Principal Tools

Top 5 tech tools for a successful school day for any principal.

GUEST COLUMN | by Adam Welcome

CREDIT RemindThink about your principal growing up. Most likely, he or she was an intimidating figure and the only interaction you had was discipline-related. They were seen as the Oz Behind the Curtain, all-knowing but extremely isolated from the general activity in the school. Things have changed in education. The most successful principals are far from this. They are mobile, they are communicating with their teachers and students throughout the day, and they have their fingers on the pulse of the classroom.

While some may be intimidated by new technology, it’s important to remember that there are small but impactful steps administrators can take to begin incorporating some free, simple, and effective tools to connect their classroom–and community–ultimately making their lives easier and their jobs more enjoyable. Also, when communicating with families, information must be short and concise. All of these apps are a great way to do that:


All teachers at John Swett use Remind, a secure messaging product for teachers, parents and students, in myriad ways. We engage parents in Common Core by texting home a question, for example, “Ask your child who their favorite character is in the book they’re reading, and three things they like about that character,” vs. “What did you do in school today?” Teachers take photos of number talk anchor charts in math and parents can ask their child, “Tell me five ways to put together these numbers.” Also, it’s completely safe and secure–their privacy policy has been reviewed and approved by TRUSTe, and students under the age of 13 must sign up with a parental notification.

Remind allows us to be instantly and constantly connected to our community, and communication is key to student success.


Our entire staff is on Twitter which has made every day an Open House. Teachers tweet from their classrooms and I’m constantly sharing the #eduawesome that goes on with our kids! Our entire community isn’t on Twitter, so we embed our entire feed on the school homepage. Parents tell me they will have two screens up at work. Gotta love the daily sneak peek into classrooms!

Google Hangouts (GHOs)

We have monthly tutorial sessions at PTA meetings on Twitter and Remind (our most recent GHO is linked here). Most GHOs are on the phone – on the playground, bench outside, basically anywhere. We’ll often connect with other schools on a GHO to learn their best practices. Innovating and connecting makes us all better at teaching kids.

Google Drive

Our PTA, Site Council, and of course staff — have gone completely Google Apps. It’s scary to think how we used to operate! Smooth workflow that is efficient and saves time is key. I have two MacBook Airs, an iPad, and an iPhone, and the cloud allows me access to all my documents during the day. Drive on my iPhone is the best — there’s never an excuse when you’re always connected. Student work is so important, and Google Drive allows me to comment on kids’ writing assignments. As principal, there’s nothing better than having such deep engagement with kids on their writing. Our Staff Gatherings are once a month and always about Professional Development. We have ‘flipped’ staff meetings–meaning we handle all ‘nuts and bolts’ before we meet. We’re better together if we’re learning together.


I don’t really use my phone to make calls, but more to use all the apps like Remind and Voxer. I’ve shared my Voxer username with our community and parents will send me Voxer messages. They love communicating this way. Connecting with other principals on Voxer is a daily lifeline to other leaders.

In conclusion, organized workflow is the key to success. Principals often complain, “I don’t have time” — the thing is, once they use these tools, they will have more time. For example, some principals always have a line outside their office for discipline issues. Being a mobile principal and making things fun in the classroom for kids eliminates this.

We don’t mandate anything with staff. We innovate organically, and on a voluntary basis. Teachers see what works and the change is powerful. This is what makes people inspired to do better.

Adam Welcome is principal of John Swett Elementary School in Martinez, Calif. Find him on Twitter @awelcome


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