Writing can be an invaluable tool in the role of a school administrator. From jotting quick notes while observations while walking the halls or in and out of classrooms to writing ideas inspired from a meeting or conversation – administrators write. They write daily and some argue hourly if the administrator is visible and interacting with staff, students, and parents during the school day. For some administrators, the school day never ends and continued communication with members of the community is ongoing. These interactions and notes can serve as data for improving time and organization. Administrator knowledge and perceptions can provide important insight into organizational functioning. (Bednar & Westphas, 2006; Norburn & Birley, 1988) Capturing these daily interludes accuracy and for retrieval in order to sort, categorize, and analyze can be a tool for administrators.
Administrators, which include principals, central office staff, directors, coordinators, and superintendents, will focus and refers to principals and assistants. These administrators compile and scribble down to-do lists, reminders, upcoming dates, meeting notes, student names, teacher requests, parent numbers, networking opportunity, potential changes, fresh ideas, inspirations, external exchanges, important dates and various other tidbits throughout the workday that often take on some form of a log – captured in various methods. Keeping track of these notes as well as organizing this type of data collection is not an easy task and often turns into a nightmare for some administrators. Some administrators keep a small notepad in a pocket and others use memorization until the interaction can be captured in writing later. There are a multitude of methods of maintaining administrator walk-around data.
Equally important to maintaining a method of capturing the daily interludes is the idea of sorting and categorizing how time is spent during the day or week. One study suggests that principals spend 12-25% of daily time on general administrative tasks, 30%-46% working with students, 26%-36% working with professional staff, and 6% coordinating curriculum and instruction. (Kmetz and Willower, 1981) Another study by Camburn et. al (2010) found that principals spent the greatest amount of time on a leadership domain referred to as organizational maintenance which includes personnel issues, general management tasks, and managing the school building which accounts for more than 36%-38% of an administrator’s time. Peterson (1977) found that principals spent more time on general administration and professional staff. Pupil control also requires about 23% of walk around time and refers to student discipline, monitoring, and all types of student interactions. All studies suggest that instructional and curriculum planning results in less than 6% of an administrator’s time.
Maintaining physical logs can provide accurate data that memory would be unable to retrieve. Research suggests that when people try to report past behaviors across long recall periods the responses are often lack precise recall of specific tasks or events with more generalities. Another challenge is the difficulties for administrators to be able to accuracy reflect upon events or conversations when time elapses. (Menon, 1994; Tourangeau, Rips, & Rasinksi, 2000) These daily logs are also a viable method of measuring important aspects of principal practice. (Camburn, Spillane, & Sebastian, 2010) An administrator can review a log in order to assess where time is spent each day of the week and begin to look for patterns. These patterns can be resourceful to an administrator trying to be more effective in time or task management. Data can provide evidence of necessary exchange and how to eliminate or realign less important messages into daily tweets, electronic bulletins or other methods of delivery. Researchers have attempted to use different strategies to measure leadership and management practices and most commonly used by administrators is a daily log. (Camburn, Spillane, & Sebastian, 2010)
So, in today’s age of technology, what are solutions that can turn this task into a simple, successful, and replicable experience? What is a method of having a snapshot into the daily life of a school administrator and being able to use this data for dissecting for efficiency and effectiveness? Administrators can self-mentor™ by setting expectations and determining a method to organize and store large amounts of daily communications and interactions if these data are available either through a log or some other devise that captures the daily interactions. (Carr, 2011; 2012; Duke, Carr, & Sterrett, 2013) Through analyzing these data, administrators can improve communication and organizational skills.
Administrators have fought for years to find one tool that will do it all. A snapshot over the past decade saw the arrival of personal digital assistants (PDA) that these organizational features were later incorporated into smart phones designed to replace PDA’s and administrators had just one tool to carry around. However, while most phones will collect data, many administrators, still digital immigrants, cannot let go of writing with a tangible object and on a tangible surface such as paper.
One solution for any administrator is the introduction of the SmartPen to the market of technology. The Smartpen is an innovation in that it is a compact pen that records everything you hear, say and write, and links your audio recordings to your notes, so you can recover approximately 800 hours of audio, thousands of pages of notes, scribbles, writings, or various other communications with just a tap of the pen as well as share this data with 500MB or more of free storage for transferring this data. This product comes in various memory sizes and conveniences for administrators.
The Smartpens are designed to capture writing (and even speaking) electronically- sort of like a voice recorder and “SmartPad” built into a pen-sized device. Smartpens look like a typical pen that can be carried in the same manner you would any other writing devise other than the pens perform the work of several other devises. SmartPens can be used to write down notes or jot ideas as you are on the go but the key is that later, all the administrator needs to do is upload the pen in a one click process and the data written by the author is now transferred to the computer for instant retrieval. SmartPens also have software that permits the author to transfer long hand writing to text if desired. In most cases, just the quick retrieval of the notes will satisfy the need of most administrators. They can then sort and categorize the notes. Administrators may pull valuable dates, names, or store notes, and that can be used to record or transfer data for retrieval or coding when needed. The process is simple but provides great avenues for administrators who are constantly on the go.
By carrying this tool with them, administrators will be able to more readily, and instantly, capture their reflective thoughts. Administrators can upload, save and play back notes and audio from the PC or Mac. Type in specific words or phrases in the search window, and the Smartpen will highlight every place they inscribed a certain phrase. In addition, administrators can organize digital notes simply by dragging and dropping pages in to custom notebooks. Administrators can share notes or recordings publically or privately as a PDF, audio file, or a pencast. A pencast is an interactive flash movie of your handwritten notes and audio. Administrators can publish pencasts online, share them privately via email, or post them directly on online classroom discussion boards, or even social websites, such as Facebook. The Smartpen can be customized with downloadable applications such as translators, time savers, dictionaries, or a variety of helpful tools.
There are a variety of names and brands, each with different functions and storage capacity. Administrators need to align the choices with individual needs to make a wise purchase. Principals should seek the tool that serves to capture an accurate account of daily encounters while providing a means to sort, categorize, and analyze data in order to plan for more effective and efficient means of leading. Administrators that use data will have a more realistic view of each day from data. Administrators that use data to alter daily behaviors can become stronger communicators and excel in organizational management of time. Becoming a more effective administrator serves to provide a better environment for students and staff as well as the community.
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