Monday, January 30, 2017

Pictures vs. Words

This week's #EduBlogger Club prompt is all about pictures.  I love this prompt because I spend a lot of time finding images to match my posts. I find that the posts I personally enjoy reading are the ones that include good images.  I also know from lots of reading, attending conferences, time in classrooms, and leading PD, that images are much more powerful than words. So I have spent much of the past week noticing images and thinking about how I use images as well as how I can better use them in the future. 
Image from one of our (previously NOT upgraded) classrooms

I enjoy using images and have actively worked to improve my use of them over the last few years. For example, part of my job as an administrator is to justify projects to our Board.  We educators know that there is never enough money in the "pie" to go around so I take my job very seriously when it comes to lobbying for funds for our teachers. For some requests, images can definitely help strengthen the argument.  One of my favorite examples for using images was when I asked for funds to complete some classroom upgrades.  Including pictures like this made it much easier for me to convince the group that we needed to do some upgrades.

Tape constructed figures made by our Sculpture I students

I also love sharing out pictures of activities happening on our campus. Pictures of students engaged in learning or pictures of their work are so much more compelling than simply 140 characters in a tweet. So one picture lets you know just how much fun we are having, while another highlights the amazing talent of our students.
Our Orchestra students perform
 for the Yearbook class

As I have become more engaged with identifying appropriate images, I have also learned
a bit more about creating my own images. A little over a year ago, one of my Voxer groups did a 7 Word Story Challenge. It was fun to see all the images everyone was creating and sharing. Through this process, not only did I learn more about members of my PLN and distill my educational philosophy, I learned about different photo-editing apps. My favorite "go-to" now for turning pictures into stories is TitleFX. It is so easy to use and it allows me to edit images on my phone in minutes. One caveat: this is an iOS product. Phonto is the best Android option that I have found This was my 7 Word Story Challenge. Full disclosure: this was the first picture I created with TitleFX. 

Another way that I used this app was creating focal pieces like this one for my ACT II program final portfolio. These pieces allowed me to focus the reader on the CPSEL I was discussing as well as call out aspects of our mission and Hallmarks in a visually interesting (at least I thought so!) way.

Images are so important.  With the speed at which our society keeps moving, images are one of the few things that can really "stick". In fact, there is a lot of research out there about the differential in processing speed between images and words.  This article from Business 2 Community states that we process images 60,000 times faster than words. WOW!! That got me thinking about how we as educators can help our students capitalize on this fact and become stronger communicators (after all, that is one of the 4 C's!). And then, as if I had planned it, my colleague @techbiobek posted a link in G+ about how to use the Speaker Notes feature in Google slides with this comment: "Speaker notes are a great tool to use as the teacher. As soon as I put a slide up with multiple bullet points, students start copying down the content and don't pay attention to the message. Brain science has shown that too much text is a distraction and causes cognitive overload. Teach students how to design informative, powerful presentations without all the text on the slides by using speaker notes too!"  BAM! This is something that I know when I was in the classroom I did not spend a lot of time teaching. I would assign a presentation to my students and provide them with the grading rubric and expect that simply because I told them I wanted a visually interesting presentation that they would automatically create one. But was I modeling this effectively for them? Definitely NOT. So now as a teacher of teachers, I am more intentional about creating visually interesting presentations. 

Words are definitely important in our world, but images are just as important and can have a powerful impact on our audience.  Thanks #Edublogs Club for the prompt this week.  I really enjoyed thinking about how I use images and how I can better use them in the future.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

One of My Role Models

Photo taken by author in Belmont, CA
Well, week three of the #EdublogsClub challenge has us reflecting on leadership. That is the topic tat drove me to blog in the first place.  And with the recent change of power in the United States, a very apropos topic.

Eleanor Roosevelt is a woman and leader that I have come to admire and respect.  As a history teacher, I always spent time in my classes asking students to look at events through the eyes of the people and through the eyes of those in charge.  Because there are always multiple ways to look at every situation, every turning point.

We would discuss the "what ifs" of history--Would Martin Luther have been as successful if Gutenberg hadn't invented the Printing Press when he did? Would the North American colonies have won their independence form Great Britain if George Washington had not been born? How would WWII have ended if the Allies had not developed the atomic bomb first?  These big questions have as much to do with circumstance as they do with leadership.  Eleanor Roosevelt knew that she was given the opportunity due to circumstances--her husband was the President--to have a positive impact on the country and the world. When her husband first took office, the nation needed hope and healing. Once World War II started, the nation also needed comfort. Mrs. Roosevelt knew how to provide all of those and more.  She supported the marginalized and because she had her husband's ear, she used her position and his authority to help give women and minorities more opportunities.  During the war she had regular newspaper columns and radio shows.  The people came to know her, lover her, and trust her.  In fact, after Pearl Harbor was attacked, she was the first to address the nation and paved the way for her husband to announce that the United States was entering WWII.  Once her husband died, she found other ways to use the public leverage she had built up during the time she occupied the White House and became the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, famously authoring the Declaration of Human Rights while heading the UN Human Rights Commission. This was one amazing woman who used every opportunity she had to do the right thing for others.
Photo taken by author.

That is what we as education leaders need to be doing, especially now.  Our students need us to advocate for them. Our teachers need us to advocate for them.  Our parents and communities look to us as leaders of their schools to ensure them that our future will be bright because the next generations passing through our doors are bright, inquisitive, and getting the best education we can provide. So I like to channel Mrs. Roosevelt (among leaders that I admire) to help keep me on track as I work to advocate for those I serve, and remind me that my job is not one about accolades, but one about getting the job done to the best of my ability.  

Who are some of your role models?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year, New Challenges

Well, with this new year comes the need to seek out some ways to support my desire to continue growing. As 2017 starts, I have many revamped goals--in other words, goals that I have set in the past but not been terribly good at completing.  That list includes blogging.  But this year, I have a new approach, and one that I think will allow for a greater level of success.

I started my blog a few years ago as a result of attending a CUE Rockstar camp session led by the amazing Jen Kloczko.  Over the last few years, I have seen my efforts wax and wane.  So, when I stumbled across the #edublogsclub challenge, I saw an opportunity to reinvigorate myself and commit to blogging again.  I even roped in a colleague and friend (@techbiobek).  As with all goals, there is a greater chance of success when there is accountability.

I have done blogging challenges before, such as the Connected Educator blogging challenge, and found them to be helpful and inspiring.  I trust that this will be no different. Despite the fact that I have had my blog for a few years, my inconsistency with writing still has me more in the "newbie" camp than the "veteran" camp.  No matter.  I like the idea of getting back at it from a slightly different angle. I started my blog in order to trace my learning curve as a new administrator.  That, however, has not been the path my musings have taken.  Rather, I feel that it is more a reflection on being an educator in this rapidly changing world. So, I look forward to the prompts, to the challenge of blogging more regularly, and to getting to know some awesome people through the process.

I am also very excited to improve my blogging skills by writing more and getting feedback along the way.  For those of you who have been at this for a while, do you ever wonder if you are speaking to an empty room?  I know that the goal for myself was not so much to develop a following as to reflect.  However, reflecting is better when there is dialog.  I love when someone questions my ideas.  That forces me to take a harder look at what I am trying to convey. When there isn't that discussion, I am left wondering if anything that I said resonated with any of those "hits". If not, what am I missing?  how can I change my thinking?  how can I change someone else's thinking? What new thinking can we create together? These are questions that I hope to answer this year with this challenge and new community.

Here's to a new year, new challenges, and new learning!