Yes, You’re a Leader

“I have nothing good to share.”

“No one wants to hear from little ol’ me.”

“I don’t have anything to offer that hasn’t been shared a million times.”

“What I did isn’t a big deal.”

These are just a few of the statements I’ve heard from teachers over the last many years as I’ve worked with them to build their capacity around technology and innovation in teaching and learning. Whether it’s a teacher that has jumped in feet first into project based learning or a teacher that learns new ways for students to publish their work to the world, I hear statements like those above when I encourage them to share what they’ve done.

To those of you in a similar role like mine, one that delivers professional learning and support to educators; encouragement, and cheerleading is an essential component of our profession. There is no victory too small to celebrate. We now have such a variety of ways to share the great things we’re learning and trying with students that we can no longer afford to not do it. While Twitter and blogging is certainly an option, there are also more localized ways to start. It might just be sending an email to your immediate team or department, or to the staff at your school, or in 5 minutes at a faculty meeting. Share in ways that feel comfortable to you, then once your comfort increases take it up a notch from there.

These are big but necessary steps in your growth as a teacher. Here’s an example from a teacher in my district: Mrs. Romero, who jumped back into blogging after some time away from it to reflect on 1st semester of going gradeless and trying more innovative things in her classroom.

You have the ability and the power to be a leader in your school and in your district. Don’t doubt it! Once you make that step I promise it will not only be rewarding for your colleagues, but for you too.

3 Ways for #EdTech Coaches to Communicate with G Suite for Education

In my previous post, I shared some thoughts about the importance of edtech coaches to be an effective and efficient communicator. Strong communication skills, coupled with building relationships, creates a very strong foundation for success in working with teachers and students.

Since many school systems use G Suite for Education already, I thought I’d keep this post under that umbrella and share a few ways you can more effectively communicate and share information with teachers and staff.

Boomerang for Gmail
This is one of my favorite Chrome extensions for Gmail. Boomerang for Gmail has many great functions like the ability to schedule your emails ahead of time (which is great for working ahead to create regularity to your communication efforts), and you can “boomerang” them for yourself to temporarily get it out of your inbox until a later date. Also, you can set it up so if the receiver does not reply to or open your email within a given time frame it will automatically get sent to them again.

 

Boomerang for Gmail adds a “Send Later” button when you compose a message.

After you install Boomerang for Gmail you will need to refresh your inbox, and then authorize Boomerang to access your Google account.

Note: I use the free version of Boomerang for Gmail. There are paid options but I’ve never felt the need to have that. Thanks to Jeff Bradbury for the reminder! 

Google Classroom
I know Google Classroom isn’t new anymore, but it doesn’t have to be used only with students. Technology coaches can create “classes” for different buildings that are focused on edtech PD, ideas, and resources for teachers to access. If we’re going to be at a particular building working with teachers on a given day, the space for those teachers in Classroom is a quick and easy way to share slides, links, or other materials they need to be an active participant in their learning. It can also be used to create discussion activities and post questions to receive professional development feedback.

A newer feature in Google Classroom that is great for organizing your communication is the ability to create topics. Any type of post you create can be tagged with a particular topic, which will make it easier for teachers to find previous resources you have posted.

Google Forms
Part of being a strong communicator as an edtech coach is making the time to understand your learners’ needs prior to meeting with them; whether that’s 1 teacher or a group of 20 teachers. Creating a Google Form is a great way to do this. Sure, you could email the group and collect replies, but who wants more emails in their inbox? Sending out a quick form as a “needs assessment” is a great way to help you feel more prepared heading into the meeting. The more you know beforehand, the better prepared you’ll be and your teachers will really appreciate the learning being tailored to their needs. Even if your topic isn’t yet decided, a form is a great way to provide teachers with a “menu” of options to seek input and give them a voice in their professional development.

Bonus! Bitmoji for Gmail
Earlier in the post when I mentioned Boomerang for Gmail, you might have noticed in my screenshot that “Bitmoji” Kyle made an appearance. 🙂 If you haven’t delved into the world that is Bitmoji you should definitely check it out. It allows you to create a fun “cartoon” style version of yourself. The Bitmoji Chrome Extension can add some fun to not only your texts but you can insert the Bitmoji version of yourself right into your emails too. If you produce a weekly or monthly edtech newsletter, you can also use the extension to insert your Bitmoji into a Google Doc or Slides presentation too.

 Disclaimer: while Bitmoji is definitely a fun way to communicate there are some that are not school appropriate.

There are certainly lots of other great tools for communication but I wanted to share a few of my favorites that fall under the Google umbrella. What are your favorite communication tools?

 

 

3 Steps to Creating Empowered Leadership in Your School

This post was also a guest post for McGraw-Hill Education.

All too often in education – whether that be at a conference, in a professional learning workshop, or even at a faculty meeting, we have become used to one person in the room being the “expert”, or the “Oz” around a particular topic. While these leaders are certainly needed to help us shift our thinking and culture around teaching and learning, they should not stay the only authority on a topic for long. As educational
leaders; superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors, principals, and assistant principals – are we investing the time to build leadership capacity in others? It is my belief that the best leaders create more leaders. We should all strive to be a 
“multiplier”, someone who wishes to increase leadership capacity in others.

So, how do we do this? I would like to offer a few suggestions.

  1. Help others realize their influence potential.

In my experience as a leader in the world of educational technology, I have watched many teachers over and over again not give themselves enough credit in terms of their ability to influence their colleagues. This usually starts with a fair amount of fear followed by self-doubt of their ability to offer anything substantial to their fellow teachers. We have to diligently keep encouraging educators to try moving forward with one thing at a time. More often than not, teachers attend some type of professional learning event and come back to their classroom not knowing where to begin; feeling overwhelmed and therefore not doing anything. This is the worse possible post-event outcome I can think of. Pick one thing, get really good at it and boom! You’re now in a position to influence others; whether that be in a face to face setting, writing a blog post about it, or just sending out an email to colleagues for some healthy “Hey check out this awesome thing I tried!”.  In being a connected educator for just over 8 years now, this is such a rewarding thing to witness for me personally, to see other teachers have success, and be excited to share it with others.

2. Create opportunities for others to spread their genius.

Are you making time for others to share their stories? During that next professional learning workshop, faculty meeting, or even in that next electronic newsletter, is time being devoted/given for your own people to share the great things they’re doing? If no, then why not? As someone who leads presents conference sessions and workshops quite often, one of my upfront disclaimers is always something to the effect of, “By all means, please not only stop me with questions, but please also stop me to share your own story about how (insert topic here) has changed teaching and learning for the better in your classroom.”. Make a commitment to give a teacher 5-10 minutes of your next staff meeting to share something awesome they did. You’re not only creating the opportunity here for a teacher to spread their genius, you’re creating a tremendous sense of empowered leadership in them too!

Have you looked at digital options for people to share? What about creating a professional learning blog for your school or district and having a guest author each month? Just like our students, some teachers feel way more comfortable expressing themselves electronically than they would if you ask them to speak face to face to their peers. Create a district hashtag for sharing professional learning (our district’s is #GVEaglePD) and get teaches sharing their learning out loud on Twitter. It not only gives a voice for others to share the great things they’re doing, but it also creates an online learning community within your school or district that can be a source of learning for others.

3. Commit to a plan of sustainability

The bottom line here, is that this can’t be a “flash in the pan” thing. None of what I’m sharing with you in this blog post is meant to be a “one and done” event. It must be ongoing, and become the norm; an everyday component of how we grow as educators to be the best we can be for our students. We’re at the verge of 2017 and we still are talking about “21st-century skills” or creating “21st-century teaching and learning environments”. How about it all just becomes “teaching and learning”? Don’t we owe it to our teachers and our students to see the importance of learning from each other on a regular basis?

Have you ever thought about creating edcamp style professional learning opportunities for teachers? The chances are really high that at least one person in your school or district has been to an edcamp before. Creating your own edcamp learning event is a prime way to get people sharing the great things they’re doing. I promise you that after you do this once, teachers will be wanting it again and again so just plan on doing this at least a couple times a year. I have seen this offered in the summer before the start of a new school year, and also as part of a district professional learning day when students are not at school. It’s awesome!

We have so many teachers doing great things in our schools. That knowledge and expertise can’t remain contained within the 4 walls of their classrooms. To keep it that way is a professional disservice to our colleagues and a learning disservice to our students. It’s not about finding the time, it’s about making the time.

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