Friday, July 3, 2015

July the Fourth: Celebration of Our Commonalities and Our Differences

As this July the Fourth approaches, we hear the usual calls for “patriotism” and “love for country.” American flags fly everywhere. Fireworks blast during the afternoons. Barbeques and cook-outs with families occur throughout our neighborhoods and cities. But due to recent events in the United States, our divisions have become more apparent, and this July holiday might be more of an opportunity to celebrate our commonalities as citizens of this country, and our differences as individuals with the recognition of our sameness as human beings.

All to often, it is frequently an American practice to turn this holiday into celebrations of pride. In that celebration, are the uses of phrases like “greatest country in the world.” No doubt, this country has done some amazing and great things, and it has done some things for which no one would be proud. That’s because countries don’t exist without people, and people make mistakes. But I do not think we should seek to just celebrate of national pride or a confess our national mistakes.

Instead, it is in times like these, where the world and our country seems most divided, I think it is more important to use this July the Fourth to remember our humanity, and that we all have a place in the world. We, no matter which country in which we live, are part of humanity as well. We can celebrate that too.

As we celebrate, let us remember these words from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama:

In a sense, all human beings belong to a single family. We need to embrace the oneness of humanity and show concern for everyone— not just my family or my country or my continent. We must show concern for every being, not just the few who resemble us. Differences of religion, ideology, race, economic system, social system, and government are all secondary.

The Dalai Lama His Holiness; Hopkins Ph.D., Jeffrey (2002-02-12). How To Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life (p. 80). Atria Books. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bluetooth and Wifi Issues with MacBook Pros

Since I upgraded to OS X Yosemite, I, like many other Mac users have been issues with bluetooth and wifi interference. As updates have rolled through, my problems with using my Bluetooth Apple Magic Mouse and the wifi connections at work just haven’t been resolved. I searched the web and tried a whole list of things, but nothing worked. I narrowed the wifi connectivity issue down to an issue with using the Bluetooth Magic Mouse by simply turning off the wifi, which stopped the wifi connection dropping. While Bluetooth is turned off, I have no network and Internet connectivity issues.

After searching the forums, I discovered that the real issue causing the Bluetooth-wifi connectivity problem was FaceTime. This application when activated was causing issues with both my Magic Mouse and my wifi connection. The solution? Turn off FaceTime. It worked! While it seems like a great idea that I be able to text and answer calls on my MacBook, being able to have a solid connection to wifi and being able to use my Bluetooth mouse is much more important to me.
So, if you are like me and are having bluetooth and wifi issues, you may be able to resolve the problem by simply turning off FaceTime.

UPDATE: My fix above stopped working. Apparently, the wifi frequency and the bluetooth frequency still interfere. I gave up and purchased a regular USB wireless mouse. So for the "magic" in Apple's Magic Mouse.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

On Blogging and Where Have the Posts Been?

What many have probably noticed lately, there just hasn’t been as many posts to The 21st Century Principal blog as in years past. For some that may have been just fine. You may have tired of my blather any way. But for those wondering where I have been, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in work on my doctoral degree at Appalachian State University, and work. Doctoral work, with its reading and more reading and more writing and more writing, just gobbles what ever time one has left over from work, which for administrators, that is not a whole lot of time any way. I just haven’t had a great deal of time. Now, the real work begins on this doctorate; I have finished classes and have begun work on the qualifying exam and dissertation.
Still, I have found the lack of time only part of the reason I’ve just not had much to say here. The truth is, my writing energy has been consumed as well with all the massive and demanding writing I have had to do the past two years in my classes. By the time I was able to write a paper, I just couldn’t find the energy to post on the blog.
In spite of this, The 21st Century Principal blog is still alive, just not as prolific as I would like it to be. I plan to continue writing about technology, teaching, leadership and public education policies that matter to me the most.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Office Lens: New Smartphone Scanner App That Works with MS Word and PowerPoint

Office Lens is a new scanner app for your iOS device or Android device that turns your smartphone into a pocket scanner. You can turn your pictures of notes on a whiteboard or handwritten notes on a piece of paper into notes that can be edited in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. You can also export into PDF or JPEG formats as well. This is an app that has excellent potential for students.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

NC Governor McCrory Dismisses & Ignores Most Teachers as Special Interests

According to a WRAL news story today, "NC Still Lags in Teacher Pay, Student Spending," the National Education Association released a report that ranks NC teacher pay 42nd nationally. 

As would be expected, North Carolina governor McCrory's education adviser, Eric Guckian, immediately dismissed the report. Whatever happened to the idea of arguing perhaps that the content of the report is incorrect and present the correct facts. Instead, our North Carolina's governor office labels the report as irrelevant.

In rather telling and interesting statement made by Eric Guckian, McCrory's "Education Adviser" the Governor reveals how he "really" feels about teachers.

"Governor McCrory is leading change that makes targeted investments in education spending that has students, not special interests, at the center of the equation."

Is he labeling every teacher in the state of North Carolina a "special interest" as if their needs somehow don't matter? Sure looks like it.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Why the Continued Obsession with High Stakes Accountability and Testing?

"The test obsession is making public schools, where nine out of ten American children are enrolled, into unhappy places." Anya Kamenetz, The Test: Why Our Schools Are Obsessed with Standardized Testing---But You Don't Have to Be
At the center, high stakes accountability and standardized testing policies are an attempt to justify public education. Politicians need quantification for the expenditure of tax dollars for education, no matter what the quality of the accountability system providing them with that justification. Various groups of people are happy with the massive increase in standardized test administration in spite of the fact that such testing has indeed began to suck the life out of our public schools.

Politicians want these accountability systems for a variety of reasons. Some are fine with public schools being unpleasant places because they do not want them to exist in the first place. They want evidence that public schools are performing poorly, and testing gives them the evidence. Other politicians blindly see these tests as the "objective" tools of salvation for public education. They have the faith that "objectivity" is possible, and that tests can fairly measure all that is worthwhile in schools. They are true believers in standardized testing.

Then there's the federal and state level policy makers who want all this standardized testing too. They see them as vital "measures" that tell them how schools, principals, teachers, and students are doing. Test scores give them purpose. "Let's get those test scores up!" becomes their focus, without which the existence of their job is questionable. They find the justification in what they're doing rooted in standardized testing.

Finally, there are administrators, from the national to the school level, who want these massive testing systems too. It gives them an "easy and simple" way to measure how their teachers are doing their jobs and how students are performing. No judgments are required: if a school, teacher, or student doesn't get the score, "dump'em." That makes leadership all tidy and neat, because there's no need for thinking, and there's no need for courage either. Test scores are used by school leaders as evidence of their own leadership as well; when scores go up, they feel validated. If scores drop, they can blame the teachers under their charge, the students, or lack of support from elsewhere. In addition, focusing on test scores is an excuse by many to ignore advocating for social justice and true actions taken to deal with poverty.

It's simply true, a lot of educators and politicians need test scores, otherwise, they don't have justification for their existence or evidence of their success. If there's nothing to count, then they can't show anyone "numbers" which, in their eyes, is the only convincing evidence of success in this thinking. But what if there are other ways to show success?

Maybe, it's time to rethink the high stakes accountability and testing paradigm. Maybe, if accountability is ultimate goal, there is a way to get that without this continued chasing of shadows. Perhaps, it we really put our heads together we could find a way to really improve schools and know it, rather than this multi-decade search for the measure and punish tactic that will work.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Listening with Real Compassion: A True Leadership Trait

"Having the space to listen with compassion is essential to being a true friend, a true colleague, a true parent, a true partner." Thich Nhat Hanh, from Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise
How many of you find that you don’t listen well in your role as leaders? I find that out every single day of my life. In the job of being a school leader, my mind races through the day. Even when I am sitting still, my mind is elsewhere. It’s chasing those classroom observations I have yet to do. It is preoccupied with a specific issue involving a teacher, parent, and student. It is racing about so much, there are times I just don’t listen to what anyone else has to say. It’s not that I am stubborn; its that my mind is tuned in to what Thich Nhat Hanh calls  Radio Station NST, and the NST stands for “Non-Stop-Thinking."

How effective as compassionate leaders can we really be with our minds so distracted? I suspect not very much. So, what’s the answer? I think Hanh offers a pretty solid answer: we have to begin with ourselves.

“If we want to help others, we need to have peace inside,” Hanh writes and teaches. We have to focus on creating this peace within ourselves or else, we’re wasting everybody’s time, including our own.

We need to take time today and listen inwardly. Have compassion on yourself first and listen; then you can have genuine compassion for others.