Sunday, March 31, 2013

Using Twitter at School

Our school uses Twitter a lot. Here are some examples of how we use it....

-Our school hashtag is #HHSiBucs. Staff and students "tag" their tweets whenever the news is school-related. (Update: At the time of writing this post, the hashtag was #HHSiBucs. Since then, it has changed to #HooverPride)

-Holly Sutherland (another administrator) and I use it when we visit classrooms to share what students and teachers are doing

-When a student receives a Praise Referral, I take his/her picture and tweet the accomplishments

-At our school-wide Curriculum Night, we showed the #HHSiBucs twitter stream on a huge screen in the cafeteria during the meetings. Parents, students, and staff tweeted during the night

-We take pictures at assemblies, athletic events, meetings, etc. and share via Twitter

-Holly shares a motivational quote each school day

-We share links to our school's Engaged Learning Initiative blog (Update: Blog is no longer active)

-The librarians tweet library happenings and events

-Each Monday night, Holly and I host #ALedchat from 9-10pm CST where we connect with educators from Alabama and all over the country

-Teachers share what their students are doing in class via twitter

Here's what one of our teachers did in his English class...he had music playing while the students entered class. He then asked the students to tweet how the music related to the selection they had recently been reading. The tweets led the conversation and instruction for the class that day.

Another teacher created class hashtags. She held a "Twitter Chat" during class by posting questions and having the students to respond to her and each other.

Not that familiar with Twitter hashtags? Here's a great article called The Complete Guide to Twitter Hashtags in Education. 

What other ideas do you have for using Twitter at school?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

12: The Elements of Great Managing

12: The Elements of Great Managing

Have you read this book? It's a book based on years of Gallup research, including 10 million employee and manager interviews spanning 114 countries and conducted in 41 languages. The research shows that there are 12 basic needs that employees need to have fulfilled at work for optimal engagement.

While it is a book for leaders about employee engagement, I think it also provides opportunities for leaders and employees to self-reflect. When you read the 12 elements below, think of each statement as a true/false question. 

If the answer to any of the questions is false, how do you go about turning it into a True statement?

You can read more about the book and each element here.

When I read this list, I think about the teachers at our school and try to determine which of these elements I can influence and support. I hope that I have done a good job with supporting the teachers who would answer them as if they were a list of True/False questions. 

I'm interested to hear your thoughts about the 12 Elements. Does your organization use this list as a gauge for employee engagement? Please leave a comment on your most or least favorite.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Who's really in charge in the classroom?

I seem to always pull for the underdog. I love movies such as Hoosiers, Rocky, and Remember the Titans. The story of Helen Keller moves me. I pull for the contestants on shows like American Idol and America's Got Talent who have the rags-to-riches stories.

In recent news, the story of Florida Gulf Coast University is a cinderella story in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. They beat Georgetown (No. 2 seed) Friday night, then defeated San Diego State last night, making them the first No. 15 seed to ever win two games in the tournament and make it to the Sweet 16.
Florida Gulf Coast players Eddie Murray (No. 23) and Chase Fieler (No. 20) celebrate their win Sunday over San Diego State. The game was played at the  Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Today I want to share an excerpt from an article by Martin Haberman I'm reading, titled The Pedagogy of Poverty Versus Good Teaching. (The bolded phrases are by me.) Until recently, I had never heard of Martin Haberman. I think we both shared a passion for the underdog, the overlooked, the unexpected victor. We also believe in (and the research proves the importance of) the power of a teacher.

From Mr. Haberman....

For any analysis of pedagogical reform to have meaning in urban schools, it is necessary to understand something of the dynamics of the teacher/student interactions in those schools. The authoritarian and directive nature of the pedagogy of poverty is somewhat deceptive about who is really in charge. Teachers seem to be in charge, in that they direct students to work on particular tasks, allot time, dispense materials, and choose the means of evaluation to be used. It is assumed by many that having control over such factors makes teachers "decision makers" who somehow shape the behavior of their students.
But below this facade of control is another, more powerful level on which students actually control, manage, and shape the behavior of their teachers. Students reward teachers by complying. They punish by resisting. In this way students mislead teachers into believing that some things "work" while other things do not. By this dynamic, urban children and youth effectively negate the values promoted in their teachers' teacher education and undermine the nonauthoritarian predispositions that led their teachers to enter the field. And yet, most teachers are not particularly sensitive to being manipulated by students. They believe they are in control and are responding to "student needs," when, in fact, they are more like hostages responding to students' overt or tacit threats of noncompliance and, ultimately, disruption.
It cannot be emphasized enough that, in the real world, urban teachers are never defined as incompetent because their "deprived," disadvantaged," "abused," "low-income" students are not learning. Instead, urban teachers are castigated because they cannot elicit compliance. Once schools made teacher competence synonymous with student control, it was inevitable that students would sense who was really in charge.
The students' stake in maintaining the pedagogy of poverty is of the strongest possible kind: it absolves them of responsibility for learning and puts the burden on the teachers, who must be accountable for making them learn. In their own unknowing but crafty way, students do not want to trade a system in which they can make their teachers ineffective for one in which they would themselves become accountable and responsible for what they learn. It would be risky for students to swap a "try and make me" system for one that says, "Let's see how well and how much you really can do".
Recognizing the formidable difficulty of institutionalizing other forms of pedagogy, it is still worthwhile to define and describe such alternative forms. The few urban schools that serve as models of student learning have teachers who maintain control by establishing trust and involving their students in meaningful activities rather than by imposing some neat system of classroom discipline. For genuinely effective urban teachers, discipline and control are primarily a consequence of their teaching and not a prerequisite condition of learning. Control, internal or imposed, is a continuous fact of life in urban classrooms - but, for these teachers, it is completely interrelated with the learning activity at hand.

Each of us will get a different message from this excerpt. I would love for you to leave a comment with your thoughts, questions, and take-aways.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Praise Referrals

When I meet a parent of a freshmen, they often say, "My daughter/son is ________. I hope he/she never has to come to your office!" or "I guess if you don't know him/her, that's a good thing!"

In my job as the disciplinarian for the freshmen class, most of the students I see in my office are there for negative reasons. Often, my first personal encounter with a student is because he or she has violated the code of conduct... misbehaving in class, skipping class, cheating, out of dress code, etc. 

Fortunately for me and the students, I'm not a person who enjoys negativity. I WANT to know the students... the ones who are behaving and having consistently successful days as well as those who aren't. I find ways to meet students outside my office by talking to them in the hallways, cafeteria, classrooms, etc. 

After attending a session by Bloomfield High School at the annual conference for National Association of Secondary School Principals a few weeks ago, I found a mechanism by which we (grade-level principals) could see students in our office for a positive reason: Praise Referrals. At Bloomfield HS, teachers can "write up" students for positive reasons. I immediately knew that I wanted a copy of their form so that I could bring it back to our school. I emailed one of the presenters while I was in the session and requested a copy. Once I returned to school the next Monday, he had emailed me a copy of the form. Bingo!

While we do recognize Students of the Month (2 per grade level per month), Finley Character Recognition Award winners (7 per grade level), and classroom award winners (recognized at a breakfast in the spring), I still felt like at a school of nearly 2700 students we needed a way to recognize more students for the positive things they do. Now, staff members can recognize students positively throughout the year. When staff members send us grade-level principals a praise referral, we call the student to our office, shower them with praise, and make a positive phone call home. We collect the praise referrals and put them in a box, and at the end of each month we will have a drawing for prizes such as food coupons, iTunes gift cards, etc. and announce those winners over the intercom. 

In giving praise to students, I'm reminded to praise the process rather than the person. In a recent study, it was found that children who received more "process praise" felt as thought they could improve their intelligence, and they approached challenging tasks with a more positive attitude. I have a sign in my office that states, "Smart is not something you are. Smart is something you get by working hard."  

It's been fun to see the students faces as they come to my office then how their faces change when I tell them why they're there and then when I tell them I'm going to call their parents. I think they all float out of my office when they return to class. :) 

Here's what one student posted on Twitter:

How does your school recognize students for positive reasons?

Monday, March 11, 2013

When is the Last Time You Took a Risk?

Every Monday night another assistant principal at our school, Holly Sutherland, and I co-moderate a Twitter Chat that uses the hashtag #ALedchat. It’s a chat for Alabama educators as well as educators all over the country, and it's a terrific opportunity for professional learning. 

Today, I emailed several school superintendents in the state that I know personally or who are in our “over the mountain” school classification.  

I decided to put myself (and her, ha!) out there. Many thoughts crossed my mind.... Are the superintendents even on Twitter? Do they value Twitter? Will they see this as insignificant? Will they forward the message to their educators? 

I felt vulnerable at taking the risk, but I know that without risk there is no reward.

Here’s the email I sent:

Holly Sutherland and I, both administrators at Hoover High and co-moderators of the weekly state Twitter Chats, would like to invite you and other educators in your school system to join us tomorrow (Monday) night from 9pm-10pm as we discuss topics with other educators in Alabama and across the country. 

Tomorrow's topic is "Learning First, Tools Second," inspired from the article "Students First, Not Stuff" from the March issue of Educational Leadership (ASCD).,-Not-Stuff.aspx is your best option if you are going to participate. Just go to the website, sign in with your Twitter account and then enter the #ALedchat hash tag in the top box. This will allow you to follow the chat, reply, retweet, and favorite tweets more effectively.  Once you follow the chat with the hash tag in the box, the hash tag is automatically added to the tweet. Please join us and feel free to share this email with other educators in your school system who use Twitter for their personal learning and networking.  
Jennifer Hogan, Ed. S.
Ninth Grade Principal
Hoover High School
1000 Buccaneer Drive
Hoover, AL 35244
Twitter: @Jennifer_Hogan

When is the last time you took a risk? How did it turn out?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Outboard Brain at School

I still remember a time about 15-20 years ago, when I was a classroom teacher and there was a debate among science teachers about whether or not students should have to memorize anything from the periodic table. Should students memorize elements' symbols? Atomic mass? Atomic number? When I taught physical science about 15 years ago, I would have freshmen in my class who had to memorize the symbols, atomic number, and atomic mass of the first 40 elements of the periodic table. Then, I would think, WHY??'s such a waste of time and brain space!

My philosophy was for students to memorize the symbols of some of the common elements to be helpful when students were having to write formulas for compounds. If our goal is to prepare students for "real life," in real life they would be able to look on a chart or in a book to find the factual information they would need. 

Fast forward to today... students now carry around those "charts" and "books" in their hands. Students with smartphones have access to information that teachers have always provided and have tested students on their ability to memorize. With these tools, is it necessary anymore to have students memorize the presidents names in order? Or memorize the names and dates of the battles of the civil war? What about memorizing the formulas for physics class?

I recently attended the annual conference for the National Association of Secondary School Principals. One of the sessions was led by Scott Klososky, and international technology speaker and entrepreneur. Being a huge fan of technology and the potential to infuse it into education to enrich the learning for all, I was excited to hear and learn from him. 

Scott showed the following video, The Outboard Brain. David Bowden performs the spoken word poetry and the words reminded me of the debate I faced many years ago. There is a huge shift in how students access information today that wasn't around 15 years ago. They carry access in their hands, immediately available on demand. 

"The way we amass, access, and assess the information we process has changed."

Using "Outboard Brains" is a game-changer for education. Although I was a science teacher, I see application possibilities in subjects other than science. For example, instead of memorizing the names and dates of presidents (in order), students can use brain space for learning how those presidents impacted the country, culture, and world during his presidency as well as any lasting effects. Instead of using time at home to memorize, time can be spent researching, pondering, chatting, listening, etc. Instead of class time being used to test and quiz the students' abilities to memorize, time is used for debate, listening to other students' inputs, writing responses to thought-provoking questions, and more.

The brain can be used for creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration, moving up Bloom's taxonomy from lower-order thinking skills to higher-order thinking skills.

What are your thoughts on using the outboard brain to do our memorizing for us? How can we capitalize on this and deepen students' learning?

Monday, March 4, 2013

An Exciting Time to Get Back to Blogging!

It's been a while since my last blog post... and A LOT has happened since then! I was in Washington, D.C. this past weekend for the annual conference of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. My husband got to go, and it was his first time in D.C. He's a huge history buff, so I was excited for him getting to go. 

The conference was wonderful in many ways, from the sessions and school showcases to seeing the people I had already "met" on Twitter. I found it to be the perfect timing and impetus for me to get back to blogging about what I'm passionate about - kids, education, and technology.

I plan to share a lot of what I learned at the conference.  I also plan to share some of the terrific things we have going on at Hoover High School. You can visit the school's blog, which is written by Holly Sutherland, (update: the school blog is no longer live) to follow along our school's technology journey in a 1:1 iPad environment. This blog is not intended to duplicate Holly's efforts, but I will on occasion share great things that are happening at Hoover High School. I also plan to share some of those ideas that rattle around in my head, keep me awake at night, cause me to spend gobs of time on the Internet researching, or those that I learn from others that resonate greatly with me.

Thanks for joining in,