Chance to Stretch My Legs…and Learn

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Today I had an opportunity to work with middle school student council members on blogging.  I was amazed at the energy these scholars had toward contributing stories to their school blog.  I asked them questions as we worked and I was just energized by their answers:

  • Me: “Why do you think this blog is important?” Students: “Because we do a lot of cool stuff and people don’t know about it!”
  • Me: “How are you going to work on this during the week?” Students:”How ’bout we set up a shared doc, then we can all work on it together throughout the week. And we can make it one document, write the posts on it and share with the principal!  Oh, and we can send him photos to post on the Instagram account like when we’re at games or events!”
  • Students: “Can you show us how to embed video?  We have a lot of events that would be great to share that way!”

You get the idea.  It was just powerful to hear these students wanting so badly to share their world, and how proud they were of their school community.  It was an honor to get the chance to walk on over across the parking lot and work with this team!  It’s also a reminder of the great collegiality and collaborative opportunities that can exist with schools within your systems.  Great day and I’m excited to see these journalists hit the blogging world!

Episode 003…and Still Learning

Published the third episode of our school’s podcast this week and it’s amazing how after just three episodes I continue to find things to learn and improve!  This week a colleague and I have been looking at how to get our podcast hosted on an RSS feed so our listeners can easily subscribe and get these AMAZING podcasts easily on any device.  

I’m a little bummed because I had a background track all hammered out that wound up not making it into the published version because I set the volume too low. That’ll be the last time that happens!  

This continues to be a great learning experience and has helped me look at how to share learning with our community through a different perspective and that’s been great!

Front of the Building Day One #cpchat #vted

“This has been an amazing first day of school!”  Across the world this phrase is popping up this time of year and I’m sure the first day of school looks different all over.  This morning was the first day of school for our scholars and it was probably the best start to the school year that I can remember.  We put a lot of energy into a few things that just made the morning extremely positive and successful.

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Our mascot is the Cougar Cub and leading up to the first day we took the time to update our social media with new images of our mascot and build up to the start. We posted messages expressing our excitement for the coming year and we’ve made sure to have a welcome video of some sort for the community as shown below:

 Our building is a standard brick and mortar school building and can be a bit static visually.  Over the past two years we’ve slowly added some decorations to our start (and end) of the school year to make things look extra welcoming and it has paid off big time!  Banners, an arch to walk through and chalk messages of encouragement on the sidewalk made the front of our building welcoming and exciting for all our learners and families.

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Last year we noted that families were all trying to find a good spot for students to take a “first day of school” photo…so we decided to help out with that!  Not only did we make signs that said “First Day of Kindergarten” and up through the grades, but we also had the perfect framed photo opportunity all set up!  Families were literally lining up to use it….awesome thing to have out front.

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 Lastly, without a doubt the biggest thing that we had going was the smiling and encouraging faces of our staff members right out front, ready to help, smile, laugh and connect.

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The energy put into making the first impression a good one goes miles toward a successful year for scholars, families and staff. Incredible start to the 2014-15 school year!  The last thing we do is make sure to share out some images from our first day!


 

Quick Staff Activity #cpchat

I’m always looking for great activities to use with staff during meetings, training sessions and other opportunities.   It’s called  the Wright Family Story and can be used to emphasize:

  • teamwork
  • collaboration
  • diversity of learning skills
  • learning challenges
  • details in planning
  • or to help explain the need for Universal Design for Learning

Here’s a link (there are bunches, just search for “The Wright Family Story “) to the text.  The idea is that you read the story out loud while members of the team pass items to the left when they hear “left” and to the right when they hear “Wright, right.”    I took a moment this morning to create a video of me reading the text, so I could play it for staff and still be able to move about and observe the activity (this was a great thing to do).  Feel free to use the video if you’d like…you just have to deal with looking at me.

After playing the video and doing the activity staff shared:

  • The challenges – we couldn’t hear, it was too fast, there was no visual, etc. that we later connected to our own planning for students
  • I asked them comprehension questions from the story: What were the children’s names?  How many people were in the Wright family? Etc. 

 Overall it was a good activity to add to the playbook! 

Student Audio Has a Special Power

I have much to share on the blog these days, but little time to do it with school just ’round the corner, but I had to share our latest podcast where we tested out adding some student audio clips.  There’s just something powerful about hearing our students express themselves, no matter how short and sweet the actual conversation is.  This is a great and simple tool that admin and educators can use throughout their day.  Audioboo, Garageband, etc. are all great apps readily available in a moments notice to capture student conversations and share…or just keep for yourself.  Good stuff!

 

 

Episode 001…Now What? #cpchat

In a past post I talked about a social media plan and all the ideas that were swirling in my head at the time.  One of the outcomes of that thinking was to use podcasting as a new additional to our social media arsenal.  I’m genuinely excited about this.  As someone who listens to a lot of podcasts I think there’s just something great about the focus that you have when you are just listening to someone…no video, no text, just listening.  Something great in there!  In any case, after much planning, overt-thinking and messing about with GarageBand and Soundcloud I just started it up today!  Excited for what’s to come.

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Easy Email Experiment #cpchat

During a few days off I was thinking about my love/hate relationship with email and wondered how I could get a bit more of a handle on efficiency, etc.  Yes, I do realize that these are thoughts that shouldn’t be a factor during a day off, but what can I say, it’s how I’m wired. In any case, here’s what I tried when I returned to work.

1. I took the first twenty emails in my inbox (you could use any number really) and made a note of each subj, sender, etc.  You could easily print your inbox page and do the same thing.

2.  I set the list to the side, but throughout the day made notes next to specific emails like:

  • resolved with one response
  • ended up needing a face to face conversation
  • STOP REPLYING ALL
  • required a phone call
  • answer was already shared or available somewhere else
  • forwarded to the person that should have received it
  • WHY DID YOU RESPOND?

You get the idea.  Just started keeping track.  I didn’t go into to great deal with my notes, just general.

3. At the end of the day I reviewed my notes and tried to put everything into a percentage just to see any general observations.  Here’s what I found with this round:

  • 100% of the emails that I counted for this experiment resulted in face to face conversation or phone calls
  • 40% were sent to me but should have gone directly to other folks
  • 80% referenced information that was available in other ways (memo’s, website,etc.)

4.  After reviewing these and thinking about them I set up a few action goals for the week:

  • If I had a question that could easily be done face to face or via phone I did that instead of hammering out the email.  It’s made things a little smoother for some of those multiple layer conversations.
  • When I received an email that could have gone directly to another person, I responded and CC’d the person that could receive the email.  I also included a reference that the person should feel free to contact __________ directly.
  • I restructured information on memo’s and sites to provide clearer access for staff and community.  I also responded to the emails asking for information that was already shared by sending the link to the information source versus answering the question in isolation.  It’s the leading a horse to water concept.

In any case, it was a quick little experiment that I’ll replicate again in a couple of weeks.  It was worth it for me to get a bird’s eye view on what I was experiencing.  Give it a try.