Working as a member of a senior leadership team brings a number of interesting prospects. I’ve certainly had an interesting year so far with a number of challenges that have come my way. What is has done for me however is give me a fresh perspective in how technology can support a senior leader and the rest of their leadership group.
The Daddy of all of these really has to be OmniFocus. The Omni group who make OmniFocus are currently working through updates to the family. I have currently got OmniFocus for iPhone, iPad and Mac and am waiting to get the new version for my iPhone and my Mac. The iPad version 2 is in development at the moment.
What you get with OmniFocus is a singularly brilliant application for managing all of your projects and subsequent tasks. It has oodles of features such as being location aware so when you plumb in your jobs, it reminds you when you reach destinations of jobs you should be doing – in short, it can help to make you an efficient work power-house. Some people say that writing down all of the tasks you have to do is time you could be spending actually doing them. This is true, but when you are a member of SLT, you have to be whiter than white (in my opinion). Missing deadlines should be a no no. How can you expect colleagues to hit deadlines or do what they are supposed to do if you’re not doing it yourself. I’m a firm believer in walking the walk as well as talking the talk. I know I don’t succeed at it all the time, but OmniFocus means that I do get it right most of the time. It’s price tag can be quite off-putting but I have found it to be the App for me that keeps me on the straight and narrow. It simply makes sense. Thank you to @james_bowkett who originally recommended it to me many moons ago.
As a multi-device professional, iPhone, iPad and MacBook (I use a Dell laptop too as well as a Sony Vaio) OmniFocus has me covered. Syncing my data via the OmniServer, all of my job data is live on every device, so wherever I am using whatever I need to use, I’m good to go.
For those of you who do think it’s too pricey, there are a few other Apps that can help you with your management of tasks and these come from recommendations from other colleagues and friends.
Wunderlist (free & multi-device)
Whatever you choose to use has to work for you. Since I was recommended OmniFocus, that’s what I’ve used but from these other three options, only ‘Things’ (from what I can surmount from conversation with others on Twitter and beyond) comes close to OmniFocus for usability and features.
For me I’m not too much of a fan of the calendar app on my phone and so for this aspect I use FantastiCal on my Mac and Fantastical 2 for iPad & iPhone. It features a natural language interface and so rather than have to fill in lots of different boxes, I can just type, ‘meet Mark for a meeting at 1pm on the 16th for an hour in SR1’ and it will fill in all the right boxes for me. This will sync across my different devices too updating within other calendar apps you may have, for example, I have Outlook on my school laptop so it will appear in there as well as everywhere else. Nice (I think).
Scrutiny & sharing
There’s no getting away from it. In our profession there is a requirement, both of students and staff, for accountability checking to take place. Are students completing their work to the right standard? Are books being assessed formatively? What does good practice look like? I need to record my learning walk data how can I do this? Here, technology can prove to help too and it’s never been easier to share your findings either.
As a school that has Google Apps for Education, having shared folders with cloud access means that there has never been as good a time for sharing and connectivity between students and staff and staff and teams.
One important job is the checking and scrutiny of books, marking and feedback that goes on in lessons as part of the learning process. Scanner Pro by Readdle is a great tool to help with this. In the App you can photograph numerous bits of evidence in sequence (rather than taking individual photos that go to the Camera Roll) which can then be automatically converted to PDF. You can then name it and save it. When this is done (if you have set it up this way) the App will then sync directly with Google Drive for you. All you have to do then is copy the PDF from the Scanner Pro folder to your shared (with other colleagues) book scrutiny (or whatever) folder for all to look at. These could be folders shared at a department level, at a whole school level, leadership level, or however you want. It’s easy. Scanner Pro is not free (albeit I got my copy on a day I noticed it free on ‘Apps Gone Free’). It is usually £4.99.
PDF annotation, note taking and record keeping
Do not get me wrong, iAnnotate PDF is brilliant. As a strict PDF annotation tool it is, for me, the cat’s whiskers. As a very busy professional on the go however, I need something that is more adaptable and can deal with more requirements than the brilliant iAnnotate can give me. That’s why Notability is such a superb tool. Used as the default note taking App by many, it is simply loaded with features that make it perfect for lots of different purposes. You can too, set it up, to sync with Google Drive for sharing documents with others, that you have made. So now, notes can be taken in meetings for minutes. Shared directly to Google Drive and then copied across to the shared folder for the whole team. Photographs of evidence in lesson can also be taken and stacked together in Notability and annotated there too. PDFs from emails that have been sent to you can be opened, read, annotated and then saved back (automatically) to your Google Drive folder ready for immediate sharing. You can even record voice notes on it too. An example of how that can come in useful. I was doing a lesson observation on an ITT student. He wanted to hone his questioning technique so I had the PDF of the lesson observation record template in Notability, I was using that to complete / annotate it and whilst doing that, recorded the questioning / exposition part of his lesson for him to listen back to. At the end of the lesson I simply copied the completed observation sheet and associated MP3 file over to our shared folder for him to read & listen to. Notability is great. And considering it’s £2.99 it’s a tool in my toolkit I would not be without.
I’m sure you’ll have some great workflows to share too and would love to hear them. Please engage in the comments and let me know. Thanks!
Thank you John!
This is a great list. Could I suggest adding VEO – video enhanced observations, developed by Newcastle University. Superb tool for school leaders to use during lesson observations.