Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Administrators Toolkit Updated and Refreshed

I originally wrote this post way back in 2009. Lots has changed since then. So let's dust it off and do some updating. 

Most schools and districts spend lot of time and effort trying to get their teachers up to speed on technology and its use/place in the classroom. And honestly that is where a majority of effort should be spent; working with those on the frontlines of instruction. However, rarely, if ever, is much time spent with administrators, working with them on ways they use technology to enhance what they are doing. What can administrators do?

I have put together what I am calling The Administrators Technology Toolkit. (I really should find something more flashy or fun. If you have ideas leave me a comment.) There are some simple, easy to use tools that Administrators can be using right now to, just like teachers, integrate technology into what they do daily.

Tool 1-Twitter
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a big advocate for Educators to use Twitter for Professional Development and growth. The job of an Administrator is a tough one. Twitter can serve as a place to connect with other professionals and see whats working in other buildings or districts that might work in yours. There are tons of Asst. Principals, Principals, Superintendents and even a few School Board members that I interact with on a daily basis.

Update: Check out this site for tons of resources on getting started and find a several lists of Twittering Administrators and other Education Professionals. Chats and hashtags can be a wealth of information as well. #cpchat is a great place to start finding twittering administrators and #edchat is great for general education discussions. Visit my post on hashtags and chats to learn more. 

Tool 2-Google Docs/Forms
Its time to go paperless. Flash Drives and External Hard Drivers are great inventions. I carry at least two of them with me where ever I go. However, neither of them have any documents or presentations on them. I exclusively use Google Docs. Everything I need is there. I honestly don't remember the last time I opened a Microsoft Office product. Even if I get an attachment I open it in Google Docs because I know I will have access to that document not matter where I am. No need to hunt down a cable or USB port for my drives. I access the Internet and have all my documents.

Part of Google Docs is a great feature called Forms. As an Administrator you are probably constantly giving and receiving feedback from your teachers, parents, colleagues, and community. Again, go paperless. Create a Google Form that instantly captures data and enters it automatically on a spreadsheet for analysis. Having your faculty vote on an important issue? Use the Google Forms. (Then you can create snazzy graphs to impress them at the next meeting!)

Check out this site for some great information on Google Docs. Be sure to watch the "Google Docs In Plain English" and "Principals Talk About Google Docs" videos.

Update: Lots of administrators are using Google Forms for informal (or formal) teacher walkthrough observations. This post sums it up nicely how to set that up, even providing directions on how the form can automatically send email feedback to the teacher. 

Tool 3-Social BookmarkingI crave resources. Its part of my job. However, the resources I collect do no good if I don't share them with anyone. Social Bookmarking services like Diigo and Delicious allow me to share websites, lessons, videos and more with anyone who wants them. Both these services allow you to tag your bookmarks making it even more easy to find the resources you need.

Administrators can use Social Bookmarking in one of two ways. If they are like my good friend Eric, they are constantly on the hunt for teaching resources for their teachers. So Eric spends time searching and sharing and making what he finds available through his Delicious Account. The other way administrators can use them is to just search. Sometimes these Social Bookmarking services can be more efficient at finding what you need than a regular Google Search. Also, you can search your friends' bookmarks, further enriching the experience.

There are a couple of "must-see" tutorials that I have collected. The first is another In Plain English Video, this time on Social Bookmarking. Either Delicious or Diigo are great for Administrators. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Here is a really good Delicious Tutorial and one for Diigo.

Update: Delicious kinda fell off the radar there for a while. And while it is making somewhat of a comeback, I believe Diigo is where it's at for educators. Check out this post to learn more about setting up Diigo and getting all the nifty educator only features. 

Tool 4-Google Reader
I am willing to bet that there are certain websites you check everyday. Perhaps you even have a blog or two that you read. Instead of wasting time visiting each and every website in the hopes there is a new article or post you can use an RSS reader. What is RSS you ask? Really Simple Service. Basically it is a web address that you insert into a reader so all you need to do is visit one site (your reader) and see whats new on all your favorite sites.

One of the best readers out there is Google Reader. Its easy to navigate and add feeds. There are also lists of feeds that you can add with one click like news, technology and more. A new feature is Suggestions. Once you have subscribed to a few feeds, Google Reader will offer some suggested new feeds for you to check out.

So how do you get started? Well, you need to see yet another In Plain English Video, this time on RSS. Next you will want to see this great Google Reader Tutorial. Lastly, every tech savvy administrator needs some blogs to follow. Here are several great lists:
SupportBlogging Educational Blogs
Moving Forward Educational Blogs
Extensive Collection of Educational Blogs

Tool 5-Ning 
As I mentioned before it is important for all educators, including Administrators, to create networks of other professionals to connect with. I previously mentioned Twitter. Twitter is great for real-time discussion and resource sharing. However why not take the idea of social networking one step further and enrich the experience with video and file sharing, discussion forums, events and specialty groups. Ning does all that!

Ning bills itself as the social network you create. Nings are very popular among educators because there isn't lot of the "junk" you will find on other social networking sites. Nings are great because you can really customize the content and you can create private spaces for your school or district.

Of course, I want you to check out the Social Networking In Plain English video to get an idea on how social networking works. Then check out this Ning tutorial for more information on how to sign up and get started. You will also need some Nings to visit. Here are just a few:
Educational Administrators Ning
The Educator's Personal Learning Network Ning
More Educational Nings

Update- Nings are still hugely popular. But other social networks have come along too that support Administrators like the Edutopia Group for Educational Leaders or Edweb.net. 

Tool 6- Evernote
I originally did not include Evernote in this post, mostly because at that point, I had not discovered the awesomeness that is Evernote. But in over 4 years, times have changed and so have my online habits. Evernote is like my brain. I store everything in there from notes, pdfs, presentations, you name it, its in there. It's great for note-taking at conferences because I can easily organize all the session notes into notebooks and share those with colleagues. 

Evernote would be great for a School Administrator. School Improvement Planning, meetings, learning times, observations, all could be done in Evernote, across a myriad of devices mind you, and shared individually or to the public web. 

I've written a post on how I am using Evernote and one with a bunch of educational Evernote resources

Five (now six) tools. That's it, just five (or six) to get started with. Of course that's not all you will need to become a Tech Savvy Administrator but its a good start.

What do you think? What are some other tools or applications you would recommend for Administrators? Maybe you are already a Tech-Savvy Administrator. What tools do you currently use or what suggestions can you offer?

Image From Flickr CC Search. View the original here.
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