Presenting my Prezi

Term 1, Week 9

I don’t know how many dead dull powerpoint presentations I’ve had to endure in my life but I’m sure I’m not alone. When I saw Prezi’s introduction video — it was love at first site (sorry the pun was intended).

Prezi has real razzamatazz; it allows you to create presentations that have dynamic rather than static pages. There is the ability to zoom in and out, tilt, angle, swirl and presentations can include video as well as graphics and text. I’ve known about Prezi for several months and finally had the time to sit down and learn how to use it.

The Dewey Decimal Classification system can be a bit dry to teach so I revamped our library’s introductory session with the following (please click on the hyperlink below):

Dewey: The man, the system

Prezi_screen_shot

A couple of hints I should pass on to you:

  1. DO NOT , I repeat, DON”T press the backspace button when creating your own Prezi. It causes you to jump out of the session. There is nothing to tell you this anywhere and I can only conclude that they are assuming you are on an Apple and have no backspace button to worry about.
  2. In order to make the Prezi work, you need to click on the forward arrow for each segment similar to a PowerPoint presentation, although there is an autoplay option available.

I’ll be presenting my Prezi this week to my students along with some hands-on activities (so will some of the other TLs at school). I’ll let you know what the students think. I’d be glad of any constructive feedback from colleagues as well.

Behaving nicely

Last term, I noticed a gradual deterioration in behaviour in library sessions. I wondered if the students were feeling less engaged with me because I’ve been studying and so not doing as much CRT work. They really only see me one day a week now, unless I stop by the classrooms on the other day I work or if they come into the library during breaks or after school. So I’m still looking at classroom management ideas especially for transition times.

One day a week our school has Specialists day — named Swap Around Day by the kids. After lunch, the students rotate every 40 minutes between music, library, and sport. As you can imagine by the time the next group arrives at the library, they are hot, tired or revved up from whatever the previous activity has been. It’s been taking too long to settle into lesson/program I’ve planned and with only a 40 minute time slot, I don’t want to waste anymore of it than necessary.

I watched this video from Edutopia the other week, was impressed by the maths teacher’s idea of shaking hands and reviewing ideas with students as they come in to class. I tried something similar at my last library session of the term and while the children had a few surprised looks on their faces, it worked very well. We didn’t review anything, just politely greeted each with a smile, handshake and a ‘nice to see you, how are you’. This really seems to stop all the silliness at the door and the personal contact including eye contact seemed to lessen inappropriate behaviours once through the door. I’ll be interested to see how this goes long-term. I will begin to use it as a time to review cybersafety rules etc. once we settle into this term.

Have a look —

Sharing Knowledge (or why I’m bad at Algebra)

I am still waiting for the day when I will have to pull a (3x-5) out of my pocket and multiply it with a (2x-1). I keep one in my bag in case of emergencies – thankfully I haven’t had to use it yet; its been so long I’m not sure if it’s even any good any more. Do polynomials go off? I honestly wouldn’t know – I never understood what polynomials were although I apparently knew enough to get a pass in high school algebra.

Fullan’s (2004) Leading in a Culture of Change asks the reader to consider the statement “Information is not pertinent until people decide what it means and why it matters.” Also to consider “It is a mistake to focus on information rather than its use.” Oh how I wish someone had explained that to my maths teachers way back then. If only they had thought to spend time sharing the ‘secret’ of the why as well as the how. Without a use, the information on how to do the procedures never turned into learning, I gained no knowledge from the time spent in class.

Education is now making the shift from an emphasis on distributing facts (information) to creating and sharing knowledge. And creating a culture of sharing is one of the jobs of a leader. Fullan suggests that the conditions have to be right in order for this to occur. Quality relationships is the key, of course.

What interested me the most in this chapter  was Fullan’s take on the relationship between good relationships and a culture of knowledge sharing.  He cited Dixon’s observation that

… the exchange of knowledge happens only in organizations that have a noncompetitive or a collaborative culture. It follows that the first thing you have to do is to fix the culture and then get people to share. But I have found that it’s the other way around. If people begin sharing ideas about issues they see as really important, the sharing itself creates a learning culture. I have, of course, inserted an important caveat in that sentence: “about issues they see as really important” (Dixon as cited in Fullan, 2004, p. 124).

It interested me to compare it with an earlier blog quote I had

… many persons express the conviction that effective human relationships improve communication far more than communication improves relationships. (Savage, 1989, p. 109)

Do they contradict each other? If so which is right? What needs to be tackled first; relationship-building or communication/sharing?

Its one of those cyclic issues and perhaps that’s one of the reasons that collaborative cultures don’t develop easily. No one knows if its OK to start or where to start. In fact my own experience (tacit knowledge!) has been exactly that, no one wants to be the first. This is one of the places in which TLs can really take a lead. Someone has to break the ice, step up to the plate, lay their cards on the table and we have the training to do it.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/salmon/463619313/

Fullan, M. (2004). Building relationships. In Leading in a culture of change: Personal action guide and workbook (pp. 77-114). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Savage, W. (1989). Communication: Process and problems. In C. Riches & C. Morgan (Eds.), Human resource management in education (pp. 103-119). Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Leadership as a Practice

Everybody loves a rebel with heart. And reading Sergiovanni‘s book Strengthening the Heartbeat: Leading and Learning Together in Schools, reinforces for me something I’ve always believed and is so succinctly summed up by the author — “[there is] doing things right and doing right things (Sergiovanni, 2005, p. 19). Sergiovanni talks of how systems can sometimes lose the point of leading and leaders — focussing too much on the managerial, authority role of leaders. He suggests that in order for schools to thrive, leadership must be re-examined, redefined and re-distributed so communities can be formed that lead and learn together. His definition of leadership has further clarified for me how TLs (and other teachers) can truly be leaders, ‘leading from the middle’  —

… thinking about leadership as a practice makes more sense than thinking about leadership as an expression of individual agency. Practices may be singular or group. Regarding leadership as a practice helps us to see teachers and principals as members of communities of practice within which knowledge is used  and exchanged to achieve goals with little regard for roles and positions. Within communities of practice, for example, leadership activity takes place at the level of the community rather than at the level of individuals. (Sergiovanni, 2005, p. 49)

As a faculty member of an alternative, democratically aligned school, this definition interests me greatly. It fits very well with what happens in the classes and amongst the students. However this is not practised amongst the staff and wider community. (At times it becomes obvious where we have not applied the philosophy of the school beyond the students and it always hits me hard. Q. How can this be? A. No time to consciously examine this issue, complete focus by teachers on student/class day-to-day issues.)

Sergiovanni’s definition of leadership I find strengthening. It is not about someone giving you permission to lead. It’s not about getting out in front and saying, “I’m going to lead you.” Its not about roles and positions or positioning at all, it’s about action. I can relate to this, I have quietly taken action this year and begun to lead by walking the talk, and by saying, “I’d like to [do] … ”

What would our school be like if we all adopted a leadership of practice? Well it would improve, it has already. This year I’ve won a literacy grant, I’ve got parents now raising money for the library, I’ve got library sessions for the classes on a weekly basis, … things are changing and for the better. How to encourage the others? Well it always seems to come back to building relationships. Sergiovanni quotes Lambert as suggesting that leadership is a ‘pattern of relationships’.

Leadership is a reciprocal process that enables participants in an educational community to construct meaning that leads toward a shared purpose of schooling’ (Lambert as cited in Sergiovanni, 2005, p. 51)

Building trusting relationships and sharing, acting with moral purpose always …all very hopeful business. =)

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Photo from: http://www.morguefile.com

Sergiovanni, T. (2005). Leadership as entitlement. In Strengthening the heartbeat: Leading and learning together in schools (pp. 41-54). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Unintentional Communication and Moral Purpose


What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

That old truth that actions speak louder than words. It is an idea I am considering again within the leadership unit of my TL course. In the case of leadership within a school, stakeholders will react more to the leader’s behaviours than they will to what that leader has to say. This is very important to understand in the communication within a school. Parents often complain about the lack of communication or the quality of communication from schools. Yet you can publish pages of reports and updates in the school newsletter and they don’t read them. This has always perplexed me. Perhaps without being able to express it, what parents are looking for is the behavioural communication not the written words.

We’ve been asked to read an article by W. Savage entitled “Communication: Process and problems” from Human Resource Management in Education. There was a paragraph that caught my eye in particular.

A school administrator’s demonstrated concern for the welfare of his staff and the pupils enrolled in a school will communicate his beliefs far more eloquently than any written or oral statement that he may provide concerning his belief in the dignity and worth of the individual. As a matter of fact, many persons express the conviction that effective human relationships improve communication far more than communication improves relationships. (Savage, 1989, p. 109)

I’m thinking this means then that a leader’s moral purpose is communicated through his actions far better than through speeches, articles or documents. It is of ultimate importance to ‘walk the talk’ and to constantly monitor one’s behaviour for consistency in communication.

The second important message within that quote is that of effective relationships building communication not the other way around. This may go a long way to answering why so many communication strategies (including a very detailed one developed at our school) never get off the ground. Without the relationships, it just can’t happen. So the question then is how to develop the relationships with school stakeholders — obviously it will involve some self-reflection on current behaviours on the part of the leaders (principal, TL, teachers).

I want to stop and think about my moral purpose and my relationship-building behaviours right now. I blogged about my moral purpose here — and looking back, strangely enough, I said I didn’t communicate this directly but hoped it would show through my actions. I was on the right track without knowing it, but conscious effort will, obviously, be more effective.

At this point my relationship-building behaviours are:

  • I consciously stop and speak to parents I pass at school. I try to make a positive comment about their child’s use of the library or their reading habits. I want the parents to know that their child’s reading and use of information is important and important to me.
  • I sometimes go out to the car-park and speak to parents about upcoming events or pass on information I think they might appreciate
  • I quickly follow through on any requests for information/books from parents and also follow through on anything I say I will do in the school newsletter. I want to be seen as highly reliable.
  • author events that invite and include parents

Are there other opportunities for the TL to build effective relationships with the parents?

  • some computer tutoring sessions showing  parents how to use and access ICT’s the children are using
  • sessions involving the children showing the parents how to use the ICTs!
  • Reading challenges that involve adults as well as children
  • attending some of the home group class meetings especially the lower primary groups

Parents do not habitually seek out school leaders (teachers, principals, TLs) to communicate with them unless they are dissatisfied. It is up to us to go beyond half-way, to get in amongst the parents, demonstrate our concerns and moral purpose and build some better relationships.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/micahe/2563154869/

Savage, W. (1989). Communication: Process and problems. In C. Riches & C. Morgan (Eds.), Human resource management in education (pp. 103-119). Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

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