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Principal Whack-a-Mole with Your iPad

by Miguel Guhlin
principal whack-a-mole

If you are a campus leader, you may often find yourself playing whack-a-mole with a variety of problems. You knock one problem down, but another pops up in its place in a never-ending cycle of moles. In this blog entry, learn how to leverage your principal iPad to facilitate enhanced communications in a way that solves three moles, er, problems.

What’s Your Mole?

An ASCD article (now offline) a few years ago listed these “moles” as typical problems for campus leaders:

  • Family Concerns
  • Instructional Rounds
  • Student Discipline
  • Email
  • Professional Development
  • Communication

This last mole, communication, can be “whacked” through the use of iPad apps. In any communication challenge for principals, there are three problems to solve that the right iPad apps can be a solution for. Let’s examine those:

  1. Time – Minimize the time you spend preparing communications.
  2. Planning Communications – Plan short, plan long. Send information in short bursts. These bursts are the concrete, steel, and fiber that bridge school with home and community.
  3. Sharing Great Stories – Capture with technology what children are learning and doing and then share it.

Let’s take a look at some iPad apps that can facilitate communication and solve the above three problems. (By the way, avoid the pitfall of pointless app acquisition. Add these apps one at a time. Learn to use each alone and then combine as needed.)

Level 1 – Photo/Video Creation Apps

Note: There are a multitude of apps that allow you to create. These are a few that are easy to get started and get you going.

  1. Camera Roll – This is an app that comes pre-loaded on your iPad. You have probably already used it to snap pictures.
  2. Annotate – This app makes it easy to add comments, circle, or draw arrows. Save the marked-up photo back to your Camera Roll. Import the annotated image into other apps below.
  3. Shadow Puppet – Take a collection of photos, organize them as slides in any order you want, and then add audio narration.
  4. Haiku Deck  – Stunningly beautiful images, text, and chart presentation maker. With this app, you can quickly create a slideshow using free images (copyright-friendly) on the web or from your own camera roll. You can easily export this slideshow as a PowerPoint via email or view it on the web via the Haiku Deck website.
  5. Optional:Strip Designer ($2.99) – Lets you create comic strips using photos from your Camera Roll. You can build your comic, then save it as a picture into your camera roll. Once a comic is in your camera roll, you can import into Explain Everything, Book Creator, or iMovie for further fun.

Level 2 – Narrating Your Work

Note: You can “remix” anything you’ve created at Level 1 with the apps below. Unfortunately, these apps may cost money.

  1. Book Creator ($4.99) – Create your own ePub books with embedded video, audio, and text.
  2. iMovie (Free) – Inexpensive movie creation tool. I prefer Pinnacle Studio, but iMovie will do for most.

Level 3 – Sharing Your Creations

  • Readdle Documents – Less of a creation app, more of a viewing app,this is an app that makes it easy to share your content with others, as well as copy your final product to Google Drive, Dropbox, and other cloud storage locations.
  • Seesaw – Make a seesaw portfolio that features your teachers as students. Ask teachers to share projects students create on a device (e.g. Chromebook, iPad, Windows/Mac laptop) with you. You, in turn, can publish those shared projects as a blog.

If you are just getting started, then consider Level 1 apps to be the easiest to get started with! The workflow for using these apps can be quite simple and I encourage you to try them. To help, remember these three tips.

Tip #1: Connect with Time-Saving Activities

Consider these sharing opportunities that only take a moment of your day.

Teacher or Student Highlight

In this highlight piece, snap a picture of the teacher, their classroom, or both and then put that picture into a sequence in the Shadow Puppet app (works on your iPhone). Prompt teachers to share their responses to the question What are some successes you experienced this week?

Classroom Walkthroughs

In this sharing activity, capture pictures and video on your daily campus and classroom walks using your iPad’s Camera Roll. As you walk through your school, take your iPad with you. When you see something you like, want to celebrate, and/or share with your school community, snap a photo or do a quick video interview. Make a comic strip featuring student reflections with Strip Designer.

Capturing Learning as It Happens

When doing a video interview, don’t spend a lot of time prepping before the interview for it. Simply ask four questions that will help the person you’re interviewing overcome their shyness at being on camera:

  • What’s your name and job title?
  • What are you doing?
  • Why are you so excited about it?
  • What have you learned?

These four simple questions will get people sharing, probably more than you want. Make sure to arrange a signal to let them know when the interview starts and ends.

Photo Interview

If a video interview is not appropriate, then consider taking a photo of what you are seeing and then making a mental or written note that answers the questions above. You can later assemble the photos into a narrated slideshow that will convey a powerful message about what is happening at your campus. When video recording or photographing students, make sure that you have collected permission forms for sharing that content online.

Tip #2: Decide where and with whom you will share your communications.

Now that you have been collecting content, you need to take a moment to ask yourself How can I make this content available? You’ll want to pick some online space that you can easily update and share. Several solutions abound. The easiest one is to use a tool like Seesaw’s built-in blog tool. You can access it on the go, publish content to the blog, and then share it via social media.

Tip #3: Cultivate a Culture of Sharing

Once you start sharing, it will automatically encourage students, parents, and staff. Nurture this culture of sharing. Encourage students and staff to create their own “great stories” to share. Once all embrace the concept that they are storytellers as well, you can begin to switch back to your role of campus administrator, manager, and leader.

Principal Whack-a-Mole with Your iPad

Whack-A-Mole is one of my favorite games. I suspect that if you whack-a-mole like communication with your iPad and the tips suggested in this article, you will find yourself spending less time focusing on negative interactions and much more on positive ones. That’s worth the up front effort of learning a new mole-whacking tool, don’t you think?

 

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