Welcome to my ramblings!

Welcome to my Blog. Here you can find the ramblings of a old high school principal. I've created a number of blogs over the years for a variety of reasons. A large number of them I use with my staff which are password protected from the outside world. This blog is for my fellow educators and anyone else who wants to read the ramblings. I guess my target would be building administrators, future administrators, teachers and educators in general.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"They Don't Get It" Part 1

I attended a conference this past weekend with a focus on technology in the classroom. Most in attendance were teachers with a few tech folks and even fewer administrators. Most of the presenters were also teachers who demonstrated how they used technology in the classroom.

During the two days, I made a few observations I feel I need to share. While this blog is open to anyone, it's main target will be my fellow administrators. In addition, it's going to involve some research on my part so I've labeled this blog entry "part 1" since I believe there will be more to share in the months ahead.

I also believe that almost all my fellow administrators understand the impact of technology on today's generation. Or at least I "think" this to be true. As I attended the conference, I heard something that I've heard before, but really didn't register until now. I heard "They don't get it". The "they" are administrators according to these high power technology users in the classroom.

As I drove home, I reflected on the conference. This statement just kept haunting me as I drove. So even before I got home, I pulled out my iPhone and Plurked a question to my fellow educators in Plurk world. (For those who do not know about Plurk, it's the same as Twitter but has a wealth of educators. You can find more by joining the land of Plurk at http://www.plurk.com.) I asked my fellow teachers what they meant by "They don't get it". Below was the first set of answers and I bulleted each teacher's answer without editing.

  • Many of "them" don't take a leadership role in tech integration; don't allow those who are interested to experiment. Too reactive to parents. So afraid of lawsuits that they lock down the Internet via heavy filtering. Forget, if they ever knew, what the daily classroom experience is like.
  • or don't give time to teachers to 'play' and learn themselves with the tech
  • admin. I think are trying but they themselves need more information & then demand that their teachers integrate. It cannot be optional. time to learn, network with others, good support is critical in addition to having the actual hardware/apps/high speed Internet to integrate
  • they don't understand the power of technology in a classroom and think it is something that should happen after the learning. Don't use and model proper technology for meetings and presentations. OK for teachers but many principals I have come in contact with do not know how to integrate the technology. Some actually don't know much about email. You are an exception.
  • I think admins should be more active in getting overly restrictive blocking lifted!
  • too focused on test scores to allow teachers to try new technology for fear of taking time away from "learning"
  • The issue I see most often from those teachers who weren't at Podstock is training issues. Admins put cool tech in their hands and then walk away and expect the teacher to take care of the rest and some just can't take that next step on their own so the tech goes to waste. The tech looks great to prospective parents and on a building report "We all have interactive whiteboards!" but frustrates some teachers.
 From the first set of answers, I pulled out the following issues: 
     1) Filtering or blocking the Internet. 
     2) Giving staff time to explore, experiment and learn the technology (training).
     3) Too concerned about Parent/community reaction.
     4) Don't understand the impact of technology in the classroom.
     5) They (admin) aren't good at technology and aren't leaders within the world of technology.

I then took these 5 points and re-plurked (asked the question again to see what follow up I would get).

After the re-plurk I only got two additional responses:

  • Some admin don't feel comfortable empowering their staff but want staff to empower kids. Empowerment is  2 -way street.
  • Some admin want technolgy in their hands (not really knowing what to do with it) but don't want kids to have it
because they just break it.

Clearly, the responses are from all grade levels and from various schools. I did get couple that said their admin did get it.

So to my fellow admin ... what does this say to you?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Podstock Observation

P.S. I haven't had time to get this proofread. I'm trying to work with another on the research. 

Before I start I want to remind everyone that my viewpoint does come from an administrator's angle. That said, I really enjoyed the sessions I attended. The presenters had tons of energy and the audience was quick to become involved in the action.

By the end of the first day I did have a thought running through my head that I actually sat down and visited with Mike Cook about on Saturday. I wondered about the presenters and most of the audience. What were their Kolbes? For those who don't know about Kolbe, it's a self survey that helps identify how a person problem-solves. It's broken down into four modes. 1) Fact Finder - the instinctive way we gather and share information (this person has a strong need for a lot of information). 2) Follow Thru - the instinctive way we arrange and design (this person needs to see the whole picture). 3) Quick Start - the instinctive way we deal with risk and uncertainty (this person tends to think outside the box). 4) Implementor - the instinctive way we handle space and tangibles (this person has the need to have physical contact). There's a lot more that goes with Kolbe including creating productive teams, learning how to work with individuals of other modes, etc. You can find more at http://www.kolbe.com. You can even take the Kolbe for a fee.

My goal here isn't to get people to take the Kolbe, but I do think it explains a lot about how many of the folks at podstock have a common connection. I believe many of those who attended would most likely be considered "Quick Starts". Think back to many of the presentations over the two days. How did they present? Yes, with passion, but many of them were what I would call shot gunning (this is NOT a bad thing). There was so much to share that presenters tended to bounce around as they presented. They had a clear order in which they presented yet if you really stepped back and thought about it you would realize they seemed to jump around. Another observation was how presenters handled a technical problem. When something didn't go as planned they simply took a deep breath, adjusted and moved on. These are characteristics of a Quick Start. Most teachers we know would have panicked when the technology failed to do what was expected.

    My Kolbe.....4       3      8      4 ...........................

Why is this an issue? According to research we are finding that most who work in education are either "Fact Finders" or "Follow Thru" individuals. (This too is NOT a bad thing either). We need all modes to make the world go around. Truthfully, if we only had Quick Starts we would struggle to get things done as there would always be another great idea to think about.

The real problem is Fact Finders and Follow Thru folks tend to drive us Quick Starts crazy (yes, I scored an 8 out of 10 on Quick Start). We throw out our ideas but the Fact Finders always want more information or data and the Follow Thrus want to know what this will look like when we are done, as well as what every step needs to be taken to get there.  Plus, we (Quick Starts) drive Fact Finders and Follow Thru folks crazy. We tend to jump around on them. We don't provide all the information needed before they can move. We tend to have a lot of ideas, way too many ideas and can't seem to land on one. In some cases we actually can make them mad because we don't seem to be focused.

This may explain a few things:

A) For those of you who are Quick Starts and try to work with fellow teachers in your home districts, you may have noticed how much step by step procedures are needed for your fellow staff to do anything. They can't seem to fill in the blanks on their own. They may even drive you a little nuts because it seems they can't grasp what you are saying or what you see as the simplest procedures. They can't seem to adapt quickly to changes.

B) For a few people at Podstock I did see some frustration on their faces as they watched presentations which seemed to bounce around. This indicated to me that they were most likely a Fact Finder or Follow Thru individual. The presentation was most likely confusing to them or it was hard to keep up. But the fact that they were there tells me that Fact Finders and Follow Thru folks want change and they are willing to implement technology in their classrooms. They just need a way to grasp it without becoming so frustrated when they learn from us Quick Starts.

C) You probably heard a ton of comments about how Podstock was like a family. The feeling is that since it's such a small conference this creates the family feeling. That's probably true, but if I am correct and most of us are Quick Starts, this may also be a reason why we bonded so quickly.

D) THE BIG ISSUE as I see it .. we (the Quick Starts) need to realize how different we are in the educational world. It does appear we are the minority. If we truly want to get our message out there and bring change to education we need to understand our audience. Since most in education are Fact Finders and Follow Thrus we need to figure out ways to deliver our message in a way that they can embrace.

Let me give an example: Kevin Honeycutt made a comment during Kay Tibbs

I became very focused on this after changing my job last year. I realized over half way into the school year that I was freaking out many of my staff. That both my message and how I delivered it was causing problems. My choices were to continue to push my message my way or figure out ways to deliver my message in a way that would sell most of my staff.

One way I did this was turn to my fellow administrators who were Fact Finders, Follow Thrus and Implemenators. I sat with them (smaller audience) and we worked out the message that needed to be delivered (yes, this took some time and is still an ongoing process). Either they provided me with ways to present to the staff or they delivered my message for me in their own words/actions. Slowly, I believe, the message is getting out there.

I also had my whole staff take Kolbe and started training them on what it means. Of course the Fact Finders need more information before they are going to embrace this concept. My Follow Thurs are still working to see how this fits into the bigger picture. My Implemenators have a quicker understanding since they can identify how much they love to use their hands but are still adjusting. Last, the Quick Starts jumped on the bandwagon quickly and are trying to figure out how to use it. I would also say that we are doing Kolbe Y with our students as well. Hoping that when the staff grasps the concept, they can incorporate and use this knowledge of their students to improve learning. We've found that many At-Risk students tend to be Quick Starts and Implemenators. They don't fit a normal classroom where the teacher is teaching from the Fact Finder or Follow Thru viewpoint. But that's another topic for another day.

Is this observation a good one? I don't know. One way would be to find out the Kolbes of all the presenters and attendees. Unfortunately, that may not be possible if Podcast attendees haven't take the Kolbe. (The cost to take an individual Kolbe is about 50.00) I do plan on Plurking and asking Podcast attendees to submit their Kolbe if they have it. Once I do I will add the results to this blog.

In conclusion ... if you are a Quick Start and are trying to bring change to your district, take a moment and study the Kolbe. Learn what works with Fact Finders and Follow Thrus so that you can successfully deliver your message. Believe me, most of your fellow teachers fall into those two modes.

(If you have thoughts, ideas on this please share.)
Shawnee Heights Crew @ Podstock