Sunday, April 2, 2017

Tools for School Administrators

My love for learning about educational technology tools did not end when I was appointed to my dean position in February.  While the time to read blogs, sift through my Twitter feed and participate in Twitter chats, chime in on Voxer, and meet with colleagues on an individual basis has certainly been compromised, it doesn't mean that I haven't been a lurker.  My morning commute is 15-20 minutes, depending on traffic lights, which is a great time to listen to podcasts and catch up on Voxer.  I can still pop onto Twitter here and there and see some great things.  And while I don't get the chance to go into incredible detail, it's always nice to chat with a teacher while on supervision duty or have them pop into my office to answer a couple of quick questions about various tech tools.  Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how I can apply my expertise of tech tools to the school administrator position.  While the list I came up with is not exhaustive, these tools are ones that can definitely make the everyday tasks of administrators easier, and make communication with teachers easier and more effective.  

Most administrators are responsible for observing and evaluating the effectiveness of classroom teachers.  I can remember sitting in classes in junior high and high school and seeing administrators in my classroom, clipboard in hand, scrawling notes down over the course of a few minutes, then leaving, I presume, to eventually review the handwritten notes with my teacher and write an evaluation.  That was 20+ years ago, but some administrators are still doing the same thing.  Other administrators have moved forward by using a word processing document or a .pdf file to write their notes on a laptop or tablet.  Regardless, the teacher in which the administrator is evaluating has to wait before they can see what the administrator saw during their observation.  This is where a Google Doc or Google Sheet can come into play.  The administrator makes their observation notes in the Doc or Sheet and shares the file directly to the teacher as a "view only" file.  As soon as the observation is completed, the teacher can see the notes that the administrator made during the session.  

In Nevada, teachers are evaluated based on the Nevada Educator Performance Framework, or NEPF.   Teachers are evaluated based on a series of instructional and professional standards.  I created a Google Sheet that includes all of the standards and indicators, along with several columns labeled "date".  I make a copy of the file and rename it "Teacher's Name - Observation Notes" and share it with the teacher.  During an observation, I write my evidence statements in the row with the standard and indicator under the date in which I am observing.  I have provided an example of the instructional standards here, as well as a sample for the professional standards; if you are a Nevada administrator, feel free to make a copy and use it! 

Communication between administrators and teachers, families and the community is key.  Often times, the easiest way to communicate with groups is via email, but those emails often get lost in the shuffle.  An easy way to make those emails stand out more is to make them more visual.  For example, if you are emailing your staff to announce that there will be a staff meeting, you can use several different visual tools to create an email that will more likely stick in your recipients' heads and get your point across more effectively.   Some great tools to use to make those visuals, which can include video (!!!) are Adobe Spark, Canva, and a meme generator of your choice (a quick search online will turn up several meme generators).  

A sample meme you could send to your staff! 
Some schools send home a newsletter to update families and community on happenings around the school.  Why not make it more fun by making it a video or a podcast?  There are lots of tools that are simple to use to help administrators get their message out in a more interactive fashion.  Adobe Spark has a video function that allows users to make quick videos, with tons of features to make the videos look and sound great.  Want to make a quick and easy podcast?  Soundtrap is essentially Garageband for the web, so it's accessible on any device and allows the user to create sound clips and record voices and sounds, allowing users to record simple podcasts.  Whether you create a video or a podcast, the traditional newsletter can be improved and reach your audience more easily.   

As I continue to settle into my role as an administrator, I am going to figure out other ways to incorporate amazing tech tools into the position.  When that happens, I will share my thoughts on how administrators can make their life easier and be more effective to the schools, families, and communities in which they serve.  Until next time...