(Photo Credit: Shutterstock)
Welcome to the inaugural post of my Administrators in the Cloud blog series. In this series I will focus on how administrators can utilize various cloud computing applications to improve their productivity, while fostering a collaborative environment within their building or across a district. Including educational technology does just apply to the classroom, but instead educational technology tools can be utilized in our main offices as well. I strongly believee effective leaders practice what they preach. Talking to teachers about the importance of paperless classrooms, utilization of educational technology, and developing student centered classrooms isn’t enough. I think the phrase I despise the most is, “this is the way we’ve always done it.” It bugs me simply because, if something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. Today’s administrators should be leading by example and should be finding ways to streamline procedures by using web based, dynamic, and scalable applications.
An Introduction to Dropbox
Dropbox in the simplest sense is nothing more than a folder on your computer. Well, I guess it’s more like a folder with magical powers, but to the average user it acts and looks just like a normal folder. What makes Dropbox magical is that the files you put in the Dropbox folder are implicitly synced to the cloud. I’ll explain more about that in a minute. After running a simple install program a folder is created for you named “Dropbox.” Inside your Dropbox folder, you can create a hierarchy of folders and fill them with documents the same way you would in a “My Documents” folder on a harddrive, on an external USB drive, or on a network share.
What makes Dropbox magical is that it implicitly syncs all your files to the cloud. This means that when you save a document, not only is the document saved physically on your computer it is also copied via the web to your secure account on the Dropbox server. It is also copied to any other computer you have installed Dropbox on. Example time! You’re at work and save a file to your Dropbox folder. You head home and head directly into your home office and turn on your home computer. Guess what… The file you made at work is waiting for you on your home PC. Let’s say it’s a letter of recommendation and your going to make some final edits at home. When you save the editted doc on the home PC, those changes are automatically copied to the Dropbox servers and back to your work PC. If you have an iPad, Andriod Tablet, or Smartphone you can install the Dropbox app and access that letter of recommendation on the subway if need be.
Ok, so I’m going to stop here. I wanted to provide you with an introductory taste. That way, I can spend time in future posts fully explaining particular features and providing you with some concrete exmaples of how Dropbox is going to make you a better administrator and maybe a better person.
New England 1:1 Summit - Student Panel
Along with roughly 300 teachers, administrators, and students, I attended the New England 1:1 Summit this past weekend. I had the honor, and I don’t use the term lightly, of presenting on “classroom workflows and the cloud” to a crowd of close to 40 educators. I hope that I was able to provide the attendees with a window into the world of digital classroom.
It was a day full of encouraging conversations, a pretty darn tasty lunch, and was even fun to boot. There was an energy in the air and everyone seemed to have a little more hop in their step. It’s Monday now and with the New England 1:1 Summit in the rear view, my focus should be on the week’s to do’s, because a DOE report looming, students requesting courses, and 1,700 elementary students looking for progress reports leaves little room for distraction this week.
Regretfully, I can’t stop thinking about last Saturday’s summit. While I already take great pride in working in the school system I attended as a youngster and working in the town I grew up in (and currently reside in), Saturday’s summit made me proud to be part of Burlington Public Schools in new ways. There were countless attendees enthralled with the student “help desk” panel. During lunch, I overheard an assistant superintendent ask if she could “take one of them home with her.” Every time I ventured to the BHS Main Lobby, there was at least three attendees getting assistance from the student hosts. Since I was on the go for a better part of the day, and even found time to leave during Session 2 to take the family to the Francis Wyman Carnival, I wasn’t able to keep up with the twitter chat on the summit’s hashtag #ne121. So, I spent a some time on Sunday going through the tweets and I have to admit that every time I came across one that mentioned the “awesome” BHS students I cracked a smile.
I had a Dr. Greg House moment this evening, which as an aside is the reason for this blog post and me finally making the decision to get into the blogging game. Better late than never, right? Anyway… While taking the dog out this evening, for some reason I was thinking about my presentation and how I could improve it. I’d restructure the timeline for more participation throughout the presentation instead of basically lecturing and saving the discussion / sharing piece for the end. I’ve always be a proponent of student centered teaching and made an effort to practice it in the classroom, but for some reason whenever I think I professional development I always envision a presenter. Don’t worry, it is something I promise to work on. So, while thinking about my presentation the success of the student panel popped into my head and it hit me. Why is it that on traditional PD days student’s have the day off from school, but educators are there to teach each other or learn from a paid presenter (aka expert)? Why haven’t we involved students in the development of our craft and the development of our course content? What if we had a full day of PD for teachers and administrators put on by students? We talk all the time about the importance of student centered learning and the need for students to own their education, why not allow them to have a hand in the preparation of their educators as well. Teachers still need to be the content experts and need to possess the social skills that go along with managing a classroom of 20+ students, but why haven’t we brought the students to the table more regarding the tools and methods we use?