Sunday, March 3, 2013

Lightening-Fast Teacher Feedback. The Digital Principal, Part 1 (#vted #edchat #cpchat)

In November, I gave a presentation (the presentation resources are to be found here) to a packed room row at Vermont Fest, the fall conference of Vita-Learn (Vermont Information Technology Association for the Advancement of Learning - VITA-Learn). I was given the Friday afternoon slot only after the original presenter backed out. The small, dedicated demented mildly interested crowd was obviously drawn in by my work-of-art presentation description.

D. "The Digital Principal"
Want to know how you can REALLY use that iPad you got to make being a principal a tiny bit easier? Looking for other ways to be a Digital Principal? Bring your pad and your questions. We will talk about using your iPad for lightning-fast teacher feedback, wicked cool evidence gathering, and near-total brain replacement. As a bonus, we will cover "Twitter and Blogs: The Principal's Free CAGS."
Regardless of the low turnout, I know deep in my heart that much of the world is, in fact, interested in what I had to say that fateful November afternoon. So, here is part one of my three part summary.

The first part of the presentation was subtitled, "Lightning-fast Teacher Feedback," and described my system for giving, well, lighting fast teacher feedback. The first slide from that section sets the stage.

We all know, as instructional leaders, that giving meaningful feedback to teachers is both one of the most important tasks and one of the hardest to get to regularly. I have gotten better at actually being in classrooms on a frequent basis (still not enough, though). My problem is that I struggle to turn those visits into meaningful conversation about learning (This short pdf article from Kim Marshall summarizes this well). Even in a small school, there are millions of competing tugs on my time. So, while I do not meet Marshall's ideals, I have come up with a system that goes at least part way. E-mail. A decent runner-up to face-to-face conversation.

The trick with any system for principals is to make it totally simple to use (what does that say about us?). Over the last several years, I have been working and tweaking a system so that it finally does just what I want it to do.

I created a google form that I can fill out in the room, the hall, or my office from nearly any device out there. I agave settled on a very simple form that uses these three prompts: "I noticed," "The students were," and "A question to consider." The idea here is not data gathering, it is conversation prompting. Then, when I hit submit, the form puts my completed sentences together into a full email to the teacher. Literally, I can email within seconds of leaving the room. The feedback is instantaneous, dare I say, lighting-fast.

The piece that finally made this work after trying for so many years was the script that I came across a few months ago. There is a great tutorial video from that shows how to find and install the scripts a form you've already created.

My experience so far has been pretty good with this system. Seem teachers reply to every email, some rarely do. Some emails have led to great conversations, others, not so much. My unscientific survey suggests that the feedback emails that have generated the most conversation about teaching and learning have been those with the best questions to consider. In other words, when I give quality feedback, most teachers want to talk about it. hhmmm.

That's it for lightening-fast teacher feedback. Please leave some regular-speed blogging principal feedback in the comments section. Thanks.