What is Innovation Anyway?

I have learned so many things since becoming a school administrator 8 years ago.  One of the most important lessons that I have learned is to respect the reality that teachers are all at different places in developing their craft.  They are certainly at a different comfort level with using technology and with reaching out beyond the way we have always done things in the classroom.

Once I realized this important lesson,  I also realized that the idea of “innovation” looks different for all of us.  I was reading a blog post recently written by George Couros. He was talking about how we have this idea that innovation is something huge, and because of this, we may not feel like we can be innovative.  I have been reflecting on this idea this week.

One of the favorite parts of my job as a school administrator is that I can see a little piece of everyone’s classroom and the learning going on within,  pretty much whenever I want.  What a treat!

I feel like I see the most wonderful and often innovative things happening, but teachers do not think they are being innovative because they are “just doing what teachers do” in their minds.

Our school division puts a priority on technology and encouraging innovation and engagement.  We do not lack in bandwidth or devices.  For that, I am extremely grateful.  A few year’s ago my vice-principal and I decided we wanted to push our teachers a bit out of the comfort zone and have everyone set a goal to have a way to use technology with their students that allowed their students to be creative and make connections.  It did not have to be anything crazy, but just taking one step away from using our devices for drill and practice activities.

I was so proud of all of our teachers.  When given the chance to start from wherever they were and take a small leap, most of them really shined.

Since we did not want this to be a one and done, this year we have challenged them to take some activity or learning lesson they have done with their students before and reflect on ways to tweak it or add to it or change it to make it even better for their students through making connections or creative endeavours using technology.

Are they being innovative?  I think so!  To quote the blog post mentioned earlier in the post, “Small changes, big difference.”  I can’t wait to see what they all come up with.

Winning the Race Against Time

time management

I do not know a single teacher or administrator that feels like they have enough minutes in the day or time in the week.  Teaching is a 24/7 kind of job and can easily consume every waking moment if we let it.

Right now I am participating in a blogging challenge  with my PLN  at #saskedchat.  The first topic we decided to tackle was organization.   What do we do to organize our time?  What tools do we use to make our every day tasks easier.   In my usual style, I am a bit late with my first post.  That seems a little ironic to be late when our first topic was organization, but, none the less, it might not have as much to do with my lack of organization as it has to do with life.

Interestingly enough, time management and organization was one of  the topics of a recent administrators meeting as well.  Many of the administrators have voiced difficulty meeting the demands of the job within the time given.  This is a feeling that I know all too well. The conversation and suggestions given at the meeting were not earth shattering by any means, but did lead me to reflect on small changes I might make.

The unpredictability of the job is  one thing  I think makes it so hard to manage time and tasks. Whether we are in administration or we are a classroom teacher, we all know the feeling of having our best laid plans pushed aside by an unexpected student or parent issue, an emergency phone call, last minute changes to supervision and countless other things that come up during the school day.

I do not have any earth shattering time management advice myself, sorry #saskedchat PLN, but here are 3 things that I find do work well for me.

1.Intentional Planning- I believe that we make time for the things we put as a priority.  Exercise and diet fall into this category for me.  When I prioritize my exercise time, insist with myself that I leave the school and actually make it a part of my daily calendar and schedule, it will happen.  On the other hand, if I take the attitude that we will see how the day goes, most often it does not.

One of the things I do that I believe helps is intentionally planning  the tasks and priorities in my calendar, not just when I have classes and meetings, but for the blocks of time that are left up to me to decide how to fill.   Before, I would leave these blanks open and just work away at the tasks on hand.

This intentional planning has allowed me to prioritize my tasks and accomplish more over the week, even with unexpected interruptions. Last week I noticed a Pinterest pin by Vicki Davis, @coolcatteacher. about intentional planning.  It is worth taking a look at as well.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/124060164711377963/

She talks about intentional planning of other times of your day as well to allow time for those things that you enjoy and time with family.

2.  One tool that has  been a lifesaver for me has been symbaloo.com.  Symbaloo is a link organizational tool set up in the format of tiles.  It allows you to take links you access often and organize them on different pages, colors, titles etc.  I have all the links that I access on a daily or weekly basis and have them on the desktop of my symbaloo.  I have other pages with course links, genius hour links, personal links, staff meetings,  etc.

https://www.symbaloo.com/embed/principalsmartsdesktop?

One of the reasons symbaloo works so well for me is I do not have a classroom of my own and I am always moving from room to room teaching in other teachers classrooms.  Symbaloo allows me to move from room to room, open up a web browser and log into my symbaloo and have all my links at my finger tips. The classroom teacher does not need to log out of the classroom computer for me to access my materials.

symbaloo

3.  Another tool that has really helped with my organization has been Evernote.  I have used Evernote here and there for a long time, but one night while sitting in with #schadminchat and there was a lot of talk about using Evernote for walk-throughs and that  is what prompted me to really take advantage of the app.

https://evernote.com/evernote/guide/ios/
https://evernote.com/evernote/guide/ios/

As an administrator, one of my frustrations has always been my lack of real conversations with teachers about the things that I see as I am walking around the building and spending time in classrooms.  I see amazing things every day, but either lack knowledge needed to fully understand the intent, or have thoughts that may add to conversations about students.

Now as I visit classrooms I will bring my I-pad.  I snap pictures, I record conversations with students, I video classroom activities and I record my observations and my questions.  I have a file for each teacher and I am able to immediately email my visit to the teacher.  We then find time to have a quick meeting or the teacher will email me back the answers.

Since I have started doing this, I have had some really great conversations with teachers that have allowed us to learn together.  I feel much more knowledgeable about the things going on in classrooms and I think it has improved my communication and understanding.

I also use the pictures, videos, etc. when I am sharing with our parents and extending community about what is going on at our school through blogging, twitter, newsletters, etc.

I think Evernote can also be a very useful student portfolio tool or can be used in the same manner by a classroom teacher to track student conversations and assessments.

I can access Evernote on all my devices and I have never had any issues with syncing the information or using it wherever I am; home, school, school division office, etc.

These are the 3 ideas I would like to throw out in the conversation about organization.  Of course, I could not live without my I-phone, my I-pad and my outlook calendar, but I am sure that goes without saying for all of us.  I can’t wait to see what ideas my #saskedchat PLN will have to share with me.

What do you do to better organize your time?