Using #multipliers to make me a better leader

Following a recommendation from @nickdennis I read Multipliers. If you’re in a management position I really think you would benefit from reading it, if you’re in any role in education our next generation will benefit from you reading it.

This is all about how subtle changes to your approach to people management can produce significant reward, whether those people are staff in your department or the year 9 class sat in front of you while you’re checking twitter.

Nicks post is better than mine, read his. But, here are my immediate to-do’s from the book.

It isn’t just how intelligent your team members are; it is how much of that intelligence you can draw out.

I know that I’m lucky enough to have one of the most talented teams in the sector- a Multiplier can do more to draw that talent from them. It’s not all about me. Apparently.

Handing over ownership of projects, freedom to experiment, learn and make mistakes are the key.

Liberators don’t just listen the majority of time. They massively shift the ratio, listening most of the time. This creates space for others to share what they know.

This is my real challenge for the next few weeks. I’m far too noisy in team meetings. I might even attempt to measure it. The Multiplier not only listens more but asks the questions to draw out the best thinking in those around them. Better to debate a decision without settling it, help the team figure out the solution even if you already know it.

Define opportunities that challenge people to go beyond what they know how to do.

I’d like to think we’re pretty good at this already, but I want to put added emphasis on how we help the group to push themselves on to their next great thing.

Never give someone an A-W-K without an F-I-X. Don’t just identify the problem; find a solution.

And finally, one for the whole group. You need to read the book to understand the quote but I will be challenging the whole team to this for the rest of the year.

As I said at the start. Read it.

Designing the perfect 1-1 device scheme

We’ve been discussing this for a while, and now a fair few of the closest schools to us have moved in that direction too I thought it was probably time to share.

I’m very pleased 1-1 schemes are being adopted, but I’m concerned about the way we are doing it.

Limited exposure

We did some trials using Open Office in KS3 last year. The thing that stuck out most was some students struggled to achieve certain tasks because the buttons and menus were not in the same place. 

Watch users trying to move between MacOS/Windows and you see similar. Interestingly, staff find it far harder than students than to switch OS. A good sign that the more you get used to one way of working the harder it is to change.

“Technology is neither a devil nor an angel. But neither is it simply a tool, a neutral extension of some rock-solid human nature”

I’m slightly over-obsessed with Cousin at the moment. The technology shouldn’t shape the pedagogy is something of a catchphrase round here, but that needs to go hand in hand with an awareness that it still does have an impact.

What I think this tells us is we should be teaching more generic concepts for students to adapt and apply in other environments. I know this isn’t news to ICT teachers, but it doesn’t seem to be having the impact in our 1-1 decisions. Tie me to a single OS or form factor for my whole school career and it won’t be as helpful later on.

5 years is a long time

I’m writing this on a 5 year old laptop. It works fine for what I need to do and it’s in pretty good condition. The main reason for this is because what I do hasn’t changed a whole lot in that period. Actually, my needs are probably less demanding now.

This doesn’t apply to our students.

Give a year 7 a reasonable spec laptop this year – how is it going to stand up to the job of completing their coursework in 5 years time?

Give a year 7 a tablet this year –  if they decide media and photography are the courses for them in KS4 I bet they’re going to wish they had a laptop with the Adobe suite on.

Give a year 7 the absolute best of breed device this year – how do we know it will be the case in 5 years? By then an entirely new category may have emerged.

We need to be more flexible with our 1-1 offering.

We’re being sold to, remember that

Of course it is going to be a better deal to buy 2000 of X device from Y brand than a more random selection of various tools from different places. Bulk buying may save us cash, but is that a good educational reason?

In the last year at SSAT & BETT I encountered a number of headteachers who do all of their ICT purchasing from manufacturers that are at that show. If it’s not there they don’t buy. That genuinely scares me.

Financial decisions shouldn’t take priority over teaching and learning. I know it’s a difficult time to be adopting this position, but it’s the right thing to do.

Personalise

This is the most important.

While we’re still debating the value of ways we categorise learning styles, what we do know for sure is we all learn in different ways. And, how we learn best changes throughout the day.

Sometimes I like a computer in front of me, sometimes I’m happier with a big piece of paper and a pen. Sometimes the laptop works best, other times a tablet is more appropriate.

As far as I can see in every other aspect of our curriculum design our goal is to personalise. How does this stack up against requiring every member of our school community to learn using the exact same device?

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In short- I don’t feel that 1-1 is impossible right now, I am just worried that current 1-1 offerings all require commitment to one specific device for far too long.

What we should be doing is building a 1-1 programme that is device agnostic, and allows students flexibility to switch their device based on how they want to learn at that moment.

I’ll get back to you once we’ve figured out if this is actually the right thing to do and if it’s even possible…

Taming the email beast

I get a lot of email. A lot. To the point where it was not only taking up too much of my working day, but becoming a distraction outside of it.

I’ve been working on making how I use email more efficient, here’s a few things I have found that have worked:

1) Gmail filters

A whole load of my email comes from machines. Often useful updates or newsletters that I’d like to read at some point, but not right away. I now run a gmail filter to take any message of this form and skip my inbox, move it to a ‘read it when I have time’ folder.

I also get copied into loads of email. Things I need to read but maybe not right away. Another filter takes any email I’m cc’d in to and skips my inbox, puts it in a folder for when I’m ready to deal with mail.

These two filters mean what ends up in my inbox is actually to me, and is from a person that needs a reply. Helps the important stuff get to the top, and keeps me calmer as the unread message count on the inbox looks far healthier!

2) Five Sentence.es

This is about fixing what I send. I’m finding it hard to be 100% committed to the limit, but I do subscribe to the ‘shorter the better’ ideal.

More importantly, I try to only send for specific reasons. Direct questions or action points are the key. Seems like one of those behaviors you can model in the hope others will copy.

3) Awayfind

In one simple app Awayfind has stopped me feeling I need to check my email every 10 minutes, and has made sure I don’t miss anything that is actually important.

Awayfind is similar to Gmail filters in it lets you create rules, but it adds push alerts into the mix.

If anybody sends an email to me that contains certain keywords (think ‘urgent’) AwayFind sends an alert to my phone immediately. I may not check my mail as often as I used to, but it means if it’s really important I get it immediately.

In addition to the constant rules you set up it also has a really nice ‘waiting for’ feature. Tell Awayfind that you’re waiting for an email from a certain person and it’ll tell you when it arrives. For example, we had some issues with a school trip over the half term break and I needed to see updates immediately. An Awayfind alert for anything from that person the day it was happening meant I avoided constantly pressing the refresh button on my inbox.

4) Gmail meter

This is a free tool that’s helping prove I’ve made a positive change. It watches your inbox and once a month sends you some nice little stats about your email use.

Watching the quantity decrease over the last few months has been interesting, but most importantly the stats show that my response time to the messages I actually need to deal with is improving. Means some of this must actually be working…

It’s not a shopping list

I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that telling people what tools we use might be a mistake. Or, is at least distracting from what is really important.

We’re a frequent host to visiting SLTs and IT departments, interested in the ways we work, the kind of projects we’re involved in as a school. I really enjoy the discussions with others working in the same area, and we always gain something we can add to our own practice from the experience.

What I really want to avoid though is people just walking away with a shopping list of things we own. We do have some great tools here (including the ones we wrote ourselves…), and I would happily recommend them to others in similar circumstances.

But, I’m concerned that the ‘what’ is overshadowing the ‘how’. No tool is as important as the work that goes on around how it fits in to our school practice. Which particular brand of [insert tool of your choice here] is no way near as important as what you’re going to do with it.

If you walk away from any school visit with a set of notes only containing things to buy then you’ve probably missed the point. It’s the practice that’s important.

So, in future I’ll tell you the tool providing you also take something away about the process! 😀

Blogging our CPD

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We’ve just had another round of meetings with our school improvement groups at Wildern. The SIGs are voluntary groups that run as half-termly after school meetings for groups of staff to work together to develop their practice. This year we’re running:

  • Creative classroom
  • Gifted and talented
  • International classroom
  • Language for learning
  • Media literacy
  • New technologies
  • Themed days
  • Wildern TV & radio

Each group has a focus, and each member undertakes an action research project during the year. The research is fed back in to their performance management, their departments, and through our SDP is influencing policy. It’s an opportunity for staff to try out new ideas and measure their impact, and I think a great model for collaborative school improvement.

What I am most pleased about this year is our shift to documenting the projects by blogging. As a blogger I know the process encourages reflection on your own practice, but by including our SIG blog as a feed on staff homepages we are placing new ideas front and centre to staff every day.

By publishing the development blog to the rest of the world we’re also stepping up to share these things, the good, the bad, at a much wider level. We have more ideas in the pipeline, but it is starting to feel like we have a whole school approach to developing and showcasing innovative practice.

Some quick links from the SIG blog to a couple of my favourite posts: