WordPress just informed me that my “Re-tooling post” was my 100th!  I probably broke the record for taking the longest to get to 100 posts!

I am not one that is big on anniversaries and such, so I don’t think the balloons will drop for this one either.

If you have stopped by or read some of my posts, I thank you.  Feel free to look through the blog for any you may have missed.  For the two people who read this blog (three including me) thanks for stopping by and I hope you will continue to!

A Quick and Good Read

I recently completed reading “How Full Is Your Bucket” by Rath and Clifton.  All admins. in our division received this book from our Director at the June meeting.   I like getting these types of gifts as I am always looking for new books that will help me develop as an educator.

The book provides some good reminders for all of us when working with staff and creating a positive work culture and environment.  The short workbook (contained within) is a good exercise for all admins. so the key traits may be actualized in your building.

I found the book correlated well with Carnegie’s classic book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People.”  If you have read neither, I recommend you do.

Let me know your thoughts on either book.

Livebinder for TnT 2011

Below is the Livebinder I am using for my presentation today.  As this is a “living document” it is open for people to add tabs and subtabs.

Is The Money Worth It?

Recently, I read and article in Education Canada by Ron Canuel.  He reviews the issue of increased student learning and technology cost.

I have read more than a few articles on this issue and a few blogs as well.  Many schools are striving to become 1:1 schools where every student has a laptop or iPad.  Obviously, there is a cost to this type of programming and many educators and reformers think the money should go elsewhere.  Many literacy advocates have felt that this money was not available for libraries, but is suddenly available for technology.

Even the  people who value technology, believe money is not spent wisely.  The issue I read most about is, “should schools be using interactive whiteboards to the extent they are or be using the money to become a 1:1 school.”  Bill Ferriter has written a lot about this on his Tempered Radical Blog.

Mr. Canuel cites a study published by the Journal of Technology, Learning and assessment (JTLA).  Basically, it stated that technology used in a traditional manner will use traditional results.  Larry Cuban also noted this and has stated the use of technology was oversold and underutilized.

Canuel found the JTLA article also noted something very important.   Many researchers who are against tech. spending are focusing on the trees rather than the forest.  Their meta-analysis research found that “the creation of new-paradigm schools that are self-organizing…are creating a dynamic in the classroom where students become increasingly engaged in their learning.  The participation of students in the design of teaching strategies  and assessments does generate an increase student achievement.”

Simply stated, if we do not have specific purposes for technology use and integration, increases in learning will be minimal.  However, if specific learning targets are set, with proper planned use for tech., engagement of students in learning should increase.  If students are engaged in their learning, the results will show.  It does not matter if it’s a whiteboard, iPad or a laptop.  If the tool is not used properly, learning is minimal.  Is video used effectively in most classrooms, or the old filmstrips?

I believe technology (and its many platforms) can increase student learning, but like anything, it needs to be used properly and teachers need the PD to be able to do this.  I believe the creation of networks, PLN’s and administrator support can help teachers use technology to engage students and thus increase student learning.

Your thoughts?

Key questions:

How should schools and divisions purchase technology? Are we following best practice and research?

Are we influenced too much by tech. companies and just buy without specific plans in place. Does the planning take to long and then the infrastructure and tech. skills lag behind?

How should we use technology to effectively engage students?

Your Input Is Welcome

I will be leading a presentation at the TnT Conference in Bismarck, ND on June 7th. My focus will be how school admins. can participate, lead and build culture in their schools using technology.

Since I only have 60 minutes, I will focus on a few tools admins. can use on a regular basis. My choices include Twitter, Google Reader/docs, YouTube, TED, and Voicethread. Most importantly, I believe we must discuss the reasons for using these tools:

> to increase student engagement.
> to promote collaboration.
> to enable teachers and students to connect and share knowledge from around the world .
>to enable people – especially in professional development and creating PLN’s.

Above all I look forward to the knowledge I will gain from the session participants and the conference in general.

If you have a cool tool or something you want to share regarding tech. and leadership, just leave a comment or email me – bircherd@gmail.com. Twitter/Skype: @bircherd

Dynamic Individuals Required

Since the hiring season is ongoing, I figured I should help aspiring and new school administrators in some way.  After all, connecting and collaborating is so important in education today. 😛

Ever since I became a school administrator, I am continually amazed at how versatile one must be to occupy this position.  The notion that a principal is “that guy” who only sits in the office, is untrue and rather shallow.

Over the last eleven years I have required knowledge and skills in several different aspects of education.  Some (but not all) of these were not taught in my university classes or pre-teaching work.  In fact, on many occasions, people probably thought I should already know this stuff.

My helpful, (but not conclusive) list for the “newbie admins”. (Inhale…)

1. Know everything about teacher supervision even if you have never supervised before.

2. Know how to help each teacher in every subject area in your school.  (Be careful here because those senior math and science teachers can be crafty)

3. Make sure that school budget is in line or else…yes, those finance people get edgy.

4. Be THE instructional leader in your school.  Being a PE major was your past life, get over it.

5. Become a facility manager/custodian.  Hey-if the heat is not working or a toilet won’t shut off you will hear about it, especially if the custodian is not there.  Yes, you may need to grab a mop on a semi-regular basis.

6. …vomit clean-up in the grade 1 room! (actually, I avoid this one!)

7.  (insert kid name here) just had a major accident and is in the washroom waiting for you! The smell hits you when you are still 50 paces away.  Being a male near the elementary wing has its drawbacks.

8.  If student’s cook something…anything, you are expected to eat it.  They are so proud of their “dish.”

9.  Know more than the basics of first aid and how to deal with each injury.  Being able to fix on the spot is a big asset.

10.  Catering/wedding planner knowledge is vital as you will prepare and set-up many meetings.  You may not need to cook, but the following is crucial:

  • tables and chairs must be set up properly. Those division office people get worked up about this.
  • The treats/snacks are VERY IMPORTANT.  This will make or break you.  Dry cookies and weak coffee/juice are a major faux-pas.  Don’t get groundskeeper Willy to make the juice.
  • Sound system should be good.  If it messes up, you need to fix it.  Same goes for the media projector.

11.  Pest control officer.  Yes, you may be asked to deal with mice, stray dogs, a gopher in the shop.  Hey, I live on the prairies.

12. Be able to give the right consequence for any disciplinary action.

13.  Be a good listener.

14.  Constantly communicate, check and re-check.  You’ll be glad you did.

15.   …

There are more skills, but the list is long enough already.  Feel free to share yours.

I have to make juice!

My 10 Picture Tour

I have been procrastinating putting this together, but found a few minutes to do this post.  Below is my 10 picture tour of Montmartre School in Montmartre, Saskatchewan Canada.  My thanks to Cale and Brian for the idea and passing it along.  Cale’s original post is here.

A view from the street.  The melt is on!

The bench in the front lobby.  All students and staff made tiles for this bench, with the help of an artist.

A friend of mine did the sign above the bench in the lobby.

Our Playground Leaders program banner.

Some elementary artwork displayed.

The new daycare in our building.

Awards from MANY years.  I’ve thought about cleaning some out, but I still catch people looking at these for names.

Practical and Applied Arts Lab

The multi-purpose room.  Band, dance, etc. are taught here.

Our purpose.

Thanks Is Great

As we head into April we begin the last term of the school year and recently concluded our last set of P/T Conferences.

P/T Conferences can be interesting.  Since I teach, I have conferences that deal with kids in my classrooms, but I also deal with other school issues.  You get both roles being in administration.

I approached this last round of conferences much the same way I always do.  I try to encourage, help,  as well as discuss achievement.  Above all, I try to answer parent concerns the best I can.

Am I doing OK?  I think so, judging by people’s demeanor.  When I have handed out evaluation forms, the feedback is generally positive.

However, I knew this year, my work and attempts at consistency were paying off.

When I stated to parents, “I hope I helped you,” I received the following more than once.

“Yes, you did – as always.”

Keep working hard Dave!

(The last line was the pat on the back attempt but I have trouble physically doing that!  Hence, my idea of shameless self-promotion!) 😛


Relationships Are The key

Ever since I began my journey with technology, I have wondered about Twitter; who do I follow, how do I get more followers, what’s the best way to make connections?   Early on, I did not use it much as I did not get the true purpose on who or how to connect with others.  I am not sure if I have totally figured it out yet, but I am a lot farther ahead than I was before.

I do value my PLN and what they offer to my personal PD.  I feel I do not give near enough in return, but I do try.  It think this is key.

I also have made more effort to streamline what topics are important to me.  I did this specifically so I could connect with people better.  As soon as I began doing this, the number of hits to my blog and number of Twitter followers soon increased.  With this, I have been able to connect with people from all around the world and actually have been able to meet a few in person.  These relationships are wonderful as I would invite any of these folks to my house as I am sure they would me to theirs ( well I think …)?

Some folks may believe that the sheer number of Twitter followers is all that matters when creating your PLN.  This could not be farther from the truth.  One can have 1,000 or 5,000 followers or friends on Twitter and Facebook.  However, if one does not make the effort to connect and continue to share and be involved, the followers and friends are merely status symbols with no real worth.  I have just over 600 Twitter followers and I have trouble keeping connected with them all, hence this blog.  But I do believe at some point I will connect with many of these folks and learn from them.  I could have a lot more Twitter followers, but the ones I delete or block are ones do not want to develop a professional relationship with.  I will continue to grow my PLN, but it will be on my terms.

In school we teach children about friendship and relationships.  I believe social media can be used to help students learn the important concepts and skills required to develop positive relationships, not the anti-social behaviours so many people believe technology is responsible for.

I think these two videos are great examples that discuss relationships and how social media can help develop these in 21st century learning.

Seth Godin:

Dean Shareski:

GoogleDocs Can Help a Principal

Recently, I was searching for ways I could further support my staff in technology.

Earlier, this year, we made technology a common goal across our staff, where each member  could use their growth plan (PPGP) as a method for furthering their own personal development.

Although the progress has been somewhat slower than what I’d hoped, we are making progress.  I was pleased when a staff member asked that I sit down with her and review Google Reader and then do a follow-up session on Twitter.  As long as staff keep working towards their goal, I’ll help along the way.

I have found that in-school support is not enough and teachers were not scheduling their own support from others to a high degree.   I decided I needed to help more, so I turned to our division support person.  The questions I asked myself were:

1.  How can I support teachers?

2.  If someone comes to our school for support, how do we use the time wisely that it benefits teachers and thus students?

3.  How can teachers have time to focus on their session during the regular school day?


I told my staff that I wanted to continue to help them with their technology goals.  To do this, I booked our division tech. coordinator on three separate days.  I looked to see where teachers had prep. periods so they would not have to worry about class coverage, etc.

Next, I created a GoogleDoc and asked staff to contribute specific topics for their session.  This way I could gather all the session topics in one document without looking at continuous emails, sticky notes, etc.  Then I could schedule the teachers to a specific period.  Once complete, I could send the link to the document to our tech. coordinator and he could prepare for each day well in advance and not be surprised by the topics being asked for, thus maximizing the time allotted for each session.

Although my experience with GoogleDocs is still relatively new, I found it to be quite useful in coordinating these PD sessions and was actually a time saver!

Further uses for Google Docs. are already being created!

No Matter What…You’re LIVE

I often read posts and tweets asking what kind of advice you could give to new teachers.  The tips passed along are very thoughtful and helpful for those new to the profession.  Even for us who have been around for a while (am I in THAT group now?), these tips are great reminders about effective practice.

Whenever I see the above question posed, I often think of the usual elements.  Eg. effective communicator, classroom manager, personable, effective planner, etc, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, these are all very important along with many other traits.  But the BIG idea we all need to think of as teachers is the fact that day in and day out – you’re LIVE!

I first heard this phrase from a colleague, who sometime ago, started a business using this as a slogan (Paul if it’s OK I am borrowing it for a moment). However, when you think about it, it is very real for educators.

Each day, in or out of the classroom, educators are LIVE.  The number of interactions each day with students, staff, parents and community members are significant.  Each day you are expected to have your “A” game.  When you do not deliver, you usually hear about or realize it.  Reflective practitioners know this instantly.

As teachers, we need to realize that each day, we are delivering numerous mini-workshops/presentations to students.  As administrators we need to have our “A” game each day as well.  That is why few people want to become admin’s. If we (or someone else) do not make good judgments, we will definitely hear about it.  If one thinks about it, we have many common traits with professional athletes, only a televised audience is not watching at the time.  Mind you, a school with a bunch of adolescents is pretty much network television each day.

So, if I was to give professional advice to a new or seasoned teacher, I would indicate that each day you’re LIVE.   From here, we could discuss the specifics/nuances of what that means.  However, I think this is one BIG IDEA we all should remember in our day-to-day work as educators.


This is also posted on Connected Principals

Maintaining Connections


The image above is something I see quite often in our school.  Kids working in groups in the hallways, older students with younger ones.  As a school principal this tells me a couple of things instantly.  First, the teacher is not stuck in the traditional mode of  instruction; students are allowed to be out of their desk and there is some variation in day-to-day activities in the classroom.  Also, that connecting students is important so we can learn from each other.

As technology gets used more frequently, we are expanding the connections we make with students to a global level.  This is extremely exciting work and can help motivate students, while increasing the number of quality learning opportunities as well.

With this in mind, I also believe that we should not forget about the connections and learning opportunities available in our own buildings.  As pictured above, we  frequently promote  learning opportunities that bring older and younger students together.  As a K-12 school, having the gr.11 and 12 students work with grade 1’s, 2’s, etc. is a great home field advantage.  We just did this with Family Literacy Day this week.  The younger students love having the older ones working with them, and as one of my teachers stated, the younger ones literally think the older students “walk on water.”

No matter the grade configuration in a school, match the younger with the older.  Learning and leadership can both be developed.

This post can also be found on Connected Principals.