Kevin Blissett: Out of the Cave

Leadership, Classroom 2.0, Curriculum, China

Leaving the Burrow

“OK, today I’m going to get out into classrooms, and nothing’s gonna 3016899799_ac4801b6fa get in my way!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve uttered those words, but no matter how good my  intentions are, the “office” part of the job seems to always call for immediate attention. In this article from Principal magazine, former principal and superintendent Kathleen J. Parkhurst offers advice on how to make the most of one’s time and find space for visiting classrooms during the school day. Among her suggestions:

  • Organize a routine.
  • Keep an orderly office.
  • Delegate.
  • Answer email in chunks 2-3 times per day.
  • Have a proper filing system.
  • Get ready for tomorrow today.

I might add: escape while you can. One thing Parkhurst does not address is how to get into the classrooms when one is a teaching principal. Classroom visits clearly become more of problem when the principal is teaching 1/3 to 1/2 of the day. In this case, I just have to clear the entire slate some afternoons or mornings to make sure I’m seeing teachers and students, and they are seeing me.

Photo by ecastro


April 17, 2009 Posted by | multitasking, organization, principal, time management | Leave a comment

The Chinese Educational Robot Factory

20090415_397679_01Is the Chinese educational system as high-stress as one might think? You’d better believe it. Wan Lixin provides a startling view of the extreme competition inherent in the system and suggests that a return–at least in part–to the moral education of the past may be the solution. From the article, here is a taste of what most Chinese students apparently endure:

The student’s nightmare began when he was a fifth grader, when his father began to keep track of his academic ranking in the class.

Ranked only within the top 10, he was frequently subjected to ridicule by parents and relatives.

“If you fail to enter a key university, you had better kill yourself, and I would not drop a single tear …” he quoted his father as threatening.

Like nearly all students of his age, he was put on a quasi-military regimen.

A college can provide a brief respite from pressure, but soon the specter of employment expectations will begin to loom.

This approach to education is not limited to China, but is evident throughout most Asian countries. I think it’s clear that the effects of such an approach to education are having and will have deleterious effects in the long run; the question is whether Asian nations believe the trade-off is worth it.

Cartoon by Zhou Tao

April 15, 2009 Posted by | teaching quality, university | Leave a comment

Oh, no! My Internet’s Down!

Kevin Purdy at Lifehacker gives some sage advice on what to do when–insert prayer of your choice here–the internet is down. Among his suggestions are:

  1. Take a look at your lengthy to-do list.
  2. Organize pc files and folders.
  3. Do some old-fashioned work.
  4. Use your mobile unit.
  5. Clean out your workspace.

As resourceful educators, it’s not hard to find things to do offline:

  • Talk with a colleague.
  • Work on lesson plans/units of inquiry.
  • Mark assignments/assessments.
  • Call some parents.
  • Read one of those things used at one time in the classroom–a book.
  • Teach!

April 15, 2009 Posted by | strategies, technology, tools | Leave a comment

Update: YouTube Still Down in China

Well, we’re currently on Day 24 of the Great Firewall blockage of YouTube. You can imagine my angst; or maybe you can’t. But I can tell you that it’s considerable.

April 14, 2009 Posted by | youtube edu | Leave a comment

Classroom Use of GoogleApps

Helen Barrett explains how GoogleApps can be a one-stop shop for creating centralized, dynamic, and effective e-portfolios. I’ve been using Blogger for my students’ blogs and had considered using other applications alongside, but Helen does a great job here showing how it can all work together. I’ll definitely plan on working more applications into my curriculum map. She has also created a group site where educators can share ideas about how one fully can use GoogleApps in the classroom.


April 13, 2009 Posted by | strategies, technology | Leave a comment

So You Think You’re Multitasking…



Generation M students–those saturated in technological media–may appear to be multitasking geniuses as they IM, SMS, listen to their iPods, and say hi to mom all at the same time, but research is indicating that focusing on several tasks simultaneously is probably reducing the results in each of the tasks and creating “antsy” minds in need of downtime.  And the issues associated with this multitasking lifestyle don’t apply solely to Gen-M’s; they are also applicable to professionals who juggle multiple tasks every day in the workplace.

A Time magazine article by Claudia Wallis speaks to this topic and reveals that true “multitasking” may be a fiction, that it instead appears to be quickly toggling on and off activities upon which we are actually focusing individually. While having many different activities going on at the same time may have some benefits, studies are showing that meaningful interactions within the family and the classroom are being deleteriously affected. Wallis cites anthropologist Elinor Ochs, director of UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families, who explains:

“We saw that when the working parent comes through the door, the other spouse and the kids are so absorbed by what they’re doing that they don’t give the arriving parent the time of day,” says Ochs. The returning parent, generally the father, was greeted only about a third of the time, usually with a perfunctory “Hi.” “About half the time the kids ignored him or didn’t stop what they were doing, multitasking and monitoring their various electronic gadgets,” she says. “We also saw how difficult it was for parents to penetrate the child’s universe. We have so many videotapes of parents actually backing away, retreating from kids who are absorbed by whatever they’re doing.”

Gen M’s multitasking habits have social and psychological implications as well. If you’re IMing four friends while watching That ’70s Show, it’s not the same as sitting on the couch with your buddies or your sisters and watching the show together. Or sharing a family meal across a table. Thousands of years of evolution created human physical communication–facial expressions, body language–that puts broadband to shame in its ability to convey meaning and create bonds. What happens, wonders UCLA’s Ochs, as we replace side-by-side and eye-to-eye human connections with quick, disembodied e-exchanges? Those are critical issues not just for social scientists but for parents and teachers trying to understand–and do right by–Generation M.

As a result of all of these activities constantly “requiring” attention, multitaskers seem to have difficulty focusing on one task deeply and following it to its conclusion; consequently, tasks which are completed are often done so superficially. This would seem to indicate that students, leaders, and project managers should focus intently on the task at hand, complete it, and then proceed to the next task versus taking  bites out of multiple assignments over time. 

Take a look at the rest of this insightful article.

Photo by Farai

April 11, 2009 Posted by | multitasking, technology, time management, university | Leave a comment

Suzhou Conference Tidbits

Wow, it’s been a few days since I’ve posted! I just got back from a meeting of EtonHouse-China principals in Suzhou. It was an action-packed, busy two days but we got covered a lot of territory–perhaps too much.

The agenda covered a whole range of school-related issues, including marketing, next year’s calendar, staffing, upgrading and use of technology, curriculum (language and MYP), new policies and procedures for managing budgets, etc. As I said, we covered a lot of ground.

The sessions were led by our executive principal, Paul Lieblich, who did a good job with pacing and keeping discussions from getting stuck. There was plenty of great input from all my fellow EtonHouse principals.

I guess the most valuable thing I took away from the conference was a new way to look at 2nd language assessment and how certain ways of evaluating student progress are not really so indicative of actual learning. We’re moving more in the direction of performance outcomes and assessing students strictly according to that kind of scale rather than simply giving a student an “A” because he did well on all his written and oral tests. The main focus is on communicative competency, and I am certainly in favor of that approach.

Although we principals spoke frankly of frustrations we’re having, I think that most of us left with an upbeat feeling about the leadership that Dr. Lieblich is providing. The question is whether EtonHouse corporate management will allow him and us to move things forward as we wish to.

April 10, 2009 Posted by | principal, professional development | Leave a comment

Finding a Social Media Crack in the Great Wall

This article from TechCrunch details the difficulties that top social media sites are having trying to break into the massive Chinese market.

April 6, 2009 Posted by | social media, technology | Leave a comment

Assess Yo’self

rhan1079l3Interesting self-assessment here which attempts to identify how good we are at specific problem solving in the workplace. Produced by VitalSmarts.

April 6, 2009 Posted by | professional development, skills, tools | Leave a comment

CV Is the Tip of the Iceberg

Do you rely on resumes or cv’s to vet candidates as part of your hiring practices?  Bert of Open Loops doesn’t; and he’s got good reasons for not doing so. Great advice for supervisors and HR departments.

As someone who interviews, checks references and makes hiring recommendations, I seriously have begun to ask myself why people bother to send resumes.  Years ago, before the Internet, advanced HR departments and a surplus of workers (You have seen the recent unemployment figures, right?), resumes may have been the best way to determine if an applicant is right for the job, but no more.  Further, any  manager, recruiter, or supervisor who uses a resume for anything more than a pre-screener should have his or her credentials questioned as well, for doing so increases the chance that the wrong applicant will be hired and opens the organization up to lawsuits.

Read more.

April 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment