Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Teachers Talk ISTE 2011

School has now been back in session for three weeks, and although the AJUSD Technology Department continues to get busier by the day, I was able to present to our School Board this afternoon. I like to share our conference experiences with the board, let them know what was gained from attending and discuss returning the next year.

ISTE 2011
I was fortunate enough to be able to take a wonderful group of teachers and an amazing Technology Integration Specialist to Philadelphia this summer. The trip was great (minus the roller coaster ride on the way there), and all that attended grew as professionals. We captured their thoughts on video about ISTE 2011 and showed that to the board (meeting was during class time and did not want to pull 5 teachers away from their students), but also wanted to share with others. Enjoy!

Thanks to AJUSD School Board, Dr. Chad Wilson, Gina Fraher, Elizabeth Francois, Amber Moore, Bethany Myers, Maryanne Galvan, and Tracy Watanabe.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fail, Learn, Try Again

I believe there are a number reasons why people are afraid to change and try new things. Two specific reasons that come to mind are:
  • The fear of failure itself
  • Staff members are not encouraged to fail
The end result of the fear of failure and not wanting to change can lead to a stale environment. We had a situation recently with our network that reminded of an incident which took place almost 10 years ago now.

I was a technology trainer at the time and one
afternoon was working with one of the desktop technicians on an issue that an end user was having. We were running all Linux servers at the time and everything was done through a shell window. We were certain that the problem was a particular file within the etc directory that needed to be deleted. So we typed out the command line and both looked at each other with that uncertain hesitation, then hit the enter button. We were both really happy with ourselves and went about our business. Not long after we walked away from the computer, the phone started ringing and one of our schools was reporting that they were having some trouble. I began hearing our system admin asking the other guys about the etc directory, rm -rf (in plain English that means remove, pretty much forever), who deleted the entire etc directory at SMES? Yep, we deleted the entire etc directory at one of the schools in our quest to fix an issue a teacher was having. Nobody said anything to us the next day, even though they knew we had blown away the directory. Instead they let us sweat a little and then sat us down and went through the entire process of what we had done and where we went wrong. It turned out to be a great learning experience and they were happy we had made the attempt to give it a go on our own.

Try Again
I was not afraid to try again after that incident because we were encouraged, not punished or embarrassed. As leaders we must encourage our staff to be creative, try new things, and know that if they don't work, try again.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Students Speak

Kick It Off
Every year in my district we have a welcome back day for all district staff. It usually consists of some kind of breakfast or lunch, a guest speaker or district admin delivering the welcome back message. It is a difficult couple hours to plan as feedback is always mixed on these type of events, and with tight budgets, outside guest speakers are not an option for us.

The Green Light
Our Superintendent, Dr. Chad Wilson, is a dynamic public speaker, he does a great job communicating his expectations for the district and recognizing successes. One element that I thought would be beneficial for this years welcome back, would be to hear from our students, listen to what they feel is working and what they hope to see this school year. With the go ahead from Dr. Wilson, I set off to figure out how to make this happen. With help from Tracy Watanabe, we gathered a group of students from across K-12, and invited them in for a short two question interview. Their responses were not prompted or edited for effect, just honest.

Coming Together
With all the negativity around public education right now I think it is important to share the good things that are happening out there while not losing sight of the high expectations we must hold ourselves too as educators. Our welcome back day this year had a different feel to it than previous years and hearing from our students and teachers (see Reflections video below), things are coming together. We have a ways to go before all students are college ready by the time they leave us, but we are off to a great start.

Thank You
I want to thank all the AJUSD students and parents for taking the time and allowing their children to share their thoughts with us. They were amazing! I would also like to thank Tracy Watanabe for all her assistance with the project and Dr. Wilson for always allowing us to run with our ideas.