Author Archives: Mike Wolf

Major Project Blog #4: Where are we now?

This will be my final blog for our major project.  Last time, I left off saying that this post would be about student and teacher feedback that we’ve received.  We haven’t done our formal teacher feedback yet, but we have had some student feedback.  First, let’s check that data out:

One of our barriers to start was that students were using their student numbers to use the hallpass signout.  This is something that is easily addressed, either by the teacher telling the student their number, or by a student finding the number on their course timetable.  The second issue is that students could very easily type in someone else’s student number or text to misidentify themselves and throw off the data collected.  This was something that there was no way around outside of teacher monitoring the hallpass submissions live as they were coming in.

feddback1

As you can see from our initial polling data, 100% of students either had a personal device or access to a computer to sign in and out of the class.  This was a higher number than we anticipated.  Overall, we would estimate that this number is closer to 90%.

feedback2

72% of those polled had actually used the electronic hallpass signout.  We only included this question so that those that answered “yes” could be given some follow-up questions as to not skew out data.  Approximately 85% found this method faster than the old paper method.  This was higher that we were expecting, but we worked hard to make the process as streamlined as possible.  The QR code versus a direct link was the preferred way to access the sign out with 57%.

The final question asked if this method impacted hallway use at all.

feedback3

88.5% said that it hasn’t changed their habits, While 8.2% said that they find themselves into the hallway less now.  3.3%, or 2 out of 85 respondents said that they go into the hallway now with the electronic sign out.

Though we’re still a few days out from surveying staff participants, the overall feedback has been positive.  Kyle and I recently switched from Google Forms to Microsoft Forms, which allows student submissions to be tied to their names via our system Microsoft Office accounts.  Student misidentification was the #1 concern, so we were glad to discover that functionality with the Microsoft variant.  A couple of math teachers said they had some students reverting back to a paper log because the online process is too slow.  With 85% of our surveyed indicating that our system is faster for them, I believe this is just a matter of training staff and students a bit more on best practices.  We created shortened URL for a direct link.  Many teachers have this on their websites or written on their white board.  Assuming students are logged into their one drive account on their personal device, and have the URL in their browser history, our current average time for each sign in or sign out is approximately fifteen seconds.  We feel that this can be cut to ten seconds or less with proper training.

One issue that remains is that we are at the mercy of internet connectivity.  Though we haven’t surveyed for this, I would guess that a smaller fraction of students who have personal devices have data plans.  In a power or internet outage, there’s not much that can be done outside of reverting to the paper log.

In switching to Microsoft forms, we have also lost some functionality for allowing teachers to see results.  As far as we can tell, there is no live spreadsheet view of student submissions to verify that a student is indeed submitting an entry.  At a certain point we have to trust that the students are following the procedures, as we’ve done as much as we can to keep them honest in this.

As far as what is done with the data after, we’re not really sure.  So we send a monthly report to all pilot teachers?  Do we forward this information to Student Services or administration?  To us, streamlining the process, eliminating paper, and having at least some accountability across classrooms is an important step in the right direction. I don’t think that Kyle or I wanted this to become something that was used strictly to discipline students who are frequently in the hallway.  At the end of the day, those students are going to find a way around the system, particularly with only about 25% of the staff on board.

Overall I think we’ve done some good work on this project.  There are still some changes that need to be made and some staff and student training to be done.  I will likely blog again on the progress that we’ve made beyond the class, so stay tuned for that.

Major Project Blog #3: Feedback

version 1

Version 1.0

Last time I blogged about the project, I left off mentioning the some tweeks needed to be made to the hallpass sign-out form to make data collection easier.  There are two small changes that were made to make the user experience easier for students and teachers:

  • Teacher selection question turned from a short answer section to multiple choice. This helps avoid misspellings of teacher names and therefore helps with data collection.  Student entries of Wolf/WOLF/wolf/Mr. Wolf would all show up as unique teachers in the final form data.  Making this multiple choice streamlines that data while making things easier on the student side, as well.
  • We added a condition for the sign out portion. If the student is choosing to sign out of class, the form will then take the student to a page asking for the reason (washroom/office, etc.) This makes signing out a more user-friendly experience and seems to be more logical.  If I student is signing in, they can avoid listing a reason altogether.

Realistically, the form data is readable enough with just Kyle and me on there with our classes.  In proposing this to the staff, we would suggest that each teacher keeps their own Google Form for hallpasses.  At the end of the day, Kyle’s data isn’t particularly important to me.  If administration is interested in data regarding those who may be overusing hallpasses, those student numbers can be forwarded to administration.

During Part #2 of the major project I developed Google Forms to get feedback from staff and students regarding this project.  We will present our project to our staff tomorrow, and I will give students a link to the feedback form very soon as well so we can get some data.

Version 1.2

From teachers I’ve informally talked to, the connected educators (1:1 student/device ratio) seem to be 100% on board with trying this solution out.  There will be more resistance from other groups of teachers, particularly those who ban cell phone use in classrooms.  The QR code route or website link would require a student to have their own device. I solution to this might be teachers signing students in and out, which isn’t terribly time-consuming, but does put more work on the teacher.  This could cut down on students taking out hallpasses without reason.

Student feedback continues to be good for the most part.  The only students that dislike the online log are the same ones that weren’t fans of signing out via the paper log.  The electronic log does seem like a faster process overall once students are used to it, but I haven’t sat with a stop watch and quantified this data.

 

UPDATE

Kyle and I presented our work to the staff this morning.  We fielded some questions during and after the presentation, and are hoping to get more critical feedback from a survey form that we sent out.  As it stands right now, we currently have a dozen teachers that are interested in trying out our solution.  That number is now up to fourteen as I’m typing this.  One concern was students putting in a made up student number.  While we have thought about this concern already, in practice the last few weeks we haven’t encountered any students being dishonest about this.  This may be in part because as a pilot the data isn’t being forwarded t administration and therefore students may feel that there is no incentive to being dishonest.  One colleague, a former lawyer, suggested that perhaps having this data could be considered a privacy concern.  After all, there may be some students with diagnosed stomach problems that really do need to use the bathrooms multiple times over the course of a day.

While I would say the overall the reception to our hallpass log was positive, I could tell in the audience that there was some resistance.  Though these people weren’t vocal during or after our presentation, we’re hoping that the anonymous survey that we sent out will get us some more constructive criticism.

The surveys from staff members are rolling in a bit as I type this, so I’ll summarize the major concerns.  A few teachers are worried about possible discrimination against those that don’t have devices to use the service.  We forgot to mention during the presentation that those students would simply use a paper log.  The only other concern other than students not using proper student numbers is the amount of time this will take for teachers to set up.

To simplify the setup process, Kyle and I have decided to add teachers’ names on our current form.  This will also allow us to see all incoming data on one sheet. Kyle and I will print out the QR codes to be posted in teachers’ classrooms.  We will also provide teachers with direct links to the signout form, which will be particularly useful for connected educators, as they can have the link on their websites and forego the QR code step.

The next blog will be about the project overall once we receive feedback from pilot teachers as well as students that have been involved in the project.

Major Project Blog #2: Making Adjustments

When I last blogged about my major project, I left off at Kyle Ottenbreit and I setting up a meeting with a representative from EduSpire Solutions.  This meeting was quick.  The representative walked me through the software in about fifteen minutes and answers questions that we had about the software.  The next step, she said, would be setting up a meeting with the head of our IT department as well as our administrators.  We already had our admin on board for the free trial.  Going forward into a paid version, however, was likely going to be a pipe dream.  Inclusion of IT was somewhat problematic.  IT, perhaps rightfully so, tends to be concerned with “scope creeping” – this is the term they use for having to do anything that doesn’t fit directly in the scope of their job description.  Getting IT on board to help us get this system up and running was something that neither Kyle or I were particularly excited about.  IT does fantastic work for us in the schools, but based on previous work requests that I’ve had denied,  I would guess that setting up the E-Hallpass system at Miller would be low on priority list for them.

Also, the lack of funding was a concern.  Why start a potentially successful initiative when we know it will get shot down by admin?  Perhaps a similar solution, but a free solution, exists that will have similar functionality and benefits.

Enter the Google Forms Hallpass.  This is a fairly crude by arguably effective solution that was developed by one of our colleagues at a neighbouring school in our school division.  Kyle and I met with this person.  He explained the setup, which took roughly one minute to do, and said they he currently had a few teachers piloting the use of this hallpass system.  The system is a very simple Google Form, accessed by QR code.  The student scans the code, puts in the last four digits of his or her student number, their teacher’s name, and their reason for leaving the classroom.

Though incredibly basic compared to E-Hallpass, some of the benefits still existed.  We could have a global log of hallpass use to identify “frequent flyers.”  We could, in theory, be able to tell which students are in the hallway as any given time in the event of a lockdown.  The system eliminates the paper hallpass log, where signing in and out took up even more class time.

There are still some issues.  What if I student types in the wrong student number on purpose, or doesn’t know their student number?  How can data be easily viewed by teachers or administrators?  Is the electronic hallpass making it too easy to sign out a hallpass, therefore increasing the frequency of out-of-class time?  All of these are good concerns to think about. In time, we will be looking at how these downfalls can be minimized.

The first few days of the hallpass use went well.  The main roadblock was that students weren’t sure of their student numbers.  This is easy for either them or the teacher to look up the first time, but was still a small hurdle.  The problem was making sure that students remember to both sign in and sign out.  This was easy to identify with just my class and Kyle’s class using this, as the number of “leaving class” results needed to equal the “coming back to class” submissions.

Going forward, there are some tweeks that I think can be made to make the data we collect even easier to use. I also think there are ways to improve the user experience for students.  I will also talk about some of the good things and the negatives that I’m seeing so far in early use.

Major Project Blog #1: The Beginnings

For the major project, my partner and I decided to tackle something that is an issue right now in high schools.  The issue that we identified was the amount of class time missed by students that are in the hallway, some going for a drink of water or the washroom, but more so the growing number of students that are out in the hallways either aimlessly walking around or vaping on school grounds.

Article, Schools fret as teens take to vaping, even in classrooms (April 30, 2018 by Colin Binkley)

Part of the issue is that it’s hard to tell exactly how big of an issue this is.  The only quantifiable data that we could potentially access is the number of vaping offences that are happening at high schools.  As it stands right now at our high school, students sign out hallpasses via a paper log and then sign back in when they return.  Individual teachers keep this log.  When the log is full, typically the old logs are discarded, never to be seen again.  One concern with this is the lack of accountability as it would be up to individual teachers to comb through daily logs and identify “frequent flyers.”  The other concern is that some of these students are out for ten or more minutes every single period of the day.  With no way to combine data between classroom teachers, it again falls onto the classroom teacher to notice that student x is in the hallway walking around during a large portion of his or her day.

ehallpass

Enter E-Hallpass by Eduspire Solutions.  This is a software that promises a quick and easy way for students to sign in and out of class.  Students have the ability to, from their personal device, sign out of and back into class.  If a student is needed in the office or student services, there is an option for that student to check in with office staff or guidance counsellors.  At a glance, an administrator or teacher can see which students are in the hallway at any given time.  This feature has tremendous security potential in an age of increasing procedures regarding school lockdowns.

An administrator would very easily be able to see which students are frequenting the hallway, how often, and during which periods.  This data could eventually be used to help curb suspensions that are happening as a result of students vaping on school grounds during class time.

Often we have grade meetings and speeches from administrators talking about the importance of attendance.  While attendance is tracked, it’s difficult without a program like E-Hallpass to quantify how much of class students are actually attending.

In the blog comments for this course, I have brought up teacher workload intensification a few times.  Another nice thing about E-Hallpass is that it can be no additional work on the part of the teacher.  I know that the traditional hallpass log can be a distraction in the classroom.  The student forgets what time it is so has to ask a classmate before they can sign in or out.  The pencil by the log is missing, so the students has to ask a classmate for something to write with.  These are small classroom disturbances that could be completely eliminated.

There are several barriers in implementing this software.  The first, and probably biggest barrier, is the cost.  At $2 USD per student per year, if a tough sell for something that could be seen only as a disciplinary tool.  Another barrier is that we would have to get the IT department for our school on board with the program.  While not a significant amount of extra work on their part, they are also increasingly aware of workload intensification and would very likely shoot down this idea before it got off of the ground,  Another concern is the concern of who would have access to this data, and, as an extension of that, how would this data actually be used?  Would students feel less trusted? Would parents see the value in collecting this data or the potential security benefits that this software could bring?

Kyle and I set up a Zoom room meeting with a representative from Eduspire Solutions to learn more about their Spring pilot program.  At no charge, this would allow Kyle and me to test the program with our students until June.  In my next blog, I’ll speak a little bit about that meeting and the project as it moves forward.

EDL 820 Blog: Unit Five (Provincial Level)

After you have read the three documents and studied the graphic, post to your blog any thing that strikes you as being of particular interest. This may be similarities or differences between the views of the Ministry and the STF on EdTech issues, or anything else that catches your eye.

One thing to consider is whether there is a disconnect between the Provincial Ministry’s pronouncements and the current realities within our schools.


One thing that interested me in the Ministry document was the Technology-Supported Learning outcome 1, indicator C:

“Distance learners have success rates that are equivalent to students in traditional classroom environments.”

I am curious if the success rates are similar.  I’ve worked closely with a couple of teachers that teach online courses within our system, and while it seems like many students have success in the programs, there are many students in those programs that I feel would benefit from face-to-face classroom interaction in order to motivate them to do coursework.  I know how my time management was in high school, and I imagine that some high school students would struggle with the unique demands of online courses.  It would be interesting to see that data on success rates of these types of courses.

The second Technology-Supported outcome also was of particular interest to me:

“An array of high quality digital resources is available to teachers and students to support teaching and learning in a variety of instructional settings.”

Now, “high quality” is a bit subjective.  I think there’s a big difference here between having resources made and having teachers actually know how to access and use them in the classroom.  The vast majority of content that I’ve taught has been developed by my coworkers and me.  While I have seen some made available and given necessary workshops, such as treaty resources, I can’t say I’ve been made aware of many other resources that were creative by or with collaboration from the Ministry.

The document created by Alec Couros and Katia Hindebrandt will be incredibly useful to me, as I primarily tech technology based courses.  While I do cover things like digital citizenship, responsible use, and copyright law, including creative commons, I wish I had known about this document earlier so that I could have incorporated more of this into my courses.  This was the first time I had read anything about Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship.  I appreciate that digital commerce was something mentioned in the document, as well.  The school I work at is currently surveying to offer personal finance courses for the first time.  Digital commerce would fit in nicely there, or would make a good addition to the consumer math portion of math curricula.

My hope is that many of the elements listed in this document are touched on to some degree at the elementary school level.  By the time I see students in grade 9, students may have picked up bad habits.  Like for element 9, digital safety and security.  I know many students use weak passwords for their computer accounts.  That in of an itself wouldn’t have been a big problem years ago, but now that same password it being used for school email accounts, to access all of a student’s cloud-based work, and to login to access a student’s grades.

These are elements that in some cases need to be addressed at a staff level before we expect students to learn about them.  For the last couple of years our division has taken an interest in cutting down on potential security issues where a student’s personal information could be compromised.  Tips include things like locking staff laptops when not in use, shredding or locking up documents that could contain personal information, and to not speak about information that would be considered privileged to people that shouldn’t have access to that information.

While most of this seems like common sense, technology can complicate this.  If a teacher sends student grades to the wrong printer, for example, personal information could be compromised.  If a staff member has to run and make a photocopy during class, a student could potentially get onto that teacher’s laptop and access personal information of his or her classmates.  While teacher accounts require more strict passwords that student accounts do, I teacher device left unlocked could still be a huge security concern.  A teacher may have their browser set to remember their password automatically for the grade book system, for example.  Student grades could be changed, attendance records could be changed.  Emails could be sent to the entire school system from a teacher’s device while he or she is out of the room.  I am talking absolute worst-case scenario, but in an age where information is at our fingertips, we have to be especially careful in using our technology responsibly.

There wasn’t much of note in the short STF document.  It stressed social justice and equity.  I know that the technology budgets that each school in Regina Catholic is based purely on enrollment numbers.  The connected educator program, mentioned in the division-level unit, does create a 1:1 technology environment, but teachers apply specifically for that.  I am not sure how candidates are ultimately decided, but I’m sure that they try their best as they choose to make sure that equity is a consideration.

I really enjoyed the readings for this unit.  I saved Alec and Katia’s document to my computer and I will be utilizing the information in my classroom.  I believe that this reading will also have implications on the major project that Kyle and I are working on.

EDL 820 Blog: Unit Four (Division Level)

1. Talk about some of the leadership principles you see illustrated effectively in Sun West’s and Regina Catholic’s approaches to Edtech innovation.

2. Choose one of the following images, taken from Couros, G. (2015). The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. Use the image you choose as a springboard for your comments about Edtech leadership issues at the School Division level. Identify the image by its Image # in the subject line of your post.


  1. I will start with talking about Regina Catholic’s approach to Edtech innovation, since that is the division that I teach in.

I worked in the same building at Mr. Cote for eight years and was selected to be one of the connected educators that he mentioned in the interview. Regina Catholic’s goal, particularly with the connected educator project, is use a more democratic form of leadership.  Teachers will be given the tools and the language, and the hope is that these teachers will go back to their individual schools and demonstrate EdTech leadership.  Mr. Cote mentioned the formalized mentorship program as well.  My mentor was going to be Mitchell Bresciani (his brother, Matthew, is taking this course right now).  It was later determined that the connected educator devices wouldn’t work with my current teaching schedule, as the software I need to use requires a lot more processing power than what the 1:1 connected educator devices have.

Mr. Cote mentioned a few things regarding EdTech at the beginning of the interview.  From Regina Catholic’s viewpoint, EdTech must:

  1. Focus on good teaching.
  2. Be efficient
  3. Needs to be in the hands of teachers 24/7

The focus on pedagogically sound teaching is important.  I have seen weak teachers before who have used technology only as a way to cover up a lack of planning or a lack of content knowledge.  There’s nothing wrong with a teacher not being an expert on a particular topic, but relying on technology as a crutch because of a lower level of content knowledge isn’t something that necessarily lends itself to long term success.

He also mentions the tech needs to be used in authentic ways, instead of simply using it as a substitute for a non-tech classroom tool.  Part of this authentic use comes from having proper training time.  Mr. Cote mentioned PD specifically linked to the Connected Educator project as well as with smart board teachers that were using Mimio devices.  I know many on the previous blog posts have mentioned the struggle of have an inadequate amount of time for proper tech PD.  It’s nice to see that these two initiatives have some money behind them so that they’re properly rolled out.

Dr. Guy Tetrault speaks about SunWest School Division’s approach to ed tech, primarily focusing on the concept of online distance learning.  I have a particular interest in this, as I share a working space with my colleague, Kevin Baron, who has done extensive work both with blended learning, a combination of online learning and face-to-face learning, as well as work in the online education sector of the Regina Catholic School Division.

When Mr. Baron first mentioned to me that he had been tasked with creating an online Wellness 10 course, I thought he was kidding.  Dr. Tetrault mentioned online teachers using devices like heart monitors to assess student progress in the course.  In talks with Mr. Baron, I came to realize the need for such a course offering. Some students feel embarrassed by their lack of physical fitness and are plagued with anxiety issues in relation to this.  Others are high-level athletes who are out of town too much to participate in a traditional Wellness 10 course.  It makes a lot of sense, and I find myself thinking back to all of the students that an online Wellness 10 course would have helped when I was in high school as a student.

As Dr. Tetrault mentions, availability of this online programming goes beyond helping anxious students, as this as now given smaller and more spread out school divisions the ability to offer a wide range of courses to students that would have never been possible with a traditional face-to-face scenario.

For this, I picked image #1, which illustrates the right and wrong answers to the question, “What do we want kids to do with technology?  The first two on the “right” column really stand out to me.  Those are “raising awareness” and “starting conversations.”  As part of our Catholic Studies courses this year, students are tasked with doing a project where they display Christian values.  Called the Christian Action Plan, this is a project that some students do either individually or in small groups.  Some groups have chosen to use technology as part of this project.  It was nice to see students using social media platforms such as Instagram to share to raise awareness of different Catholic teachings.  Some students even had conversations back with some online trolls that were attacking their posts.  It was nice to see these students interact with online trolls in a respectful way, focusing on highlighting the similarities in the teachings of various world religions instead of being negative about the differences.

EDL 820 Blog: Unit Three (School Level)

Blog prompt:

Time to share a school-level administrative technology decision/policy/issue. It could be something you initiated, or one you had to deal with from any of the perspectives (student, teacher, parent, administrator, etc), or one you would like to make or would hate to make. You can use the elements of a play I discussed to help think through aspects of the decision: Who are the dramatis personae? What are the scenes? What are the props? What are the conflicts and how might the plot unfold? What would you do to make it as successful as possible? Feel free to use the “side effects” language too. Who benefits? Who is disadvantaged?

This is a chance to get some ideas for the Major Project so share your knowledge and experiences, articles, blogs, people to follow on Twitter, anything that might be useful.

 

Issue: Hall passes.  We are looking at piloting an electronic hall pass system to increase security and accountability during class time.

 

The Main Dramatis Personae

Students:  Some students use hall passes during multiple periods.  Some use this time to meet up with their friends, while some use this time to vape in the bathroom.  Others actually use this time as it was intended, to either go to use the washroom or to get a drink of water.

Teachers: Are tasked with getting students to sign hall passes out and back in again.  They also have to relay to each students that their phone needs to remain in the classroom.  This is to avoid issues with students meeting up during class time or to avoid students going into the hallway to catch up on text messages or snaps.

Administrators: Have to deal with potential “frequent flyers.”  Because there isn’t much accountability between periods, it is hard to identify these students and how long they are in the hallway during the course of a typical school day.

Parents: Have no real contact regarding how often their son or daughter is in the hallway during class time, unless a specific teacher takes the initiative to email or call that parent or guardian.  These “frequent flyers” are often students that do poorly in class, but because their attendance (number lates and absences) are low, they sometimes aren’t flagged by our student support team.

Props

Cellphones/tablets/phones would be the props for this scene, as we’re looking at implementing an electronic hall pass system.

Scene

This issue is one that may be particularly pronounced in high schools hallways, as students typically have many different teachers throughout the day.  With a student having one or two teachers a day, it is easier to identify abuse of hall passes.  We are trying to get away from old, worn-out hall passes.  It’s unsanitary.  In the office, administration has dealt with a drastic increase of students vaping in the school.  With students able to meet up during class with little to no documentation, perhaps worsened by frigid winter conditions, means that more and more students are using the school bathrooms to vape.

Conflict

There are many negatives that we are trying to address in moving to an electronic hall pass.  Using an electronic hall pass would arguably be more sanitary.  Security and accountability could also potentially be improved.  Some of the onus is on the teacher when it comes to hall pass documentation, so we’re hoping that an electronic hall pass could get the teacher focused instead on teaching and facilitating learning instead of managing a hall pass log and trying to identify abuses of hall passes.

There will also be conflict with people that are for e-hall passes and those that are against them.  Are we policing students too much?  Will this new accountability mean that students will focus more on being in class and will therefore not miss instructional time? If discipline and security are the main concerns, is the program worth the cost of $2USD per student per year?

Opponents of the E-Hall pass may also have privacy concerns.  Who has access to this data? How is it being used? The argument could also be made that it may hurt teacher/student relationships because of how it implies a lack of trust.

I don’t see there being much conflict from students.  I believe that many would prefer an electronic hall pass.

EDL 820 Blog: Unit Two (Disruptive Leadership)

Unit Two: Disruptive Leadership (January 23, 2019)

  1. Read the summary below of the 5C’s leadership Approach.
  2. Read the 5 required readings. You do not have to read these articles in depth. Just skim through them to get a sense of the main argument in each, and to find a quote that resonates with you personally. Doing this will prepare you for the blog postings to follow. 
  3. Go to the Course Blog, and post:
  4. a quote from each article that resonates with you, along with a brief explanation of its impact on your evolving leadership philosophy, including ways that these readings disrupted any impressions formed by the leadership review excerpt I provided for you in the previous session.
    • post a thoughtful, responsive comment to at least two classmates’ blogs.

Quote #1 (Page 6)

“Transformational leadership theory, in particular, stresses how charismatic leaders can inspire, intellectually stimulate and radically reorder the values and actions of others (Van Knippenberg and Sitkin, 2013). Such leaders act on others rather than alongside them. They decide on a vision and then align followers’ mind-sets with goals that are consistent with the vision (Hartnell and Walumba, 2011). It is an approach that has long been criticised for seeing organisational influence in uni-directional terms (that is, flowing from leaders to more or less compliant followers), advocating the achievement of corporate cohesion and a monocultural environment to the detriment of internal dissent, and exaggerating the role of charismatic visionaries in the achievement of corporate goals (Tourish and Pinnington, 2002; Tourish et al, 2010).”

This quote resonates with me as I had previously blogged about my struggle with the charismatic leadership style.  Seeing organizational influence in uni-directional terms contradicts what many of the leadership styles seem to favour, input from all parties involved in a decision.  I have known leaders charismatic enough to sway me to do something that I would otherwise not consider doing.  This can be either a good or bad thing.  Regardless of the outcome, a strict a one-way relationship between leaders and followers is one that I feel can’t have long-term success.  Long-term success comes from a workforce that feels empowered and has a certain level of autonomy and therefore has a higher level of job satisfaction.  Therefore I believe that a more democratic leadership style would be preferable.

Quote # 2. (Page 7)

“In conducting videoed interviews with 20 MBA students (10 female and 10 male), representing a range of ethnicities and nationalities, two key themes emerged. The students (a) made judgements on the industry-appropriateness of the women’s appearance and (b) a majority of students commented on the relationship between sexual attractiveness and women’s professionalism, alluding to what they regarded as the opposition between sexual attraction and being a professional woman. For these MBA students, to become, and to be seen, as a businesswoman therefore requires future women leaders to scrutinise what is deemed appropriate according to their industry and to not appear too glamorous or sexy!” 

It’s interesting that in the #MeToo era that we see so much focus put on a woman’s appearance.  We are upholding power structures that have been in place for generations, power structures that typically are to the benefit of the straight white male.  It’s interesting that MBA students, that you might anticipate to be more liberal-thinking, still see a woman’s sexuality and professionalism as two things that are in opposition.  As someone who may have a baby daughter next month, I hope that she grows up in a society that puts more value on her skills and abilities than what she looks like.  From a leadership perspective, I plan to work my hardest to disrupt these power structures.

Quote # 3 (Page 2)

“The first symptom, initiative overload, manifests itself when organizations launch more change initiatives than anyone could ever reasonably handle. At a large U.S. pharmaceutical firm, a team of midlevel executives had spent three days working on a new change initiative when one executive admitted that the team was not ready to take the exercise seriously. Although the team members believed that the initiative was vital, they felt it had little chance of making a difference. Many change initiatives at the firm, once started, had not been completed; they were dropped midway when yet another new “superb initiative” was launched. Moreover, so many initiatives were already in progress, and the executives were already so overworked, that launching a new one would only cut further into the precious time they had left to run routine operations and to serve their customers.”

Yes, I’m picking a quote about being overworked.  I’ve commented a couple of times now on these class blogs about teacher work time intensification.  It change happens, it should have good rationale behind it, because there are only so many hours in a day and, as most teachers will tell you, they already have enough on their plates as it is.  Sometimes it seems educational change goes in cycles.  Particularly for more veteran staff members, when they hear of a new initiative, you’ll hear one or two “We tried this fifteen years ago” comments in the staff room.  If a change is seen as something that won’t make a difference, or if there are past initiatives that have yet to be completed, it is hard to take initiatives seriously.  As a leader, effective communication is key is communicating what changes must happen, and why they must happen.

Quote #4 (Page 9)

“A second aspect of stupidity is not seeking cause or a good reason. People stop asking ‘why’ at work. They do not ask for, or offer, reasons for their decisions and actions. A rule is a rule and it must be followed, even if no one is clear why it exists.”

I find myself asking “why” a lot more lately with my new role as education leader.  It’s not that I’m trying to be disrespectful, and I don’t think that anyone interprets it that way.  I just want to know the rationale behind some of the things that are done school-wide or department-wife.  It gives me a better understanding and that understanding helps me in relaying information to the rest of the department.  I am learning a lot and am enjoying the role so far.  I imagine most of the education leaders were asking “why” questions often during their first year in the role, as well.  If I do decide to go into administration, I hope to be as open to “why” questions as my administrators have been.

Quote #5 (Page 6)

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I really enjoyed this quote about decentralized leadership.  Particularly in a school setting, with so many staff and students with a variety of strengths.  There are so many talents and skills to draw on.  I like the lack of hierarchy that this passage implies, and I like to think that schools operate in this kind of way often.  What is important here is that no person considers themselves as better than or less than anyone else.

EDL 820 Blog: Unit Two (Leadership Self-Reflection)

Unit Two: Leadership (January 22, 2019)

Prompt:

1. Discuss your own core personality as a foundation of your leadership style.
2. Describe one or two key life experiences that have helped to shape your approach to leadership.
3. Discuss at least three leadership approaches in the PDF that interest you.
4. Reply to at least 2 classmates’ blog postings that made you look at things in new ways and continue to engage with their ideas.

 

1. I’ve always been a pretty easy-going person.  As a teacher, I try my best to remain calm and to adapt to changing situations.  I’ve found that this style works particularly well working on the office as acting administrator.  I was acting administrator during a large power outage on December 5 of last year, and I believe that remaining calm, particularly in situations that could easily escalate emotions, is something that is an asset.  As a leader, I typically like to trust people and allow for us much individual autonomy as possible.  I have always had a strong work ethic, so I believe that leading by example is important.  Though I am easy-going, I also don’t like to beat around the bush.  Efficiency is important to me, and in leadership this means good communication and meetings that are run as efficiently as possible.  We are all aware of the intensification of teacher time, and meetings running efficiently is one way that some stress can be removed from a teacher’s day.

2. It’s a tricky thing to pick one or two life experiences that have shaped my approach to leadership.  Working currently as an education leader has certainly helped shape my approach.  The department that I currently work in is comprised of seventeen people.  The personality types involved are as varied as the subject area that they teach their students.  All but a few of the people in the department are older than I am.  I try my best help staff members with one of my strengths, technology integration, but I also rely heavily on the experience of other teachers in the department.  For the practical and applied arts teachers, this meant consulting with them to determine what would be an appropriate cell phone policy for PAA classrooms. PAA teachers decided that, primarily because of safety concerns, cell phone use should be completely banned.  In my technology courses, my biggest safety concerns are eye strain and carpal tunnel syndrome.  My students often use their own devices to record video and audio.  My experience as an education leader has shown me that while consistency is important, it can be difficult to paint everything with the same brush.  Much as my students can’t all be successful if I continue to employ the same teaching strategies and assessments, so too can the colleagues in my department not be successful unless I treat them as what they are- individuals with distinct strengths and weaknesses.

3. Of the leadership styles, these are the three that stood out to me.  They either interest me because I have personally seen them work or used them, or they interest me in that I’m amazed that people still use them.

Democratic/Participative Leadership Style— As previously stated, I believe in allowing team members to be a part of the decision-making process.  Back in university it was suggested that there is great value in allowing students to be a part of the process in coming up with rubric criteria or classroom rules of conduct.  It would thus make sense that in allowing adults to be a part of the process that they will be more likely to “buy in” when the final decision is made.  Development of employee skills is essential, and I would much rather work with people that have a high level of job satisfaction.  The main danger of this style, in my eyes, is a situation where efficiency, which I’ve mentioned prior in this post, is important.  In this case, an executive decision may be required to speed up the process.

Charismatic Leadership Style— As an introvert, this is a leadership style that I struggle with.  I’m not one for giving a rousing speech.  I prefer to work behind the scenes on things.  I have yet to come across a charismatic leader who believes he or she can do no wrong, but, like the article says, that could be a big weakness with this leadership style.

elliott phone

Leadership is more than just making phone calls.  (Photo: Michael Wolf)

Bureaucratic Leadership Style— This is a style that may work will in a PAA classroom during a lesson where safety is paramount, but it isn’t a very good leadership style.  I see this as a style that administrators could easily default to during difficult situations.  At the end of the day, school-based administrators need to answer to super intendants and parents, so guidelines must be followed.  Large budgets are also at play, so accountability is important.