3 Steps to Enhancing Campus Communications with Your #iPad

Source: Whac-A-Mole

In a funny analogy to the whac-a-mole game, Steven Weber recounts 6 "moles" principals must whack in their jobs in this ASCD article. In this article, learn how to leverage your iPad to facilitate enhanced communications in a way that solves the 3 problems Steven highlights.
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THE MOLES OF LEADERSHIP

"About twenty seconds into the game," Steven Weber points out, 'the moles start popping up three at a time and when you smash a mole with the mallet it may pop up again." Here's a quick list of the moles Steven refers to in his article:
  1. Family Concerns
  2. Instructional Rounds
  3. Student Discipline
  4. Email
  5. Professional Development
  6. Communication
This last "mole" that principals have to deal with, Communication, can be "whacked" pretty effectively through the use of various iPad apps. Here's what Steven writes about the importance of communication:

Communication is an important responsibility and it cannot be ignored.  Principals need to communicate through the school website, email, newsletters, video, blogs, face-to-face meetings, PTA meetings, Coffee Hour, phone calls, and informal meetings in the parking lot.  Principals need to be intentional about communication.  Principals need to communicate with classroom teachers through classroom observations, email, blog, faculty meetings, notes, and informal meetings.  A principal could spend his or her entire day developing communication documents or preparing a speech for the next meeting.  It is important to see communication as a mole that you ‘whac’, but also as something you plan for.  If you are not communicating and marketing the great things about your school, then who is marketing your school?  You cannot afford to let the ‘communication mole’ pop its head up too many times.

Consider that highlighted section above. There are three "problems to solve" in that highlighted section that the right iPad apps can be a solution to. Let's examine those:

  1. TIME - As administrators, while we'd love to spend hours and hours fine-tuning our communication, because there are other things going on (look at the other moles on Steven's list!), we can't spend so much time crafting and polishing the message. At what point do you say, "Good enough!" The challenge is minimizing the time you spend preparing communications while maximizing the output.
  2. PLANNING COMMUNICATIONS - As administrators, planning communications may be limited to a once a week newsletter to staff or parents. Compiling newsletters can be time-consuming because you have to plan them out, write the articles that address a particular theme, and then figure out a way to disseminate the information.  Plan short, to the point communications rather than long newsletters of articles. Given the choice, as a parent, I'd rather know what's happening as it's happening in short bursts, than longer communications I have to spend a chunk of time working through.
  3. SHARING GREAT STORIES - As administrators, this is the key challenge. As a parent, I wish my children's schools had shared more information about what they were doing in school. As a principal, or teacher, what tremendous opportunities you have to capture with technology what children are learning and doing, then share that with your school community.
In light of those 3 problems, let's take a look at some iPad apps that can be strategically used to minimize the time you spend on planning and sharing great stories.  As an administrator--or a teacher--how do you know what apps will help you be your most productive, and facilitate communication?

LEVERAGING YOUR IPAD - APPS TO INSTALL
Here is the list of apps you should learn as an administrator and a teacher, avoiding the pitfall of pointless app acquisition. Don't worry, you can add these apps one at a time to your repertoire as you work your way through the 3 Steps to Enhancing Campus Communications. The beauty of these apps--most of them are free--is that you can create content in the Level 1 apps, then remix into the Level 2 apps, then shared. That is, you can take what you made in one, publish it to your Camera Roll, then use it as fodder for your next creation!

App Price: Unless otherwise indicated in parenthetical comment after the name of the app, these apps below are available at no-cost.

  1. Level 1 - Photo/Video Creation AppsNote: 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 on your iPad.
    2. Skitch - This app makes it easy to add comments, circle or draw arrows, as well as blur student faces, in photos you've taken with your iPad. You can also save the marked-up photo--without losing the original--back to your Camera Roll, then import the annotated image into other apps like those below.
    3. 30Hands - Take a collection of photos, organize them as slides in any order you want, then add audio narration. Include pictures of your Haiku Deck presentation. If you need to do some quick annotations on them, consider
    4. Haiku Deck (in lieu of Keynote) - stunningly beautiful images, text and chart preso 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 web site.
    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 30Hands, Explain Everything, Book Creator, or iMovie for further fun.
  2. Level 2 - Narrating Your WorkNote: You can "remix" anything you've created at Level 1 with the apps below. Unfortunately, these apps cost money.
    1. Explain Everything ($2.99) - Capture pictures and and video, then annotate and narrate them using this app. You can also use this to share your finished product to GoogleDrive, Dropbox, and many other places. All the products from Level 1 apps can be "remixed" to create something new in Explain Everything.
    2. Book Creator ($4.99) - Create your own ePub books with embedded video, audio, text.
    3. iMovie ($4.99) - Inexpensive movie creation tool. I prefer Pinnacle Studio, but iMovie will do for most.
  3. Level 3 - Sharing Your Creations
    1. 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.

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.

3 Steps to Enhancing Campus Communications
Step 1 - Come up with a schedule of sharing activities
Sharing a schedule with teachers and parents can be a powerful incentive for you as a principal to actually get it done. Be on guard for various "sharing opportunities" you can take advantage of. To get you started, consider these sharing opportunities:

a) Teacher or Student Highlight
In this highlight piece, snap a picture of the teacher, their classroom, or both, then put that picture into a sequence in the 30Hands app (works on your iPhone). You can do that practically standing in a corner of the classroom (practice, of course, and watch the tutorial), and then ask them to share what today's learning activity is about. If recording audio isn't possible at that time, you can come back at a later time and record audio for an individual slide. For 5 pictures of teachers, you could have 5 different audio narratives with each picture. I like to use Haiku Deck to create the title (e.g. Teacher Highlights at Your Campus) and transition slides, snap a picture of them on my iPad by holding down the Power and Home buttons simultaneously, then inserting those into the appropriate location in the sequences of images. You can also capture video walking around to teachers and asking, What are some successes you experienced this week?

b) 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. You can create a slideshow of audio narrated photos with 30Hands app or a comic strip featuring students reflections with Strip Designer.

c) 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 4 questions that will help the person you're interviewing overcome their shyness at being on camera:

a) What's your name and job title?
b) What are you doing and
c) Why are you so excited about it?
d) 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, 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.

Step 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. You can host your video creations online via YouTube, then link to them (or use the embed code) from your campus web site. If you're not sure how to get started, you'll want to connect with your district/campus' Instructional Technology team members. I would recommend you setup a blog or Google Sites wiki for yourself, then you can post your updates as announcements. Once you have your Sites developed, share with everyone and on any memos or written communications sent home. Announce the web site at parent-teacher gatherings as an easy way to share what students and staff are doing.

Step 3 - Cultivate a Culture of Sharing
Once you start sharing, it will automatically encourage students, parents and staff. You can nurture this culture of sharing by encouraging students and staff to create their own "great stories" to share with the world. Once students and staff embrace the concept that they are storytellers as well, you can begin to switch back to your role of campus administrator, manager and leader.

Conclusion
Whac-A-Mole is one of my favorite games. I suspect that if you whac-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 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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