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Ways We Work

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Matt Morris

Business teacher at KCI highschool

What do you do?

I teach high school business courses such as Economics, Law, Business Leadership, computer applications and co-op (80+ placements). My students arrive with wide ranging abilities and my goal is to meet the individual needs of each one. We try to integrate what we do with local businesses and organizations. Communitech is an 11 minute walk down the street.

I lead our business department, have Chaired the WRDSB Business Subject Association and continue to Chair the KCI Heads’ Council.

I also enjoy being the Director of our school 17 piece jazz band. We’ve toured NY City, Boston, Chicago and Washington DC and also play a number of annual concerts, including a really fun noon hour concert at Waterloo Town Square in late May. A different student introduces each tune we play and if we are short on trumpets, I get to play with them. I try not to conduct.

What mobile device do you use?

iPhone4, 32GB. I’m tired of being teased by spinning concept videos of the iPhone 6. I need an upgrade now!

Newer idea for me: podcasts (Jian Ghomeshi) during my 20 minute walk to and from work.

Best way to stay on top of email?

Twice a day only. 90% of the time, touch it once. Read email with ‘next action’ thought process.

Top five applications/programs?

MS-Office; Excel. I use if for marks (ultimately flexible), and to manipulate files that are then pushed through Access to generate student interim reports. Excel for iPad could be a winner for me.

LogicPro on the iMac. Great for arranging music for our jazz band.

iMovie/GarageBand. Home videos and fun with YouTube.

Twitter: @matthew_morris. Taking a quick shot of the ‘blackboard’ is sometimes a great way to reinforce the daily message.

Zite (Flipboard): Efficient way to stay current.

What is your best time-saving trick?

A. To-do Lists:

Make sure the words trigger action.

Change the general task of “Jazz Band concert” to a next action statement such as “Call Ted re louder sound system”. Thoughtful words encourage action.

B. Cloud:

Use the Cloud.

I think that Jump drives should only be used as extra backup for presentations on the road. I’m wrestling with Dropbox vs I think the criteria are:

a) Free GB’s.

b) Number of files transferrable with one click.

C. Minutes of meetings:

Minutes without ‘owner’ name and ‘target date’ for completion will rarely happen. It’s hard to ask ‘no-name’ for an update. We’ve at times experimented with numbered action summaries at the bottom of the minutes.

Favourite productivity tool?

Yellow 3M sticky notes. Two are always stuck to my desk. One says ‘Wrk’. The other says ‘Hm’.

I re-write them when they become too cluttered. Don’t go cheap. Buy the good ones.

One non-tech thing you can't live without?

My road bicycle. Waterloo Region is a bike rider’s paradise. A long ride on a sunny day is a privilege. Safety is unfortunately becoming an issue.

Structure of your typical day? How do you divide your time?

A. High time structure:

A high school teachers’ day is the ultimate in time structure. At 9:31am most days this semester, I’m walking from room 310 to 377. Sometimes I’ll hide in a classroom to complete a work goal.

B. Variable classroom structure:

Separate from the clock, my class structure varies depending on the curriculum. Teaching grade 9’s how to manipulate tables in MS-Word is very structured. Even this structured environment though can go sideways if for example:

A student finds a better way to do something and we want to reset to share this expertise and support/celebrate innovation.

My lesson is bombing and my radar tells me it’s time for a reset.

In economics, which is partially issues based, structure is reduced. My goal last semester was to encourage ‘curiosity’ with my students. I did this by attempting to have a data projector on at all times with google ready to go. As questions came up during class conversations, we were able to ‘go live’ to jointly explore while still keeping an eye on our learning goal.

What does your workspace look like?

Home: Dell Windows machine to match my teaching environment for lesson prep. 27” iMac, Ipad Air.

Work: Lenovo Windows computer at a separate shared desk. Clean desk policy (hold over from my 8 years at IBM Canada Ltd. prior to teaching). The school system is now integrating Chromebooks. With the price point and free software, the desktop may soon be dead in education. A continuing challenge is the 10-15% of students who have no computer and/or internet access. See picture for the rest.

Who would you like to see featured on Ways We Work?

Jian Ghomeshi. How does he write, read, interview, host and find time to watch soccer!?