Tricking administrators into using technology

5 May 2007

HirePodder screenshot

I’m a pretty sneaky guy, and I believe in the power of leaders leading with technology. So when our Director of H.R. asked me if I had any ideas about how we could streamline the process of recording applicant interviews, I thought it was a great opportunity to get the rest of the administrators podcasting.

So we bought a bunch of 30GB iPods with Griffin iTalk microphones for the principals and district administrators. We use a very structured interview process which ensures that the administrators can trust one another’s evaluations. That means that one elementary principal can interview a candidate and put that person’s interview recording into a pool that all the other elementary schools can draw from. The whole process goes like this:

  1. Record (it’s a one-click operation with the iTalk)
  2. Connect the iPod to the computer and transfer the WAV file
  3. Compress the interview to MP3 format
  4. Upload the file to a special area of one of our servers
  5. Subscribe to a podcast feed that delivers all of the interviews for a given licensure area

No more sending cassette tapes around the district. Everything is password protected to ensure that only authorized people can upload or subscribe to interview podcast feeds.

I told my colleagues that I was treating this like a gateway drug to get them hooked on podcasting and digital media in general. How cool would it be for principals to be the ones on the frontier leading the charge for innovative uses of technology in the classroom? With a totally new web site going live in the fall (more on that later), I’ve challenged each of them to blog and podcast regularly next year. And wouldn’t you know that the iPod and iTalk mic each of them has makes a perfect little podcast recording platform. Sneaky aren’t I?

13 responses to Tricking administrators into using technology

  1. Hey Tim, Great idea and a great method of capturing this information and sharing. Good job!

  2. Thanks Tim! I love that! I am a technology trainer and sometimes we have to trick teachers into using technology in their classrooms. Actually, teachers need to trick students into owning their learning. Technology is just the tool to do that.

  3. Tim, are the principals doing all 5 steps above, or just #1?

  4. Yes, they do all five steps. Some with more coaching than others, but they can do it.

  5. Okay, two thoughts on my end.

    1. Kudos for making the process simple enough for them to do. They are getting an intuitive sense of how easy this can be as well as a great grasp of the power and potential when it all comes together.

    2. That said, once they master the process, are you concerned at all that Steps 2-4 might not be the best use of principals’ time? I can think of a thousand other things I’d rather have principals doing than converting and uploading podcast files. Maybe a support staff member could be trained to do Steps 2-4? It seems like this is de-skilling pretty important people (i.e., having them doing fairly routine work that doesn’t tap into their specialized skill/training/knowledge).


  6. Scott, good point about the principals’ time. Steps 2-4 are actually pretty fast. #2 happens automatically when the iPod is plugged in. For #3 you can select all of the new interviews and convert them in one step which means you can let the computer huff and puff on it while the principal keeps plugging away on their email. #4 is the most complex, but I just had the principals create a shortcut to the server on their computer desktops. It’s pretty much drag and drop from there.

    I didn’t go into every detail. The piece that I didn’t describe, because we’re just playing with the concept, is the use of the MP3 metadata to capture details of the interview. Among other things, we can use the lyrics field in the ID3 data to store notes from the interview. In other words, whatever notes the principal records following the interview can be transferred in the MP3 file itself to subsequent listeners.

    I have no doubt that a more sophisticated, database-backed system could be developed to streamline the process further. It would be great if it could be integrated with the rest of our online hiring process. But I was committed in this case to start with the simplest possible solution. It’s often tempting to try to do too much in version 1.0 and never get anything done.

  7. It sounds like you’ve made this pretty time-efficient, so my concerns are decreased. I do think this is an issue generally, though, for both principals and teachers. As school organizations, we don’t value their time enough and often have them doing stuff that’s WAY below what we’re paying them for, which is their professional knowledge and skill. That’s where technology, and some support staff, can help! Thanks, Tim!

  8. Scott, it’s also important to consider the alternative in this case. (To bolster your point further.) Before the iPods the principals were recording on cassettes and sending them around the intradistrict mail. And if they weren’t recorded, it was pretty common to have several principals interview the same candidate. The iPod solution actually produces big time savings overall.

  9. Timmeh!

    3 things:

    1. Thank you for the good idea/recommendation of iTalk. I wanted to try some audio movie review podcasts on-the-fly and this device got pretty good marks across most review sites.

    2. How do you style your comments to look different (highlighted in green) on your blog? Was it built into the theme, or a plugin (or both)?

    3. As I’m writing this comment, the third field says “Webseite” – might wanna fix that, unless that’s the way they spell “Website” in Buffalo.

    Please respond via email if you’d be so kind.


  10. Gina Russell Stevens 24 May 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Can I get an Amen!

    Wow, Tim, what a great “gateway drug” to sprinkle amongst the instructional building leaders.

    As one who conducts lots online and f2f technology training, attempting to evangelize and strategize meaningful integration of the Moodle LMS into classroom practice… I laud you for your “sneakiness.”

    You make my job a little easier, because you meet the leadership right at their point of need and they begin to believe technology might not be all that bad… And once the leadership is “using” that new gateway drug, the faculty follow… and they may even seek new ways to get high… like using virtual classrooms to expand their instructional practice.

    “Amen! Amen!” Let the church say “Amen.”


  11. Hey! This is really using technology to streamline the rather arduous task of interviewing, checking references and hiring. I am sure that many districts are looking into this. Wouldn’t this be great for students to use this type of thing to record notes and lectures in class?


  12. Wonderful idea! I know that in our district many principals interview the same candidates. This would be a faster way of initialing screening candidates . . . and it’s much easier to rewind and fast-forward digitally than on a cassette tape! Thank you for the ideas!

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