The Elements of an Engaging & Informative Online Educational Administration Book Review

Why Are Online Book Reviews Important?

There are a lot of books out there for anyone wanting to learn more about the field of educational administration and leadership. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot. Which is great, but having too many resources can sometimes make it difficult to figure out which of the many, many books are 1) most relevant to your interests, 2) most current and up-to-date, and 3) worth reading. There are so many books in fact that a quick search on Amazon for "educational administration" (pictured below) gave me more than 30,000 results! So unless you're looking for a specific title, choosing a book to read can sometimes be a complete shot in the dark.

But as educational administration researchers, students, and teachers, we can help each other out by writing helpful, detailed book reviews that let others know which books are worth investing time into. Now I'm not suggesting that you need to write an essay on the book or anything. When I say detailed, what I mean is we should try to include certain key elements that help others know if this book is worth picking upLearning how to write a useful online book review is the first step in helping your fellow peers save time + money, and to honestly be able to recommend good books for them to read!

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Where Can I Post Online Book Reviews?

Thankfully many decent reviews can be found on the Internet and reading apps, though they do vary greatly and are more often than not very brief and unhelpful (e.g. "Didn't like it, wouldn't recommend it"). Some websites where we could use some consistently well-written and helpful book reviews are: 

  • Reading apps such as Goodreads
  • Amazon, Indigo, Barnes & Noble, and other major book distributor websites
  • Author websites
  • Your local library's website
  • Your local bookstore's website*
  • Your university library's website*
  • Your own blog or website

*If these websites allow book reviews

Note! What is missing on the list above is educational administration journals, and while many journals do accept book reviews, those are academic book reviews, and they are generally follow a format that is quite a bit more detailed than something you'd want to write for a website or a reading app. However, if you'd like to learn more about writing academic book reviews, there are some great resources online - check them out!

I personally rely heavily on reading online reviews of books to figure out if a book is worth investing my time into. So, I'd like to share what I believe are the three most important elements of an online book review, and how you can make sure you include them in your own reviews, even if it's just a paragraph or two long (don't worry, there's a helpful book review tip sheet at the end of this post!) 

The 3 Elements of Every Good Online Book Review

Every good book review I've ever read includes three common elements: 1) Book Info, 2) Synopsis, and 3) Commentary & Views. These are the three elements that I use in my own book reviews, for example, my review of Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Leadership by Eugenie A. Samier and Richard J. Bates with Adam Stanley. This is a lengthier book review, perhaps longer than something you want to write for a website like Amazon or Indigo, but the important thing is that all three elements are in your review - whether it's 100 or 1,000 words long.

Related: 3 Easy Steps to Setting Up Your 2018 Educational Leadership Reading Challenge on Goodreads

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Book Info

Every good book review should include some basic information on the book. This is where you want to identify the title and author (or editor) of the book, publisher, date that the book was published, and edition of the book you are reviewing (if there's more than one). If you want to go into more detail, you can also include the page count and what genre or niche this book falls under (e.g. aesthetic administration).

The info you include in your book review might only be 1-2 sentences, up to a short paragraph. You might also choose to list the info so it's easy to read, as in the example below:

  • Title: Name of the book being reviewed
  • Author(s): Name(s) of the authors and/or editors of the book
  • Publisher: Name of the university press/ publisher
  • Edition: Indicate if this is the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, etc. edition of the book (if there's more than one)
  • Date: The date the book was published

Synopsis

The synopsis section is where you can provide a concise (and I mean very concise, maybe 5-10 sentences) summary of the content, which might include the following information:

  • How the book is structured - the number of parts or chapters in the books
  • The main themes or topics discussed in the book
  • The purpose of the book - why does it exist and what is this book trying to help people understand
  • Who would most benefit from reading this book

Note: Not every book might be helpful for every audience - it's okay to suggest who might most benefit from reading it. But in some cases, a book may not have been written for a particular audience in mind, but there are actually some really good pieces of advice or observations that might be beneficial to say, teachers or school leaders that you want to highlight. And that's totally fine, too!

Commentary & Views

At last, we finally come to the heart of any good online book review: the part where you write about what you thought of the book! Here are a few questions to think about:

  • How do you feel this book helped (or didn't help) your understanding of a particular topic?
  • Do you think this book is unique, or is it similar to other books you've read in this niche?
  • Did the author make an effective argument and use legitimate sources?
  • How might educational administrators/ teachers/ faculty/ researchers use the information in this book to take action?

The possibilities are really endless here, so try writing a few sentences that really capture how you felt about the book, its usefulness, and include if you would use this book as a resource or reference book for your own research - your fellow researchers will be happy to know what you think!

Click here to download a free book review template!

Are there other elements of a book review that you feel are important? Share a link below to an educational administration book review you've written that you want the world to know about! And as always, let me know if you found this post helpful.

C. Valentine

Featured Admin Program: Educational Administration & Leadership MEd Program at University of Alberta

Program Info

Program: MEd in Educational Administration and Leadership
Institution: University of Alberta
Tuition: Varies (check out tuition estimates here)
Department of Educational Policy Studies website

Overview

The educational administration and leadership major is one of four distinct majors within the University of Alberta's Educational Policy Studies master's program. This program is well-suited for prospective students and working professionals looking to prepare for administrative or other leadership roles within schools and government, in Canada and around the world. 

All students in the educational administration and leadership major are accepted into the course-based route and complete four core courses and a series of options with a capping exercise. Students may also apply for the thesis-based route, and complete the same four core courses, four option courses, and a thesis. All students also complete an ethics module as part of the core requirements of this program. 

Required courses within the Educational Policy Studies department include: EDPS 580 Contemporary Issues in Education: Perspective and Practice and EDPS 581 Introduction to Evaluating Educational Research, which give students foundational skills to be able to understand and use different research methodologies, gain and important contextual understanding of the history of education and where we are today, and build skills such as writing literature reviews, research papers, book reviews, and engaging in classroom discussion. 

 University of Alberta, Photo Used Under Wikimedia Commons License

University of Alberta, Photo Used Under Wikimedia Commons License

Required courses within this specialization include: EDPS 511 Evolving Concepts in Educational Administration and Leadership and EDPS 512 Administrative and Leadership Process in Education. Both courses aim to teach foundational knowledge that help students situate themselves within the field of educational administration and leadership, learn various theoretical approaches, and demonstrate their understanding of this knowledge by conducting thorough research papers, generally on a topic within educational administration of a student's choosing.

The customization of this program really comes within the flexibility of the range of option courses a student can choose from, as well as the final thesis or capping project. Students are permitted to take almost any education course at the graduate level to satisfy the requirements of this program, which allows students to investigate specific interests, such as how to conduct qualitative or quantitative studies, arts-based research, educational technology, educational psychology, to name a few. Students can also enroll in a supervised independent study course and design the course content in collaboration with their supervisor.

Is This Program For You?

This program is very accommodating to part-time students, so it is ideal for students who may already be working within an educational or government field and who want to take on administrative or leadership positions within their organization. Specific vocational "how to be a leader" courses are not taught within the program, but the concept of leadership and developing skills needed to lead and think critically in today's universities can be explored in any of the courses. You can really make this program what you want, and choose to gain more research experience by completing a thesis or by participating in department workshops and research days.

For more information on this program, please visit the University of Alberta's Department of Educational Policy Studies website. 

Was this review helpful? Were you a student in this program or are you thinking of taking this program? Let me know in the comments below!

C. Valentine

3 Easy Steps to Setting Your 2018 Educational Leadership Reading Challenge on Goodreads

One year. 12 months. 365 days. When you break down one year, it's actually not that long. So what do you want to do differently this year? What do you want to learn to do or improve? 

This post is for you if you're...

  • A graduate student studying educational administration and leadership who may be working on a large research paper or project.
  • An educational researcher who wants to set a yearly reading goal to investigate a new area of interest.
  • A school administrator who wants to improve their leadership skills.
  • A teacher who wants to keep on top of the current literature in the field of educational administration and leadership.
  • Someone with an interest in educational books who wants to be intentional about what they learn this year.

So, you have 365 days. How do you want to spend it?

In this post, I'm going to walk you through how to set up your 2018 reading challenge on Goodreads in 3 easy steps. If you haven't heard of Goodreads, it's a really useful app that you can download on your phone (or access via the web). Not only can you track the books that you have read and want to read, but you can create and join book clubs (called "groups"), read recommendations and reviews, post stories, and connect directly with authors all over the world. It's a great tool, especially if your goal this year is to be more intentional about what you read. 

Here are a few things to consider before we begin to set up your reading challenge in Goodreads:

  • What subjects would you like to read more about? If you're reading this blog post, I assume you have some interest in educational administration and leadership issues, but of course this tutorial will work for anyone who wants to set up a yearly reading challenge. So, what specific things do you want to know more about? 
  • How many books do you want to read? Do you want to try to read 12 books this year? Less? More? Try to choose a realistic number of books - but do push yourself. Remember, it's a challenge and it should be challenging.
  • How will you make time to read this year? We're all busy, right? So how are you going to make time in your busy day to read the number of books you've chosen for yourself this year? Will you get up one hour earlier every morning to read? Will you read for thirty minutes before bed every night? Decide how you'll set aside time in your day to reach your reading goal.

And just in case you don't already have a huge list of books in mind that you want to read this year, here is a quick & easy tip for finding new & interesting books in your niche:  

Tip! Let's say you want to read more books about educational administration and leadership, but when you search "educational administration" in your university library website, the results are overwhelming. There are literally hundreds of possible titles that you could read - how do you know which will be useful? The answer is in the books and academic articles you have already read. Go back and find one on book or academic article that interested you. Flip to the references in the back of the book or paper, and check out the reference list the author has already built for you, and choose a few titles that sound interesting. Your university library is perhaps the best place to find academic books, though for those hard to find books, check in with your local bookstore - they can often contact the publisher to get a copy of the book.

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So, now you've determined what subject you want to read more about, picked a number of books to read this year, and prioritized reading in your life. Now we're ready to set up your reading challenge in Goodreads! Below, I've created a quick 3 step (2 steps if you already have a Goodreads account!) process of setting up your 2018 educational administration + leadership reading challenge. 

1. Create a Goodreads Account

Navigate to Goodreads.com and select Create a Free Account.

Tip! You can also download the Goodreads app on your iPhone or Android device so you can update your books wherever you are. This is great for when you get a book recommendation or see a book that you want to read - you can easily open the app and add the book to your bookshelf - and voilà! You'll never need to try to remember another book title ever again.

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2. Set the Number of Books you Want to Read in 2018

Remember when we brainstormed earlier in this post about the number of books you wanted to try to read this year? Here's where you enter that number into the 2018 Reading Challenge field and click Start Challenge. In the example below, you'll notice I've chosen 12 books to read this year, one per month. This is a realistic goal for me, because it suits my lifestyle as a full-time university employee, grad student, and blogger (well, as much as I can be right now). Make sure to make your goal something attainable, but something that will still challenge you. Believe it or not, it's actually possible to read a book every day - and while your own goals don't need to be this lofty, it all comes down to how much time you are able to carve out of your day to dedicate to reading. 

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3. Update the Progress of Your Book (don't forget to reward yourself)

As you read or complete books, don't forget to update your progress so that your status bar changes to show that you've completed x number of books toward your challenge (pictured below). It's pretty fun to be able to click that you've finished reading a particular book and to see it go towards your goal. And of course, don't forget to reward yourself. I know that reading is kind of its own reward, but it will help keep you motivated toward your goal, and well, it's just fun to do.

Tip! Consider leaving a review of the book you just finished reading on Goodreads and other websites such as Amazon or on your local bookstore's website, to help other people determine if this is a good book for them and why they might want to pick it up (or avoid it altogether if their interests lie elsewhere). 

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Hey guys - I know that setting a goal for yourself is just half the battle - that hard part is actually going through with your plans. That being said, here are a few quick tips on how you can make time for yourself to read more this year:  

  • Setting goals - hey look! You've already done that! You're already off to a great start.
  • Make the most of your morning or evening commute - bring a book or eReader with you on public transit, or find an audio recording of the book to listen to on your iPod or car's stereo.
  • Plan a project - how will you use the information you've read? Will it inform how you teach or practice educational administration in schools? What are some realistic actions that you can implement, starting today?
  • Reflect on what you've read - keep a book journal or bullet journal and write down your favourite ideas or quotes from the book.
  • Join a book club - there are many book clubs you can join on Goodreads, or you can start your own online or in-person administrator book club (click here to read my guide on how to start your own + get the free tip sheet!)
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!
— Dr. Seuss

Did you enjoy this blog post? Let me know in the comments below if any of the tips above helped you, or if you created your own reading challenge on Goodreads. 

C. Valentine

Sharing Academic Knowledge Through Everyday Administrative Discourse + How You Can Start Today!

BUT FIRST, A STORY.

Every month, when the newest issue of University Affairs magazine is delivered to my office, I excitedly tear off the plastic and immediately flip to the back to read the column From the Administrator's Chair*. I love this column because it's written by administrators, for administrators, about issues that administrators working in today's universities should be concerned about. And sometimes the author writes something that really hits home and reminds me why I got into university administration in the first place. This is how I felt when I read the September 2017 FTAC column, and read the words of the new writer, Sheila-Cote Meek:

When I reflect back on my early years in academia, I realize now that I always found myself being drawn to administrative duties, challenged by committee work and work that focused on moving the broader issues of access and equity forward. It may be in large part when led me to administration.”
— Sheila Cote-Meek, in University Affairs Magazine

Though this particular article was especially notable for Cote-Meek's observations about Indigenous issues, I couldn't agree more with this statement regarding what initially drew her to working in administration. I feel the same way, and I'm sure others, across Canada and around the world, reading this column, who practice and study educational administration, felt the same way I did.

So what do I mean by "everyday" texts?

To differentiate between the kinds of scholarly texts only available in academic journals, examples of "everyday" (non-scholarly) texts are shorter articles found in magazines, newspapers, trade publications, blogs, websites, and social media accounts. These op-ed pieces, features, blogs posts, and tweets, are often short and succinct, have a defined purpose, and contain content that is written in plain language unobscured by academic jargon. Everyday discourse appeals to the current generation of consumers who read the majority of their news online via social media, spending on an average only 15 seconds on any given webpage before deciding to move on or not. Shorter news articles are more likely to be read, and web writers are more concerned than ever about creating engaging, relevant, and helpful content in order to create a loyal readership. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF EVERYDAY ADMINISTRATIVE DISCOURSE

Columns like From the Administrator's Chair, discuss important issues in a popular forum that represents the public sphere, where academics and non-academics alike can read, understand, and have equal access to, the information and advice being offered in these opinion pieces that can then be incorporated into their own research and practice. In fact, more and more administrators seem to be intentionally engaging in the media to reach audiences beyond those in narrow academic fields. I think there are a few possible reasons for that.

While some administrators intentionally build media profiles to establish themselves as subject matter experts, others do it to popularize and bring visibility to certain fields of study, to disseminate their ideas more widely to broader audiences, and to engage with the higher education community about critical educational issues, and to cause effective change in schools. Most media channels are open access, and where so much is accessible for free on the Internet, it makes sense that these are the types of venues are where we are seeing more of an administrative presence.

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In writing this blog post, I really had to think through what made these "everyday" types of administrative discourse important, and felt motivated to share these FTAC columns in my own workplace. I picked up the stack of University Affairs magazines that I have at my workstation and left them in a common area where they could be shared and read by my colleagues. I also included my favourite FTAC columns in my Adminibrary, to spark new conversations that help us, as a community of educational administrators, to push the boundaries of what is possible in this field.

Ideas for Sharing Everyday Discourse

Nothing is more important to me than equipping my readers with actionable ideas that you can take and apply to your own study and practice of educational administration. I hope you feel inspired to action, to have the courage to start these conversations, and to speak plainly about creative ideas of your own that can improve the study and practice of educational administration + leadership. 

Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Start your own mini administration library in your office or workspace
  • Share magazine articles such as the column From the Administrator's Chair in University Affairs magazine with co-workers via e-mail or by leaving them in common areas for others to read
  • Share your own administration projects at research days or showcases
  • Share podcasts about education and creative leadership 
  • Start an inter-office educational leadership book club or an online book club on Goodreads
  • Start your own micro-blog on Twitter and tweet or re-tweet education articles about administrative issues
  • Re-write an academic journal article into a magazine article and pitch it to print or online education magazines
  • Take photos of your own experience studying, researching, teaching, or practicing administration and share them on Instagram (write 100 words about each photo to give it context)
  • Incorporate content in print and online advice columns written by other administrators into strategic planning meetings and work retreats
  • Talk to each other! Begin conversations with other administrators in your workplace about your ideas.

The field of educational administration and leadership needs both good scholarship and a presence in digital and print educational media and social media networks. Many educational administrators have never been enrolled in an educational policy studies course in their lives, and may not be aware of the kinds of academic writing being done in this field. Sharing publicly-accessible administrative discourse means that everybody wins.

C. Valentine

*Note: From the Administrator's Chair is published in every second issue of the magazine and is available to read for free on the University Affairs website. 

Actionable Research & How It Can Improve the Study and Practice of Educational Administration + Leadership

Early on in grad school, I had one important realization about my future as an educational administration researcher.

Many of the foundational articles and books I read on this subject more or less pointed to one major issue, which is that the field of educational administration and leadership is over-saturated with theoretical debate and intellectual critique. Meanwhile, there are not enough concrete examples of how these theories might be applied to administrative practice. This disconnect between administrative theory and practice is one of the most persistent issues in the field today.

That is to say, as a discipline, we're all talk and no action. 

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So what is this realization I had?

I realized that the only kind of research projects worth embarking on were projects that were going to either inspire others to create, design, or think differently in the field of educational administration and leadership. This belief not only provides an additional challenge for myself as the researcher, but it's the reason I created this blog in the first place - to disseminate actionable ideas that might close the gap between theory and practice.

All that to say: I want my research to do something for people.

So how do I do that? I look at every research article, blog post, e-book, etc. that I have and will ever write as an opportunity to provide inspirational and useful information that other educational administration researchers and practitioners can take away and create tangible change in their own research and practice.

Here are a few ideas of how you might make your own research actionable:

  • List specific recommendations in the conclusion section of your research article(s) on how administrators might implement your ideas in their own research and practice
  • Design projects that spark conversation and invite participation to get others involved in your research (e.g. see my Adminibrary project as an example)
  • Share your research with a broader audience by making use of technology and social media. e.g. via a blog, YouTube, Twitter, publishing in education magazines, websites, etc.

All research in the field of educational administration and leadership is valid and relevant in some way to the ways in which we known and understand the field. But as we look to the future, I believe it's important that we share our ideas and promote creative solutions to today's educational challenges. 

Did you get any ideas for how you might make your own research actionable? Are there any steps you can take today to communicate your research to broader audiences?

C. Valentine

 

Reel Educational Leadership: Amateur Administrator Film Festivals & Why They Are Important

administration film festivals!?

I recently read an interesting article titled "Lights, camera, action: Advancing learning, research, and program evaluation through video production in educational leadership preparation" by Jennifer Friend and Matthew Militello on the importance of using film in educational admin + leadership preparation. In their article, the authors suggest that video can be used for student reflective learning, leadership research through the production of videos and documentaries, and exploring film as a means by which to share innovations within the field of ed admin + leadership. One important issue they discuss is accessibility of research to the public through administration film festivals (a completely new concept for me), and accessibility of research to the public.

lights, camera, action!

What's great about video these days is that anyone can make one with their phone and easily upload it on platforms like YouTube and Vimeo. In their article, Friend and Militello suggest that sharing admin + leadership videos through social media, incorporating them into lesson plans, screening films in community forums, and even incorporating video into professional development sessions, is a great way to make research more attainable to the public. Some conferences already even have video categories in their call for proposals.

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Perhaps the most prominent example of administrator film festivals is the annual festival hosted by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA). Film submissions are to be no longer than 5 minutes in length and can touch on issues like the quality of leadership preparation, admin research and engaged scholarship, design of preparation programs and efforts to improve them, policy work, and the practice of educational leadership. There are some exceptional films available to browse on the UCEA's website, but really, anyone can make a film and either submit it for peer-review to an organization like the UCEA, or simply publish it on their own YouTube channel.

diy admin + leadership films

You don't need to be an expert to make your own admin + leadership film. What's important is what you learn about the experience and reflective practice. I love the idea of departments of Educational Policy Studies organizing their own film festivals, which by no means need to be formal and expensive events. They can happen right in our classrooms, with a film component built right into the syllabi in admin preparation programs. Since the creation of a film requires an application of a higher form of knowledge on the subject of ed admin + leadership, these projects would also help students to reach higher levels of Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy. The best part? Films can easily be made right from a student's phone or borrowed video equipment from the school library, and they provide an important opportunity for students to reflect on admin theory and on their own leadership skills and practices.

How do you think films could be used to improve admin preparation programs? How might your school start its own film festival?

C. Valentine

Let's Start an Administrator Book Club + a Free Tip sheet on How to Start Your Own Online Book Club on Goodreads!

Who doesn't love a good book club? Besides getting together with friends and having a couple glasses of wine, it's so much fun to discuss a book you spent hours reading with other people who have invested own their time into reading and understanding the same book. Book clubs are great for so many reasons - they make you try books you may not have otherwise picked up, give you insights you would not otherwise have had, and to reflect on your own experiences. I've been a member in several book clubs over the years, and they have helped me to better understand what are now some of my favourite books - of course, the food and the wine didn't hurt either!

But what about administrator book clubs? I know that they absolutely have and do exist. I read a study once on administrative uses of Twitter in which administrators were able to connect with each other on social media and ended up starting a book club, and I thought this was such a great idea. I wish the practice of starting administrator book clubs was more common, because the benefits would be huge for grad students, teachers of educational administration, and school administrators. To see what was out there, I conducted an official Google Search for administrator book clubs and found that there are definitely a few administrator-specific book clubs with an online presence. For example, the University of Virginia Administrator Book Club (ABC) has a website for their book club, and seems like it's doing a great job of bringing together administrators from various departments within the university to discuss administration + leadership topics. I think a book club like this would be so beneficial for my graduate program, or even at the university where I work. Unfortunately, memberships to these book clubs tend to be limited by proximity to the organization or by the nature of their membership.

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Fortunately we do not live in a day and age where we need to sit around to wait for our schools to organize their own book clubs. With the Internet, anyone can start their own online book club, which is a great alternative to a more traditional book club (though you may need to supply your own wine and hors d'oeuvres). Online book clubs allow users from all over the world to meet online at a time that is convenient for them, and can comment on each other's observations through group forums. Perhaps the most popular platform for online book clubs is Goodreads (which also features some useful book reviews for some popular educational admin books, like this one I wrote), although a Facebook group or your own blog works just as well. All you need is an Internet connection.

I think anyone who studies, teaches, or practices educational administration would benefit from joining an administrator book club. Through writing this post, I've become inspired to start my own. I will add a link here when my online book club is live, but for now, please spread the word and if you feel as passionate about starting an administrator book club as I do, check out Goodreads or another online platform of your choosing, and start your own - and of course, if you do, please link it the comments section below!

Click here to download my free tip sheet on how to start your own online administrator book club on goodreads in 5 simple steps!

Are you currently in a book club, online or otherwise? What do you like about being in one? 

C. Valentine

How To Start Your Own Mini Administration Library in 3 Simple Steps

A Mini Administration Library!?

A year ago, I took a course in which I was challenged to develop a creative project to reflect the study and practice of my specific field - in my case, educational administration & leadership - and I came up with one of the most fun and useful projects I've made to-date, called the Adminibrary.

I came up for the idea for the Adminibrary ("miniature + administration + library") by thinking of my bookshelf in the office where I work at a local university, not as just a place to store all my books, but as an opportunity to share admin + leadership knowledge with my co-workers. I decided to turn my bookshelf as a miniature library and even created a postcard to "advertise" that the books on the Adminibrary could be borrowed (more about that here). 

The best part of the Adminibrary it is that it sparks impromptu conversations with other administrators about their practice and giving them an opportunity to reflect on what they do well. I'll show you how, in the 3 easy steps below, how you can create your own in practically any space available.

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1. Claim a space in your office or open workstation for your mini library.

The space you claim for your mini administration library can be small - and I mean small! When I first started the Adminibrary, I had my own small bookshelf in my office, but when my office moved to a new building and I began to work in an open workstation, I used a small shelf for my mini library instead. Yet, as small as it is (about 1 cubic foot of space), it comfortably fits about 20 decent-sized books. Depending on the size of books you have, you might fit a few more or a few less, but this doesn't have to a huge space.

Here are a few examples of possible spaces to set up your own library, no matter how much (or how little) space you have available:

  • A bookshelf (or just a single shelf in a bookshelf)
  • The top of a cabinet
  • An empty space on a shelf in a workstation or cubicle
  • An empty space on a desk (hint: use bookends to keep books from falling over!)
  • A common agreed-upon area for the whole office to share administration + leadership books

2. Collect materials.

If you're anything like me, you probably have dozens of books that you may have bought for grad school or for research, and now, you have a place to proudly store these books in your own mini library. But you don't have to limit yourself to books - you can include printed copies of your favourite articles, education journals, your thesis or dissertation, conference papers, a USB stick full of your own writing...the possibilities are endless! 

Try collecting a few of these materials for your own library:

  • Administration + leadership books
  • Printed copies of journal articles
  • Educational Administration journals
  • Printed copies of online articles or blog posts
  • Higher education magazines with your favourite articles bookmarked
  • Your thesis or dissertation
  • A USB drive full of your own work

The only constraint you may have is space (depending on what your workspace is like), so you might have to be selective about what materials you want to include. 

3. Lay out ground rules for borrowing materials.

As soon as you set up your mini library, there's a chance other people might notice and ask to borrow your books. I did call this a library, which implies sharing, right? But you can decide whether or not you want to lend books out and how you want to keep track of who has borrowed what. I went so far as to create library sign-out cards where people would write their name and the title of the book they were borrowing, as well as the date they borrowed it. Dispense due back slips at your discretion!

Show me your own mini libraries! Tag #valentineacademia on your social media accounts to show me how your libraries turned out!

Click here to download a free tip sheet to create your own mini administration library!

C. Valentine

ADMIN-O-MATIC

A BOOK VENDING MACHINE!?

I recently learned about a one-of-a-kind book vending machine located in a Canadian bookshop after reading an article published by a local news company. The antiquarian bookshop Monkey's Paw, located in Toronto, Ontario, is home to the BIBLIO-MAT: an antique book vending machine that dispenses an old and interesting book randomly to patrons of the bookshop for only $2. The BIBLIO-MAT, installed by Canadian designer/director Craig Small, is not only creative but a useful solution allowing the bookshop a way of selling old and unusual books that may not meet the standards of the books on the shelves, but which are much too quirky and interesting to be thrown away. This is a unique way to sell books simply for the serendipitous feeling that whatever comes out of the BIBLIO-MAT is somehow meant for you.

A mechanical celebration of serendipity. It was created to help you find the book you didn’t know you were looking for.
— Craig Small on The BIBLIO-MAT

I became so fascinated by the idea of a book vending machine that I began to daydream about an admin book vending machine and what that might look like. Let's call it the ADMIN-O-MATIC.

THE ADMIN-O-MATIC

An admin book vending machine, placed on a university campus, could dispense books like Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Administration by Eugenie A. Samier and Richard J. Bates and Breaking into The All-Male Club: Female Professors of Educational Administration by Norma T. Mertz. For $2, patrons of the ADMIN-O-MATIC could get print copies of journals like Journal of Educational Administration, Educational Administration Quarterly, and Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy or perhaps copies of foundational papers like Organization Theory as Ideology by Thomas Greenfield or Towards a Critical Practice of Educational Administration by Richard J. Bates. Of course, $2 would be much too cheap for some of these relatively expensive ed admin books, but it would be an interesting way to share ed admin theory in such a creative way, much the way I aim to bring admin theory into the workplace through my Adminibrary Project.

What's interesting about an admin book vending machine is the way it "interrupts" the current narrative of educational administration, which is that it is something that happens behind-the-scenes and is not understood by students, faculty, and even by other administrators. A book vending machine like the ADMIN-O-MATIC makes the invisible, visible, and the unknown, a little less obscure and understandable. It's just a daydream - a world in which I could get my hands on any ed admin book for $2 must be! - but it's interesting to imagine the possibilities of sharing ed admin theory with the rest of the university community in such a  non-conventional way.

Have you tried out the BIBLIO-MAT? What are your thoughts?

C. Valentine

Book Review: Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Administration and Leadership by Eugenie A. Samier and Richard J. Bates

Book Info

Title: Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Administration and Leadership
Author(s): Eugenie A. Samier and Richard J. Bates with Adam Stanley
Publisher: Routledge
Publishing Date: March 2012

Synopsis

In their book Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Administration and Leadership, Eugenie A. Samier, Richard J. Bates (2006) et al., have made a significant contribution to a critical body of literature, which suggests that an aesthetic theoretical framework is an alternative lens through which we can better know and understand the field of educational administration and leadership. Samier and Bates posit that a discussion of aesthetics as it relates to educational administration has been limited to a consideration of aesthetics as only a mechanism through which the effectiveness of administration could be improved. Each chapter of this book provides a useful perspective that contributes to a broader discussion of aesthetics, which represents a significant departure from the conventional, mechanistic approaches to educational administration and leadership.

Divided into three parts, this book begins by examining the various philosophical traditions of aesthetics as they relate to educational administration, focusing on the philosophical writings of Kant, Nietzsche, Collingwood, Habermas, and Dewey, among others. Part two explores architecture, literature, film, and movement as aesthetic sources for administrative critique and part three focuses on some of the implied problems of charisma, heroism, and authority. This book concludes with an analysis of politics and power within the context of contemporary educational administration and leadership theory. Samier and Bates note that this book is written primarily for current and aspiring school administrators and leaders, and it has significant implications for the future of educational administration and leadership studies.

Commentary & Views

The aesthetic framework presented by the contributing authors conceive of a new form of administration: one that is not consumed by empirical conceptions of leadership. An aesthetic administration embraces beauty and the unknown, re-imagines educative spaces as places for possibility and creativity, and interrupts the "technocratic project" of educational administration. This book is especially notable for its specific recommendations on embracing an aesthetic perspective. I particularly agree with Milley's recommendation that academic preparation programmes are safe spaces in which aspiring educational leaders might practice engaging in work about educational administration and leadership as an aesthetic exercise. Highly intellectual and persuasively written, each author makes a convincing argument for why an aesthetic framework is needed to provide alternative solutions to today's educational issues. I am convinced that an aesthetic theoretical framework can introduce new ideas into the field of educational administration and leadership and highly recommend these ideas be implemented by current students of educational policy studies.

C. Valentine

Instadministration: 5 Ways to Use Instagram to Share Your Administration Research + Projects

We all know that Instagram is a great way to share photos with our friends, as well as to connect directly with businesses and bloggers. But for us administrators & academics, Instagram is a platform that gives us with the opportunity to share our academic-related experiences, connect with like-minded peers, and give our audience an authentic, behind-the-scenes look at the research process. In other words, Instagram allows us to show others what academia looks like. Photos speak louder than words and your Instagram portfolio can be a useful platform from which to share who you are + what you do.

I also know that as administrators/academics/researchers, we tend to separate our personal lives from our academic/professional identities. But Instagram is your opportunity to share more about who you are + the unique academic experience that you're living. Below, I've shared 5 ways to use Instagram to share your administrative research + projects with your social network (even if you don't have one yet).

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Pssst...if you are new to Instagram, sign up here for a free account and let's get started!

1. Photograph your research projects.

In my opinion, academic research does not get shared nearly enough through social media. Research dissemination is typically reserved only for academic journals and conferences, but those audiences are also fairly limited. Your research and your work is part of who you are, so don't be afraid to share your projects (or the research process, for that matter), on your Instagram account. You never know what other academics you might be able to connect with online that you may not have otherwise knew existed if it weren't for social media. So whether it's a paper, an arts-based research project, or just a photo of the celebratory donut you treated yourself to after finishing a book chapter, share it!

2. Share what books you're currently reading.

There's one thing we academics have in common: we are always reading something: books, articles, magazines, blog posts...the possibilities are endless! So if you've recently read a book that has inspired you, take a moment to share a photo of it on Instagram and leave a recommendation for it in the description of your photo for others who might share the same interests. Don't be afraid to also leave a shoutout using the @symbol to the author to let them know what you thought - authors usually appreciate hearing about how their ideas resonated with you!

3. Share what events & conferences you're attending.

Are you attending an educational admin conference, or giving a presentation at one? If photos are allowed, document your experiences attending these events, or have someone take a photo of YOU attending/presenting/being your glorious self. Don't forget to share your highlights + takeaways from the conference or event in the description of your photo and use the conference hashtag (if available). 

4. Capture the places that inspire you.

Where in your city do you feel most inspired? Is there a favourite park bench you sit on to think during your lunch hour? A coffee shop you visit to work on an article or a book? Think about where those places are in your city, and the next time you visit, take a picture to remember it by.

5. Write 100 words about your photo.

Okay, it doesn't have to be 100 words exactly, but pictures are only enhanced through the text you include in your Instagram post, so why not put some thought into it? Describe what you're doing, who you're with, what you were thinking about when you took the picture, why you took this photo, etc. Adding some thoughtful text is a great way to infuse some of your personality + narrative into your photos and to allow your followers and friends to get to know more about you. Plus, 100 words isn't that much - it's the exact length of this paragraph!

Did any of these ideas work for you? Use the hashtag #valentineacademia to show me your posts and don't forget to comment below with your own ideas :)

Happy Instragramming! 

C. Valentine

3 Must-Read Articles on Integrating Technology into the Study + Practice of Educational Administration

After many late nights spent reading countless articles for grad school, one thing that has become clear to me: technology plays a key role in the success of the study & practice of educational administration. There is so much written on the benefits of integrating technology into admin preparation programs and in our professional roles as administrators...but are we really using Web 2.0 technologies to their fullest potential? 

I've combed through many technology-related articles to bring you what I thought were the 3 most unique, must-read articles on integrating different Web 2.0 technologies into admin preparation programs and professional practice: Twitter, Blogs, and Film. I've also suggested some ways that you can apply the ideas proposed in these articles to your own study & practice. Is there one idea below that might work for you?

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1. Administrators' professional learning via Twitter: The dissonance between beliefs and actions by Vincent Cho

Publisher: Journal of Educational Administration
Year: 2016
Keywords: Principals, technology, social media, personal learning networks, professional community
Why I love this article: Cho's article is unique because it is one of the few studies that speak to the potential benefits of Twitter for educational administrators. This study points out an important gap in administrators' learning about technology: while Twitter enables easy communication among educational stakeholders, it cannot be assumed assumed that administrators will intuitively know how to use it for professional purposes. This article suggests that there are some advantages for administrators to connect with other like-minded professionals via social media, particularly Twitter. For example, one Twitter user started a book club with his online colleagues and another co-authored a book on leadership. While using Twitter remains a personal choice, this article points to several ways that administrators can use it to further professional aims and connect with others.
Apply these ideas: Start an administrator Twitter account and use hashtag #edadmin in your Tweets. Tag academic articles you want to read or reference later by organizing them through hashtags, e.g. #VAhighered, #VAblog, or #VAreviews (you can create your own!)

2. Web 2.0 integration into the graduate classroom: An appreciative inquiry into prospective school administrator strengths and leadership experiences by Raymond L. Calabrese

Publisher: International Journal of Educational Management
Year: 2011
Keywords: Appreciative Inquiry, Web 2.0 technology, blogs, school administrator, preparation programs, learning environment, educational administration
Why I love this article: This is the best study I've found thus far on the use of blogs into administrator preparation programs. Calabrese's article is unique because it explores the benefits of introducing students to using Web 2.0 technologies early on in a student's education, to better prepare them as leaders and to get used to the practice of reflecting and communicating with others using their blogs. His emphasis on Appreciative Inquiry as a theoretical research perspective has potential benefits to both ed admin students and practicing administrators.
Apply these ideas: Create a blog to discuss administrative issues and reflect on your own (or ask your students to reflect on their own) admin + leadership experiences. You can get started with your own blog on Wordpress, Squarespace, or Blogger for free!

3. Lights, camera, action: Advancing learning, research, and program evaluation through video production in educational leadership preparation by Jennifer Friend and Matthew Militello

Publisher: Journal of Research on Leadership Education
Year: 2015
Keywords: Video technology, instructional leadership, educational administration, Web 2.0 technologies, qualitative research, storytelling, student projects
Why I love this article: Friend and Militello's article touches on the benefits of video production technology for the preparation of educational administrators by promoting video as a "digital reflection" tool for teaching and learning, as a research method, and as a program evaluation/service. In one of the examples illustrated in this article, students were asked to participate in an assignment called "Self-as-Leader" where they reflected on their own leadership development through film. Important ethical and legal considerations are also briefly discussed. There are few articles on the benefits of video technology from both the perspective of teacher and student, and the ideas in this article can get you started on your own video technology projects!
Apply these ideas: Ask your students to make reflective videos and host an amateur administrative film night/film festival at your school. You can get some inspiration from the University Council for Educational Administration's Film Festival, found here

Have you read any of these articles? Are any of these project ideas useful?

C. Valentine

Book Review: Lowering Higher Education: The Rise of Corporate Universities and the Fall of Liberal Education by James E. Côté and Anton L. Allahar

Book Info

Title: Lowering Higher Education: The Rise of Corporate Universities and the Fall of Liberal Education
Author(s): James E. Côté and Anton L. Allahar
Publisher: University of Toronto University Press Inc.
Publishing Date: 2011

Synopsis

In the book Lowering Higher Education: The Rise of Corporate Universities and the Fall of Liberal Education, James E. Côté and Anton L. Allahar (2011) express their concern with the uneasy state of liberal arts education in the broader context of the Canadian higher education system. They claim that due to the rise of pseudo-vocational training, the legacy of liberal arts education has been reduced to a system that offers BA-lite degrees to disengaged "customers", inflating the market with graduates who cannot effectively contribute to the economy, ultimately lowering educational standards and doing irreparable harm to the sanctity of learning as an end in itself. Cote and Allahar conclude that the days of a critical liberal arts education are over unless university stakeholders take immediate action.

Divided into three distinct parts, this book begins by critically examining the causes and effects of the rise of pseudo-vocationalism in modern Canadian universities. The authors then discuss issues associated with the institutional drift toward corporate training programs and end with some ways in which we can move forward as a more informed community into the second millennium of the university. This book is written primarily for university instructors, but it has significant implications for university administrators and policy makers. 

Commentary & Views

The authors suggest that university administrators have the power to change liberal education's grim future by standardizing grades and implementing other control measures that would ensure a minimum proficiency level, as long as they are willing to stop treating students as customers "who are always right". The system may be in crisis, but here the authors have provide practical suggestions for how administrators can cause effective change.

Overall, this book proposes useful ideas for how policy makers may become more engaged are intriguing and indicative of an emerging trend among administrators, who are evidently coming to similar conclusions. Recently, a new rhetoric has begun to shape academic administrative careers. The term  "alternative academic" or "alt-ac" has been used to describe academics who sometimes take on administrative roles or other roles within the university community. This trend is becoming popular and is in no doubt a response to credential inflation referenced in this book. With more PhD-qualified candidates, a staggering 18.6 percent of Canadian academics actually find careers as full-time professors, according to a 2015 University Affairs magazine survey. The rise of the alt-acs may cause what the authors have recommended: a mixing of stakeholders in the university forum. Ironically, Bowness suggests that for academics to make the transition into administrative or other university careers, they require more support in the form of professional skills workshops offered by professional schools. It would appear that you cannot have one without the other. While Cote and Allahar make a convincing argument for preserving our liberal arts education, there can be no question that career training programs and vocational schools provide an important service to our society today. 

My only criticism is that, while the authors invoke the metaphor of the arena where all university stakeholders may cross boundaries and engage in a broader discussion about our educational system in the real world, they are vague in their description of how this might happen. While they recommend administrators should also be teachers, it's important that faculty still have the same opportunities to participate in academic pursuits, such as research, teaching, attending conferences, publishing in journals, and pursuing master's and doctoral degrees.

I found this book to be excellent in that it might appeal to administrators on a philosophical level, reminding us that we are supposed to be stewards of Canada's educational system. Highly criticized for our lack of demonstrated results, the field of university administration certainly has its own challenges and connecting theory to practice, but what students of this discipline can agree on is that administrators should manifest the virtues of academic practice and seek truth and knowledge in all that they do. This has not been the case. In my opinion, administrators, policy makers, and students in educational leadership preparation programs should take the suggestions presented in this book and form a new agenda to reclaim the university as a community of scholars.

C. Valentine

The Embelgasse School of Administration & The Administrative Aesthetic

The Embelgasse School of Administration is a vocational school located in Vienna City, Austria, constructed in 2015 by AllesWirdGut Architektur. I chose this building as an exemplar of arts-based research because the architectural provides a "stage" for the performance of administrative praxis (Samier, 2006, p. 162). Architecture is one of the few aesthetic forms of expression that is cited in the scholarly literature, which examines the intersections between aesthetics and the field of educational administration and leadership. Though this building was designed to educate public administrators, educational administrators face many of the same criticisms, and would benefit from a study of the built environment, particularly the design of administrative spaces.

A brief review of aesthetics in the field of educational administration and leadership

There are few contemporary scholars who have written extensively about how an aesthetic theoretical perspective can provide creative solutions to some of the well-documented challenges that promote dysfunction within the field of educational administration and leadership today, such as the serious disconnect between theory and practice (Bates, 1981; Foster, 1980). Perhaps one of the best known scholarly works in this niche is a collection of essays titled Aesthetic Dimensions of Educational Administration and Leadership, edited by Eugenie A. Samier and Richard J. Bates (2006), which posits that an aesthetic framework is an alternative lens through which we can better know and understand the field of educational administration and leadership. In her chapter on charismatic leadership, Samier (2006) uses Weber's comprehensive Theory of Charisma to demonstrate the three forms of expression of administrative aesthetics: the architectural, the theatrical, and the literary. And while there isn't enough space here to discuss each form at length, the architectural is the most relevant in a discussion about this particular exemplar because buildings are "used as a popular stage" for the performance of administration, in this case, administering public policy (p. 169). Architecture has a close association with organizational form. A city's buildings communicate messages, whether consciously or unconsciously, with the people of the city about who holds power and authority. This is clearly expressed, for example, by inaccessible government buildings layered with cubicles of protective staff and aimless telephone directories that defend policymakers from actually ever having contact with the public.

In a study of university campuses conducted by Dutton and Grant (1991), architecture was found to reproduce the dominant ideologies and social relations of society, which undermines diversity and reinforces disciplinary divisions (cited in Samier, 2006, p. 163). The researchers found that the design of open space schools in particular represented "an attitude predisposed against bureaucratic power and authority, designed instead to overcome the conventional isolation and subjugation of teachers in separate classrooms inhibiting their politicization" (p. 163). A theoretical understanding of the field of educational administration is crucial in the examination of the construction of educational spaces, particularly administrative spaces, which tend to be more contentious. Even in a brief review of the literature, it becomes clear that buildings, including their furnishings "are never neutral, but carry social and political value, empowering some, silencing others" (p. 164). I have chosen the Embelgasse School of Administration as an exemplar of powerful and intentional structural design that re-imagines what a space for educating public administration could (and should) look like.

The Embelgasse School of Administration

AllesWirdGut Architektur, the successful firm who won the commission with the City of Vienna to build a vocational school in which to train public administrators, was asked to build a school that would "make learning part of public life" (AllesWirdGut.cc). The open concept features of the Embelgasse School of Administration levels traditional power relationships between public administrators and the public. The large, grid-like windows convey a sense of openness and transparency. The school is enclosed only by the natural perimeters of the block on which it is built; doing away with the physical (and metaphorical) walls that usually separate public administrators from the people they are supposed to serve. A shady inner courtyard and open access to terraces via the second and top floors of the school allows students to have constant contact with the outdoors, which also reinforces the connection between the students and the city. Furthermore, learning about public administration in an open and transparent environment prepares students to work under the constant gaze of the public eye. Each design decision made by the architect is intentional and the openness of the school invites a broader dialogue that renegotiates power dynamics between public servants and the public.

A Citizen-Friendly School of Administration
— AllesWirdGut Architektur

The Embelgasse School of Administration demonstrates the importance of context in the built environment. Though I could not find an example of a building dedicated to the training of educational administrators specifically, educational administration is a type of public administration that deals with many of the same criticisms, such as a lack of transparency and a lack of confidence by those of whom administrators are supposed to serve. The architectural has the potential to teach us a lot about the field of educational administration and leadership and how we can more consciously construct spaces that convey messages of openness and transparency to the public. The City of Vienna wanted to commission a building that would make learning a part of everyday life, and in my opinion, AllesWirdGut Architektur accomplished this difficult task by building a vocational school in which the building's form beautifully complements its function.

All photos © AllesWirdGut / Guilherme Silva Da Rosa and are displayed with the express written permission of AllesWirdGut Architektur.

C. Valentine

Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy: A Framework for Educational Administrator Preparation Programs

Originally invented in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, the original Bloom's Taxonomy provides a framework for instructors for setting educational goals in their classrooms. Often portrayed as a pyramid, the original Bloom's framework scaffolds students' skills, beginning with Knowledge, and progressing up the "levels" of the pyramid to Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and finally Evaluation. In the early 2000s, Bloom's original taxonomy was revised to move from static notions of educational objectives to action verbs, to better describe student cognitive processes. For example, Remembering became Remember, Comprehension became Understanding, Application became Applying, Analysis became Analyzing, Synthesis became Evaluating, and - perhaps most importantly - Evaluation became Creating.

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Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy is a further (but very important) revision made by Andrew Churches that incorporates technologies that are more aligned with the 21st century learner. This new taxonomy includes certain verbs the describe more accurately, how today's students might learn. For example, to Remember (lowest level cognition), students may highlight, duplicate, or visualize. To Create (highest level cognition), students may film, direct, or publish an original piece of research. The diagram below illustrates how students can Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create using digital tools:

  Figure 1.  Bloom's Taxonomy for the digital world. By Fractus Learning, 2014, via Creative Commons. Used under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Figure 1. Bloom's Taxonomy for the digital world. By Fractus Learning, 2014, via Creative Commons. Used under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

This revision of Bloom's Taxonomy suggests that it's never too late to revise old systems to make them work for 21st century learners. We should have the same view when examining whether the current structures of our administrator preparation programs properly equip today's administrators to work in the modern university. We put future educational leaders at a disadvantage by not emphasizing technology as a means through which to learn and to create. Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy would be a helpful framework to consider when thinking about what kind of work we are asking students studying educational administration to produce and whether or not we are sufficiently incorporating technology as a means of producing that work.

Ideas for student projects that incorporate technology

  • Recording a podcast on administrative and/or higher education issues
  • Publishing a blog to reflect on their experience as a graduate student
  • Crafting an autoethnographic project that explores the student's personal motivation for studying educational administration and leadership
  • Designing a multi-media presentation on the effects of organizational alienation
  • Writing an original essay, study, or literature review on a topic of the student's choosing

Do you think Bloom's New Digital Taxonomy is a useful framework for educational administrator preparation programs? What are some ways to encourage students to create original pieces of research using technology?

Resources

Bloom's Taxonomy for the digital world - printable table. Retrieved from https://www.fractuslearning.com/2014/08/18/blooms-taxonomy-digital-print-table/ 

The Padagogy Wheel V5.0. Retrieved from https://designingoutcomes.com/assets/PadWheelV5/PW_ENG_V5.0_Apple_iOS_PRINT.pdf 

C. Valentine

The Adminibrary Project

("administration + miniature + library")

The Adminibrary ("administration + miniature + library") is an ongoing interventionist art piece that draws on an Appreciative Inquiry (AI) theoretical research perspective to bring educational administrative theory into the university where administration is practiced. Interventionist art is defined by Kramer (2006) as "a chance encounter...art that takes place outside an expected place and time, that melds easily with activism to take on the role of communicating a message in a unique, noticeable way" (p. 122). Therefore, as a creative means to achieve this project's objectives, I decided to create a minimalist postcard that would communicate the purpose of the Adminibrary in a distinguishing way. Anyone who picks it up is encouraged to borrow any of the materials in the library and/or fill out the back of the postcard with their own book or article recommendations. Readers are also directed to this blog where they can submit recommendations online (see form below). Because of its unique name, the Adminibrary has been successful at drawing the interest of my co-workers to the bookshelf and sparking spontaneous discussions around why I started this project, the applicability of arts-based research methods to the field of educational administration and leadership, and what is working well in our practices as administrators.

It's important to note that I felt a tremendous responsibility during this process of creating the Adminibrary to make something that would be a useful contribution to the field of educational administration. This sense of responsibility comes from reviewing the literature and learning about how scholars have struggled to establish this field as a rational, legitimate, and worthwhile discipline (Bates, 1982; Foster, 1980). Hallinger and Heck (2005) note that there is little cohesion among academics in terms of theoretical approaches, concluding that the "field has been long on intellectual critique, but short on sustained action and demonstrated results" (p. 239). Theorists are divided on important issues and methodologies, and practitioners operate with no universal set of moral guiding principles that require them to exemplify the virtues of knowledge and rationality in the institutions in which they serve (Greenfield, 1979, p. 108). With so few examples of demonstrated action, new methodologies need to be explored.

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This project has three objectives:

1. To SHARE educational administration books and articles with practicing administrators to bring awareness to administrative theory in a place where administration is practiced.

2. To SPARK spontaneous conversations with other educational administrators that allow them to reflect on what they are doing right in their practice.

3. To CREATE a space in which to imagine new possibilities for the future of the field of educational administration and leadership.

The Adminibrary brings administrative theory to the site of administrative praxis. By sharing administrative books and articles in the university, administrators will be more aware of the administrative literature, from classic readings to more contemporary studies that explore creative solutions to some of the field's challenges. By sparking impromptu discussions with my co-workers, the Adminibrary allows administrators to reflect on what is currently working in their practices. Encouraging administrators to talk about what is working - rather than focusing on what challenges might exist - has been shown to strengthen administrator's potential to create positive change in schools. Carr-Stewart and Walker (2004) make a significant observation about the AI approach and suggest that it "affirms that people co-create and co-commission meaning together and that meaning and actions are co-mingled" (p. 10). This observation is particularly relevant to the Adminibrary because it is co-created with the people that interact with it, and is therefore constantly changing and being re-defined.  Lastly, the Adminibrary creates a space that imagines new possibilities for the future of this field. Only by imagining creative solutions can we move the field of educational administration and leadership in new directions.

The Adminibrary is co-created with the people that interact with it, and is therefore constantly changing and being re-defined.

In her chapter on interventionist art, Kramer (2006) acknowledges that "interventionist art projects are usually considered complete only upon the discover of, or audience interaction with, this project" (p. 129). Though I hope that administrators and other educational stakeholders interact with the books and articles in the Adminibrary so I can feel this project has "completed" its purpose, I plan on continuing the Adminibrary to see how it evolves over time.

Want to start your own mini administration library? Check out this post on how to create your own + get a free printable tip sheet!

C. Valentine

Why A Blog About Educational Administration?

One of the questions I always seem to be asked when I tell people what I blog about is: why did you choose to write a blog about educational (specifically, university) administration? It's a fair question. With the endless number of topics available to blog about (music, writing, design, lifestyle, etc.), I felt that it was important to address a significant gap that exists when it comes to any kind of administrative discourse online. Of course, I also really enjoy writing about this topic and took the opportunity to create a blog that's more intentional about discussing issues related to working in, studying, and researching educational administration + leadership.

I've had a longtime interest in blogging and reading blogs. Within the last couple years, I've become interested in how academics use blogs as an alternative form of disseminating their work & ideas, and as reflective tools to improve praxis. Though there are few examples of administrative-specific blogs, I managed to find some studies that demonstrate that the use of blogs and Web 2.0 technologies generally, is beneficial in administrator preparation programs and in administrative practice, as a way of receiving valuable feedback and connecting with like-minded peers.

The idea of starting my own administrative blog came to me when I realized that having an administrative presence on the Internet was important. It is important to me to be able to create a dialogue about contemporary administrative issues, discuss important admin books + articles, and share projects & research with an online community. The Internet allows us to communicate with people we would likely never meet, and to write for a specific audience. If you're still reading this, then chances are, you're exactly the kind of person that I hoped would read this blog. Thank you for being here.

So why a blog about university administration? Because this is the blog I had always wanted to find on the Internet and read. I'm sure there are other administrative blogs out there in the blogosphere, and I can only hope that mine finds its place among them, so that we, as a community of administrators, can discuss issues related to the administration of universities. As I've previously written, Valentine Academia was really my first academic project, but it is also a way for me to communicate any subsequent projects that I work on or creative ideas that I have. Some might work, some may not. But I feel strongly that creative ideas are what is going to move the field of educational administration & leadership forward, and we need to find practical ways to putting these ideas into practice.

C. Valentine

 

Administrivia!

Somewhere in the academic blogosphere, this blog is brought into existence by a single click of a computer mouse by a button that says PUBLISH. Valentine Academia is the blog I've always wanted to write. It's an online space where I can post reviews of books and articles, share my academic projects, and discuss contemporary educational administration issues that affect universities today. While there are many excellent academic blogs, there appear to be very few dedicated to discussing post-secondary educational administration issues, which is strange when you consider the importance of a university's administration. Though they may be considered the dark underbelly of many institutions, I would suggest that administrators are more like dark matter - unseen, trying to hold everything together, and a mystery to most people. Many administrators "joke" about having joined the dark side by becoming part of a university's administration, though it's fair to say that this reflects a certain perception that is held fervently by many university stakeholders (administrators included!). But here's the truth, as I see it.

My interest in educational administration began when I first stepped foot into the university. As an undergraduate student, I studied various subjects, all of them interesting, but none quite so interesting as trying to discover how the university worked. I would stare at the course syllabus and wonder, not about the readings or essays I was being asked to write, but about the various policies I was being asked to follow. I was distracted by quiet processes and enamoured with procedures. I imagined the university as its own world, where smaller parts moved in synchronized patterns, creating predictable rituals that have come to shape a distinct culture. These patterns and rituals became even more real to me when I was hired to work in the Dean's Office at a local university. I took minutes at committee meetings where faculty and administrators sat around a table negotiating curriculum, I crafted programs of study for degrees that aren't even being offered yet, and I learned about university policy and the politics of the institution. Perhaps most importantly, I became acutely aware that I had entered a profession that was largely disliked by the university community.

I think that much of the skepticism toward administration can be attributed to the invisibility of administrative roles. But one of the most difficult things to accept was that I too, became invisible. I was separated from those that had, only a few years before, been my professors, mentors, and friends because of some tired old narrative that portrays administrators as enemies.

There are mythologies that also portray administrators as failed academics, primarily concerned with promoting their own self-interests. Such views allow administration to become a scapegoat for larger problems within the institution. Despite mutual interests in education, there is a serious lack of trust and respect between faculty and administration, two groups of people that play very different roles.

Granted, not all administrators are good. There are those who allow their positions of authority and their generous compensation packages distract them from important educational issues that perhaps, tragically, once inspired them to their leadership roles in the first place. Such people become the faces of the university in the media. But it's important to note that there are more than 1,000 administrators that run an institution as large as the university I work for. Those in charge do not always make decisions that I, or my colleagues, agree with. They do not speak for all of us.

I think a major problem with administration is that we are indecisive toward how to best approach educational issues. As far back as the popularization of the theory movements of the 1960s, educational leaders have been divided on whether scientific methods or more humanistic approaches better address these issues. Those that research educational administration and leadership have a thousand theories and ideas about how an institution should be run, but are generally short on demonstrated action. University administration, which is supposed to manifest the virtues of truth and knowledge, should be among the noblest professions in the world. But it's not.

University administrators could do better and I believe there are some practical ways forward. One problem is that there is no universal ethic for administration, and since not all administrators are also academics, this field would benefit from an articulated mission statement that reflects ethical leadership practices that those of us who learn about educational policy are taught. An articulated purpose would hold administrators accountable for seeking truth and knowledge in all that they do and to serve the university community as stewards of our educational system.

There should also be more opportunities for administrative scholarship. The post-secondary self-study guidelines in Alberta are silent on any requirement for administrators to regularly report their scholarly activity. While many higher-level administrators have academic degrees, many do not specialize in education, and some have only received management training. Administrators are not allocated funding to travel to and attend academic conferences, they are not encouraged to publish in academic journals, and they are not permitted to participate in annual research showcases. Is it so crazy to expect administrators to also be scholars, when they work within a university?

University administration should be one of the noblest professions in the world, and it's not. 

But it can be.

C. Valentine