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How do you keep up?

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Cross Posted at changinghighschools.blogspot.com

I have unfortunately had to have some surgery that has put me in the position of having too much time on my hands. With that comes plenty of time to think about 'stuff'. Having the personality that I do, while I can ponder my next vacation, reminisce about events of the past year, and even count my blessings, it doesn't take long before my thoughts come back around to my work. It is a huge part of my life and dedicate an enormous amount of time to work and work-related activities.

When I think about my role as a leader and educator, I am constantly asking myself, how can we do it better? How do we engage students more in their learning? How do I share what we are doing as a school community and gather ideas from others trying to do the same? While there is always research to read as well as a plethora of subscriptions related to education, there is so much more information readily available through blogs and wikis. These media also give the opportunity to ask questions, comment and expand ideas with an immediacy that you cannot achieve reading printed material. So now I spend as much time, probably more reading blogs and wikis and participating in social networks.

I use an aggregator to organize the blogs, wikis and social networks I want to monitor and have a few I automatically go to. There are several I contribute to. I've have often said and written that my learning has grown exponentially and I have gather great ideas to "borrow". While I have never been one to sleep for the suggested 8 hours per night, I do most of my reading and writing in the wee hours of the morn'. The challenge is in keeping up. Do I post? Do I read? Do I contribute? The obvious answer for me is that I want to do it all. I feel that as a leader, I need to be a role model. As our teachers learn to participte in Web 2.0 technology and most recently particpate and share information in a social network, I feel that I should contribute in some way on a regular basis. When that happens, I believe that teachers will see that it is valued and can be a successful and efficient way to share and gather information. I have principals that are now posting agendas for faculty meetings along with minutes to Ning. Social networking is something our students do on a regular basis be it MySpace or Facebook. There are incredible learning opportunities using social networks and we now have several teachers integrating them in their courses. Students blog and read blogs. They have heard and read that our soon to be president used blogging as part of a comprehensive and awesome campaign. Technology is the way of the world and we can't escape it. We do an injustice if we don't recognize this and at least expose our students to these tools.

With our economic challenges we seek to find less expensive materials to use in school as budgets get tighter. Free is always nice! There are incredible learning tools available on the web at no or little cost to schools. While I don't support sitting a child in front of a computer all day, it does have its place in learning and students are excited and motivated to engage in on-line learning. Not only can students engage in exploration or practice, many tools on the web can track a student's performance so a teacher can monitor if in fact, learning is taking place. I feel that I have some role in investigating and sharing these tools with our teachers.

Then, there is my professional growth and personal commitment to sharing what I have learned with others. I have two blogs that I author and one that I am supposed to contribute to on a regular basis. Which leads to the question, "How DO I KEEP UP?". I wish there was one platform that would serve all my needs. Actually, there is......a wiki. The difficulty is that not everyone is ready to navigate a wiki. Giving people a URL to locate a blog or social network seems to be what the mainstream is capable of. Heck, for many, they continue to 'lurk' and have not taken the leap to comment or contribute to a discussion or forum. In time, it will come. For now, I need to find a way to juggle.

For the answer, I need to hear from my readers. There are so many people that I follow and envy such a Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Will Richardson and Chris Lehman. I also realize that these folks present and blog professionally. I on the other hand, run a school district with a $39 million budget and all the responsibilities that go along with it. To be successful on the web, I know you need to speak to an audience, have something worthwhile to read and need to post regularly. Thus the question that would help me tremendously. What is it that folks would like to read about, learn about and/or engage in dialogue about? Obviously, I see exciting things happen in our schools and classrooms on a regular basis. When I do, I share those experiences and will continue to do so. But is there more? Sometimes you need to take a step back and get feedback. This is that time. If you have been following and continue to be interested in exchanging ideas about how we can make our schools more engaging for students and better prepare students for their future, please let me know.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Neil Rochelle

[cross-posted at the old LeaderTalk blog (including comments)]

1 Comment

I stuggle with the same issues. For the past five years I have been working as an independent contractor after 30 years of service in public high schools. Being of an age, those of us who have been in the work have crisis of choices. The danger is spreading oneself too thin; the opportunity is to be selective. After standing down from full-time school-keeping, I have explored many ways to continue making a difference in schools for the kids. I have found that I have had to focus, focus, focus...on fewer things to pay attention to. Hubris says I can and should do "anything;" sober reflection reminds me of what I am really good at as well as my diminishing capacity. So pick a few things, do them well, live long and prosper. Also read Peter Ponce's clever novel, "Rules for Old Men Waiting" -- even if you are not an old man!

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