Google+ along with a redo of Hangouts. If you want to read the full details be sure to check out this post over on the Google+ blog. The post also has the links that will take you to downloading the new Hangouts app/extension for Android, iOS, and Chrome.

I wanted to share a quick post that explains the app and extension that are specific to Chrome.

Video Call Launcher for Hangouts

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This app from the Chrome Web Store is exactly what the title says; once you install the app and click it, you are taken straight into a new video Hangout session and can invite whomever you need to. I like this app because you don’t necessarily have to start from your Google+ home page to start a video hangout. Start a new tab, click the app icon, and you’re off and running.

Hangouts Extension

screen-capture-1Again, without having to head to your Google+ home page or your Gmail inbox first, you can jump right into your Hangout chats with this handy extension. It opens your Hangouts chat window in the lower right corner of your screen and you’re chatting away without leaving what you’re currently working on. You can tuck it away even lower in the bottom-right corner by minimizing it.

I’m really enjoying the new look and feel to Google+; especially the redesign of Hangouts. I have an iPhone and am also enjoying the iOS version of Hangouts too. Hangouts are a great way for us to connect our classrooms to learn and collaborate globally.


Google Docs for Administrators – 5 MORE Ideas

'google' photo (c) 2012, SEO - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Just barely over a year ago I wrote a post titled Google Docs for Administrators – 5 Ideas to Get Started. To date that post has been my most popular ever since I began blogging. So thank you to so many who have read it and shared it via various networks.

As the current school year has progressed, myself and the rest of our team have worked multiple times with administrators in our district on how they can use Google Apps. More specifically, Google Docs. Many of our administrators have made this a learning commitment for themselves so they can model effective use for their teachers. Major kudos to them for doing so!

I made a quick list of the ways we have seen administrators using Google Docs this year at their buildings so I thought I’d write this sequel to last year’s post to give you some more ideas to try. If you’re not an administrator, be sure to share this with him/her!

1. Master Scheduling

Spring is the time of year when all schools begin working on the building’s master schedule for the upcoming school year. From everything to planning periods to lunch to early release days. It all has to be scheduled well before next school year even begins. Google Docs is a great way to collaboratively build this schedule with your administrative team or your scheduling committee. I recently worked with an administrator doing this and it was all put together on a Google Spreadsheet. Each specific schedule had its own tab across the bottom. The planning team will be meeting to collaboratively edit the schedule(s) and then once it is finalized, it will be shared with the entire staff via a Google Docs link.

2. Grade Level/Department Collaboration

Our district has a late start day once per week to allow teachers and staff to collaborate in their PLCs (professional learning communities). During this time we have grade levels collaborating at the elementary level, and more specialized departments meeting in various places around the district. Many of the PLC teams this year have chosen to keep all of their collaboration topics, agendas, and minutes in Google Docs. This way the entire team has access to the information during PLC time and can easily access it after PLC time is over. Where administrators have loved this is how the notes, minutes, etc. that their teachers keep can quickly and easily be shared with them. For example, I helped one of our elementary principals set up a shared folder for each grade level and then shared those folders with the appropriate teachers. Teachers then were able to drop the necessary docs into the folder shared by the principal. The principal then was able to access everything and leave feedback and other comments directly on the document.

3. End of Year Fun

With the end of another school year approaching, many schools (around here at least) have either a school carnival or a school “field day”.  Again, while it is beginning to sound redundant, the collaborative component and anytime/anywhere access makes everything flow much more smoothly. Google Docs is a great way to organize events like this to multiple committees that include both teachers, parents, and other stakeholders from the community. Using Google Forms can also be a great way to get community involvement and support for events such as these.

4. Sharing Among Administrators

Given the busy schedule that many administrators have, their time to get together with other district administrators face-to-face is pretty limited. Collaboration and sharing in Google Docs can be a great supplement to the “facetime”.  Administrators can brainstorm ideas in a Google Doc or using a Google Drive app like Lucidchart they can create flowcharts and diagrams to collaboratively plan and share. Administrators like to be social and talk shop just like teachers do so Google Docs offers them another way to do this and learn from each other at the same time. Making updates to commonly used forms, ideas for assemblies, instructional technology implementations, PTA events, etc. all can be shared via Google Docs between administrators.

5. Inventories and other Record Keeping

So we all know that the amount of paperwork and record keeping  required of principals is enormous. This can be things like keeping an inventory of technology equipment, building expenditures, professional development, and behavior referrals just to name a few. Moving this kind of information to Google Docs (make sure this is acceptable with your district before replacing any existing forms) can make editing and sharing with other district leaders or office staff a breeze.

Administrators and teachers alike can sometimes be hesitant to move things to “the cloud”. It’s still a new way of working for many educators and educational leaders. Please don’t feel like you have to try multiple things at the same time. I’d definitely recommend not doing that! Pick one thing to transition to this new way of doing things and get really comfortable with it. Then add on something else. I’ve seen comfort levels gradually increase; (usually with some speed bumps along the way) which leads to increased usage, leading to sharing with others, leading to finding better ways of doing things.


10 Apps in 10 Minutes #chromebookedu

Recently my colleague Jill and I worked with some teachers during a PD day on finding great Chrome apps & extensions for learning. We thought we’d kick off the time together by picking 10 of our most favorite (picking only 10 is hard!) and sharing them with teachers in 10 minutes. We wanted to quickly get teachers excited about educational apps and extensions available to their students. We might have went just a tad over 10 minutes but nonetheless we kept it brief.

Here are the 10 we covered with a quick description as well as the link to the Chrome Web Store. I am also purposely keeping this post short so it takes 10 minutes or less to read. :)

1. Google Dictionary – a very handy extension to use in Chrome. Students can quickly look up the definition of a word by using the extension or directly; or double-clicking any word on a web page will bring up it’s definition and a sound icon to click and hear the pronunciation.

2. Pixlr Express – this app allows you to quickly and easily do some fun editing to any photos you have saved on your computer, in Google Drive, or even captured live via webcam. This is one of many apps that integrates easily with Google Drive.

3. Scratchpad – another app that works seamlessly with Drive. This one opens a new (smaller) window to give the user a basic note-taking application. The really nice feature is that a “Scratchpad” folder is automatically created in Google Drive with each note stored inside it.

4. Lucidchart for Education – students and teachers can quickly build diagrams, flowcharts, and concept maps with this web-based diagramming tool. Again, saves and syncs straight to Google Drive for easy access from any computer or to collaborate with a classmate.

5. Readability – this is an extension that strips all the extra “stuff” off of a news article or blog post. Many times advertisements and other links can be very distracting as students try to read content on the web (for teachers too!). The Readability extension gets rid of all those extra bits so you can focus on just the content.

6. Lego Builder- What kid (or adult) doesn’t love building with Legos? With the Lego Builder app you can build all kinds of fun structures. Students that love Minecraft will also find creating content enjoyable with this app too.

7. Isle of Tune – this is a great app for the musician in all of us. Create a town on your island and each element of your town has different musical properties.  Then as you send your cars driving around your newly built community your new tune will play.

8. MeeGenius – this is one of many great apps for younger grades to read and listen to online storybooks. Access a bookshelf full of the popular stories loved by many generations. Students can not only hear the book read to them but also see the words highlighted on the page as the story is read.

9. Typing Club – keyboarding skills and the necessity for students to have them are becoming more and more embedded in everything we do. Apps like Typing Club

10. Math Invaders – practicing math just got a lot more fun. Students can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a game-like format.

The great thing about installing apps in Chrome (whether on a Chromebook or not) is quick and easy. With everything in Chrome staying in sync to students’ Google accounts, access to these apps is easy no matter which Chromebook or computer a student is using that’s connected to the web.

These are just a sample of the great educational apps available in the Chrome Web Store. Be sure to take some time to check them out! If you have any other favorites please feel free to list them in the comments!


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