Digital Expert of the Week

Maintaining Digital Balance

Much more often than I would like to admit, a little voice can be heard chastising me from the back seat of our minivan while sitting at a traffic light: “Better left unread than dead, Mom.”

In those moments I reflect and recognize I must do better—I am not modeling or practicing what I preach. I need more digital balance, and whatever text or email I am replying to can wait until I get to my destination. The phone goes into the glove box until I get home, with a firm digital boundary set. (more…)

Streamlining Professional Growth through Micro-Credentialing and Badging

I was a bit fearful at the beginning of this school year. Budget reduction days loomed ahead, which—understandably—would be carved out of our non-student contact days, or our professional development in-service days. I worried that we would not be able to continue to make the great strides we have made in recent years in developing teacher leaders through our PD days. (more…)

‘Tis the Season for Ed Leadership Renewal

Part of the distinction in being named a 2018 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year is the opportunity to be part of a McKinsey leadership program. This internationally renowned company is “the trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential businesses and institutions.” In Part I of the McKinsey Academy, I am part of a cohort that began with 26 educators from around the globe. My subgroup is small: it’s simply Renita from Durham and me. (more…)

Using Hashtags to Carry Out Your Vision, Values, and Goals

As social media emerged as a mainstream communication device for school leaders years ago, so evolved the use of the hashtag. Back in 2012 when I first was dabbling with Twitter, Patrick Larkin, one of our first digital principals, used the simple hashtag #bhschat to keep a running dialogue with his high school students, staff, and families. His example prompted me to start my own weekly hashtag chat at Timberview Middle School. We called it #TMSHawkChat, and we made great connections as a community through those weekly conversations. Now only six years later, school/community hashtag chats are commonplace all over the world, and we have learned many more uses for the hashtag on social media. (more…)

Make the Most of Your Next Staff Meeting

Do you dread staff meetings as the principal? Does your staff audibly groan when you discuss policy changes or district minutia? Do you see your teachers watching the clock and counting down the minutes until they can leave? A few years ago, staff meetings at Harrisburg South Middle School were just this way, tedious gatherings that both the staff and I wished would just end as soon as possible. (more…)

Three Qualities to Look for in a Mentor

In a recent Q&A I host weekly with Danny Bauer, we talked about the importance of having a coach, or mentor, to help you become a better leader. (more…)

Three Ways to Leverage Technology and Build School Happiness

With a career in education spanning over 23 years and 11 children of my own, I have come to respect and recognize that happiness is paramount in education. Unhappy high-achieving students have similar struggles to their unhappy underachieving peers as they navigate through life after high school. Yet happy children (and adults) are more productive, healthy and successful. They earn more money, live longer, get and stay married longer—and yes, achieve more. Educationalist and philosopher Nel Noddings sums up happiness best for me when she says, “Happy people are rarely mean, violent or cruel.” Let’s fill our schools (and homes) with opportunities for our students and adults to be happier and healthier. Here’s how we can use technology to maximize our efforts. (more…)

Four Ways to Expand Your Influence as a Principal

A principal’s influence spreads far and wide—impacting students, faculty, staff, parents, and the entire community. I have been blessed to serve as a school administrator for the past twenty years. As the principal of Pottsgrove High School, I take this responsibility seriously and value the power I have to make a positive impact. I am constantly looking for ways to increase my influence and to expand opportunities for our students. I grow so much as a leader when I learn what other leaders are doing. I encourage you to check out how these leaders are expanding their reach, work, and opportunities for students.

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Taking a Critical Lens to Instructional Design

No one can deny the fact that we are seeing some pretty exciting changes in teaching, learning, and leadership. Advances in research, brain science, and technology are opening up new and better pathways to reach learners like never before. This excitement, in some cases, effects real change and has supporting evidence of improvement. In other cases, money is being dumped on the latest tool, program, idea, or professional development without ensuring that instructional design is up to par in the first place. Pedagogy trumps technology. It also goes without saying that a solid pedagogical foundation should be in place prior to implementing any innovative idea. (more…)

Four Ways to Reenergize Your Next In-Service Opportunity

If your staff didn’t have to attend your next in-service training, would they?

If the training covers the 54-slide overview of ESSA changes or a new literacy initiative, I’m sure we can all guess the answer. There’s never a shortage of initiatives, mandates, or policy changes to review—I used to be the guy who had all my ducks in a row, with my all-important PowerPoints and handouts ready for in-service day. In retrospect, I know my teachers would rather have been somewhere else than “listening” to me give them information that I could have relayed at another time and in another way. (more…)