Saturday, June 30, 2012

Connecting as a New Principal

This week I am away on an offline vacation. Rather than let the blog be dormant or rerunning old posts I decided to give some other people a chance to share their experiences and ideas with you. I hope you enjoy the posts.

Having just completed my first year as building principal, I continue to hear the words of a former Science instructor at every turn, “The only thing constant is change.” As someone new to the world of Educational Administration, this phrase helps describe my first year as an Elementary Principal.  I use these words as guidance and continue to reflect upon them throughout the process. This past year I found many "changes" in store for me and no doubt for my staff as the principal of @HickoryHillElem, a K-6 building in Nebraska.


As a new principal, there are many "firsts" to experience throughout the course of a school year. Some take much time, consideration and thought, while some just happen and you must respond. No matter the situation, I have come to rely on several things while experiencing many of these these firsts. Never underestimate the power of your PLN (Personal Learning Network). My PLN serves many purposes; it is my support system, my personal trainer, my magic mirror, my coach/referee, and my charging station. As a new administrator I quickly realized the benefits of connecting with other educators and began expanding my PLN as a part of this process. While my network includes those within my own district team (13 Elementary Principals, Central Office and Building-Level Staff), I also began seeing the benefits of extending my connections beyond the walls of my own district.

It was at this point that I began making @Twitter work for me. Up until this point in my career I had a Twitter account and little understanding of the benefits it could provide. My network consisted of a few close friends and a few other "big name" leaders in the world of education. I would classify myself as a lurker and someone who was passively using the platform. I had little to no idea of where to begin and was only receiving information through those I followed. It was during the end of my first quarter as a principal and I was beginning to feel my ability to keep up on educational issues slipping and my energy for staying current with the most recent literature waning. This was not me and it was not who I wanted to be and I knew a change must take place.

Not fully knowing what I was about to get into, I sought out a local district resource Josh Allen, who was kind enough to put up with all of my questions; I began actively participating via Twitter and growing my PLN. I have found the following hashtags #satchat, #edchat, #edadmin, and #cpchat to fit my needs quite well. I have particularly connected with my Tweeps who participate in #satchat (meets Saturday morning 6:30am CST).


As an educator, it's o.k. to grow slowly, but it’s mandatory that you grow. Your PLN is a great support in this process. One great benefit I've reaped from a more active approach within my PLN has been my incorporation of and now reliance on @evernote. I have found Evernote to be a very effective tool when it comes to providing frequent, timely, and specific feedback to teachers & staff. While conducting formal walkthroughs and visiting classrooms Evernote allows me to meet these three requirements for effective feedback, allows me to record conversations with students and to take pictures of the classroom environment or student work. I am then able to instantly email this information back to the classroom teacher or staff and engage them in reflective conversation regarding the observation. It also allows me to create "notebooks" for each grade-level and organize my notes through the use of common "tags". This application allows me to foster collaboration throughout the school building by sharing the great things that are occurring within our classrooms on a daily basis. This promotes teacher connectedness, the development of internal capacity and a system that relies on the sharing of ideas and risk taking. I will continue to look for ways to maximize and enhance my use of Evernote as I move into the 2012-2013 school year.

I will leave you with a recommended reading that came to me via Twitter (7 Habits of Highly Effective Tech-leading Principals) by Jennifer Demski. The three interviewed educators in this article (@L_Hilt, @bhsprincipal & @NMHS_Principal) would make a great addition to your PLN and are definitely worth a "follow". Moving forward, I continue to read and reflect upon this article, the 7 Habits that are outlined and where I am in this process. Where are you in this process? Is Social Media and Tech integration a passing fad or here to stay? Remember, "the only thing constant is change."

About the Author
Josh Snyder is an Elementary Principal at @HickoryHillElem (K-6). He has a wonderfully supportive wife and two beautiful daughters. He is currently working in the EdD Ed Administration program through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln @Huskers. Josh also enjoys spending time with his family, reading, technology, fishing and golfing. He feels “Life is full of multiple learning opportunities.”

Twitter - @JoshLSnyder

Jennifer Demski (6/7/12) 7 Habits of Highly Effective Tech-leading Principals (the JOURNAL; Transforming Education Through Technology)

Photo Credit:
Original Image Credit: Baseball by Paco Mexico
Licensed Creative Commons Attribution on May 22, 2012
Concept from The Method Method
Slide by Bill Ferriter
The Tempered Radical

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Week in Review - A Day Early

Good evening from Boston, Massachusetts where I'm waiting for a flight to jet me away on a mountain biking vacation. Since I committed to "no computer" vacation I will not be able to write this post tomorrow. Therefore, I'm sharing the week in review a day early.

Next week I have a bunch of guest bloggers making an appearance on the blog. I've read all of the posts and I think that you will learn from the stories of using technology in education that the guest bloggers are sharing.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Snaggy Is a Handy Screen Capture
2. Become a Power Google Searcher
3. GeoGebra Releases Two Chrome Apps
4. Maps of Vanishing and Endangered Languages
5. Create Interactive Images on Image Spike
6. Doodle Buzz is an Interesting Way to Explore the News
7. Vialogues - Form Discussions Around Videos

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to Use Google Docs Offline in Two Steps

Earlier this evening I mentioned the new iPad apps for Google Drive and for Chrome. Another, and perhaps more important, announcement from Google today deals with Google Docs offline. Google Docs now works offline on your laptop or desktop if you have Google Drive installed. You can now create and edit documents offline then have them sync to your Google account when you reconnect to the web.

To enable Google Docs for offline use, sign into your account and click the sprocket icon in the upper-right corner. Then select "set up docs offline." Google Docs will then launch a dialogue box asking you to confirm that you want to enable docs offline. If already have Google Drive installed, you're finished with the set up. If you don't have Google Drive installed, you will be prompted to do so. If you need help setting up Google Drive on your Mac or on your PC, please see the directions that I have included in my guide to Google Drive and Docs for Teachers (page 7 has directions for Mac users, page 14 has directions for Windows users)

Google Drive and Docs for Teachers 2012

Offline support is only available for Google Documents right now. It does not offer support for Google Presentations or for Google Spreadsheets. You should also note that you do need to have the latest version of Chrome or Chrome OS to use the offline creation, editing, and commenting tools.

Applications for Education
For a long time the hesitation that some people have regarding use of Google Documents is that you had to have an Internet connection to work on your documents. With the launch of Google Documents offline support in Chrome and Chrome OS, that hesitation may be removed.

In my school district many students don't have Internet access at home, but at the middle school and high school levels they do have laptops or netbooks to take home from school. Now if those netbooks or laptops have the latest version of Chrome installed, the students can use Google Documents everywhere they go.

Chrome Comes to iPads

In more big news from Google that I missed earlier today while I was teaching. Chrome is now available on the iPad. This means that you can now take continue your syncing from your laptop to your iPad. I personally use Chrome because I love being able to sync my tabs and bookmarks just by signing into Chrome on any device that has Chrome installed. My iPad is broken (it's on its way back to Apple at the moment) but Chrome will be the first app I install when it returns.

Applications for Education
If your students use multiple computers and devices and count iPads or iPhones in that number, Chrome could be a great app to have installed on those iPads.

Google Drive Comes to iOS

While I was teaching at Ed Tech Teacher's summer workshop today big news came from Google today. You can now install Google Drive on your iPad or iPhone. The app will allow you to view your documents and files on your iPad. You can use Google Drive for iOS to make your documents available offline on your iPad. Finally, you can now add collaborators to your files and documents through the Google Drive for iOS app.

Applications for Education
Unfortunately, you cannot edit your documents through the Google Drive for iOS app. However, the app could still be useful for viewing materials that your students share with you in Google Drive.