Leading from Calm: How technology can support leader wellbeing

In most learning environments, the Principal or Head Teacher/ Lead Teacher is the cultural compass and it is through the lived expression of their values that they shape the culture of the workplace.

Is your school happy?

Are you happy?

Like strands of DNA, these are interconnected and interdependent.


Is your school flourishing or well managed?

The well leader, leads well and promotes wellness.

A school may have all the factors of success in place, a solid research-driven strategic plan, rigorous professional learning programs, well maintained facilities, healthy accounts, well considered structures, policies and processes and yet….it may be ‘just a workplace’, in a sense, it may not have ‘life’, it may not ‘flourish’….it could be argues that this is an example of a well-managed school.

Leadership is a tough gig because it has an emotional toil and the responsibility is enormous….however, these are the same reasons why it is such a wonderful privilege to lead a flourishing school.

Where deep leadership begins….within a calm place

An internet search will point to the problem here.

School leaders are asked to lead community wellness, support educator wellness, address health and wellbeing of students but rarely to consider, plan and promote their own wellbeing as strategy for sustainable whole school improvement.


Lever technology to improve leader wellbeing

Sure, technology can be accused of being the very thing that erodes leaders time with responding to emails sitting high on the list. Technology can also provide some solution to very problems it is perceived to have created.


Schedule Calm

Download this app (note: I have no affiliation with this APP…it just works on Apple/ Android and desktops)


As soon as you open you will feel calm.

  • Explore the guided breathing tool.
  • Learn the basics of mindfulness meditation
  • Having trouble sleeping? Meditative bed time stories might helpto

Best of all, you can (and should) set a mindfulness reminder to help you practice mindfulness daily.

Or use the app before or after high stress situations.

What a powerful cultural leadership activity this could be….the leader, investing time daily to be intentionally calm and focused.

Stay tuned!


Follow me on twitter www.twitter.com/sparvell



The Critical 21st (and a half) Skills Agenda

I have just been reviewing the findings from the Innovative Teaching and Learning survey published in 2011 and used as a basis for the 21CLD workshops  and rubrics widely used globally.

Get the ITL Research materials here

Get the 21CLD rubrics here

Get the 21CLD Learning Observation Guide here

Coming soon- a research based tool to measure perception around Innovative Teaching and Learning at a whole school level. Look to www.pilsr.com for updates


The agreed definition for Innovative Teaching and Learning used in the research was as follows( this forms the basis for the 21st Century Learning Design materials too:)

  • collaboration 
  • knowledge construction 
  • self-regulation  
  • real-world problem-solving and innovation 
  • the use of ICT for learning 
  • skilled communication

I compared these 21st Century Skills with the essential Cross Functional Skills (for the workforce)  identified by the World Economic Forum and published 18th January 2016.

  • coordinating with others
  • Emotional intelligence
  • People management
  • Complex problem solving
  • critical thinking
  • creativity
  • judgement and decision making
  • cognitive flexibility

Looks to me that the 21CLD materials built on the ITL Research have much to offer still as we prepare young people for life in and beyond school.

21st century learning design is a global professional development program for teachers and schools to develop more innovative pedagogies that develop students skills for the 21st Century. The program is sponsored globally by Microsoft and is supported in each country by a network of education partners.

21st century learning design is based on the way ITL Research studies and measures innovative teaching practices. 21st century learning design asks teachers and school leaders to

  • Analyze and ‘code’ learning activities to see how deeply they integrate 21st century skills
  • Collaborate in designing new learning activities that provide deeper 21st century skills development
  • Examine the impact of these learning activities on students’ work
  • Use ICT as part of the process

21st century learning design works like this:

  • Teachers review the 21st century learning design rubrics that define each 21st century skill (e.g. ‘problem solving’);
  • Then they analyze and code an existing learning activity (lesson) according to one rubric (for example, does a science project on cell structure score a 2 or a 4 on the “problem solving” rubric?);
  • They review student work done as a response to the lesson and code it;
  • Then they refine the lesson to have a higher score on the problem solving rubric – providing students with more in-depth opportunities to develop this skill.
  • They follow this same process across many different rubrics, lessons and student work products.




NEW Education Leadership Courses

Microsoft recognizes that school leadership matters and has a clearly articulated strategy which includes events-programs and tools to support whole school transformation.


Building leadership capacity is a component of the Transformation Framework and the partnership between EdX, leading global universities and Microsoft is an expression of our commitment.

Read the blog here

Since launch in October, we have received over 3000 registrations, from over 110 countries for courses beginning in January 2017.

We encourage you to share news through your social channels





School Leader Hacks (Saving Time)


Saving time is important because in our frantically busy school lives, information isn’t the scarce resource, attention is!

We need as much time as we can extract to ensure we remain present, focus on relational leadership and attend to the things that matter most.

I invite you to add your leadership time hack to this comment or tag me on twitter @sparvell and I will include your ideas.

As a profession we are simply ‘better together’


As a head teacher, when I had the inevitable mountain of emails to respond to, cheques to sign and other cumbersome paperwork, I would place a table, chair and my Surface in any public area in the school and simply work.

I would work in the courtyard as students arrived to school.

I would work in the staffroom.

I would work in the art room.

I got the mindless work done. I was visible and accessible. I also ‘showed’ that the work of a school leader has a substantial administrative function.


Stay Tuned for no. 2



Why this student said this was ‘…the best educational experience they had ever had!’

Student Ambassadors lead the way

Written by Mark Sparvell for the Microsoft Education BLOG

Photo of three of the Student Ambassadors

Throughout the 2015-2016 school year, approximately 300 secondary students from 110 schools in 22 countries pursued passion-based projects as part of the Microsoft Showcase Schools program. These exceptional Student Ambassadors were given a platform, support and a community — all amplified through the thoughtful use of technology.

“These two years of the Student Ambassador program have been the best educational experience we have had, as we have developed real world abilities such as teamwork, communication skills and problem solving skills.” – Student Ambassadors from Saint John’s School, Chile

The Student Ambassadors collaborated with one another using a Yammer community which provided a platform for connecting across time zones, language barriers and geographies. Skype calls helped to shape projects, gain insights into Microsoft solutions and to share achievements. And a Microsoft Apprentice (a previous Student Ambassador), Thao Tran, was there every step of the way, helping to mentor and guide the students.

Read the full blog post here

Showing-a-case for whole school TRANSFORMATION.

Announcing our new MIEEs and Showcase Schools for 2016-17

As you know one of the programs I lead as part of the Microsoft in Education School Leader Audience strategy is the global Microsoft School and Microsoft Showcase School program.miee_scs infographic 815a (002)

Microsoft is excited to announce  the Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts and Microsoft Showcase Schools for 2016-17. From the hundreds of thousands of amazing educators we reach via our events, trainings and online educator community, we’ve selected the best of the best, representing over 4800 MIEEs and 851 Microsoft Showcase Schools.

View the names of our Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts and Microsoft Showcase Schools and amplify via social leveraging the below:

Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts

Microsoft Showcase Schools