#MyWorkflow: Sue Dunlop

Sue's Workstation
Sue’s Workstation

The #MyWorkflow series asks educators who are active creators on social media to share how they do their work. Today we speak with Sue Dunlop, a long time Ontario Education PLN member. Sue has been a trailblazer for system-level leaders who share their thinking openly online. Through her blog and Twitter presence, she regularly interacts with all manner of stakeholders in very honest online conversations. While it would be easy to step away from such encounters due to the complex, often political nature of her work, Sue walks the open learning that she so often talks about. Rather than leveraging her positional stature in these spaces, Sue is vulnerable, questioning, and humble. Reading her tweets and blogposts gives me great hope for the direction of our great province’s education system.

How do you pay the bills?

I’m a superintendent of schools in Hamilton-Wentworth. It’s a great job. While highly political, it’s super interesting. I have to use all the skills and experience I’ve acquired over the years. Some days are tough, but I learn from everything. You’ll often see me sharing some of that learning in my blog.

What regular activity brings you little money but loads of happiness?

I love to sing! Most of my singing these days is as part of a choir which is very satisfying when things go well. Did you know that when a group of people sings choral music, their heartbeats sync? The other amazing thing about singing is that when you are fully engaged, body and mind, you can’t think about anything else. It is the definition of flow.

I do a few other things that make me really happy.  Riding my bike brings incredible freedom and I really get to know my city.  Swimming outside in a lake, stroking through the water, turning my head, taking a breath and seeing blue sky and trees makes me feel part of our world. Walking in the woods during all seasons surrounds me with sounds, smells, and colours. So good.

What’s your current phone? Which phone do you miss? What will be your next one?

I have an iPhone 6. It’s a work phone. I like it fine, especially the syncing between my other Apple devices. I also use a Basis Peak, which is a watch that tracks my activity and gets notifications from my phone. That’s pretty cool. I attend a lot of meetings and school visits, so my phone is always on silent. Having my wrist buzz to let me know that I have an incoming text or phone call means I miss fewer important ones.

I can’t say that there’s ever been a phone I missed. I’m not big on talking on the phone, and I do so much of that for work that I tend to not to do it while at home. And the screen is really too small to do any work, reading or creating. My preferred future is no phone at all!! (Is that realistic, do you think?)

What’s your current laptop? Which laptop do you miss? What will be your next one?

My beautiful blue covered laptop is a 13 inch MacBook Air from 2012. It’s not a work laptop. I would not give it up! My very first computer was a Commodore 64 back in university and after that it was all PC’s. I jumped to the MacBook and after some initial adjustments I’ve loved it. One battery upgrade and it’s still going strong. I hope it lasts a long time.

After reading the rest of your series, I felt like I was underachieving because I didn’t have a name for my laptop. But I don’t.

What apps and/or methods do you use to stay productive?

A few years ago, I read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity  by David Allen. It really streamlined how I organize myself and keep track of all the things I have to do. The key is a simple system that you scan and update regularly, whether analog or digital. I use OWA at work for email and calendaring, but fortunately, it syncs quite well with my Mac native calendar, reminders, and mail apps. I use OneNote for meeting and other topic notes. There’s nothing else except a notebook to track phone calls. I tried to go digital for those, but it’s too hard to type when you’re on the phone – and I’m on the phone a lot.

I can also tell you that if my unread work emails go above 20, I can get a little obsessed with dealing with them. I’ve never gotten to inbox zero. Maybe when I retire?

Which apps do you check persistently, even if you wish you didn’t?

I have to say I’m pretty good at not checking.  I only keep phone notifications for text messages and phone calls, as I find the banners or badges for other apps can be like a little electric shock. I try to check apps like Twitter once or twice a day at set times.  I am constantly encouraging colleagues and friends to take the notifications off their phones and other devices and check email and other social media at certain times of the day. If something is urgent, someone will call you. Really.

How do you carry your gear?

Ah, the neverending search for the perfect work bag! I’ve tried so many. It really comes down to being the perfect size more than anything else. It needs to be big enough for my stuff but not too big so it’s hard to carry around.  I currently carry a gray leather tote with enough room for what I need as I’m out and about around the district. It’s always ready to go.

What other hardware rarely leave your bag?

Laptop, phone, cords, dongles, portable charger, wallet, coin purse (the best thing), lip gloss, lipstick, Advil, access pass, notebook, and paper copies of emergency contacts, policies, and procedures.

What piece(s) of analogue technology is a must in your life?

A purple pen. And a tiny notebook to write notes.  Oh, and cash. I’m a big believer in using cash. You spend way less.

What drink, snack, or food sits next to you when you’re being creative?

Nothing. When I’m really into something, I don’t need the distractions of a drink or snack. Even if I pour myself a coffee or tea, I can forget about it until it gets cold. So I eat first – eating is always a priority with me! – and then get to work.

When working, do you prefer the cafe, library, couch, office, kitchen table, or other?

I prefer to be sitting up straight or standing but the location isn’t as important, I have an office but I’m not usually in it as I’m out in schools most days. I have a nifty little device called the Furinno laptop desk that you can configure in all kinds of ways. It turns any counter or desk into a standing desk, which I enjoy. I’ve also been known to lounge on the couch while working, but I find it hard to be as productive. I guess my mom was right when she said good posture was the key.

When working, do you need quiet, ambient noise, speakers, or  headphones?

Quiet. And I prefer the door closed. Eliminate distractions.

Morning, afternoon, evening, or the witching hour?

Absolutely morning. I’ve always been this way. If I have a big project to do, I go to bed early and then get up at 5:00 to get to work on it. My brain works much better on lots of sleep than trying to crank something out late at night.

How do you get from idea to shipping that idea?

I’ve been reading an amazing book called How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention and Discovery by Kevin Ashton. Ashton makes the convincing argument that ideas are everywhere, but it takes a lot of time and sustained effort to create. Creation is not some magical moment – it’s a culmination of trials and successes and failures. I try to keep this in mind so I create times in my week where I have some space to think. But that’s just the idea part. Then I have to sit down (or stand!) and get down to work. I make sure I’ve got some time, I eliminate distractions and go. Then I leave it for some time, which depends on how much I have – but at least overnight. If I think it’s ready after that, I ship.

What’s one piece of advice you have for people that have difficulty with their workflow?

Two pieces of advice:

  1. Eliminate distractions.
  2. Find a daily routine that works for you and stick with it.

How can we find and connect with you online?

www.suedunlop.ca

www.twitter.com/Dunlop_Sue

https://about.me/sue.dunlop

 

#MyWorkflow: Brian Harrison

EEE558EC-A93E-41C8-85A1-2E0C270FDEF7The #MyWorkflow series asks educators who are active creators on social media to share how they do their work. Today we speak with Brian Harrison, a great friend of mine. I first met Brian because of having the privilege of collaborating with one of the greatest pedagogues I know, his better half, Angie Harrison. Ever since, I have been a better father, husband, and educator because of the mentorship they have both been so generous to provide me with. Perhaps the first school administrator in our board to blog actively about his role as a leader, Brian continues to provoke, reflect, and inspire in ways that are special for someone in such a high pressure position. He always approaches educational leadership with the lens of a learner and teacher, and is as generous in his listening as he is swift in his turn of phrase.

How do you pay the bills?

I work as the principal of a K-8 school.

What regular activity brings you little money but loads of happiness?

Writing is an activity I enjoy a great deal and do, in various forms (reports, blog posts, newsletters, emails and notes) every single day.  I’ve published a few journal pieces and worked on the writing team for a history textbook a few years back- it’s still a cool feeling when the royalty cheque arrives in my mailbox.

What’s your current phone? Which phone do you miss? What will be your next one?

iPhone 5s. I remember when I was 6 we had a candy apple red push button phone that I loved. It had a chord that could stretch all the way across the kitchen and, rather than beeping when a button was pressed, it would make the coolest whirring sound- like the purring of a cat- that was one cool phone- not very mobile though.

What’s your current laptop? Which laptop do you miss? What will be your next one?

2012 MacBook Pro 13 inch. My first MacBook was a circa 2006 plastic white ones- I refer to those as the Stormtrooper MacBooks- I used it until it kacked. Next up will be a MacBook Air- it’s not necessarily the design or appearance of the hardware- I really am drawn to to the iOS.

What apps and/or methods do you use to stay productive?

iCal & Outlook, Google Drive, Twitter, WordPress, Medium and Flipboard. At work I use a scratchpad to create a task list for the next day before I leave and cross out the tasks as I complete them- retro and simple; nothing is more satisfying that a scratchpad with all the words crossed out.

Which apps do you check persistently, even if you wish you didn’t?

TripAdvisor- my guilty pleasure.

How do you carry your gear?

ObusForm backpack

What other hardware rarely leave your bag?

I’m a light packer so if it’s in the backpack it’s being used. I’m a bit obsessive about battery power so I carry my power and use it whenever my laptop is out.

What piece(s) of analogue technology is a must in your life?

Does the scratch pad count?

What drink, snack, or food sits next to you when you’re being creative?

Coffee: at work or until mid-afternoon.  Jameson’s: at home and after beer o’clock.

When working, do you prefer the cafe, library, couch, office, kitchen table, or other?

Couch in the winter- backyard in the pergola when weather permits.

When working, do you need quiet, ambient noise, speakers, or headphones?

Quiet is fine, low music or a sporting event on tv is fine too.

If it’s one of the latter two, what’s on your playlist?

Springsteen, Adult Alt and any Toronto sports team.

Morning, afternoon, evening, or the witching hour?

For blogs- Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings seem to be the best. For work (memos & such) it’s often the middle of the night. If it’s in my head and keeping me up it must be expelled- I once created the entire timetable for a K-8 school between the hours of 2:00-5:00 am.

How do you get from idea to shipping that idea?

I talk with people, listen and watch attentively and refine based on feedback. It’s amazing how much people say with their eyes. Once I’ve refine the idea is shipped as a story.

What’s one piece of advice you have for people that have difficulty with their workflow?

Know if you are an introvert or extrovert- workflow is all about creativity and energy.

How can we find and connect with you online?

@bharrisonp,  www.brian-harrison.net

#MyWorkflow: Rusul Alrubail

The #MyWorkflow series asks educators who are active creators on social media to share how they do their work. Today we speak to Rusul Alrubail, a renaissance educator who does just about everything. Currently dedicated to being a full time mother to her beautiful daughters, Rusul remains incredibly active in education through her writing and connecting. If she’s not facilitating an Educolor Twitter chat or writing another powerful piece for Edutopia, she’s working hard to organize EdCamp Toronto, or blow people away as a featured speaker at the next Tedx education event in Ontario. To make a connection with Rusul is to broaden your pedagogical horizons and worldview.

How do you pay the bills?

I work part time with Edutopia as community facilitator. We engage the community in positive ways, help educators, parents and students when they reach out. I also work with them on copywriting. It’s a fun job that works really well with my schedule and being a full time at home with my two little girls. I am also a freelance blogger and consult occasionally with several organizations. I am also a co-founder of The Writing Project, an essay writing app for students that the Design Cofounders team is currently piloting with several schools and universities. Before that I was a contract professor at Seneca College for 5 years, I taught English literature and composition to undergrads and college students.

My husband is also the founder and CEO of Design Cofounders. That’s also very helpful when it comes to paying the bills.

What regular activity brings you little money but loads of happiness?

Probably freelance blogging for education publications, and writing on my site. I do it because I love writing. It brings me joy because it opens up ideas and conversation to many people, and it always surprises me when someone new engages with me because one of my posts resonates with them. I especially love that they’re usually from somewhere across the world. I also do online webinars and presentations and those are fun too, to connect with other educators.

What’s your current phone? Which phone do you miss? What will be your next one?

iPhone 6s. My next one will probably be another iPhone. I’ve been an apple girls for the past 8 years, it’s what I’m used to. Even though I still dislike the way my photos sync, so I use Dropbox instead. It’s counterproductive but it’s working for now. My husband has encouraged me to go android, he loved how everything syncs with cal and gDoc, but I use those apps on my iPhone anyway. But never say never.

What’s your current laptop? Which laptop do you miss? What will be your next one?

I have a 13 inch MacBook Pro. Before that I had an 11 inch one. The next one will probably be the MacBook light. My husband got one and it’s the lightest, most elegant looking laptop.

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What apps and/or methods do you use to stay productive?

I just started using Evernote again after deleting it. I wanted to give it another try. I mostly use Dropbox for photos, google calendar, and Google Keep on my iPhone.

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Google Keep was actually my most used app till recently when it comes to brainstorming and outlining ideas for my blogging. Here’s a rough outline of one of my blog posts “the heart of teaching” which was Edutopia’s #2 most viewed blog last year. I had woken up one night with the baby, and an idea came to me and wrote it. You can also see that I omitted some parts in the final post.

Which apps do you check persistently, even if you wish you didn’t?

I check Facebook and I hate it. I joined Facebook because of Edutopia work. Working on Edutopia’s social media requires me to monitor Facebook posts and comments. I don’t like Facebook because it feels noisy for me. I also merged professional connections with family, and I have conflicting feelings about this. It’s a bit too late to go back unless I create an entirely new Facebook account and that’s not happening.

I check Twitter a few times a day to read news and connect with online friends. But I do have my notifications turned off because otherwise they’ll take up way too much of my attention.

How do you carry your gear?

My purse! I mostly work from home at the moment so not a lot of carrying, but when I do work outside I just put everything in my bag and run.

What other hardware rarely leave your bag?

Not much else can fit there since I have to leave room for my kids’ snack, water bottle etc.

What piece(s) of analogue technology is a must in your life?

A notebook! This is probably the most cliche thing ever but I love using agendas and notebooks, ever since I was a student. It helps me to organize my to-do lists and keep me on the right track in terms of deadlines. I used to use my Edutopia notebook. My husband got me a new agenda the other day and I’m getting used to it, it’s really cool because you can log in your diet, ideas, conference notes, health goals etc.image4

When I worked on The Writing Project last winter at Design Cofounders, I learned a lot about Design Thinking and started using a lot of the same strategy we used in the office: brainstorming, using sticky notes, making documentation visible, sharing workflow and process with others for feedback and iteration. So now I try to implement the same techniques in my writing, planning and facilitating.

What drink, snack, or food sits next to you when you’re being creative?

Tea and fruits recently. It was coffee, but now I have such an aversion to it, not sure why. I enjoy my tea with cardamon and some oranges, apples, whatever I have in the fridge. Of course, chocolate is a bonus.

When working, do you prefer the cafe, library, couch, office, kitchen table, or other?

I work in the evenings mostly after kids are asleep so unfortunately my choices and limited, but I sit on the couch, put a show in the background on Netflix and work. Often it becomes distracting when I’m writing something important, but most of the time it helps to keep me awake and focused.

Sometimes if I do have childcare, which is rare these days, I like to work at the Design Cofounders office, the same place we held EdCampToronto. Or a local coffee shop or Starbucks.

When working, do you need quiet, ambient noise, speakers, or  headphones?

I do if I am writing a new piece. I can’t concentrate with music or TV in the background. But if I’m doing social, or editing, emails etc I am good with music or TV in the background.

If it’s one of the latter two, what’s on your playlist?

This is odd but I don’t have a playlist. I know weird right? I do put the radio on in the background during the day, I listen to CBC metro morning and the current. I also listen to flow 93.5 in the car. In the evening I listen to my husband’s playlist, he listens to a lot of hip-hop: Drake, Big Sean, etc.

Morning, afternoon, evening, or the witching hour?

Evening, that’s when I’m most productive if you don’t count being a mommy all day lol!

How do you get from idea to shipping that idea?

I think about it a lot, then I outline and brainstorm, then think some more. Then change and solidify my outline. Writing an outline is the hardest part, then everything is good from there. But I go through this stage where I’m stressed out because a deadline is lurking and I have no clue what I am going to write, then a topic comes and that brings me some relief till I come up with a thesis statement, outline etc. I call the earlier stage of writing that awkward phase, you know you have to write something but not sure what. I also talk about it with my husband, he’s so supportive of my work and his feedback is always so helpful. He gives me critical feedback that others might not, and it helps to make my work better.

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What’s one piece of advice you have for people that have difficulty with their workflow?

Do what works for you! We often try to use things that work for others, and get caught up in trying to make it work for us but it just doesn’t. Others are not living your circumstances so just do what works well for you at that moment in time.

How can we find and connect with you online?