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……

Advertisements

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?

“It Starts In IT”

Recently, I was listening to a CheckThisOut podcast and the statement was made “It starts in IT.” In the year 2017 schools are still struggling with technology integration. The notion that was presented by Brian Briggs was that in order to implement technology fully in classrooms related to hardware selection/management, “It starts in IT.” If your IT department does not have a level of comfort innovating you will find yourself extremely limited with what can occur in classrooms today.  IT departments in schools too often get stuck with the toolset they know and the tools they feel confident managing.

When I leave my own district and I’m out with teachers I still often hear, “We cannot access that, we’re told we can’t use that, and it’s blocked.” In 2017, we are still held at bay by our IT departments too often. I have been an IT professional for well over 20 years, and hearing this is still heartbreaking and often true.

My recommendation is that classroom teachers + parents + students rally and challenge administration to challenge IT. If you have IT professionals that lack the skillset to innovate or the will to innovate, there are ways that you can train them and educate them around the new value that they can offer just by being risk takers.

What devices are used-what standards are followed with projection and doc cameras and laptops and Chromebooks.  What operating systems are supported still drive classroom instruction. For IT departments that want to better meet the needs of their classroom teachers, there are very inexpensive ways to innovate without putting the organization at risk for potential intrusive challenges. There is a happy medium that we can reach with classroom teachers in IT. The willingness on the part of the IT staff has to be to give up a little bit of power and control. If you are in a position where you manage the IT staff, you can easily make it part of their evaluation.

In classrooms, to support teachers that want to innovate, IT departments have to evolve and innovate themselves. Yes we have to follow laws. Yes we have to follow industry standards. Yes it is easier to manage only one type of hardware. Does that best meet the needs of our classroom teachers, I say no. I challenge IT leaders to stretch their own thinking around how to best support classroom teachers.  If IT leaders are not “in classrooms”, they cannot see what a hindrance they are to learning.  Invite them into your rooms. Encourage them to observe.  Share this blog post and ask they reach out.  #cueadmin is full of innovative IT Leaders.  @CETPA has certified CTO’s that take courses in EdTech.  There are avenues. There are support mechanisms.  Nudge them.