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Monday
May092016

How did you use your computer in school today? 

My article "How did you use your computer in school today" is now available online at Education Technology Insights, April 2016, p 25. Share as you'd like!

Friday
May062016

BFTP: Signs of over communication

Is there a point when sharing too much information (TMI) can be counter productive to getting one's message across? Are these signs I might be over-communicating?

  • I was having a little talk with another district-level director not long ago and she asked if a set of guidelines from my department had been shared with the staff. I showed her that I had sent the information to everyone in one of our bi-monthly "TechTips" newsletters a few months earlier. "Oh," she replied, "Nobody reads those!"
  • Follow-up discussions with teachers about TechTips usually reveal that while everyone says they save them for later reading, few people actually read them.
  • I titled one of my power-user Gmail Tips "Learn to use filters and never see my name in your inbox again." Nobody laughed when they read it. And everyone seem to pay rapt attention during that part of the workshop.
  • When I introduce myself to a staff member for the first time, the standard response is, "Oh, you're the guy who sends all those e-mails."

Do I send stuff to my staff so often that it gets routinely ignored? How do you determine the right balance of too much and too little information? On which side should one err? 

Perhaps there are signs in one's outside-of-school life of TMI as well...

  • After a peak of several hundred Twitter followers, you are down just a handful.
  • The royalty check for your last book was smaller than your state tax refund.
  • Some articles in The Onion seem more mean than humorous.
  • You glance at your wife's e-mail inbox and find none of your e-mails to her have been opened.

I know I whack "over-communicators" regularly from my RSS feeds (those suffering from blogorrhea), my Twitter account and from Facebook. I regularly suspend getting messages from hyperactive mailing lists like LM_Net. 

Some guidelines?

  1. If you had to pay a couple bucks for each e-mail e-mailed, every Twitter tweeted, or every blog post posted, would you still send it?
  2. Are you the sole source of this information or are you just passing it along?
  3. Is the information actually important or just "nice to know?"
  4. Is the message of interest to a majority of those receiving it?
  5. Are you communicating through channels that are "required" or "voluntary?" (We have one school e-mail list that is not optional for district employees to receive; another that is.)
  6. Is the message as succinct, clear and non-technical as possible with the reason for the message clearly communicated? 

Send or not to send - what are your criteria?

Image source: http://jimmarous.blogspot.com/2010/06/onboarding-communication-how-much-is.html

Original post April 25, 2011.

Thursday
May052016

World's best workforce - can't we have a better goal?

 ... children in one set of schools are educated to be governors; children in the other set of schools are trained for being governed. The former are given the imaginative range to mobilize ideas for economic growth; the latter are provided with the discipline to do the narrow tasks the first group will prescribe. (Kozol, 1991).

I will say right up front, work has given me a great deal of satisfaction and self-worth throughout my life. Especially the professional work for which my education trained me - teaching, librarianship, and school administration.

Had I a magic wand, I would give the gift of meaningful work to each and every individual on the planet.

The goal/mission/tagline "creating the world's best workforce" has found its way into many K-12 school's plans. Minnesota has legislatively mandated all its schools do so. The rise of STEM, coding, school-to-work, career pathways, etc. echo this sentiment.

But what a narrow goal. It seems to place value on our children only as potential workers who can contribute to the economy. I'd like to think I am of more value to the state and country than a cog in an money-making engine.

What if we changed our mission in K-12 education

  • World's most critical thinkers?
  • World's best problem-solvers?
  • World's most creative individuals?
  • World's most empathetic citizens?
  • World's most daring entrepreneurs?
  • World's most aesthetically appreciative?
  • World's healthiest people?

Best workforce? To me this sounds far too much like training for compliance. Training to take orders. To be governed, not to be the governors.

We can do better.

Image source