It was a pleasure to meet Steven W. Anderson, known to many through his ‘Web 2.0 Classroom‘ moniker, at the TLIPAD 2015 conference in November. He is a fun speaker and everyone seemed to really enjoy and appreciate his inspirational and informative Keynote address.
Moved by Steven's combination of experienced insights, practical know-how, and willingness to tell-it-like-is, I picked up a copy of his book, The Tech Savvy Administrator: How do I use Technology to be a Better School Leader?. It is a quick read that is packed with things Administrators should be aware of. I highly recommend it to Administrators at all levels of education, and to school technologists as well. The Kindle version is under $10.
Here is an outline of the book, to give you a sense of what to expect. Bookended by introductory guidance and cautionary insights at the beginning, and final reflections and a helpful ‘Encore' section full of useful resources at the end, there are three main sections of the book.
Effective Communication: Telling Your Story
In this section, Anderson explores tools and techniques that Administrators can use to help tell the story of their school, the way they want it represented. The tools you learn about in this section can,
“… help you move beyond first impressions to tell your own story and the stories of your students. As we well know, sometimes the negative stories get more press than the positive ones. Having many places online to tell what you, your students, and your faculty are doing is important to telling your story. The idea of branding is at the heart of this plan. Just like our favorite companies work to tell their stories, schools and school leaders should do the same.
Anderson gets into 3 sets of tools that are widely used to share the exciting things going on at your school and promote the passion and fun your teachers and students bring to life in and outside of your classrooms.
The School Website
Too many schools have unimpressive, uninteresting web sites, and this is a shame considering that this is one of the first places that parents, community members, journalists, etc., will look when they want to learn more about your institution. Anderson spent time as a District Instructional Technologist overseeing 81 schools. In this role he had to work with 81 school webmasters and this provided an excellent opportunity to apply and hone his insights into what is important when designing a school website. His observations include:
- Make Essentials Easy to Find: Things like contact info, building hours, etc., should be easy to find.
- Guidelines are Important: Design standards re: font size, colors, layout, etc., can play a vital role in making your site enjoyable and functional. This is even more important for maintaining consistency across different school sites within a district.
- Keep a Regular Schedule: I can't tell you how many school sites I've seen that are not kept up to date. The web site is the first place many will turn to check on school closings, learn about upcoming events, and find more information on things their kids may be involved in. If they can't find accurate, current information, it is going to cause frustration, and have negative implications.
As everyone is aware, in recent years, blogging has become more and more mainstream, playing a role in how many organizations share information and reflect on their thoughts and idea. “Administrators are using blogs as platforms for sharing what is happening in their buildings, for reflecting on their thoughts around current issues in education, or for just sharing tips, tricks, and resources.” There are several popular free blogging platforms that are easy to use and have been widely adopted by school administrators and other educators. Anderson provides useful observations about the use of blogging in the administrative role and how to get started.
Anderson writes, “In my experience, the fastest growing tools administrators are relying on to tell their story and keep engaged in their community are social media tools”. He provides a thorough overview of Twitter, explaining what admins will want to do with a Twitter account, and how to get started. The book then explores Facebook, reminding the reader that Facebook has 1.2 billion active users a day (as of late 2014 when the book was released). There is no doubt that Facebook can be a an effective engagement tool, and Anderson offers good ideas for how to leverage it. This section wraps with a look at Instagram, which is one of the fastest growing picture and short video sites on the Internet.
Any administrator knows that paperwork and reports are a huge part of the role. Migrating these processes to a digital format can be tremendously empowering. Imagine being able to work on an evaluation or access a form from any device? It's not as hard as you might think, and once you make the transition, the time you can save can change the nature of your job.
This is a powerful concept, ripe with the potential to provide technological leadership and increase the efficiency of many processes.
- Effective Document and File Storage: This section focused on the power, ease, and low cost of cloud storage tools. I would add that it is essential to work with your technology support staff as you move in this direction, and work with them to ensure that the tools and processes you select are secure and that you implement a backup process.
- Effective Document Collaboration: One of the most powerful functions made possible with modern information technologies is the ability to collaboratively edit documents and other digital content. Here, Anderson gets into tools like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive and how tools like these can enable you to migrate slow, tedious paper-based processes to far more efficient methods.
- Effective Productivity: Here, the book explores applications like Evernote, Online Calendars, and To Do Lists, as digital tools for effective note taking, meeting management, scheduling, and more.
The Power of Virtual Professional Learning
So many schools find it harder and harder to find adequate budgetary funds for professional development. Ironically, the need for good PD has never been greater, as technology continues to evolve and impact what we learn and do in and outside of schools. The good news is that those very technologies can help address this challenge.
In this section of the book, Anderson discusses Virtual and Professional Learning Communities and free video conferencing solutions like Skype and Google Hangouts.
In summary, this book really is a must-read for school administrators looking to get the most out of the many free and low cost information processing tools available today. It is rare that a school excels at putting today's information and communication technologies to optimal use if their administration doesn't help to set the tone and lead the charge. In this quick read, you will uncover dozens of ideas for doing just that.
Explore other books by Steven W. Anderson on this page on his Web20Classroom site.