Offline: adventures in real time

As a technology leader over the course of the last 17+ years, I rarely if ever have opted to totally disconnect for more than a day. Two years ago over a long weekend, we took the family to Sebastopol California and discovered we were out of range of cell for two days and to our surprise we absolutely loved the experience. With my young pre teen + teen, we play board games, watched good all fashion DVDs together, read, ate and shared space.

I found in the next year plus I longed for that type of experience again for myself and my now very busy teens. I took an opportunity to go five days in Joshua tree National Park totally unplugged offline. It was an amazing trip. The family did bouldering, photography, played card games, read books, played boardgames, and just spent time together sharing space. The value of disconnecting was huge as we found ourselves in great weather outside enjoying the day together.

It is amazing how fast our culture has changed with the infusion of all elements of our lives being managed and moderated by some form of technology. I believe in today’s culture with young people especially, the value of teaching them to put down devices and go off-line be at for a long weekend or even the ability to go for a full week in the woods, in nature, or out of cell phone range is in valuable for recharging and resetting the body.

I am thankful for the ability to have done that trip last week and encourage all of you to find moments where you too can experience the same type of option off-line for even a weekend.

Disclaimer: I did use my iPhone X to shoot pics.

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What I learned from Fall CUE

Start here: Crazy Fun Pics/Vid’s

For those of us who attend conferences one, two, or many times throughout the year, the real Takeaway is often the relationships created and the opportunity to breathe just a little bit away from the daily grind.

I am not a conference junkie by any stretch. For my own professional growth, I cherry pick maybe three conferences a year that I think are worth investing in. Here is my shameless plug for FALL CUE–this is one of them. Now it begs the question why?

The real take away that you cannot quantify on your expense report is the energy you get by playing sharing and taking risks with other educational leaders teachers and support staff that have a similar mindset to yours.

I do not like conference formats where you sit for an hour and listen to people talk about something or nothing and then get up go to the next room sit and listen for an hour.

I prefer conferences that allow you to create some product even if that product is a photo album because you did a gallery walk learning how to use tools on your phone. Much like our students, I believe I now as an educator can access anything I need online in real time if I need to learn or know something. The real Takeaway is when I can create content with peers and learn to take risks in an environment that promotes growth.

Just like our students — we are no longer content consumers — we also need to be stretched to be content curators and content creators.

Modeling in our own professional growth what we want to see our students doing in our classrooms is critical to make the connection.

I predict that conference attendance is going to begin to decrease as we discover the teachers administrators and support staff no longer have a need to attend a conference where they sit and get information dumps one hour at a time.

Attend conferences or create opportunities in your location that really feed your soul and allow you to explore and innovate. Be awesome in everything you do.

That’s a wrap

Whew! Another summer of amazing moments watching dedicated classified staff prepare schools for teachers and students in anticipation of the next school year. In my new district, Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District which consists of two high performing high schools I have often again found myself amazed by the will and skill of classified staff.

Beginning my position as the Director of Instructional Technology, I joined on the last day of school. That was the first time in my tenure as a district leader that I began while so many of our students and some of our teachers/staff were finishing a long educational journey. For many of them, they were winding down and grieving the loss of a chapter. For myself, I was gearing up for a new chapter in my own professional journey.

Those of you that know me, know that I spent that time thinking about the projects that were coming down the pipe that would need a full a team effort to achieve. And so it began, my secret sauce in Leadership is as follows:

Meet the team

Quickly assess skills

Develop and communicate game plan

Jump into the deep end of the pool and have fun

This very small team in Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District were fully welcoming and had no trouble transitioning to a new style of work very quickly and effectively. We began by tackling projects as a whole team, and then smaller teams of 2 to 3 people pending on the need, the day, the location, and the timeframe.

Throughout the weeks to follow, as some staff took the month of July off, other staff stayed on and in a much smaller group. We continued the daily grind with many moving parts and a lot of flexibility required by all. Our use Voxer for daily “on the fly” “in the moment” “real time” communication helps dramatically. Voxer keeps all the team members abridged of any changes. It’s a great pathway to ask questions in the middle of a job. We have our fair share of funny gifs, decompressing moments with humor, and Real life challenges shared in the department chat. Images, video, and texts allow everybody to be heard and to understand directions in a variety of learning styles.

My biggest discovery through the summer was that regardless of what district I am in, the dedication of the classified staff always exceed my own expectations. They may not be the center stars but they have as much heart and as much investment in students exceeding as teachers and administrators.

Our summer project task list, classroom punch list, and daily support for summer school literally finished at roughly 3 PM on the Friday afternoon before all the teachers were due back. Thank you to the classified staff in Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District in the technology department- the maintenance department- the business department- the HR department- the superintendents office and school offices.

For many of us, beyond ongoing daily support, after hours support, and weekend needs that we will stretch our capacity to ensure a good experience for our students and teachers: we also gave it 100% all summer long.

So for now, on a Sunday before the Monday of our first professional staff development day we are tired yet ready to begin the school year with the hope that are teachers and students feel like they are fully supported. That’s a wrap……

Scratch 3.0 Coming Soon…..

Update from ISTE18: Scratch 3.0 FAQ’s

A highlight of the Makerfaire this past May 2018 was this talk:

Meet Scratch at it’s inception from a users perspective: Making art with Scratch allows for collaboration. Remixing in Scratch is a powerful element. Scratch is an online community not just a coding program. Ipzy Studio offers other creators her artwork. She created tutorial for backgrounds. Never imagined kids would do tutorials. Scratch creators wanted to give kids a voice. It’s programming & coding with writing. Per creator Mitchel Resnick, just leaning to code is not enough. We need to develop kids to be creative thinkers. 4P’s:

projects
passions
peers
play

“You don’t develop your own voice if you solve a puzzle.” says Mitchel Resnick.  “Kids learn best when they can work on a wide range of projects. Not all kids learn doing the same project.”

Most learning happens in collaboration with others. Play is ratified toward engaging with the world. 200 million people interacted with Scratch last year. A 5th P: purpose. Creating projects that are important to them.

“Scratch is a really open place. “ says Jinho.

What’s next with Scratch 3.0?

Kids can create things connects to voice commands. & it will work with LEGO Wedo.

Scratch bit will take Scratch into the physical world. Integrating open API’s.

They wants kids to develop into critical thinkers. Not coders.

Projects in Scratch are covered by Creative Commons. Use anything you want but reference the creator. Scratch 3.0 will be HTML5/Javascript based.

No more Flash needed.

Students will be able to author on tablets beyond ScratchJr. Not ready for smartphones yet.

Keep on scratching.

The Power of Partnerships: Part Four

Some of the most meaningful partnerships will take years to fully be realized. In my first year as the Chief Technology Officer in Dublin Unified, I had the opportunity to work alongside the Director of Facilities Kim McNeely. In our first introductory meeting, we immediately hit it off as we discovered that we were approaching our work in very much the same way: a focus on students.

In many districts Facilities departments do not always collaborate with Technology departments on capital projects. More often than not, they rely on outside consultants and contractors to establish infrastructure needs and oversee all elements of installation and configuration. In Dublin Unified for the past 3+ years, this has not been the case.

Within my first year, I was able to participate on a charrettes (brainstorming process) which brought together key stakeholders around the community + educators to set the needs list for a new school. In that same first year we opened an elementary school while simultaneously planning the opening of another school that would be follow within three years. Coming aboard towards the end of one finished project and at the very beginning of another was invaluable opportunity.

I was granted full access to all Facility department stuff to ensure that we could meet Facilities needs in a timely fashion. Cross department budgets were created and followed with procedures put into place guaranteeing no overlap of effort. Ongoing open communication and pathways insured that milestones on the project were met by the Technology department. By having a voice and a seat at the table, Technology department staff were far more engaged and invested as projects progressed.

In the fourth part of the series on partnerships, I believe this example has been the most successful on the topic. If leaders across departments can sit at the table together, learn how to infuse their practice with in one another’s departments, and streamline needs, students win.

Working on tasks toward a common goal are not to be confused with partnering.  In a partnership, key staff will set aside time to build relationships, compromise often, and if really bold, take on some of one another’s duties.  Similar to a marriage right?  In it together, not along side one another.  I encourage you to establish partnerships with all departments in your district to better serve the needs of our very important customers: students.

What’s Your Intention?

I have been a district administrator for more than 14 years. In four different districts, I have been a part of systems change efforts with a variety of teams and skill levels. Every district, just like every school site, has its own unique culture. From office staff, to kitchen staff, noon duty supervisors, bus drivers, teachers, administrators, parents, community, board members, and students, the list of stakeholders can go on and on.

And yet, I have found the most effective way to guide my daily work is to be very clear about my intentions. I try to keep it very simple “Is this good for kids?”

Any member of any one of the stakeholder groups may say it’s not that simple. I have found in the many years wearing many different hats as a leader that for me it works very well. My intentions as I work my way through daily operations in the many special and challenging moments that occur during a school year and summer that being very mindful about who I am serving guides all of my decisions easily.

I work in education for students. That means on any given day my focus might be any member of the stakeholders mentioned above. And if I serve them well, students needs are met. I am a firm believer in the interconnectedness of all of us and our intentions.

Parents may say they have to make tough decisions for the children. There are moments as a district administrator that I make tough decisions for students. Any of the stakeholder may not believe in the moment that that is what is best for students, and yet I do my very best to try to meet their needs with students in mind.

It’s not always perfect, it’s rarely tidy and yet I believe by keeping it that simple that I am making a difference in students educational journey.

If you happen to be one of the lucky individuals that gets to work in education, and I really do mean that, what your intention? I want to challenge you to contemplate and reflect on what adds value to your daily Compass as you walk serving students. When all of us are clear about our intentions to serve students, our schools are highly effective in doing just that. Students win.

Leaders- Step Aside

I am a strong proponent of empowering staff. There are many low-cost opportunities to do just that. Let me focus on staff meetings. Often as leaders, we believe we have to guide the experience in the conversation by presenting a robust agenda, interactive experiences, and opportunities for conversation. I often try to challenge myself to provide opportunities in that same light but actually led by department staff, rather than myself. Professional development is an area that I often will empower department staff to partner with unlikely teammates and prepare and share concepts, best practices, key information technology skills, and new areas of thinking.

Recently, to staff in my department led professional development for our department meeting on the topic of MakeyMakey/Scratch for the Special Ed population. In a 45 minute timeframe, they created and led teams through some very robust skills at a high-level using the design thinking model. They determined the teams, brought the supplies, prepped all of the elements of the training, and then guided and supported the team through the professional development.

At the end of the timeframe, teams shared with department their projects and entertained questions. This professional development could have been delivered in any variety of ways. I personally could have delivered all of the concepts and led the department with the exact same structure. For myself as a professional, it was far more meaningful to empower my staff and actually be a participant amongst my department professionals.

Leaders: my question to you, in every leadership position that you hold, is when do you Step Aside?