Reflections About RSS – Thing 5

Credit HiMY SYeD via Creative Commons

RSS has been on my radar screen for quite a while.  I’ve actually have my Google Reader already set up for a couple of years.  The problem is that I never think to check on what’s shown up!

So, to compensate I started subscribing to blogs and have them sent to my email.  I surely wouldn’t forget about them if they greeted me each day.  One of my favorite blogs arrives at 6:00 am each morning.  Another one happens to sneak into my inbox around 2:30 am.  But this didn’t work either.  What happens now is that once they appear in my inbox I promptly (or not) move them into a folder marked “Blogs”.  There are currently 917 blog posts in that folder, with 345 of them that weren’t opened before they were moved.  So much for efficiency.  I won’t delete them because I just know there is a nugget of wisdom contained in one of those that will make my life complete!

I will commit to try to use the RSS feed and actually read these posts.  Perhaps I’ll schedule a Reader session once or twice a week like I’ve done with the web 2.0 class so I can manage this in a better way.

Today I found a post in Connected Principals that I found fascinating. It brings to question the value of principals.  Having been both a teacher and administrator I have seen this role from both sides and I can tell you there are many things behind the scenes that no one understands about being a school principal.  Managing the daily activities is important but there is nothing more powerful to indicate the direction of the school than the ability to set the culture and inspire the vision of where the organization is going.

That’s one nugget I didn’t miss today.  How many more stones are there to skip across the pond? So much to learn, so little time.  Do you have any tips on how to best manage the RSS feeds?

Reflections About Blogging – Thing 4

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“Blogging”  I never did like how the word sounded.  It reminded me too much of a “blob”.  I asked myself, a blob of what? Chewing gum?  Toothpaste?

Nevertheless, I put the negative connotation aside and moved forward to explore the world of blogging.  If one of our 5th grade classes could handle writing their own class blog then certainly I could read one to understand what all of the fuss was about!

It really started when a friend handed me a copy of A Whole New Mind  by Daniel Pink.  She had been insisting I read it and finally gave it to me as a gift.  I was headed to the beach so I threw it in my suitcase and woah Nellie!!! did my world get turned upside down!!!!!   Where had I been and how did I miss this?  The book had been published 5 years ago.  What else did I not know?

When I arrived home I was on fire to learn more.  It led me to research more about this concept that the industrial age was over.  Seth Godin writes one of the most popular marketing blogs and is the author of 15 books.  He often speaks to the shift in society and how we used the factory model for education.  Not a day goes by without me starting my day by reading Seth’s Blog that arrives in my inbox each morning.  One of my favorite posts is Seven Marketing Sins that speaks to the way to get attention with stories.  He highlights this in a video that proposes that you consider what it’s like to be in your customer’s shoes.

I started seeing the value of blogs and subscribed to them on an RSS feeder but I could never remember to check it and had them delivered to my email instead. Another blog I found was from Jonathan Martin’s 21k12 on the subject of 21st century skills.  That initial blog post took me on a research project that lasted 3 months and took me to hundreds of websites.

As often happens in blog posts there were links to other blog posts that opened another door to reading more blogs.  I happened to stumble on a blog site that was named as a Top 10 blog.  Ok, so you know what happens next.  I just HAD to click on the link to see what made each of these blogs so special. That was nearly a year ago.  Since that time the number of books I’ve read has not been nearly what I used to read.  BUT, I will tell you that I’ve learned so much and discovered many resources that never would have crossed my path in a book.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still love books.  There are now 72 books on my Amazon wish list and about 20 in the bookshelf that are candidates to include in my final selection for the beach trip in a few weeks.  But through reading blogs I’ve learned about design thinking, content marketing, SEO, how to be a better writer, communication values, creating conversations, Pinterest, and the list goes on.  I can’t begin to tell you the number of great TED talks I’ve discovered.  But even better is that, reading blogs has let me share the thoughts of people who think in different ways than I do and because of the personal nature of their posts I’ve learned about their dreams for their first-born child or had an electronic conversation with one of the leading speakers on content marketing who will be giving the keynote speech at an upcoming conference I’m attending in September.

So what does this mean?  Blogs are the anchor for driving content marketing.  They allow you to demonstrate your knowledge, learn more from others, give other people exposure to a new audience, provide links to make your blog post richer, build your tribe and publish with a mere click of a button.  It doesn’t discriminate based on age, education or topic.

We are building a blogging team at our school this fall to provide some personalization to what is commonly seen as an institution.  If we can start featuring some of our thought leaders then not only can it drive SEO and get the school higher in search rankings but we can collaborate to communicate many of the great things happening in our community.

Do you have a blog?  How do you determine the topics that you address in it?

Thoughts About Web 2.0

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Where do I begin on this topic?  Going back to a foundational platform of lifelong learning we need to start with the outcome in mind.  It is a new day.  We now exist in a world that approaches meeting student needs in ways that traditional education can not.  Clay Shirky, a teacher at NYU on the social and economic impact of technology, proposes that we are in an era of cognitive surplus and that we now have tools that enables us to move from online consumers to creators who produce and share.

In my role as an admission director of a private school I often give tours of campus.  One of my goals is to connect where the student will eventually end up (after college) with what we do as a private school experience to prepare them to get there.  My tour script includes a description in which the challenges will require problem solving with solutions that will be revealed through the power of collaborative thinking.  In a global economy that collaboration may not take place in the same room, but would be supported by technology and social platforms.  On a recent tour a parent verbalized a comment that goes off in my head each time I complete that part of the tour, “I wish I could go back to school again.  What an exciting way to learn!”

While web 2.0 has been on the radar screen for a few years only now do I see a plausible shift in the momentum.  One driver of it is the world of business. Now we have moved from the innovators and early adopters into the early majority who is verbalizing it almost everywhere I turn these days.  The IBM Capitalizing on Complexity Study analyzed results from interviewing 1500 CEOs of global companies with the identification that the most critical leadership skill needed is creativity.  Helen Vendler, a former member of the Harvard University admission committee recommends that the Ivy League institution give weight to “those whose creative sensibilities would be assets to a Harvard class.”  Creativity has been highly misunderstood and undervalued in the world of business where revenue drives bottom line numbers.  How does one measure creativity?  How can you evaluate it?

Fortunately creativity is within all of us.  It starts strong in our early years and through “one right answer” methods of instruction we often squelch the development and send students a message to believe they aren’t creative.  Today things have changed. We have businesses looking for creative problem solvers and critical thinkers.  There are universities offering leadership certificate programs to students who collaborate on a global level utilizing creativity, communication, critical thinking while being comfortable with ambiguity and complexity.

Web 2.0 tools will support this type of movement.  The train has already left the station and in the area of admission and marketing we need to have a thorough understanding of what this means to instruction and our students.  Each member of our department is taking the class to be able to “talk the talk and walk the walk.”  Yes, the future is here and I’m grateful to be a part of it!

What have you done to advance your understanding of technology tools?  Are you connecting with others in your personal network via technology?  How has that changed in the last five years?

Reflections on Lifelong Learning

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in how we approach educating students and I love it.  Why?  Because I love to see improvement and I want things to be better for our next generation.  It is our responsibility as adults to be the advocates for our youth and improve the parts of education that no longer work. Note, I don’t want to throw out the entire way we’ve done things without considering there are some positive outcomes but, if it is not working as effectively as it could, then I ask “why?”

No longer can we settle for pulling out the lesson plan developed 10 years ago and expect to have the same outcome with today’s students.  The children sitting in our classrooms are not the same type of students.  They don’t live in the same type of world and they must be prepared to embrace the challenges they will face, many of which will require resiliency.  We ponder and shake our heads while questioning why they are less resilient, but do we consider that as educators and parents that we bear some of that responsibility?

How do our demands for high performance feed their skills to solve problems creatively?  If we demand the best grade point average from our children they soon learn to follow the path to the one right answer to gain approval.  What happens as a consequence?

  • They rarely learn what it feels like to fail, and if they do it is seen as a lack of knowledge or character rather than an opportunity to try another method.
  • It leads to cheating, which is now acceptable amongst many students if the outcome is getting the high grade.
  • Does the way we teach  lead to learning or going through the process of information intake only to be regurgitated for the assessment?
  • Do we see these problems as challenges (Habit 3 of Effective Life-Long Learners) or as a wall to hit and shut down?
  • Where is the latitude for play (Habit 7 1/2) and the time to explore and stumble upon a new discovery.

    Credit: Liz Henry via Creative Commons

Learning is a path and not a destination.  Creating an internal curiosity to ask questions on why something operates the way it does or “what if…?” will serve our students well as they learn the skill of being a self-directed learner. This is one of the true gifts in life.

Of the 7 1/2 habits of effective life-long learners there are two that will provide the biggest challenge for me.  Habit 6 is using the technology to my advantage.  Technologies are changing so quickly and there are so many to consider that I need to narrow the scope and start with a few to develop mastery.  Habit 7 1/2, play, is also difficult for me.  While I enjoy discovering new things I need to shift my perspective to look at play as learning and not wasting time.  I love to be productive and having a visible product to show for it has always been rewarding to me.

As for which Habits will be easy, I am wired to begin with the end in mind (Habit 1) since I’m all about getting it done! Accepting responsibility for my own learning (Habit 2) is no problem. I love to learn and if I don’t get the information I need I’ll figure out a way to find it, whether by talking to people, internet searches or reading and processing to connect the dots of details.  From a very early age when things didn’t go my way I never saw it as a problem, it was a challenge (Habit 3) and signal that I needed to go back and figure out another way to do it (with the exception of math where I never really cared about it.  There were other people and calculators to solve those problems.  I had bigger goals in mind!). Habit 4, developing confidence in myself as a competent, effective learner has accelerated in recent years where I have had opportunities to research and find solutions.  This research has led me to create my own learning toolbox (Habit 5).  In turn I’ve been able to teach and mentor others about these discoveries (Habit 7).

I’m really looking forward to this course and in particular to see how others develop and it trickles down to benefit our students.  In the midst of this learning revolution I don’t want to be left behind!  What about you?  What are you doing to advance your learning?