How To Use Your iPad Without Being Antisocial

Use Your iPad (but don’t be antisocial)

Do I want to be a productive weirdo, or actually pay attention to the people around me?

It’s not a fun dilemma, yet it’s probably one you face.

If you’re among the majority of school leaders who have iPads, you probably hoped the device would make a difference in your productivity throughout the day.

More often than not, though, you probably find yourself leaving your iPad in the office, under your arm, or even at home, because it’s just a little too awkward to use the iPad in the intensely interpersonal work of school leadership. It gets in the way during

  • Passing conversations in the hallway
  • Postconferences with teachers
  • Check-ins with the secretary
  • Meetings with concerned parents

In all of these settings, it may be that the iPad is better than a laptop or desktop computer. You can get work done (or at least write down tasks and notes) even if you aren’t at your desk, so you don’t have to rely on paper, trek back to the office, or—worst of all—try to remember later.

A leader’s work happens everywhere, and if the iPad supports that, terrific.

Yet it’s clunky to type with one hand or your thumbs while walking around, and it’s socially awkward to do so while talking to other people.

So too often, we fail to take advantage of our tools.

The Key

Here’s the key: Use your iPad after the conversation, when everything is still in your short-term memory.

Take a second to update your notes, record a to-do, schedule something on your calendar—whatever needs to be done—after the other person has walked away.

To speed this up, use one or both of these built-in features:

  • Text-expansion shortcuts, under Settings » General » Keyboard » Shortcuts, so you can type just a few letters (like “fuw”) and have that expanded into a longer phrase (“follow up with”)
  • Siri dictation, using the mic key next to the keyboard, if you’re on an iPad 3 or newer

There you have it—the work gets done, the social interaction isn’t harmed, and your iPad gets put to good use.

What tips do you have for using your iPad in ways that are effective, but less socially awkward?

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Why Behavior Trumps Attitude

Why good behavior trumps a bad attitude

We’ve always known the importance of “getting the right people on the bus,” to borrow a phrase from Jim Collins.

As leaders, we each have in mind a picture of the “right” kind of person for our school—the right attitude, the right work ethic, the right interest in collaborating, the right coachable mindset, the right beliefs about kids.

Having such a clear portrait of the ideal educator is useful for hiring and coaching, but an “attitude profile” doesn’t do much good for our existing staff.

We all have people who—let’s be honest—we wouldn’t have let on the bus if we had a choice. They were on the bus before us, and may well be on the bus long after we’re gone, but their attitude and general approach to their work just aren’t the way we’d like them to be.

Let’s be clear: I’m not talking about people who are horrible, incompetent, or otherwise unfit to work with students (that’s a topic for another day). I’m talking about people who do a good job, but just don’t fit our image of the kind of people we’d like to work with.

It’s frustrating.

Have you ever tried to improve someone else’s attitude? Have you ever wanted to help someone want to approach their work differently? Ask this guy how well it works:

Pieces of Flair

Trying to improve someone’s attitude—wanting them to want to be the kind of person who doesn’t just wear the minimum number of pieces of flair—is a thankless task. It’s very difficult, and maybe even impossible, to hold someone accountable for their attitude.

Fortunately, though, we have another option.

Behavior Makes Culture

If we focus on behavior instead of attitude, we’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that, as leaders, we actually can influence people’s behavior.

If I have a cranky staff member who’s always complaining in staff meetings, I may not be able to change her attitude…but I can ask that she put any concerns on the agenda rather than derail the meeting to gripe.

And I may not be able to make her less negative…but we can establish a norm that if you raise a concern, you also suggest a solution.

Behavior is the point at which we bend our individual differences to the collective mission.

I may not want to have team meetings after school if I’m a morning person, but if that’s what we do here, that’s what I’ll do.

More than anything else, behavior is where school culture is manifested and defined. If you want to know what kind of culture a school has, don’t look at individuals’ attitudes (which may change from day to day). Look at what people actually do.

And if you want to improve the culture in your school, don’t ask for people to change their attitudes or beliefs. Ask them to change their behavior.

Create a clear, powerful vision for how you do things in your school, and ask people to get on board by acting in accordance with that vision.

A Helpful Side Effect

Now, here’s the “but wait…there’s more!” bonus to focusing on behavior.

When people’s behavior changes, their attitudes follow.

When people’s behavior changes, their beliefs follow.

When people’s behavior changes, their professional identity adjusts.

Why? Because we believe what we do far more powerfully than we do what we believe. It’s a matter of good old-fashioned cognitive dissonance.

If I don’t believe all of my 2nd graders can learn to be proficient writers, yet I’m doing what I learned in our professional development and following our kick-butt writing curriculum, and my students are being fantastically successful…

That’s some serious cognitive dissonance, and the easiest way to resolve it is to change my beliefs. I probably won’t even tell anyone that my beliefs have changed, because I’m probably embarrassed that I ever believed my students couldn’t write.

When we experience cognitive dissonance because our behavior has broadcasted what we’re really about, it’s easier to adjust our attitude, beliefs, and feelings to match.

If you want to improve your school’s culture, look for ways to shape people’s behavior.

How do you strive to influence staff behavior? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Go and See: Classroom Walkthroughs as Genchi Genbutsu

As leaders, we need to spend our time where the work is done. We need to understand that work deeply, so we can provide the kind of leadership the organization needs. As instructional leaders, that means we need to be in classrooms. At Toyota, this concept is called Genchi Genbutsu, which conveys the idea of […]

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Is A Paperless Office Possible?

The dream of having a paperless office has been around for decades, yet it seems that as each year passes, we end up with more paper, not less. Case in point: when my district went to an all-online job application system, instead of getting 250 hardcopy pages in the mail, I’d have to print 500 […]

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Real Firefighting: Leadership as Creative and Reactive Work

I love being part of the profession of school administration, but the word “administrator” is a little too paper-pusher-ey for my tastes. That’s why, like many people, I prefer the term “school leader.” Leadership is inherently creative work. We’re not just pushing the buttons that someone else in our bureaucracy told us to push. We’re […]

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Should You Turn This Year’s Regrets Into Next Year’s Agenda?

One of the most critical starting points for high-performance instructional leadership is having a focused leadership agenda. If you don’t have a well-defined sense of what you’re focused on, everything that you’re not focused on will gradually creep in. The principalship—and the work of schools in general—is subject to the Ratchet Effect: once the “ratchet” […]

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How (Not) To Differentiate Your Leadership with Staff

As leaders, we achieve most of our results indirectly. I don’t teach reading or math or art; I ensure that reading and math and art are taught well. We work through relationships and systems to turn our daily work into results for students. But that impact isn’t distributed evenly. Teachers are not mere conduits for […]

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The $10 Experiment for Giving Something Up

Scope creep. “Other duties as assigned.” Coverage. Little tasks and duties get added to our calendars, and over time, this can take up quite a bit of a principal’s week. We’re all team players and don’t want to ask our staff to do anything we wouldn’t do ourselves…but sometimes we end up spending our time […]

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80/20 Hacking: The Power of Process

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Likely Success

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4 Smart Ways to Hire Well When Hiring Late

You may have started your hiring process months ago, even in January or February. You may have filled all the vacant positions. But then the “Can we talk?” meetings start. “I’ve decided that it’s time to retire.” “My family is moving to another state.” “I decided to take another position.” And you have an unexpected […]

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Where There’s a Will There’s a Way

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5 Ways to Ship Great Work

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Shipping Great Work

The late Steve Jobs and the companies he founded are known for inventing countless great technologies. Great ideas are important, but they’re not the final determinant of achievement. Most inventors are remembered as tinkerers, not history-makers. Jobs knew the difference, which he summed up like this: All the creative genius in the world isn’t worth […]

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What’s In A Name?

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