No – the other Scott. Actually, as I’m the new guy in the edublogosphere (That’s the second time in two days I’ve managed to use that word – maybe it’ll become a "thing."), I’m probably The Other Scott in these parts.
Just a quick post to thank Dr. Scott McLeod for the kind words he posted this morning. What he didn’t say was that there would be no Universe to Disturb were it not for his inspiration and advice. Having generously spent almost an hour on the phone with me last month talking me through some preparation for my doctoral program.
It’s been tough to post much lately since my 12" Powerbook at home died an untimely death ("Why is the fan so loud?" "That’s not the fan – that’s the harddrive!"), but my black Macbook should be here by tomorrow so I can spend the rest of the weekend freeing my pent-up creativity.
Thanks again, Scott, and thanks to those who have stopped by to give a read!!
I’m a self-proclaimed organization and productivity geek. One of the reasons that my personal productivity system has remained primarily paper-based is that in a lot of ways, paper is more flexible and adaptable than all the high-tech whiz-bang gadgets and programs that are out there. For example, I want granular control over how I see and interact with my "stuff." Unfortunately, how I want to see my stuff is not always how Outlook or iCal thinks I should be able to see and interact with my stuff.
I have no plans to ditch my paper-based system any time soon, but stikkit is certainly giving me a reason to explore the possibilities. The company behind stikkit is called values of n and they proclaim that their mission is "to help people collaborate and get organized." Collaboration is a running theme I’m seeing in the edublogosphere (is that a word?), and organization is one of my personal obsessions so it seems that there may be some real possibilities for this.
I have tried a bazillion web apps (Backpack, Remember the Milk, etc.) that I’ve used for a while and then abandoned because they did one or two things extremely well, but either fell short or completely failed to address that I also wanted to incorporate some other functionality. Of course, none of these systems purported to actually to do all of the things that stikkit is doing.
If you’re interested, Merlin Mann just published an informative (if not overwhelming!) post about the nuts and bolts of stikkit‘s functionality, including its use of "magic words" that builds on the simple text input that I enjoy so much in Google Calendar.
My initial thoughts in response to Scott McLeod‘s questions regarding cameras in the classroom…
How would most teachers feel about parents being able to watch
and hear, via a secure password-protected webcam connection, what was
occurring in class on a regular basis?
When I was a classroom teacher, I wished
that parents could see and hear what was going on in class. I had no
secrets and nothing to hide. Plus, I wished that the "enabling"
parents could witness some of their children’s behaviors before they
called and made accusations like, "My son didn’t understand the way you
taught it!" It wasn’t often that I got calls like that, but it would
have been very nice to be able to pull up a video of the student with
his head down while the rest of his group worked on the problem.
Ideally, it would have made for some very interesting dinner conversations.
Would teachers’ classroom instruction / pedagogy be better, worse, or
the same if parents could watch and hear what was occurring in class on
a regular basis?
That’s a question with several answers to my way of thinking. The good
teachers would keep doing what they have always done as they have
nothing to hide. I think that it might cause some of the "marginally
effective" teachers to raise their game. But would the oversight be
well-received by the "retired-on-the-job" teachers who we all know?
I’d like to think that for some of them it would move them closer to actually retiring…
I worry how it might affect new teachers or teachers who want to try
something new. I would hate to think that rather than dive in with a
new or innovative lesson, someone would be overly concerned about how
it will be received or whether it will be as effective as he hopes.
Would classroom management / discipline be better, worse, or the same
if parents could watch and hear what was occurring in class on a
My guess is that in most cases the parents who care enough about school to actually watch the camera feeds would be the ones who have passed on to their kids the value of education. It’s the parent-teacher conference night paradox in that the parents you actually need or want to see are rarely the ones who show up to check on their student’s progress.
I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but I would venture a guess that one of the contributing factors to students with serious discipline issues (beyond lack of engagement with the instruction, but that’s another story…) is a lack of attention from parents. I can’t imagine the parents of some of those kids having the time or inclination to watch Internet feeds of their kids’ classes.
Scott McLeod’s white papers, Data-Driven Teachers and Technology Tools for Data-Driven Teachers,
have been indispensable to me as guides in my own professional
development around DDDM, and the podcasts now available at CASTLE
Conversations very nicely augment these documents. I listened with great interest to CASTLE Conversations’ inaugural podcast that featured superintendent Dr. Jan Witthuhn of Mounds View Public Schools in Minnesota.
I finished the first podcast yesterday on my way in to work and started
to reflect on some of the thoughts and ideas Jan had shared regarding
data-driven decision making.
Dr. Witthuhn talked about
"Building-Level Instructional Leadership Teams" and the importance of
having teachers on board from the beginning so that this kind of
data-centered approach to instruction is something that comes from teachers and isn’t forced onto teachers.
It is critical that we are working hard at building and maintaining
trust through the entire school community. It is counterproductive to
discuss data with a teacher who is intently focused on telling me what
he or she thinks I want to hear instead of what he or she actually
believes. I’m smart enough to know that I don’t have all of the
answers, and I believe that the cumulative effects of two or more of us
looking at the same data set and trying to pick out patterns and trends
is far more powerful than any number of us doing the same thing in
isolation. But as Dr. Witthuhn pointed out, trust has to be present in
order for these kinds of conversations to take place. Without it we
will not make progress toward the ultimate goal of increasing student
In my admittedly limited experience, in
situations where trust is lacking I find that the teachers have
invariably had some kind of negative experience that has caused them to
feel disenfranchised from the organization. It is incumbent, then,
upon us (school-based instructional leaders) to reach out to these
teachers and establish some common ground and begin to build, rebuild,
and maintain strong, supportive, professional relationships that will
lend themselves to working together for kids.
So where do I go
from here? I will keep doing what I’ve been doing. Even though some
may argue that working one teacher at a time is not working quickly
enough, it’s certainly enough to keep me motivated and excited to come
to work in the morning.
As I travel the Internet, I bookmark a lot of items in del.icio.us. But there are always those few items that end up standing out for one reason or another. I have decided that I will start a regular (hopefully) post on the best of what I’m coming across from the world of education, technology, or perhaps something completely unrelated.
The strange thing I’ve noticed since I’ve started this blog is how interesting it is to bring together two of my interests: Productivity and Educational Leadership. Hopefully if you’ve clicked over to this blog from one or the other, you will enjoy seeing how these two fields work in concert.
Here are some links I’ve gathered this week:
- The Value of Tagging (Part 1, Part 2) – DIYPlanner.com
- bubbl.us – Simple, web-based tool for creating basic mind maps
- Zotero – A research tool I’m looking at as I start to compile quite a collection of articles and books.
It’s been one of those weeks this week. You school administrators know what I’m talking about… The weeks where there are precious few opportunities to be an instructional leader and far too many opportunities to be counselor, social worker, judge, and jury. That’s OK, though. It’s part of the job and it does keep things interesting.
Regardless, when I’ve been not at work I’ve been taking a bit more time to just do nothing than I usually do. Hence I’ve got a few posts in the hopper, but nothing ready for prime time.
On the positive side, I have enjoyed a couple of great podcasts this week while commuting to and from work: Scott McLeod’s interview with Dr. Jan Witthuhn for one, and Wes Fryer’s series on Web 2.0 apps such as Flickr, Google Notebook, and del.icio.us.
Oh how I wish I could find some appropriate way to share the events of my last two days…