Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Responsibilities of Leadership

One of the most important aspects of leadership is responsibility. When something goes wrong, a true leader is responsible even if the problem/mistake was someone else's fault. The leader steps up, takes responsibility and makes the necessary apologies and/or changes. This doesn't sit well with some people, but if you really want to be a leader -- you better own this idea. I'm not saying that the leader is the fall person for all mistakes, but the leader needs to be the one who leads. The captain of a ship doesn't ask for a storm, but dealing with storms is part of the job. Does a captain turn to the deckhand and say, "Darn you! You made another storm"? No, the captain accepts the fact of the storm and takes the necessary actions to ride it out. After the storm, the captain may know that a crew member needs to be punished, but that comes after taking responsibility. Pointing fingers is not the path of the leader; responsibility is. In addition to taking responsibility when something goes wrong, the leader should always give credit to others when things go right. Very rarely is the leader the only responsible party for great success; most endeavors are team efforts and the entire team should receive credit when success occurs. Acknowledging the efforts of others is the path of the leader. Taking at least a share of the blame and giving credit to others are not easy tasks, but they are important. If you aren't ready to do these two actions, you aren't ready to be a leader. This is something I have learned growing up thanks to the efforts of my parents, friends, teachers, and mentors. The last six months has only reaffirmed this knowledge.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 PSAT Results for SIS

During the first week of December, SIS received an early Christmas present from the College Board, when the PSAT results were returned.

For Juniors, the PSAT results are a gauge to performance on the SAT as well as a qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship program. To qualify for the program, Juniors must score above a 150. In the 2014 PSAT the national average score for Juniors was 141.9. The SIS Junior class average was a 160.3, which means that the average SIS Junior was above the qualifying line for the scholarship. The class high score was a 220. The Sophomore class also showed a strong performance with an average of 149.2 and a high of 198. The Sophomores also beat the average for Juniors, which is simply outstanding. The Freshmen class average was 126.3 with a high of 174. We are proud of our students for their initiative, scholarship, and perseverance they demonstrated while taking the PSAT. The results are further evidence that SIS is the best school on Saipan and one of the top schools in the Pacific region. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WASC Accreditation Training on Saipan

Saipan International School will be heading into an accreditation cycle in the spring of 2017; but, if you have gone through the process before, you know that the work starts much earlier than that. Especially if you really want your institution to improve, you need to begin the process early to have time to truly include the community in the work. I contacted WASC to find out what training and resources were available to us and they were very helpful. On December 8, they are offering a webinar about the accreditation process for folks in the Pacific. It will be at 12:00pm-2:00pm Saipan time. I will be watching the entire webinar and if people on island would like to view the event with others to facilitate discussion, SIS is open to you. Please contact the office and let us know that you are coming for the webinar. It is an opportunity for us to get the ball rolling early and also have a support base of people to turn to when we have questions and concerns about accreditation.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Student Data @ Saipan International School

SAT10 Overview and Comparison
One thing I like to do when possible is make data meaningful for students, parents, and teachers. Usually during meetings with the Board of Directors (BOD), it is the financial report that requires some explanation. All too often it is easy to simply see a bunch of numbers and still leave with the feeling,
SAT10 Grade Equivalent
"but what does it mean?" I have encouraged the BOD to ask questions about the financial report whenever they want and I try my best to point out the more important information and make it simple to understand. I think some administrators either don't bother doing this action for parents, or prefer the idea that parents not understand and therefore don't bother admin with questions or concerns. But this is a huge part of our job as admin, helping people make sense of numbers. During the last meeting, the BOD requested an academic report, so I have used our SAT10, AR, and Achieve 3000 data to put together an explanation of what type of learning is occurring at SIS.

Our first photo is the overview of the data from our SAT10 scores with comparisons to our previous year (2013) and the results from the Public School System (PSS). Our Complete Battery and Total Math are slightly down in 2014, but Total Reading is slightly up. The more interesting number isn't as obvious, but is quite important, across the board our number of students above the 50%tile are up. But what does that mean? Although there weren't as many individual students making high scores, more students scored above the 50%tile which translates to less students (including ELL students) falling below average. More student above the 50%tile is a huge improvement, because it means that all of our students are achieving more, not just the ones at the top. To give some perspective, I have included the SAT10 Grade Equivalent scores, which helps demonstrate just how far ahead our students are from their current grade level. Looked at with this lens, we see that only G6 and G8 reading are really places where we need to do some work. These are also grade levels where we have gained more ELL students this year, so that could be a factor.

Our AR Star Reading scores show some growth in most grade levels, but negative growth in G5 and G6. The grade equivalents are mostly below the current grade. One thing that needs to be considered when looking at this data is that again, it includes every student. The ones at the top and the ones at the bottom. Those who are native speakers of English and those that are just starting to learn. Later in the year, we will revisit this data and compare it with spring results. Historically, our students have shown more improvement in the second semester in reading.
Achieve 3000 is new to our school this year, but the potential for solid improvement in reading of non-fiction material is well documented. In the three grade levels where is has been truly implemented, we can already see gains, but in two of the grade levels we are below the desired score range. I don't see that as actually too concerning as of yet, the students and teachers are new to the program, so there is a learning curve in play, but the fact that scores have gone up is a positive note. We will revisit this data in the spring as well; especially because we will begin to have data from the other grade levels as they begin to use the program more.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Reflections on the First Quarter

It has been approaching five months since I officially became the Headmaster at Saipan International School. There have been successes and failures in that time, but luckily more successes. It is good to stop and reflect on what worked and what didn't work.

1. Improvement of Professional Development: Mixed review with this matter. We lost a valuable PD day because of a typhoon, so nature really worked against us on that one. But many of the teachers have taken advantage of a local PD opportunity offered by the public school system for Educational Technology. We are implementing Achieve 3000 and we received some training on the program onsite. The school as become a member of ASCD, so Educational Leadership and the online resources of the website are available to us, which be useful in the future. The books supplied by our membership are starting a small professional library as well. Moving forward, we have a couple of PD days in the second semester and we will make the most out of those opportunities.

2. Improvement of ELL instruction: Achieve 3000 is being used in G3, G6, and in the secondary English courses a bunch. The implementation is still underway, so we will not really see much data until the second semester. ELL students are learning English; I can clearly hear it on campus and see it in their work, which is great. Our Title I program is offering small group instruction for many students. AR scores across the elementary school are up, so there is more data demonstrating that students are learning and improving.

3. Improvement of Technology Integration: After seven years at my last school going through multiple 1:1 rollouts, I have learned one huge thing about technology integration -- the network needs to be reliable. If the network isn't reliable, teachers won't use technology, or at least not creative and innovative ways. The network is now split into teacher and student networks, which means the load is more balanced and provides teachers better access. It was a load of work to get to this point, but we are ready to move forward with this now. In addition, the upgraded the elementary computer lab which was in desperate need of it. Our teachers are beginning to notice the changes with the network and computers. Big steps forward here!

4. Improvement of curriculum, instruction, and assessment: Are you ever really done with this act? Not really. Curriculum, instruction, and assessment are at the heart of what we do as educators and they are continually in need of improvement. Due to the typhoon, we lost a valuable work day that would have given us a chance to move on these items, but instead, we need to begin this work in the second semester. Institutionally, I have decided to implement a curriculum review process similar to what my former school was doing. Every five years, each subject needs a thorough review that includes vertical alignment. With only one teacher per subject, horizontal alignment isn't a big issue, but vertical alignment will need to be seriously looked at by the faculty.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Comic Life 3 Training

All the computers in the lab have Comic Life 3 on them and here is a chance to learn just how it works. Contact the office to book your space in the training, because space is limited.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Comic Life @SIS

Comic Life 3 from Plasq.com
The folks at Plasq, who make Comic Life, have helped us out by providing a nice deal on Comic Life 3. We were able to purchase 35 copies which means the SIS computer lab has it on all computers and every faculty member can put it on his/her computer. If you aren't familiar with Comic Life, you really are missing out on software that is inexpensive, but very powerful in the learning environment. It can be used for a ton of different student products from storyboarding to science labs; a truly multipurpose tool in education. I've personally been using it for years. Back when I first started at KIS, I came across Comic Life online. I downloaded a copy and knew within minutes that I had something magical in front of me. Rich Boerner, the high school principal at the time, came through my room on a walkthrough and saw what I was doing with students. Later that week, he had purchased 500 copies of the software for the entire school based off what he saw in one lesson. I've been forever thankful for that vote of confidence from Rich. Over the years, several teachers at KIS found interesting and creative ways to make use of the program and now I have a chance to offer the opportunity to my SIS faculty. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gathering Learning Artifacts with Comic Life

Comic Life by Aysem Bray
The G5 students have been doing presentations about different countries in Ms. McRoberts (@amie_mcroberts) class. The presentations take most of a lesson to do, because the viewing students are required to take notes; at the end of the presentation, there is a quiz created by the presenter. With the action moving pretty fast and Ms. McRoberts providing support and watching to assess the presentation, there isn't much time left to collect evidence about the learning environment. Later thinking back, a teacher struggles to remember the details of the presentation. Students forget who presented what and when. Wouldn't be nice if there was some simple way to archive what happened during the presentation? Something that didn't require expensive equipment, a large amount of storage space, or excessive time. That is where our EdTech Coach comes into play. Mrs. Bray (@aysem_bray) stops by the room to take photos of the environment, to capture the learning live. Then she puts together a poster in Comic Life to demonstrate what was happening in the classroom. This provides Ms. McRoberts a great artifact to use during Parent-Teacher conferences; plus, it is a great memento for the students and parents. A nice item for the scrapbook to look back on 20 years later and remember when you loved learning in Ms. McRoberts G5 class.
Comic Life by Aysem Bray

Friday, October 3, 2014

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-Teacher Conferences are right around the corner for Saipan International School (October 14) and this year we are using SignUpGenius to schedule appointments for the secondary teachers. It is very simple to set up and allows parents to schedule their appointments when it fits their needs during the day. In the past the school used MySignUp, but I found the UI to be very poor. There was no easy way to correct a mistake, so you needed to get the entire schedule correct the first time or begin again. Terrible! In addition, it looked like something out of the 1990s, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, I remember the 90s fondly, but times have changed and signupgenius allows for different themes that can fit a variety of school uses. Signupgenius was easy to make and correct. Plus, you can easily track who has signed up by checking the account or having updates sent to your email account. Nice! The free version is robust enough to handle our needs as a small school, which means no fees. My wife, Aysem Bray (@aysembray), created two simple to follow tutorials for parents on how to sign up and how to edit their schedules. If you are interesting in giving signupgenius a try, feel free to use these tools with your parents. You can also contact either of us for advise, help, or support.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Laptops are coming!

Thanks to Title 1 money that the Saipan Public School System (PSS) generously shares with the private schools, all of our students from grades 7-12 have laptop computers. This is a great example of public and private schools partnering to make education better for all students. We should drop the idea that public and private schools are competing with each other, because they aren't and shouldn't. The idea is to share the resources and share the improved learning, not hoard it. PSS has a large amount of resources, but because of government regulations and the large size, it is difficult for them to implement change quickly. Private schools, because of their smaller size, can implement innovation and change quickly and share their success and failure with PSS. Then when PSS wants to move in a direction, they can with confidence after seeing what worked in the private schools on the island. I want to thank Herman Guerrero, Chairperson of the PSS School Board, for his support of the private schools. I would also like to thank Tim Thornburgh, who is in charge of the Federal Grants program, for his continued support as well.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sharing the Wealth

Photo from TaxCredits.net
When I was hired to be the new Headmaster of Saipan International School, my contract came with $2500 toward professional development. I was happy for the access to this money, because continually developing myself and learning are things I enjoy doing. I had made early plans to travel to Malaysia and attend the EARCOS leadership conference. Once I was back on the ground in Saipan, however, I realized that the entire school faculty needed access to professional development; we currently have no funds dedicated to PD. After some careful consideration about options before me, I decided to use my $2500 for the entire faculty. Improving the leader will help the whole, but improving the followers does it more effectively and efficiently.

Step one was to join the ASCD website. For those who aren't familiar, an ASCD membership is a great resource for professional development. They offer online courses, Educational Leadership magazine, and hundreds of educational books from the best minds in learning. In addition, I ordered some books about differentiation and supporting ELL students in the regular classroom, which are areas we are working on improving through our WASC accreditation process. Step two, I provided the entire faculty a short article on the power of feedback in the learning process from our new Educational Leadership subscription. I want to encourage the faculty to begin reading journals for their own improvement and growth as educators; plus, by sharing articles, we can have educational discussions about a common theme with a common language.

We have about $2200 more to spend on PD, so I'm thinking and exploring what other options could work for us. When you share, you can make a little go a long way and help everybody. Didn't a famous guy once say something like that...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Apple Scam Floating Around -- Beware!

I receive an email from "Apple" today. The first red flag was that it came to an account that I don't use with Apple. The second red flag went up when I followed the link and the URL was not at Apple.com. Complete scam, so please beware!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Some School Spirit at SIS

One of the best parts of my job is attending as many assemblies as possible throughout the school year. I unfortunately missed the secondary assembly where the candidates for StuCo gave their speeches, but Aysem was able to attend and take some great photos. There is another assembly in the secondary at the end of this week, so I will make sure to be there for that one. The secondary assemblies are good, but the elementary Positive Action assemblies are always a joy to attend, because the students are always super excited about the monthly awards; in addition, we have a tradition of singing our school song at the end of each assembly and the students really get into singing. It is impossible to attend these assemblies without smiling. I believe the secondary students actually feel excited about their assemblies, but it isn't cool to look like you are really into it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Learning Never Stops

The learning never stops. No, seriously, the learning never stops. If you are alive, you must continue to learn. It is required; it is essential; it is vital. In my third week as the Headmaster of Saipan International School, I know that this year will be a huge learning adventure, a challenge, a large learning curve, but totally worth it. There are a thousand little things to learn and one of the large ones is Admin Plus. I've work with PowerSchool for years, so it is strange to work with Admin Plus, but I'm getting better with it all the time. The telephone support they offer is quite good, although the time it is available on Saipan isn't the best, it still is a huge help. Korea International School used Admin Plus the first two years I was there and then switched, so I do know the program a little from the past, but not as the main administrator. I've never really been a data base guy, so I have dipped into the memories of things that Ben Summerton told me about working with data. One thing I remember him saying was that errors are 99% human made when it comes to data bases and today I saw that first hand as I tried to fix a problem with a teacher's grade book.

The teacher contacted me and explained that two of his grade books had the same file number and he couldn't save or change one of them. This seemed fairly odd and I was cursing myself because I would have to get up early on a Saturday and come to the office to call Admin Plus support or the problem would have to wait until Wednesday on Saipan due to Labor Day. Progress reports are due on Tuesday, so the only way to solve the matter was to come in early... Or so I thought during the mad rush of the morning. But as I ticked off other jobs on my giant to-do list, I kept hearing Ben's words. Something was wrong, but it wasn't the program, it must be something I did or didn't do. I thought back to the very beginning of the year when the some teacher told me that the schedule should be Advanced Math and not Pre Calculus. I remembered changing the print version of the schedule to reprint, but did I actually change the course in Admin Plus? That's it! I went looking through the course schedules and sure enough, the G12 students were still having Pre Calculus, not Advanced Math. A few simply changes later and the problem was corrected and a lesson learned: make the changes in Admin Plus first and then make a change to the print schedule. The learning never stops!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Make One Thing Better Each Day

Being an educational leader can be an overwhelming experience. Your time is rarely your own and the demands on the little time you have are quite staggering; especially when you are the only administrator in the school. Parents have questions and concerns, students have questions and concerns, the faculty have requests, questions, and concerns, and the staff does as well. All eyes are on you and they are all looking for some guidance and leadership.

Even though I'm new to the demands of the job, I think I have found a novel approach; or at least the approach is novel to me and that is worth something to my personal professional growth. The idea is very simply -- make one thing better each day. That's it. That's all. But that is a lot. Make one thing better each day. Improve something each day, even something small. Because if you make one thing better, even if everything else around you went horribly wrong, you can always look at the one thing and feel like something improved today. Tackling one problem that is outside of the regular job to make the school better each day builds momentum. People begin to notice the changes; they come up with ideas and ask to make their own changes; and little by little, day by day, you transform the culture.

During the weekend, Aysem and I came to campus with a group of students to clean up some areas of the school that were in desperate need of attention. Our Yoga and Art teacher, Kim Peterson, also came in to work on her room. The Yoga and Art Studio is our former secondary library, but many old items were still left in there and had been for years. Many, many old textbooks were gathered there for no reason; along with some old reading books that were simply in boxes and unsorted. Dozens of old trophies were also part of the mess. Working with the students, we moved all the old books and removed some old shelves. Now we have a Yoga/Art Studio. It still needs work, but we made headway. Something improved, something got better.

Kim has some great ideas for making the yoga program bigger. On the weekend, she asked me about allowing some of the mothers to have a morning yoga class. The room is available and the mom's like the connivence of dropping off their children and then getting a yoga session in on top of it. How cool is that service? Not my idea, but a great idea. I told her to go for it. Little by little, day by day, you transform the culture.

The elementary team noticed that Amie McRoberts has a great love for art. She inspires her G5 students with interesting projects. Currently, we don't have a K-12 Art teacher, but the elementary students love and want to have art. The team came up with the idea of covering Amie's class once a day, so she can cycle through the elementary classes teaching art. Now everybody gets art once a week. Things are better, there has been improvement. Not my idea, but great idea. I stood back and allowed the team to do it. Little by little, day by day, you transform the culture.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Everybody Is Important, All the Time

I'll be totally, completely honest about my first day has a Headmaster at Saipan International School with my full faculty -- I was nervous and I believe it showed; but, I did survive and the second day was much better. The first day of classes with students went well and I wasn't too nervous. Every day I'm feeling like things are getting a little better, a little easier. So to reflect this early in the year could be a mistake, but I learned a lot during the faculty orientation and the first two days of school. My big take away thus far is -- everybody is important and everybody needs to know that you think they are important. Everybody. When parents come to campus and visit, they need to feel like they are welcome and part of the community. When students come into the office to ask questions, they need to feel like their concerns are important to you. When faculty make requests, they need to feel like you are supporting them. When staff members are working, they need to know that you noticed their efforts. Everybody is important, all the time. This job is about giving, not taking.

An example, one of my staff members was asked to move three stacks of chairs; when the teacher pitched in by grabbing one of the stacks and I joined in by grabbing the other stack, I thought her jaw was going to hit the floor. She was very appreciative that the "boss" was willing to help out with the manual labor. A simple gesture, but it meant a lot to her. Little things add up. Another example, a teacher has been using her class to organize the library every week and for three years, she has been asking for an extra shelf to be moved to the library to provide more room for books. The shelf is in another room and not being used. It will be moved this weekend. A simple gesture, but it meant a lot to her. My business office manager told me, "Each one of them (teachers) have a pet project and it means a lot to them." She is absolutely right. If you help people achieve things that are important to them, even if they are small actions, it shows a solidarity as Ben Summerton would say.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Returning to Saipan and Saipan International School

Sunset overlooking the lagoon.
From 2003 to 2007, Saipan was our home; we taught at Saipan International School. We formed some very strong bonds with the community and we were thinking of returning at some point; but when Dr. Jenkins decided to retire at the end of this school year, our opportunity to return came quicker than we had planned. May 2-9 we returned to Saipan to meet the teachers, students, and parents that we will be working with to continue SIS's tradition of being the best school on Saipan. Among the teachers, there were some familiar faces, but many new ones; among the students, we saw many new faces, but some familiar ones, only seven years older; and among the parents, we saw many familiar faces who welcomed us with open arms. I will be returning once again in June to work directly with Dr. Jenkins on more transition items. It was wonderful to be back on the island and we are looking forward to the coming school year and the new challenges ahead. Although the tropical climate is great and the environment on Saipan is amazing, we are really returning for the people. We took some photos during the May visit, the first round with many, many more to come.
PE class playing baseball on the basketball court. 
Front of the high school building.
The elementary building on the left and the middle school building on the right.
One of the many Flame trees on campus.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Attachment Theory Implications for Leadership

Calmer Classrooms
My wife, Aysem, is working on her last course to finish her M. Ed. in School Counseling before we begin working at Saipan International School in August. This particular course is mostly focused on Attachment Theory (AT), which I recall briefly reading about and discussing in an educational psychology course back when working on my B.A. Of course that was nearly 20 years ago, so this course vicariously provided me an opportunity to become familiar with AT once again. While my wife has been studying, I have been using her courses as a way to foster deeper understanding of counseling practices; I feel as an educational leader these concepts can assist me in understanding colleagues and students. Also, I was inspired to learn more about basic counseling due to a panel discussion for budding international educators at the UNI Job Fair back in 2007. John Chandler was on the panel and when asked what advice he would give new school leaders, he replied, "Take a conflict resolution course or workshop, because the whole job is conflict resolution in one way or another." And although, AT has its limitations, it is best to move forward as a practicer with a base in some specific philosophies or theories in mind to ground your practice. As my mentor Larry Creedon was fond of saying, "Theory not applied is useless and application not based on theory is reckless."

I don't want to rehash an explanation of AT in this post, but rather suggest that the theory could be used by leaders to be more sympathetic towards faculty, staff, parents, and students who may display very confusing behaviors. With that stated, a very brief overview at AT is appropriate. AT is based on the idea that a child's relationship with a nurturing primary caregiver is the basis for the child's future development and relationships throughout his/her entire life. If a secure relationship of mutual love, trust, and understanding is built, a securely attached child can explore his/her world and develop other relationships built on trust. Research has found that roughly 70% of children are classified as having a secure attachment with their caregiver. But what about the other 30%? These children will have insecure attachments, which can manifest in three styles -- avoidant, ambivalent, and disorganized. Insure attachments have been correlated with depression, self-harm, aggressive behavior, and psychopathology. Research has also shown that approximately 90% of physically, psychologically, or sexually abused children have disorganized attachments due to the confusion created when the caregiver is a source of love and protection and at the same time fear and a lack of protection.

When a child is displaying very aggressive behavior with other students, it could be a response to early childhood trauma. I'm not suggesting that you call the parents in and beginning questioning them or reporting them to Child Services, but be mindful of the possible implications. Be aware that possibly this child was once traumatized, and when in situations that recall that trauma to the child's mind, he/she may react in seemingly strange or disproportional ways. Colleagues and parents could also be wrestling with demons well beyond our ability to imagine. Before dropping the hammer of punishment or reprimand, consider the situation and the reaction. Does something seem amiss? Out of sorts? Could there be a deeper reason? These questions should be considered and any action on your part should factor these possibilities. Again, I'm not suggesting that wild, out of control behavior be tolerated and allowed and simply dismissed as, "Well that is little Sally's (or Johnny's) pathology. What can we do?" Instead, I am advocating for looking into the matter more carefully, but still executing a firm and appropriate response. The province of Victoria put together an excellent resource for educators called Calmer Classrooms that provides a basic overview of AT, three case studies, and guidelines for working with students who are possibly suffering from insecure attachments. The information is just as useful for educational leaders and can be adapted to elementary, secondary, or even adult interactions.

I still haven't had the opportunity to take a conflict resolution course or workshop, but once Aysem is finished with her current degree, we will probably tackle that one. One step at a time.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

SkyTent -- your inflight sanctuary!

SkyTent -- your travel sanctuary!
I don't normally do product reviews or drone on about products on my blog, because that simply isn't me or what I do, but this situation is different, so please bare with me. My friend Ben Wood, who is currently teaching Art at Korea International School, has created a travel product that is very unique and totally cool for those of us who travel long distances by plane, train, bus, and/or boat. He has arranged a Kickstarter campaign to get additional funding for the product. It is a hat with a piece of fabric to cover your face. It sounds ridiculously simple, right? But it is very wonderful, because the brim of the hat keeps the fabric from touching your face, so you don't have that claustrophobic feeling you would get from a shirt, blanket, or jacket over your face. In addition, the fabric he used to make this sanctuary in the sky breathes quite well, so you can still feel like you are not being choked and you can actually see through it reasonably well, but no one can see in. Cool, right? You can still wear your headphones and use your favor neck pillow, because the SkyTent will cover it all. This is a chance to help out a fellow teacher with his dream and improve the quality of your own travel at the same time. Win-win situation in my book! Plus, if you help out Ben with his Kickstarter campaign, you are helping an average Joe launch his own business. My father owned his own business for most of his life and it was great for our family, but also for our community. Small business owners make the economy run and put jobs and money into our communities. Even if you only go and look at the Kickstarter page, but don't give any money, you are helping out Ben, because traffic on Kickstarter is a big deal. It shows that people are interested in the product which encourages others to contribute. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Google Docs in Schoology

Start the process in Google by changing the share
settings of your Doc, Form, Presentation, etc.
Not too long ago, you could access your Google Drive through Schoology and then suddenly -- you couldn't. If you are struggling with this matter, help is here! All you really need to do is change the sharing options on your Google Doc (form, spreadsheet, presentation, etc.) to anyone with the link. Now you can use the Link/Embed option in Schoology to share the link to your Google item.
Now use the Attach Link/Embed option in Schoology
to share the Google item.

Friday, February 7, 2014

New Pages Not Emailing or Uploading Solution

Some people have probably noticed that the new version of Pages doesn't attach an email from Gmail or upload to places like Schoology. And those same people have probably cursed Apple and Pages under their breath or even out loud, but fear not -- there is a solution to your troubles and pains. The photos will walk you through the simple, yet, ridiculous process. Thanks Apple -- NOT!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Creative Writing -- Experience Poems

For the last two classes we have been digging through our memories for experience poems as a group. The poems that came out of this two part class have been very powerful and I thought it would be good to share with the education community at large. The original idea of the Experience Poem and instructions were from Rick Monroe. Thanks, Rick, you have influenced me as an educator more than you could ever possibly know.

Experience Poem

Part one
This assignment is designed to help you write a poem based on an experience, memory, or place. The idea is to generate as much raw material as you can before you commit to the form of the poem. Feel free to draft this many times.

Follow these steps:
  • Recall a specific time or place when you were younger. Generate a list of as many things as you can remember about the experience, memory, or place. (20 or more items is a good beginning.) Include everything. Note sights, sounds, smells, colors, textures, placement of items. If it helps, draw a picture of the experience/memory/place and then label everything. Invent whatever you can't clearly remember.
  • Now add at least eight "personal specifics" that get at the tone or mood. Use the past tense.
  • The goal is to write a two-four (or more) stanza poem of a least four lines each that is based on the experience/memory/place. This means, now that you have generated more raw material than can be used, decide which items are the most promising. Highlight them and then begin.
  • Do's: write in the past tense; focus on details (concrete nouns and active verbs); try using a repeating line (or refrain) to help with rhythm and organization; cut lines to the bone taking out connecting words or adverbs; rearrange the lines to establish a tone, mood, or theme; use a metaphor to create an image or make a connection.
  • Don't's: Don't use any rhyme (rhyming often distracts a reader from the content); don't write about love or death.
  • Write a draft at least four stanzas long. Step back from the first draft, let it sit for a day or so, and then reread it. Now write a title for the piece. Try to use a noun and a verb in the title so it doesn't read like a label.
  • Read the draft again and distill it some more. Think about moving lines or whole stanzas, take out "explaining words" (words that don't show), examine the line breaks and read them aloud so you can hear the cadence, or change point of view so the voice isn't yours.
  • Read the draft to at least two other people. Read your draft aloud to them. Ask them what is most memorable. What words or images can they recall? Than ask them if they have any suggestions or questions.
  • Read the example below and then go find and read a few poems like the one you are trying to write to see how other poets have written a memory poem. Write a more polished draft now, and at the bottom of the page include a "with thanks to" the people who helped you.

South Carolina
by Marcella Powell

We drive over hills into
flat fields, tobacco and
cotton plants.
Curing shacks stand
abandoned on land
littered with
wild flowers.

Along the road, power
lines droop and we pass
a run-down filling station.
A farmer stands there
filling his tractor,
with diesel fuel
and waves to us
just to be friendly.

(Thanks to Susan Meyers and R. Monroe)

Part Two: After this part of the assignment, we had a class discussion about taking risks as writers. I showed two short videos to help us discuss the concept. After the discussion, we all shared a very personal story with someone in class to help us experience risk taking. Then in the next lesson, we wrote about those stories we shared verbally in the previous class. I have added my poem from the second round of Experience Poems.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Little Trip to the Prado Museum

I have been back in the regular classroom this year teaching Creative Writing. It is only one block out of our seven block rotation, but it really does keep me hopping with all the other duties and jobs I have to manage in EdTech. The extra work is worth it, because I feel that after a few years completely out of the classroom, it is good to reconnect. It helps with student and teacher relationships, and it keeps me honest. Regular classroom teaching gives the EdTech person street cred in my opinion, because other teachers realize that what you are talking about isn't simply theory, you have been doing it in your classroom. I have been blogging all year about EdTech and educational leadership, but not much about my teaching; now I will share some of the recent action from class and some plans I have for the future.

Last Creative Writing class, we took a little trip to the Prado Museum virtually with our computers. Of course it isn't the same as visiting the museum in real life, which I pointed out the the students, but it gave us an opportunity to get inspired through the use of art. I gave the students 10 minutes to wander the virtual Prado and find a work of art that spoke to them. Then I gave them another 25 minutes to write. Out of my 15 students, 12 of them really got into it and the other three did the task, but really didn't get jazzed about it.

After writing, I shared my painting and poem that I wrote, because it is important to model the activity yourself and I wanted the students to hear me explain my approach to the writing. This immediately erupted into several students say, "But I didn't write a poem!" I managed to get everyone calm again by explaining that the poem is where MY writing took me and that EVERYONE has their own process which is completely fine and acceptable. It was good because it gave us a chance to discuss how Creative Writing is different from many courses where there is a "correct" answer or an exact "correct" method for tackling a problem, however, in Creative Writing we are exploring our OWN methods. Once we got to sharing our art and what we wrote, the students really got interested in the different thoughts their classmates had and the different methods they each used for getting into writing. Today we will revisit this writings and begin working on poems, which is sort of funny because we are ending up where the students didn't think they went in the beginning -- poetry.

Later in the semester, I plan to have two friends, who are both professional writers, Skype with my class and talk about their jobs and lives as professional writers.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New Year, New Job

Saipan International School
It is with great pleasure that I'm announcing that for SY2014-15 I will be returning to Saipan International School as the new Headmaster; Aysem will be working as a counselor and teacher. I still have five months at KIS and in EdTech, but I will be taking the reigns of the international school that Aysem and I worked with from 2003-07. It is an exciting opportunity for us to work with the learning community of SIS to move the school forward in teaching and learning. One of the first items of business -- Google Apps for Education turned on with our school domain. This is an important step to creating our brand, because it will provide students, faculty and staff with email addresses from our school domain -- official email for official school business; plus, access to the amazing tools of Google with our learning community. We will be traveling to Saipan in the beginning of May for a week to begin the transition process and planning for SY2014-15. This development also coincides with the 20th anniversary of the school, so we will be able to help celebrate this milestone with the entire community.