Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (August 30, 2015)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What Would You Share? - Three for Thursday (Volume 1)

As we complete our opening three days of professional development in Burlington Public Schools today, I was thinking about all of the great resources that staff has shared with one another this week. In addition, I was wondering how we can continue to share resources throughout the school year when we will be off in our own schools, classrooms and offices. With this in mind, I decided that I would try to continue to riding on this wave of sharing and pass along three resources each Thursday (Three for Thursday) that I thought would be valuable for colleagues.

However, I will need some help on this endeavor if I am truly going to make it work. In addition, it will be a lot more fun if I am not the sole curator of useful websites and blogs. Therefore, I would like to harness the power of the amazing network of online educators and have you all share your favorite sites with me!  Here is a link for you to share your suggestions for future Three for Thursday posts

For my first Three for Thursday, I am going to get things rolling with three of my all-time favorites:
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Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers blog has been on my must-read list for years. Richard, an educator from Maine, shares countless resources daily with reviews and quick explanations of how these resources can be used in classrooms. In addition, he is constantly providing updates on all of these digital tools as they are updated.

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Cult of Pedagogy from Jennifer Gonzalez is another must read. Jennifer is a National Board Certified middle school teacher who is now teaching pre-service teachers at the university level. Whether you are a first-year teacher or a savvy veteran, you will find a tremendous amount of resources here on Jennifer’s blog. Before I move on to my third site for this week, I also want to throw a quick plug out for Jennifer’s latest book Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School (Hack Learning Series) (Volume 1). The book which was co-authored by Mark Barnes was one of my favorite summer reads.

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My final site for this week is Alice Keeler’s Teacher Tech.  There are many reasons to follow Alice’s blog, but one of the biggest for me is the fact that she is a Google ninja! She is constantly sharing updates on Google tools with clear explanations of how teachers can take advantage of the latest updates to the Google Apps for Education toolbox.  She is a go-to person for anything related to Google Classroom and recently published 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom.

So that’s it for this week! Now the ball is in your court to share your favorite websites/blogs for next week’s edition of Three for Thursday! Stay tuned for my next post which will discuss options for curating all of these great resources that we will be sharing this year...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (August 23, 2015)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Quick Letter to Ed-Tech Salespeople

One of my bigger frustrations is getting form letter emails from companies trying to sell our school district something, particularly something that falls under the category of educational technology. As we head into another school year, I thought I would offer a bit of advice to vendors out there who would like to work with our school district. Excuse me for the form letter, but I know that it is your preferred method of communication. 

Dear Educational Technology Salesperson:
Please stop sending post-conference form letters via email to me that tell me that you enjoyed meeting me at a conference. The fact of the matter is that I tend to avoid the exhibit hall and you probably did not meet me at the conference you referenced. I find this type of correspondence disingenuous and am not likely to work with someone who would send it.

Second, stop sending emails asking what we are doing in our district regarding educational technology and what our needs are. A quick Google search will lead you to some information about what we are up to in our district and it would also allow you to recraft impersonal correspondence which is such a turnoff. I know you are trying to ease your burden and craft a message that can be sent to as many school leaders as possible, but do you really get a high response rate to these?

The bottom line for me here is that we look to bring resources into our schools that add value for students and teachers. By sending a form letter to me, you have already wasted my time and shown that you are not going to go the extra mile to build a rapport with me, my staff, or my students. You may not know this yet, but the most important aspect in learning environments is the quality of the relationships that are built. When individuals feel respected and valued, the outcomes tend to be much more positive.

At the end of the day, it is not about your product. It is really about the level of access that we will have to you and your colleagues should we decide to partner with you to support our learning community. Will you be there for us when we need you to help us? While I know you can't play favorites, will we be your most valued customer? Can you at least try to make us feel that way?

You need to put the practice of sending everyone the same message on your "stop-doing list." Otherwise, you will not be hearing back from me.

Best of luck in the 2015-2016 school year! I hope it is successful for both of us.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Our First Day with New Teachers - Resources

Today is opening day with our new teachers in Burlington Public Schools. I struggle annually to find a balance with what to share with them as we prepare for the start of school which is just under a week away for teachers and just under two weeks away for students. How much information is too much? I do not want to overwhelm them, but I also do not want to forget something important.  I have decided to share some opening thoughts for this morning in the hopes that it will cause you and those in your community to answer the most important question we need to focus on during our first day (and on every other day).

The following excerpt, written by Ken Blanchard, is from the Foreword to Jon Gordon's The Energy Bus:
In many of my seminars I begin by asking people to stand up and do two things. First, I ask them to greet other people as if they are unimportant. After an initial chuckle or two, there’s a dull hum as everyone walks around trying to ignore each other. Then I stop them and ask them to continue to greet people, but this time, to do it as if the people they are greeting are long-lost friends they’re glad to see. The room erupts with laughter and the volume rises as people run around, smiling, hugging, and chatting with each other.
As we think about the beginning of a new school year, how does this message resonate with you? With this in mind, I wanted to share a question from Cale Birk, a colleague in British Columbia. Cale posted the following question in a blog post titled What are the EXPERIENCES you create?

How can we make the EXPERIENCE that our (students/parents) have when they walk into our building/register at our school/go to our website, etc) SO POSITIVE that they want to communicate this experience with others?

Some useful resources that we will share:

Louise D'Amato, our Director of Special Education, will share Rita Pierson's Every kid needs a champion TEDTalk.

We will provide all new teachers with a copy of Learn Like A Pirate.  

Some welcome back blog posts from BPS teachers
District Websites:


Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (August 16, 2015)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Let's Free Our Schools From Inbox Overload

One of my least favorite things, in both my professional life and my personal life, is deal with Emails. Therefore, I am open to anything that will help me avoid spending more than a small amount of time each day writing and/or responding to Email. Because of my propensity to avoid Email, I always have my antenna up for tips and tricks that will help me in this area. With this in mind, I was thrilled to come across the Email Charter this week, a document which gives some concrete solutions to help all of us deal with this unnecessary intrusion.

The Email Charter clearly states both the problem and the solution as follows:
The Problem
The relentless growth of in-box overload is being driven by a surprising fact:
The average time taken to respond to an Email is greater, in aggregate, than the time it took to create.
The Solution
"...Email overload is something we are inadvertently doing to each other. You can't solve this problem acting alone. You will end up simply ignoring, delaying, or rushing responses to many incoming messages, and risk annoying people or missing something great. That prospect is stressful...But if we can mutually change the ground rules, maybe we can make that stress go away."
The Email Charterwhich emanated from a blog post by TED curator Chris Anderson four years ago, was something that was crowd-sourced and revised into a list of 10 things (shown in the graphic below from that we can all do to "reverse this spiral."
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In looking at the list, I have three quick takeaways for school leaders as we head into a new school year and try to support the people within our organization by freeing them up from in-box overload.
  1. Deliver your message verbally whenever possible - If you are in a small school or district deliver individual messages in person instead of adding another e-mail to someone's inbox. This also gets you out of the office and allows you to be more visible and potentially interact with even more colleagues. In addition, if the message is something that deals with an emotional or hot-button topic then it is better to have a conversation and not leave open the possibility that the tone of an e-mail will be misread.
  2. Open-ended emails should be retired - If you are looking for group input on a decision, an agenda, or a document then put out a collaborative document for people to work on together (i.e. a Google doc). It will save everyone time and show more transparency in the process.
  3. Take the angry e-mail out of your repertoire - What is gained by a scathing e-mail? Do you really feel better after ? How long until you start thinking that you should find a way to unsend that nastygram? Remember, you don't have to unsend 100-percent of the angry Emails that you never send.