Monday, December 3, 2007

The Shameless Art of Self Promotion For Schools

We need to do a much better job of self promotion or we will be run over by our own failures and lack of progress. Let’s face it. Common sense would tell anyone that no school is perfect. In fact, by nature of the school improvement process, we honed our knives of self improvement by becoming very, very good at self criticism, and ultimately it is also deemed cathartic to announce our own weak points out loud and with robust vigor and valor. Such announcements like,
“Our school has progressed just 10 percentage points on the nationally normed test in the past three years, missing our target by 2 percentage points. We are disappointed in missing our target despite the tremendous progress we have made.”
The newspapers and online networks out there are all over this stuff, and the fuel for the school critics’ fire is among the worst in journalism falling just short of the criticisms and interrogations meted out on Meet the Press and Jerry Springer combined! Sigh… why do schools insist on focusing on the negatives? Must we be so self critical? Is it a deeply held community expectation that we be negative about ourselves? Would be appear to be a cover up if we instead said,
“The progress that our school has made in the past three years equates to 10 percentage points, and has moved our school to within 2 percentage points of our target. The school will reevaluate their academic targets and continue with our aggressive school improvement progress to ensure our students continued success
Much nicer if you ask me. Alas… things do go bad in schools sometimes and black and white honesty is the best policy for sure. We seemed to have our share of them lately, and sadly some are really out of our control, although that is NOT the message a school administrator wants to send. To take responsibility and not being able to truly implement mitigating steps is certainly frustrating. I won’t make the laundry list of things that go awry, as I suspect you have two or three on your mind right now. Instead let’s turn this coin over and I propose some positive communications that will rebuild the interest and confidence in the school. George Pawlas college professor and author of The Administrator's Guide to School-Community Relations states that administrators should have 6 things that they can brag about their school at any given moment. He states in a 2005 Education World interview that,
Having a list of six things you can say with pride about your school can serve a principal in many ways. As new parents come to visit your school to see if it meets their expectations, those six pride statements can be great conversation starters. I had committed my six statements to memory but, if it's helpful, I recommend carrying an index card with the six statements on it. When you are at meetings of civic and community groups, that card will come in handy when community members ask about your school. The more you use those statements, the easier it is to recall them when the time is right.

Taking the old motto “Ten to glow on, one to grow on”, I figure that we must provide 10 or more quality examples of positive results in our schools to counter balance the single quality result. Guiding factors for these include:
  • Always tell the truth. (This should be easy)
  • Do not exaggerate. (This is harder than you think)
  • Make the message understandable. (This is the hardest thing to do!)
  • Recognize your experts. Show them off to your community. Quote them frequently.
  • Any school event or school personnel recognized by an independent source (i.e. newspaper, professional organization) should be published and republished. Theses events and people should be your poster children.
  • Focus on direct implementation steps taken by the school, and not just mere happenstance occurrences.
  • Student learning data must be targeted and not over generalized
  • Over reliance regarding co-curricular (sports, after school, clubs, etc) for positives should be avoided.
  • Concrete, real life celebrations of school events connected to learning are most efficient.
  • Be visible with your positives and the positives will make your visibility less negative even when bad things happen.
I just finished with an article about online learning community at our school. The article will hopefully be placed in our weekly parent communications bulletin this week, and will highlight some of the good stuff we are doing. I am focusing not on the delivery our programs but on the results of our strong and effective work. This article will be a first in a series and I am planning on going out and reviewing blogs, wikis and websites around our organization. I think we need a few more positives, and I think that if I start taking a look at this work and publicizing it, we will see results being our focus in stead of our lack thereof.

I would appreciate you comments and suggestions.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


24.... one of my favorite shows! With the lack of quality television here in China, I now enjoy boxed sets of shows here, and '24' is no exception.

Then I saw this yesterday and had to point out the changes we have experienced through the last 13+ years. This goes for life, loves, careers, technology, and sadly the reality of terrorism. Granted... Al Quaeda was not even a word we understood in '94. Terrorism was something that happenned only in the Middle East, but the realities of world espionage, spys and war still were 3D realities to all of us.

So... trying not to be too heavy here..... take an amusing look back to what '24' would look like in '94.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tech Best-Guesses

It has been a long time since I have written to this blog and much of it has to do with transitions and my life. Alas, time flies when you are having fun (or so they say), but time also flies when one is too busy to rest and take care of oneself as well. The latter is my case in the last few months of the school year (April and May) when I dropped off the grid and was working day to day to make it through. I am still standing and now have a new job with different responsibilities. Each day is a new adventure and that is good for my mental health. Ultimately, and deep down I have that sense of commitment and focus that I feel have lacked during the past academic year, probably much to having myself spread too thin and not getting to be as effective as I was with a single focus. Thus I am back to blogging.... AND I am getting sick and tired of my wife being better at blogging and showing off children for me!! Oh... and if you want to see what I am talking about click here!

Worse yet... my MOTHER has a blog with tons of readers! You can check this out here!

I thought of changing the name of this blog to “Sentiments on a turning stomach”, in that I have decided to write this note in a van as I ride between the Pudong and Puxi campuses.
A little carsickness never killed anyone. Well, I hope not, so I will choke back the road chuck and and write on. It makes the ride go so much faster too.

Today, as is most days was a bit of rush, as it always is with a good meeting with my technology education colleagues and our IT director around the development of our technology plan. Mr. Jeff Utecht and Mr. Don Miron sat down with Mr. Orion Weber and me to talk about the direction of our school’s technology work and about where we might be going with a proposed one to one computing program. The discussion was lively, open and honest. It was challenging and frustrating too in that we are in a position right now to say no more often than to say yes… NOT my favorite place to be, but a role that someone must play.

Common sense would tell you a three year tech plan is really just a one year tech plan with a plan to review your “tech best-guesses” annually. If you do a little searching on the web you will find that there are many tech plans posted on the web and if they are more than one year old they really miss the mark. How do we move from being in a mode of planning and move to implementation in a landscape that is always changing?

Speaking of changing scenery…

Thanks to Karl Fisch for pointing out to us Shanghai residents that our city is one of the fastest developing landscapes (cityscapes… megalopolises??) in the world.

The most dynamic metropolis in the world’s most populous country numbs me with extremes: It’s a single city with more skyscrapers than the entire U.S. West Coast. In Shanghai, a new building of 30 stories or more has been completed every 12 days for the last six years. (At 1,375 feet, the Jin Mao Tower is soon to be dwarfed by the chisel-shaped, 101-story World Financial Centre, which should be the world’s tallest building when it’s completed in 2008.) From the United Airlines Hemispheres Magazine, October 2007 issue, p. 68.

With that many skyscrapers and cranes- I see 6 cranes out my van window right now- the changes we are feeling and seeing are much like the changes in technology we are seeing in the world.

Unofficial word from the US consulate (this is third hand information… so take it for what it’s worth) is that Shanghai is now around 22 million people.

Photo Credits:,

Monday, April 23, 2007

TV Turn Off Week?? Does this mean no news for me?

This weeks is the newly renamed TV turnoff week.. ahem.. excuse me... "SCREEN AWARENESS WEEK".

I took a few minutes this afternoon and recorded a public service style podcast with a first grader giving a few examples of what families and students can do when they are not watching TV or playing video games. I personally think my family has a nice balance and we get to watch our usuals, (American Idol, an occasional Simpson episode and our favorite... Lonely Planet Traveler and cooking shows). In typical digital native fashion we surf the web, catch up on our blogs and watch a movie or TV show without a blink of an eye. Despite my age (a whopping 42 years), my mind has remained just flexible enough to do 4 things at once and I think it will mark the beginning of the end when I cannot keep up with my "slightly" younger wife.

My much younger colleague and friend Jeff Utecht has been dragged into the "Screen Awareness week" by his lovely wife Daneah Galloway. Daneah is one of the counselors at my school and she left a great post for him on HIS blog, The Thinking Stick.

She writes:

"For those of you who are regular readers of The Thinking Stick, I offer my condolences. For the week of April 23rd-29th, Jeff Utecht will be unavailable to post any articles, respond to any inquiries, or leave any comments on your own blogs. This is due to his VOLUNTARY (well almost) participation in the annual “TURNOFF WEEK”where we take control of the power screens have in our lives. Jeff will be attempting to evaluate (along with thousands of other people and students from around the world) the amount of time he spends on activities involving a screen.

During this week, I would encourage you to do much the same. Take a break from your televisions, computers, and handhelds…take a break from screens and spend time exploring your life. Minimize your screen time for just seven days and maximize quality time with loved ones. Reevaluate your priorities. Just be."

Common sense tells us that "work" does not count on this week. We "get to" use computers and "screens" to do our work, but we are not allowed to have any "fun" with the "screens". Boy, oh boy, did that set me off with a few choice things to says this morning.

I gave the following excuses as to why I would use screens (tonight) and not feel a bit guilty about it:

1. My work is like play (mostly) so it does not count.

2. My screen time is related to learning and personal improvement, thus it does not count.

3. I live in the PRC and I need to access news outside of this place, otherwise I do not know what is going on.

4. I want to and "plllllllllllllllllzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" on you.

I think that number 1-3 work just fine. Number 4 is a bit suspect, but after having an elementary counselor shake her head no for 10 minutes straight at you while rolling her eyes, you would be giving her the biggest administrative raspberry too!

Théâtre de Verre So what's my point? I think that this screen awareness week has hit the mark with me. No, I have not given up the small screen sitting on my lap. I have just been even more aware of the power it has to facilitate my learning, give me access to a world out of my reach and help me keep active, alive and learning. For you poor slobs (oops... it is also No Name Calling Week in our middle school)... nice, but mislead people who just find themselves sitting in front of the 72 inch plasma screen watching some inane and ridiculous slop (like American Idol... poor Sanjaya, forever to be a Tiger Beat Reject) without being involved in the world of the web. Well.... good luck.

Hey the Bird is in the TVSo tonight... my lovely wife and I sit LISTENING to our music on our iPod, she's correcting math papers and me catching up on my blogs and writing to you. My brain engaged. This was preceded by a family cooking adventure of Peanut Butter Cookies (NOT on my diet, but who gives a rip on Screen Awareness week), and we all reading a couple of kid books before putting the 3 year old down for the night. When I got home, my daughter (she's THREE) explained in no uncertain terms that her teacher told her that we were NOT to watch TV. We were told, and we followed our directions.

Thanks Daneah and Madeline. I hope we last the week... albeit in our own way.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Powered by ScribeFire.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, Meaning

If you haven't read A Whole New Mind, by Daniel Pink, I really think you should.

Why you ask? Well, in education circles the words in the title of post will become (I am predicting here) part of our professional language, as each points to an area of where our careers/businesses, and our intelligence and our educational system will collide with an ever flattening world. The thing that Mr. Pink does so well is that he summarizes a body of research with understandable story telling. If you have not downloaded his lecture (available on iTunes), you really should. It is worth the download.

Think:Lab pointed me to this mind map created by Phil Chambers. Phil does a nice job of capturing the larger points of the book and I will use this diagram to talk about A Whole New Mind using this over the next couple of months.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

What you really need to learn.

In my wanderings around the web I found a great article titled 10 things that everyone needs to learn by Steven Downes. You have to read this article as it is a nice summary and spin off from another piece done by Guy Kawasaki this last fall. Guy who writes for Signum sine tinnitu and several magazine did a piece with a similar title but much different content. Both are dated in the blogsphere in that they were written last fall... that's equivalent to our years.

We just finished with student-led conferences at our school and we asked that students be heavily involved in their own assessment. I keep talking to them about what they really need to know to be successful in life, and those who are paying attention and engage me in this conversation often hit the nail right on the head. Mr. Dowes #1 is "How to predict consequences". Mr. Kawasaki's #1 is "How to talk to your boss".

Common sense would tell you both are important. My question is how do we teach kids how to do either?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Readers of News on the Web: Not Short on Attention

Here is one for you brought to attention by my friends at U-Tech Tips! :

“Web news readers have greater attention span: study says”

You have to laugh! Don’t you?

I did a workshop last week with rousing crowd of four parents on how to use a new aggregator to collect, and read news from the choice stories available on the web. In each of the three sessions one of the attendees asked me “how much time do you spend reading blogs and news each day. I am very busy and don’t probably have the time that you do.”

Common sense would tell you that a principal of two schools with over 700 students, a father, husband and soon-to-be deputy superintendent is a pretty busy guy. “Spare time” is a commodity that I exploit to its fullest because I have so little of it. Thus , you can figure out the reason why I don’t have too many recent entries on this blog! Without a news aggregator and me continuing to collect feeds from news sources, blogs and professional journals, I would be hopelessly lost on current events, professional news and what my colleagues are doing out there in the “real” world. I would guess that the only real time I would get to “read” would be on my morning jaunts to the john!

As it is the RSS feeds that I have keep me informed and I can read them on the fly as I wait for meetings to start, when I am BORED in meetings when people are talking about things that do not apply to me, and when I am sitting in my cozy chair at home in the evenings enjoying a glass of wine or tea and winding down. My “newspaper” is my laptop and I can keep up with the world using the sources I want when I want them.

The great news for me is that in this study, I am purportedly reading more content that those poor folks stuck to traditional news sources. Granted, I still miss that 7 pound paper on my lap on a Sunday morning, but that is just the way it goes. My lap top is always available and doesn’t get damp and drippy on the front door step unless I really lose my cool and put it out there after an annoying email!

Technorati Tags: Attention Spans, aggregators, RSS Feeds, redefining literacy

Web Compliment Day!

David Warlick called my attention to Jennifer Wagner's idea for Web Compliment Day, the antithesis of No Cyberbullying day! My compliments to fellow blogger Jennifer at The Technospud.

She writes: If last Friday, March 30th, was Stop Cyberbullying Day, then I would like to make THIS FRIDAY — April 6th – CYBER COMPLIMENT DAY!!

She is working on a good idea that I am trying to spread here as well. It is tough being on the other side of the world and being a day late, but it is the thought that counts. are my compliments!

I would first like to compliment my good friend, teacher, colleague and go to man Jeff Utecht. The man at The Thinking Stick and U-Tech’s tips keeps me thinking, rolling with new ideas and amazed at the power one Mariner’s fan can possibly have in any given day. He recently spent a great amount of time figuring out how to get the M’s games to stream through at work, and frankly I didn’t have the heart to say….”ahhhh… dude… we’re suppose to be teaching here!”. He gets done in one day what takes mere mortals like me a month. GREAT WORK Jeff! I look forward to changing the world with you!

Thank you to Doug Johnson and the Blue Skunk Blog! Great thinking stuff which I read with enthusiasm each time. He comes up with great quotes. Doug… here is one for you:
"Try as hard as we may for perfection, the net result of our labors is an amazing variety of imperfectness. We are surprised at our own versatility in being able to fail in so many different ways." -Samuel McChord Crothers
To David Warlick who visited us here in Shanghai in February for some heavy lifting and hard work. My compliments to you on your thinking, your energy and your great thoughts around educational change. Your words continue to have an effect on our work here at SAS!

To Christian Long at Think:Lab and Beckett-to-be for keeping me mentally stimulated and celebrating fatherhood! GREAT WORK Christian! His educational manifesto idea will be one that keeps me coming back and reading it again and again. I apply the ideas in my daily work.

My compliments to Scott Mcleod and his 100 Principals/100 Blogs project and the blog Dangerously Irrelevant I am not sure where he stands with the project, but this principal now has three blogs (one for each of his schools and one for himself). I think you can do three tally marks for me thanks to your encouragement! His collaborative blog Leadertalk is one of the best blogs going!!

Technorati Tags: cybercompliment, cyberbullying, Blogging

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Maddie's Minute- A Learning Experience

In my wandering and wondering around the blogsphere I found Think:lab. The gents name who runs the blog is Christian Long, but I refer to him as the father of Beckett, with whom I have become quite fond. You see, Beckett is new to us here on this planet having just been born on September 6, 2006, and is finding his way around the world with the guidance of his parents. His father has dedicated himself to documenting his life and has provided a special way for us fathers to see what our relationship really means from another father’s perspective and alas, I believe we may see what it means to the children themselves. The blog “Beckett-to-be" apparently came from some frustration of paper and pencil.

Christian writes in his Think:lab profile:

“Beckett-to-Be” blog – We first learned that Karla was pregnant on New Years Eve day…and the daydreaming began immediately. After failing to keep several hand-written journals of my soon-to-be-father experience, I finally realized that a blog would not only offer a great way to keep track of the experience, but it’d eventually allow our child’s grandparents and family to keep up-to-date on his evolving life. Hence, the name of the blog: a testament to the fact that he’ll always be growing, exploring, changing, and ‘be’coming."

I, like Christian over a year ago, found out that I was to be a father (again) sometime in January- frankly the date escapes me- and while I was sitting on the couch watching the tube and keeping up on my RSS feeds, I came upon “Beckett-to-Be” blog. I giggled, smiled and even shed a little tear here and there as I read each passage and entry. Christian must be a pretty good guy and frankly, I think this man would be the type of character that I would like to have as a next door neighbor. We don’t have next door neighbors- in the United States sense- here in China, but if he lived nearby I think I would like to shoot the breeze over the proverbial back fence and let our kids play together.

When I discovered this blog, which I still read, I passed along a note to my wife. She had never blogged before and was a bit “anti-blog” as I spend a fair amount of screen time at work and she was wondering why I would do so at home so much. Nonetheless, I just dropped her a line with the url and a note that said, “this is really nice”. Next thing I know, my daughter Madeline (who is now 3 years old going on 35) now has “Maddie’s Minutes”. My wife Amanda was inspired and motivated and is now an avid blogger too! As I sit here typing this she is on the other couch doing her entries and working on her school work.

I have heard over and over that common sense would tell us that by making a work tool a life tool, we guarantee full implementation and useful application to the work environment. Just give the teachers computers to use at home and work and you will see increases in the classrooms. Show them how to apply their knowledge to their world and you will see them showing the very same (and probably more) applications to the educational environment.

Wanna see an example? should be your target. Leave her a comment and let’s see who else we can inspire and pass this powerful tool along to the children in our classrooms!

Thank you Christian for the inspiration and the efforts with your son Beckett! He is one cute kid! I hope that Amanda and I can be blessed with another healthy and intelligent child like we have with Maddie!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Don't be Stuck. Just Avoid the "School" rut!

Doug Johnson has a great way to ending a blog that often makes me thing and explore a bit more. His Sunday quote is a great one (see below). He then goes to make me explore Will Richardson's blog and his entry Stuck.

A Sunday quote for contemplation:

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Will Richardson on his Weblogg-ed entry Stuck writes: "This whole School 2.0 thing is the crux of it. There’s this niggling feeling in my brain somewhere that at the end of the day, I’m totally missing the point. That for the most part, we’re all missing the point." What's our "endless immensity of the sea," Will?

Will Goes on to write:

My learning and classroom learning look very different. I will never enter another physical classroom as a “student” again, and that’s by choice. That physical space just doesn’t cut it. And schools are all about physical space. And control. And content.

I am not sure I can be much help to Will. I will say that it is sure fun to engage people in this conversation and see where it all goes. Talk about rocking the world of a classroom teacher when they start interacting with some drawings and text surrounding School 2.0. But Will, maybe it is more than school. Really you are writing (I think) about your own learning! Isn’t really LEARNING 2.0? Get out of that "school" rut!

In fact, I think it may be LEARNING 2.0 beta! We discussed this at a meeting I as at last week with a bunch of technology folks trying to develop a conference framework. We came up with in a short period of time Learning 2.0 beta: Communications, Collaborations and Connections. A pretty good start if you ask me!

If we really are all about schools, teaching and learning then let’s concentrate on the Learning and not so much on the school and teaching part. Will, you’ve directed and taught yourself to learn without the “…physical space. And control. And content.” Isn’t this what we want to instill in (and teach) our students?

Will, I urge you. Don’t be stuck. Move this “Learning 2.0” forward and analyze not the school, but the results we all dream of achieving.

In closing, I go back to the importance of assessment in our schools and what assessment for LEARNING really means. My fall back position is that we really need to come to terms with what learning is, how to measure it and how to teach ourselves and our students how
to manage the learning processes. This is long term goal stuff… not just a one lesson plan topic for sure!

Rick Stiggins of ATI states:

"If we wish to maximize student achievement in the U.S., we must pay far greater attention to the improvement of classroom assessment. Both assessment of learning and assessment for learning are essential. But one is currently in place, and the other is not." (Stiggins, 2002),_Richard_J.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

powered by performancing firefox

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Some Things Just Seem Crazy at the Time!

This is a mirror post from

Pudong Nerve Central Logo“We”- that’s the royal “We”- do weekly podcasts at my school. I started doing them this year from our podcast central sound room (my office) moved to a larger space, as the crowd around the microphone was uncomfortable in my small office, we invited a couple of kids to participate, and poof…. All of a sudden all the adults were relegated to the back of the stage as the kids started creating our weekly podcasts with quality content.

This last Thursday, my creative and focused technology coordinator, Jeff Utecht, came to me and said that he did not have time to get to classrooms to assist the 5th grade kids in the organizational aspects of the podcasts this week. He then handed me his iPod and a voice recorder and to me to just record the podcast and just pass it off to him in the afternoon when we met for a meeting at a location in downtown Shanghai.

COMMON SENSE would tell you that I would organize my thoughts, write a few notes, and get my calendar out to “talk to my audience” about my views on the school operations, our calendar of events and a few tips or tricks about working with the school. All good, but just a retread of ideas we have done before. Instead, I got this crazy idea that I would just stroll around and talk to teachers and students as I did my usual “lap” around the school. The podcast turned out to be a very lengthy 13+ minutes and Jeff cut out a fair amount of stuff (sorry to the teachers and students who ended up on the cutting room floor), but the result was a light hearted, fun and I think repeatable audio trip around the school. Thanks to Jeff, who took the time to paste together the sound files with some fun background music, and thanks to the teachers and students who participated in – impromptu- this podcast! It was a crazy idea that just seemed to work.

Our podcast page is a pretty popular place these days. According to our clustr map we have had over 4100 hits on this page this year! Ok, probably 20 or more are just me, as I check it frequently, make sure all things are working ok, and the kids are using the page appropriately (with Mr. U’s guidance), but even if we subtract 3000 hits we are doing pretty darn well! A few things a that Jeff has done to make the page a fun place to visit beyond our podcasts are a free download of the week from music artists sharing their work on the web. Frequently we get note back from them thank us for sharing their songs. Our recent principal coffee has been podcast and we will do it again later this next month. Hopefully I can get our PTSA to start using this medium to share their information out to our community as well. All in all, it is easy, it is fun and I think it has help change the shape of what we are doing in our classrooms as well.

It seems that more than just our school community is listening in as well. David Warlick wrote about us on his blog "2 cents worth" yesterday! Some of you from Pudong may remember David from his recent evening presentation!

He wrote:

I think that we need to find new ways of assessing the success of our education endeavors, methods that are more relevant to a changing market place, changing customers, and a rapidly changing information landscape. I found a perfect example this morning when I ran across a podcast program from the Pudong Campus of the Shanghai American School. One of their tech people, Mr. Torris simply walked into grade 5 classrooms and started interviewing teachers and kids about what they were learning.

What’s different here is that rather than relying on numbers that describe learners as products, the community is almost literally invited into the classrooms to learn what and how their children are learning and what they are doing with it. This is what I would like to have known about my children’s schools. I’d like to have been part of it — not just an outside inspector.

Thanks David for the nod and the compliment of calling me a "tech person". What a compliment!!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

US and UK fall last? Where are our school resources??

This just in this on Valentines Day!

BERLIN – The United States and Britain ranked at the bottom of a U.N. survey of child welfare in 21 wealthy countries that assessed everything from infant mortality to whether children ate dinner with their parents or were bullied at school.

As an expatriate American and a former United States based principal serving in rural and suburban schools, I can now count on THREE fingers the number of times that I have had police officers in my school and office in the past six years as an international school administrator! In my former posting in the US I could count on a visit from law enforcement officers at least weekly. My heart breaks every time I think about that little boy in my office with the hand print bruise on his face, on his back on and on the inside of his thighs and that was 6 years ago. I think he is in middle school now and I hope he is ok. Or the 4 migrant children in the trailer with no heat and no hot water shivering under blankets and eating cold food, all the while suffering from bronchitis and the flu.

Common sense tells me that changes need to happen, and I am not sure who is in charge of these changes, but resources are indeed important. Working in a resource rich environment like I have now has shown me that it does and our schools can work like they should. Just give us a chance!

The Higher Power of Lucky On another note... Doug Johnson writes about the 2007 Newbery Award winning book title "The H igher Power of Lucky" by Susan Patron, which apparently is raising a few eyebrows with the single word- scrotum.

Hmmpf! Read this response from Doug and his friend and colleague who really puts our resource need to the table's edge for us all to chew on! Nice post Doug!

Read the post here at:

Common sense tells me that we all need to raise this question again with our politicians and ascend the conversation beyond what they all believe are the "basics" and look to letting the professionals be just that.... and more!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Monday, February 19, 2007

13 posts, 1125 page views...

13 posts, 1125 page views...

This was the content of the email from my friend and blog helper Scott McLeod in Minnesota giving me some information about my page hits for my school blog, Elementary and Middle School Pudong Express. I have been participating in the 100 Principals/ 100 Blogs project, and Scott had me all set up and running like the wind in a short few days. I have since added this blog to give me someplace to personally run with some space to do my own reflections, and less about what is going on in the classrooms and playgrounds.

So... why am I so interested in my school blog stats? Frankly it was common sense for me to think that given the opportunity to EASILY post information that is EASILY found and read by a community members would be a popular mode of communication. Skeptics were common, and frankly quite annoying but.... 13 posts and 1125 views means that a lot parents are getting their information from this blog!

Thanks Scott for getting me off the spot and into this world of information sharing. It really is all about the conversations!

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

powered by performancing firefox

David Warlick Visits Us on Pudong- Session 1 in the PM 2/16/2007

This afternoon, I am blogging from the live presentation from David Warlick currently being presented here on the Pudong Campus.

I dropped in a bit late, and man.... am I sorry I did!

He is now speaking about how information has changed-

In the past 10 - 15 years:

- we've added networking,

- digital media

- it is overwhelming

- flowing without containers.... information that is!

In the past 3 years:

- Conversations have been added worldwide

- Informaiton is reader controlled

- People are connecting with infromation.

CONTENT is Conversation-

Blogging is the best example of blogging 2.0. This is the most popular model of digital communications. What's special about this simple, simple technology is the way it has changed the way we communicate and view the world.

Most interesting to me is the effect that Blogging has become a great way for kids to communicate and write. Kids are begging for writing assignments and that their audience is now expanded beyond the teacher and student (with a few parents added for good measure).

Shanghai American School is really encouraging blogging for teachers and students. What a wave of enthusiasm for our kids and teachers and thanks to my friend and colleague Jeff Utecht thanks to his work with our own blog pages! Hurray, Hurray! We are building a community of learners both in our buildings and on our blogsphere at SAS!

It is common sense to see that an audience of our colleagues (and peers) brings us to be 1) VERY careful with our verbiage and 2) Very motivated to write to a high level---- current blog entry is probably immune from these two points (ha!).

David just noted that 8 million editors of Wikipedia are very powerful. One must believe that this certainly must not be for the faint of heart, but there does seem to be millions of brave folks out there!


I have not setup an XML or RSS feed button on this blog yet. Ok... you can click the link above, but that is not as fancy and cool. I am going to work on it today and see what I can do to damage this site more!

RSS is causing a major shift to find out information about our world. Information is finding us (if we ask) and we can train the web to do stuff that we have been doing ALL BY ourselves. The staggering thing is the tool which the connections of interests and other's connections and links made. We are making what David is calling "personal learning networks". This PLN will help us learn and do our jobs better! I agree with David when he says that he believes teachers should be using this to learn.

His final example when else in our life time is something like this possible. Common Sense would tell me that this will change our world and that of our children!

Thank you David!

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

powered by performancing firefox

Back from Recruiting!

Whew! What a trip!

2 weeks and about 50+ interviews resulted in us almost filling all of our positions here at our school. Connections being key here, I believe that my own name, and our availability on the web caught up with me! (note: MUCH artistic license taken on this conversation)
Scene: A welcome to our school reception at the hotel in Cambridge, Mass.

Players: Me, and a couple from a school in Kuwait.


Them: Hey... thanks for the email before the fair. It really got us interested in your school.

Me: Oh good!

Them: Yea... we Googled you after the email.

Me: Oh... really (said with great trepidation)

Them: Yea... you have two really great blogs! Wow!

Me: Oh.... great. Thanks. (gloating inside)

Them: Oh... and thanks for the tips on the questions. Your colleague (not to named here) used each and every one of them in the first interview.

Me: Oh.... great. Hmmm... I had better watch what I post on my web. People actually read this stuff!

A little Common Sense goes a long way!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tech.... It's more than just hardware!

My good friend and colleague Jeff Utecht goes on and on about an Apple Computer company presentation that we attended yesterday. He gives a nice summary on the Thinking Stick that I found very well grounded in COMMON Sense.

Where is this all going?
What are we doing?
What will we do when we get "it",or get "there"?
What is "it" and where is "there"?

Console Corner
To me it is all about targeting what we are going to do with our programs and our classrooms and less about the technology themselves. My question is why does it seem like the only people asking these questions are the people involved in technology education?

Maybe I am just missing those people asking all these hard questions!

powered by performancing firefox

First Posting... Recruiting on the Road

As an international school administrator, one of the most physically grueling and mentally demanding parts of our job is recruiting teachers for the upcoming 0708 academic year. Truthfully, I look forward to the challenge as each year begins and we observe our "results" with the new faculty coming to our school and making their way into our school culture.

This year I will be heading to two different job fairs. The first is at Waterloo, Iowa, and is sponsored by the University of Northern Iowa. The UNI fair, run by the
University of Northern Iowa Overseas Placement Service for Educators draws the best and the brightest from all over the world and I will find myself there with over 600 registered candidates and over 120 international schools registered, representing more than 70 countries.

After a brief visit with my in-laws in the Midwest, I will again get on a plane and fly to Boston and land in the lovely and well appointed Cambridge Hyatt Regency for the Search Associates, Cambridge recruiting fair.

Common Sense...
would tell you that hiring in a few short days is not the best way to select teachers for your classrooms and schools, and sadly this may be correct. To mitigate this challenge, I along with my many, many colleagues go back to our administrative training and are forced to make judgements about these adventurous and talented educators in a short amount of time. I personally have devised a set of 5 "gotta have questions" so that I can make to quick and effective preliminary judgement of the teachers when they come to the interview with me. Preliminary questions focus on assessment literacy, collegiality, commitment to one's own learning and whether the teacher is "tech savvy". The final question on the list is rather unspecific, but what I hope to hear is a deep love of the expatriate lifestyle, or a desire to learn and live in a new, unpredictable and dynamic environment.

If a teacher brings to the table quality paper references, is able to match up with our vacancies, and then makes it past my 5 quick questions with intelligence, grace and enthusiasm, then I dig deeper, follow up with a second interview and spend hours on the phone checking references (often references are at the very same job fair), me and my colleagues will offer job contracts.

All in all a good adventure, full of stress for all parties and in the end, I think we are very successful in finding great teachers.

In closing I would like to share some great questions that my fellow blogger David Warlick shared in a past post titled "How to Hire Tech Savvy Teachers". David shared these 5 questions that seem to work well for me on the job fair circuit.

David wrote on November 26, 2006:
  1. Tell me how you think the future you are preparing children for will be different.
  2. What is your favorite gadget and why?
  3. How often do others come to you for guidance in using technology?
  4. Describe the last new technology that you used and how you used it — and how you learned it.
  5. Describe the last thing you learned related to your work, that you didn’t learn in a classroom or from a book, and describe how you learned it.

I hope you enjoyed my first post. I hope I can keep up the entries and become a part of the blog community that is building in the international education world. I feel a little common sense will always be my guiding light in my career. Please leave me a comment if you have some common sense to share as well.

Thank you,