Three Tech Tools That Have Made Me Better At My Job

Much like my students, I love technology. There are things that we can do today that were unimaginable even a few short years ago. There are so many resources available that it can be a bit overwhelming at times. As my work and home life become more demanding, I find that I do not have nearly the time I once did to explore and play.

I often feel left out or as if I am missing something if I am not up on the latest and greatest. I hear a lot about Voxer and I have dipped my toe into Flipgrid, but I have not yet figured out how to incorporate them into my workflow.  It is not that they are hard to use; in fact, as technology advances, Apps–what we used to call programs–and web resources have become more intuitive and easier to use. The problem is determining how they can be used to make me better at my job.

The questions I ask myself when determining if a specific new “toy” is something I want to put in my repertoire of tricks are:

  • Does it help me to be more efficient?
  • Does it help me communicate better?
  • Can I use it to model good instructional practices for my administrators and teachers?

We are lucky to so many tech tools available to use for free or at very little cost. Yet, it is hard to filter through what sometimes seems like a gluttony of resources. Determining what can make us better at our jobs is essential. For me, it is best to dig right in and apply the resource to my work. For me, practical application is the best way to assess if it is for me or not.

Occasionally the timing may just be off–tools that I tried previously may not have worked then, but can work now.  If I want to try menti-meter or poll everywhere I don’t read the directions or watch the video, but rather create a product that I will try to use in an upcoming presentation. Once I have general understanding, I find going back to the directions much like the videos games of my youth–playing first, then going back into the directions to try to figure out the nuances and master the game.

Following this process has helped me and other educators I respect find new and different ways to utilize a tool. A way that others may not have thought of or a way that meets the unique needs and styles that we all have.  Following this process has allowed me to find three tools that I have incorporated into my work and have made me better at what I do.

Google Keep

I was first introduce to Google Keep a few years ago by my friend, Amaris.  She was excited about color coding notes and loved the virtual post its that Keep provided. I just didn’t get it at the time and, after trying it for a few days, abandoned it. I have revisited it this year and now find it one of my most valuable assets.  I have found and continue to find more and more ways to utilize Keep.

The first and most logical is as a to-do list that I can access on all of my devices. I have found attaching a picture and pinning it to the top of my noteboard makes it easy to see and find. The to-do list was the best digital one I had found to date, but what hooked me was using Keep as a way to save and organize articles. If I see an article I want to read, but don’t have time, I simply click the icon on my toolbar, label it as an article and post it to my board. This can be done on my desktop, my laptop, my Chromebook, or my phone.  Once I have read the article I can add a second label that indicates how and whom it may be used with in the future.

I have also started using Keep to organize the information gathered in the books I am reading.  Taking pictures of key pages, concepts, or ideas for activities and then labeling them as a means to organize the information has not only saved me time, but has helped me to remember that great activity I thought of using for my administrators when I read Innovator’s Mindset.  

My assistants love that we have now started using this tool as a way to communicate with each other. When my office receives a call, Diane and Joanne capture the important information in a Keep Note, which they share with me. Joanne, who handles parent calls, will often take long detailed notes by hand. She simply takes a picture of her notes and attaches them to the virtual note.  I am notified via email each time they share one with me, which prompts me to label, respond, take my notes and archive when done. This not only saves trees, but it also allows me to go back to the note anytime I may need to in the future.

There really are so many ways to incorporate this tool into your work; some other suggestions are:

Project management notes- Link docs, web sites, create tasks,and share with those on your team.

  • Shared To-Do list
  • Shared grocery list
  • Dragging common phrases or terms into a Google Doc
  • Saving Ted Talks or other videos for future viewing or access
  • Reminders to others on your team

The applications for this simple to use resource are endless; it really just depends on your work flow and your imagination. I highly recommend incorporating Google Keep into your work life.

Padlet

Padlet is an easy, fun tool that can be used in a multitude of ways.  This digital canvas lets you post text, videos, pictures, links, and files in various combinations on various locations on the board.  After seeing writing guru Angela Stockman discuss using post it notes and pictures to story board ideas as a means to spark writing in even the most text-reluctant students, I have used Padlet in my writing process. I capture various ideas and thoughts, move them around on the canvas, reordering and adding details as I go. After spending some time organizing my ideas in this manner, I find that my pieces often write themselves. What once seemed like hard work, now seems to flow with ease.

I have used padlet with my administrative team as a center activity.  They have been asked to post their favorite quotes, authors, books, and presenting ideas to a shared canvas  One principal took it one step further by using padlet to have his teachers post their favorite lessons to the canvas. Others used padlet to hold a virtual book club, summarizing their thoughts and responding to questions about their selection, Culturize by Jimmy Casas.

Padlet is visually appealing, which makes it an easy sell for kids to create digital posters with pizzazz and flash.  The most economically disadvantaged students are no longer at a disadvantage because their parents can’t afford glitter.  I would suggest giving it a try; I am sure you will find new and useful ways to take advantage of padlet that haven’t even been thought of yet.

Twitter

I know I am late to the game on this one. I have had a Twitter account for years, but never found ways to use it to make me better at my job. I remember when my sister in-law told me how her principal was the “master” of Twitter and how effectively he was using it as an educator. I was a bit perplexed.  I kept asking, rather ignorantly, ‘Twitter in schools?”

I wondered what this principal could know that I didn’t and figured it was just another “bell and whistle”.  I couldn’t have been more wrong. Her principal, who turned out to be Eric Sheninger, was, in fact, onto something, and he turned out to be about much more than Twitter. I  have found out just this year what a great tool for educators it can be. The most useful ways I have found to use Twitter are:

To find content. There are so many great ideas, article resources, videos, and more.  If you only use Twitter to find stuff, it will still be worth your time.

To find People. It is amazing how many incredible educators I have gotten to know through Twitter and how many opportunities I have been afforded through those connections. Being a school administrator can be a lonely job. Knowing that there as so many like minded, passionate people in our field and being able to instantly connect with them is a comforting feeling.

To Share Content.  Have a message you want to share?  Are your administrators, teachers, students doing great things? Celebrating on Twitter is a way to promote the good work happening in your schools.

Bring People Together- In a District of over 8,000 students and over 600 teachers I am lucky to have the opportunity to work with so many amazing educators and students in 9 different schools.  There is so much talent in my District, yet many of these great people didn’t know each other or know about all of the great things going on in each other’s classrooms. Twitter has started to break down those barriers.  As more and more people begin to use Twitter in my District, more and more excellent connections are being made.

There are so many amazing tech tools out there.  It is important that we find the tools that work best for us, not just because they are flashy, but because they make us better at what we do.

Google Keep, Padlet, and Twitter are three that I have embraced this year and I believe they have helped to make me a better school administrator.

Next up my list to master are Flipgrid, Voxer, Peardeck, and InsertLearning. I hope they turn turn out to be as useful as the three I rediscovered this year.