Digital Readiness Project


In the process of making this report, I assessed the digital readiness of a public middle school in Seattle, WA by asking questions based on Ribble’s elements of digital citizenship.

I found the school’s Computer Technology Teacher (CTT) and the School Emphasis Officer (SEO) to be willing and able to answer my questions regarding digital readiness. I met with the CTT in person and we talked mostly about the school’s adopted digital literacy and responsibility curriculum. The SEO answered my questions via email and had good ideas about future plans to make learning about digital literacy more interactive for students.


The school is in good position to build systems around digital readiness with a substantial number of student devices and a digital citizenship curriculum that addresses a wide array of issues.

Areas of growth for the school include:

  • securing more student devices including IT support and professional development for teachers.
  • expanding the digital literacy and responsibility curriculum to include all sixth grade students and making it more interactive.
  • connecting with parents to educate them and include them in their students’ learning around digital citizenship.
  • designing a campus-wide plan supported by professional development for all staff around digital citizenship and learning technology.
  • the formation of a stronger technology leadership team as presented by Jones & Bridges (2016) including the principal, a lead teacher, a technology leader, a librarian and a technology coach. (p. 336)

Action items

The school’s technology team (inluding the CTT, the librarian, IT support staff, and two general education teachers) will meet and discuss plans presented in this report and use Ribble’s elements of digital citizenship as a framework to guide their planning.



Jones, M., & Bridges, R. (2016). Equity, access, and the digital divide in learning technologies: Historical antecedents, current issues, and future trends. The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology, 327-347.

Ribble, M., & Miller T.N. (2013). Educational leadership in an online world: Connecting students to technology responsibly, safely, and ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 137-145.

Digital Education Leadership Mission Statement


Through my work as a digital education leader, I will:

Work toward social and environmental justice by empowering students.

(Based on ISTE Standards for Coaches, 5. Digital citizenship, a. Model and promote strategies for achieving equitable access to digital tools and resources and technology-related best practices for all students and teachers)

Educators have a moral imperative to serve all of their students well. To do this, educators must structure classroom environments in a way that is accessible to historically underserved students, including students of color (especially Black and Latinx students), students who are classified as English language learners and students who qualify for special education services. In the context of the digital classroom, the teacher must ask, “Does the learning technology increase access and means of expression for all students?” By creating more equitable and effective learning environments, educators empower all students and work toward social and environmental justice.

Social Justice

Jost & Kay (2010) offer a general definition of social justice as a property of social systems broken down into three aspects (p. 1122):

1.) distributive justice: benefits and burdens in society are dispersed in accordance with some allocation principle or principles

In the digital classroom, distributive justice is implemented through differentiation strategies that increase access and equity for all learners.

2.) procedural justice: procedures, norms and rules of decision making preserve the basic rights, liberties and entitlements of individuals and groups

In the digital classroom, procedural justice is enacted through educator practices of planning, preparation and assessment that increase equity in the classroom, as well as student practices that improve classroom functioning and advance their learning.

3.) interactional justice: human beings (and perhaps other species) are treated with dignity and respect not only by authorities but also by other relevant social actors including fellow citizens

In the digital classroom, interactional justice takes shape when the learning environment fosters thoughtful, respectful communication and understanding between the teacher and students, from student to student, and from inside the classroom to outside communities.

To further clarify their definition of a just social system, Jost & Kay (2010) offer counterexamples as “those systems that foster arbitrary or unnecessary suffering, exploitation, abuse, tyranny, oppression, prejudice, and discrimination.” (p. 1122) Sadly, our students can draw from myriad personal and societal experiences with injustice, including inequalities in their local education system, racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system and local and global abuses of the environment and its inhabitants. As daunting as they may seem, each of these challenges presents an opportunity for us to learn and grow as we work toward solutions, and we can rely on our students to identify and be motivated by injusitces.

In my experience, middle school students have reliably strong justice motives. Students care deeply and are motivated by what is fair or unfair. They want to be treated fairly and are often bound together by, among many things, their youth. Students often feel mistreated by adults and are keen to defend each other, even at the risk of their own welfare, to ensure that others are treated fairly – a quality that Jost & Kay (2010) refer to as “the purest evidence of a  ‘justice motive.'” (p. 1124) As educators, we can foster these motives in order to help students empathize with people outside of their peer groups to generalize their drive for justice to all people.

Our urgent need to better serve students of color in Seattle is illustrated by racial and ethnic inequalities in the 2016-2017 assessment data for middle school students in public schools. In the subjects of English language arts and mathematics, White students met the standard at rates of 82 and 76 percent respectively, as compared to 52 and 44 percent of Latinx students and 34 and 29 percent of black students, according to Seattle Public Schools school reports. When faced with such stark achievement gaps, the digital educator ought to ask, “how might access to learning technology remove barriers for historically underserved populations?” and “how might learning technology help us ‘leverage the benefits of student diversity’ (Chapman, 2016, p. 287) in our classroom?” 

Palmer (2007) emphatically reminds us that, “students learn in diverse and wondrous ways, including ways that bypass the teacher in the classroom and ways that require neither a classroom nor a teacher!” (p. 7) So, while we go about creating welcoming and positive learning environments and differentiating lessons to meet the needs of every child in the classroom, we cannot forget or neglect the broader social and global contexts our students live in.

Our students face racial and gender disparities in many contexts outside of school. If educators forget or neglect the injustices of students’ communities and broader society, we become complicit in them. As Coates (2015) writes to his son:

“a society that protects some people through a safety net of schools, government-backed home loans, and ancestral wealth but can only protect you with the club of criminal justice has either failed at enforcing its good intentions or has succeeded at something much darker.” (Chapter 1)

The U.S. criminal justice system disproportionately prosecutes and sentences people of color. Mauer (2011) reports that one of every three Black males born today can expect to go to prison in their lifetime, as can one of every six Latinx males, compared to one in 17 White males. Incarceration rates for women are lower across the board, but the racial disparities remain. One of every 18 Black females, one of every 45 Latinx females and one of every 111 White females can expect to spend time in prison. (p. 88S) Such disparities negatively affect the way youth of color see their prospects for a successful future in the United States.

Arrest and incarceration statistics alone do not paint a complete picture, because they may lead some to believe that people of color are committing crimes at disproportionate rates; however, Davis (2013) points out factors such as discriminatory law enforcement policies (e.g. “the War on Drugs”) and the “discretionary nature of the police function” (p. 825) that render the role of disproportionate offending uncertain. Even when youth of color make the right decisions in their attempt to avoid crime and thrive, they may fall victim to an unjust system of prosecution.

Mauer (2011) goes on to assert that what seems like a racial effect may be more so a question of social class. (p. 90S) Mauer cites results of a study indicating that rates of violence were considerably higher in “extremely disadvantaged” neighborhoods, regardless of race. It so happens that many of said disadvantaged or impoverished neighborhoods are also communities of color. It also happens that the same impoverished communities of color are disproportionately affected by negative environmental impacts and stressors.

Environmental Justice

As a science educator who holds strong environmentalist values, I remind myself that students cannot embrace such an immense and oft abstract principle before they develop a sense of their own identity and feel a sufficient degree of physical, intellectual and emotional safety in their classrooms and in their communities. How can a student be expected to care about something as grand and longterm as global warming or something as tiny and invisible as a particle of lead in their water if they are faced with more immediate and tangible threats to their safety and wellbeing? For this reason, though the two are inextricably linked, social justice comes first in middle school education and environmental justice follows.

For parallel reasons, the communities who have been historically most affected by pollution and other environmental hazards have been underrepresented in the environmental justice movement, despite the best efforts of Senator Ed Muskie at Earth Day 197O (Purdy, 2016):

“the only kind of society that has a chance” is “a society that will not tolerate slums for some and decent houses for others, rats for some and playgrounds for others, clean air for some and filth for others.” And he insisted that, “Those who believe that we are talking about the Grand Canyon and the Catskills, but not Harlem and Watts are wrong.”

Bullard (2000) highlights a several factors for the lag of support of environmental justice behind social justice within communities of color (p. 3):

1.) The environmental movement of the U.S. that emerged in the 60s and 70s focused on wilderness and wildlife preservation and was supported primarily by middle- and upper-middle-class White people.

2.) Research on environmental quality in black communities has been inadequate.

3.) Mainstream environmental organizations were late in broadening their base of support to include blacks and other minorities, the poor and the working-class.

4.) Low-income and minority communities have had few advocates and lobbyists at the national level within the environmental movement.

Part of our work is to help make up for lost time and ensure all of our students can take ownership and become stewards of their communities, especially those who belong to communities that have historically been disproportionately impacted by environmental injustices.

Disparities between the sexes in representation in science and engineering occupations is an environmental justice issue. Women are equally as affected by environmental stressors as men, but are disproportionately excluded from environmental policy making, opportunities for scientific discovery and engineering challenges. A major call to action for educators is to include, empower and enlist female students of science and engineering.

With both issues of social and environmental justice, it is imperative that educators recognize them, call students attention to them and make real connections to them that students can relate to.

As educators, our social and environmental justice work is three-fold:

1. ) Do not be complicit in social or environmental injustices,

2.) Raise awareness among students of social and environmental injustices and the work being done to fight them, and

3.) Empower students to advance social and environmental justice in their communities.

Practice pessimism of the mind and optimism of the will while implementing learning technology systems.

(Based on ISTE Standards for Coaches, 5. Digital citizenship, b. Model and facilitate safe, healthy, legal and ethical uses of digital information and technologies)

In examining the roles of pessimism and optimism in the implementation of learning technology, I am reminded of the the following excerpt from a 2011 interview with Bill Moyers:

“I fall back on the balance we owe to the Italian political scientist, Gramsci, who said that he practices the pessimism of the mind and the optimism of the will. By that, he meant he sees the world as it is, without rose-colored glasses, as I try to do as a journalist. I see what’s there. That will make you pessimistic.”

“But then you have to exercise your will optimistically, believing that each of us singly, and all of us collectively, can be an agent of change. And I have to get up every morning and imagine a more confident future, and then try to do something that day to help bring it about.”

-Bill Moyers June 08 2011

Gramsci’s pessimism of the mind (or intellect) and optimism of the will is a useful strategy for everyday life as well as for digital education leadership. I will implement learning technology systems with:

1.) open eyes: I will be perceptive and critical. I will pursue what Selwyn (2016) calls “a purposeful pessimism” (p. 553) when approaching the implementation of learning technology. I will develop policies as Chapman (2016) suggests with guidelines for identifying appropriate learning technologies, to ensure that learning technologies provide differentiated learning opportunities and to monitor the success of the policies.

2.) a level head: I will, as Selwyn’s (2016) pessimistic learning technologist does, “expect nothing in particular from technology”, “start from a position of no expectation of success or improvement.” (p.553) Technology is not inherently good or inherently bad – it just is. As Chapman (2016) points out, technology has become ubiquitous and students expect technology integration in classrooms. (p. 287) It is no longer a question of if culturally responsive classrooms will integrate technology, it is a question of how.

3.) a forward lean: Selwyn’s (2016) pessimism is in line with Gramsci’s optimism in that it results as “an active engagement with continuous alternatives.” (p. 553) I will stay focused on the goals of social and environmental justice. If a learning technology seems to be suitable to meet those ends, I will plan to implement it. I will be active in assessing its effectiveness and when it fails, I will be flexible in changing my plans.

Connect students to each other and their communities

In describing his Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), Vygotsky (1978) claims that “learning awakens a variety of internal developmental processes that are able to operate only when the child is interacting with people in his [sic] environment and in cooperation with his [sic] peers.” (p. 35) Students are often best equipped to teach each other within their respective ZPDs, due to their shared experiences and common linguistic abilities. First though, a student must take ownership of their learning environment and accept their peers.

In using learning technology, Chapman (2016) argues, “The learner’s experience of a technology will be influenced by whatever cultural assumptions influenced the design of the technology.” (p. 289) In which case, if we are to create classroom environments that are culturally relevant to todays students, they will connect students to each other and to the outside world.

For Emdin (2016), students’ “dense networks with each other are strengthened by their shared frustration with the structure of traditional classrooms and the difference between the context of the classroom and that of the world outside of school.” (p. 131) Students should be encouraged to be critical of their learning process and learning technology in particular. Students should ask, “how is this technology helping me or holding me back?” and “if I were to have designed this technology, what would I have done differently and why?”

So, if we are to create and implement effective learning technologies, they will need to act like networks through which students can share ideas easily, they will need to have more windows than walls, more open doors than ones that are closed or locked, and they will need to offer students authorship, not only in creating content within the environment, but also in creating the environment itself.


Bullard, R. D. (2000). Dumping in dixie: Race, class, and environmental quality. 3rd Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Chapman, R. (2016). Diversity and inclusion in the learning enterprise: Implications for learning technologies. The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology. 287-300. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.

Coates, T. (2015). Between the world and me. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau.

Davis, A. J. “In Search of Racial Justice: The Role of the Prosecutor,” Journal of Legislation and Public Policy, 16, no. 4 (2013) p. 821,

Emdin, C. (2016). For white folks who teach in the hood… and the rest of y’all too: Reality pedagogy and urban education. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Jost, J., & Kay, A. C. (2010). Social justice: History, theory, and research. In S. T. Fiske, D. Gilbert, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (5th ed., Vol. 2, pp. 1122-1165). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Mauer, M. (2011), Addressing racial disparities in incarceration. The Prison Journal Supplement, 91 (3). 88S-90S.

Moyers, B. (2011), Bill Moyers on his legendary journalism career: Democracy should be a brake on unbridled greed and power. Democracy Now! New York, NY. Retrieved from

National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. (2017). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2017. Special Report NSF 17-310. Arlington, VA. Retrieved from

Palmer, P. (2007). The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass

Purdy, J. (2016). Environmentalism was once a social-justice movement: It can be again. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Seattle Public Schools. (2017) School Reports. Retrieved from

Selwyn, N. (2016) The Dystopian Futures. The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology. 542-556. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

A Reflection on Peer Coaching

The overarching definition of ISTE’s Visionary Leadership Coaches Standard is that
“Technology coaches inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment.” We’ve been working this quarter on the use of Peer Coaching as a methodology for that type of leadership and the coaching project I’ve been working on has brought a number of interesting issues up for me.

Shared Vision

I’ve been working with a group of three teachers who have taken over leadership of our Future Ready Teacher User Group. Approximately 20 teachers (who were part of the past two year’s Tech Cohorts) get together each month to share and learn together about current district tools and new ideas as well as being introduced to new tools. The past two years they’ve worked with me as the instructor and the focus has been on learning about the SAMR model (Puentedura 2006), skill building around available tools and developing a culture of trust and innovative thinking. My goal was to develop Human Capacity in our buildings around technology integration. I need more leaders at the building level who can serve in an unofficial coaching capacity and who can model tech enriched lessons and progressive thinking.

I came across an article called “How Coaches Can Maximize Student Learning” (Saphier, West 2010) that suggested that coaches should work with the strongest teachers first to build a “tacit farm team” for future coaches. In future years they could be matched with new teachers to become mentors or collaborative partners and would in turn help strengthen the skills and capacity of a a new group of teachers. The three teachers I’m working with are the heart of my farm team and it puts me in the role of having to step back and allow them to develop their own vision for the group.

The experience reinforced the idea for me that it is important that we share a vision, either as a district or a group and also have a plan for reaching that vision. As suggested in Foltos’ (2013) book Peer Coaching, we developed a written Peer Coaching plan to define our roles and set our goals for our group. The difficult part has been that we don’t yet have a clear vision for technology use as a district so some of the things we would have liked to do as part of our professional development for this group wouldn’t have been supported. The vision we were able to work toward was that we wanted more sharing, more collaboration and continued relevance to the daily use of technology in classrooms. I think we are beginning to do that.

Integration of Technology to Promote Transformational Change

This has been a more challenging aspect of working with this group. My instructors are models for their fellow teachers but they are not in an acknowledged coaching role with them. A lot of what they are doing is facilitating and coaching by example. The instructors and I have talked a lot about using the SAMR model to help move teachers move from using technology as simply a substitution for traditional pen and paper activities toward redefining teaching and learning with technology as a tool to make that possible. Even after three years with the first group we are still talking about it and very few teachers have tried anything terribly transformational with technology. It does take time but it feels like there are pieces missing that will move us forward with technology integration. In the same article referenced above (Saphier, West 2010) the authors define coaching in schools as a “strategic, systematic approach to improving student learning”. They go further to list these purposes and practices, which are meant for content areas, but I think have some interesting tie ins to our Users Group.

  • Coaches and teachers engage in public teaching in front of one another, with the expectation and practice of giving and receiving rigorous feedback aimed at student learning.
    • My instructors have been demonstrating new skills and leading discussions but what if they also taught a model lesson and/or we used some of release time funds they have access to get subs for people in the group to come in and watch them teach? Could I leverage them as model teachers as well as for the ability to facilitate the users group?
  • Staff members regularly consult and ask each other for help.
    • The instructors wanted to shift more of our meeting time to sharing and collaborating so each meeting has time dedicated to both. We are seeing more open sharing of ideas but I’d really like to see if we can leverage social media to allow people to share even outside the meetings and develop more of a collaborative online community.
  • Staff meet in regular groups to discuss how to improve instruction of specific concepts and skills related to student learning.
    • It’s not always easy to do this with technology because in many cases, it’s meant as a tool to support learning in other content areas, not as a stand alone topic. However, we could spend more time focusing on technology practices that we could measure things like engagement. Liz Kolb’s Triple E Framework might be a good tool to introduce to my instructors to see if we can use it to reframe some of our discussions with the larger group on how technology can be integrated and support their content areas.
  • Questions related to practice permeate adult discourse, and they are authentic questions centering on the most tenacious and ubiquitous issues of teaching and learning.
    • When I read this it dawned on me that we don’t ask enough questions in our User Group meetings. I ask questions of my coaches to help guide them to thinking about good practices for running the meetings and choosing topics but we aren’t translating that to discourse we could be having with the larger group about how technology is impacting their students, how they can measure the effectiveness of their tech integrated lessons or on how they can improve them. It might be time to bring that up with my instructors.

Coaching teachers is challenging but coaching coaches has made me have to stop and think about the approaches I take, the questions I ask and the other things I do to coach others and try to articulate those for my coaches. I have a ways to go but becoming more conscious of the skills I’m using successfully and the ones I need to work on will help me be able to help them as well.



Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Retrieved 11 December 2017, from

Kolb, L. (2017). Triple E FrameworkTriple E Framework. Retrieved 15 December 2017, from

SAMR. (2017). Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. Retrieved 15 December 2017, from

Saphier, J., & West, L. (2010). How Coaches Can Maximize Student Learning. Phi Delta Kappan91(4), 46-50.

Adding Technology Capacity to Buildings Through Coaching

coaching terms wordle

Our district is considering adopting an Instructional Coaching Model in our elementary buildings next year to support our ELA adoption. I love the idea of having more support for teachers in the buildings in any capacity. These new coaches won’t specifically be in buildings to support technology but if we can mesh some training around ways technology can support reading, writing and language we can develop capacity in teachers and coaches to use those tools in other ways or for other purposes.

We can already leverage the technology capacity we’ve nurtured the last few years with our Future Ready Teacher cohort. There have been three groups of teachers who have spent a year of ongoing, hands on technology integration training and who have stepped up to become tech leaders in their buildings. Some of the new coaches may come from this pool of teachers and bring with them the expertise and skills they’ve acquired. In other buildings, we’ve developed the capacity for technology leadership that can help support new coaches if we consciously provide opportunities for them to work together.

The ISTE Standards for Coaches help lay out some of the essential areas of focus for Tech coaches. Coaches can be both just in time support and training resources for teachers but can also serve as a communication channel between teachers and administration and can help promote a bigger picture view of technology usage in the classroom. Many districts have successfully provided access and devices to staff and students but still struggle with getting the usage to move beyond substitution level. Coaches can bring perspective, experience and skills that busy teachers haven’t had time to acquire. They can be leaders in their buildings and help communicate a vision of a new way of thinking about instruction that is supported by technology.

It’s not easy to find amazing teachers who are strong in both their content areas and technology. I suspect we’ll find the strong content providers in our district and we’ll have to train them up to be strong tech leaders as well. The article,  How Districts Can Adopt a Tech Coaching Model (Kipp 2017) suggests that having a clear job description that spells out the expectations around technology and a systematic, ongoing training cycle can best support new coaches.

Most coaching models center around training and support for coaches as well as clear expectations for the coaching role. In Peer Coaching, Foltos (2013) suggests a written coaching plan that can help both teacher and coach stay focused on the learning targets and have clear norms and purposes for the coaching relationship. The Edutopia article, Instructional Coaching: Driving Meaningful Tech Integration (2015) highlights a high school that created a successful model using a BDA (Before, During, After) cycle. It’s easy to remember and clearly defines the working relationship around a lesson. The article does point out that successful coaching models depend on a flexible schedule for coaches so that they can move were they are needed and also have time for the informal conversations that help build solid relationships with teachers.

I like the idea of combining mentors and coaches in this model Mary Beth Hertz shares in Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration (Hertz 2011) to leverage expertise in the building and add to the tech coaches ability to meet people’s needs. If every teacher who received a cart of mobile devices also received a mentor who had used a cart in their classroom for a few years, I wonder how much faster we could be moving toward more creative uses of technology in our classrooms?

For myself, I want to see more technology coaches in action. Local conferences and users groups provide some opportunity for learning and sharing with other coaches. However, it would be interesting to set up chances to visit other districts or do a coach exchange for a day and swap places with someone to learn more about their system and they can learn about ours. More opportunities to work on coordinated projects, like EdCamps, with other districts would also benefit our teachers and new coaches by providing access to new ideas and new resources.


Bentley, K. (2017). How School Districts Can Adopt the Technology Coach Retrieved 11 December 2017, from

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Hertz, M. (2011). Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech IntegrationEdutopia. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from

Instructional Coaching: Driving Meaningful Tech Integration. (2015). Edutopia. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Retrieved 11 December 2017, from


The Coach – Administrator Connection: Module 5

Connecting and Collaborating with Administrators as an Instructional Technology Coach

This week in my final blog post of the quarter for my class on Educational Technology Leadership my question has led me to investigate how an instructional technology coach can partner with administrators to support and extend the learning that is happening through coaching. I have an interest in asking this question because I think that in my coaching role increased engagement and collaboration with administrators would benefit my coaching practice and the teachers and students at my schools. As I’ve written about before however, based on the literature I’ve read I am also in a unique position being in multiple schools. In addition to being in multiple schools, the fact that I’m in the middle of my first year as a coach also probably helps to explain why I may feel a slight disconnect to administrators in my building. So my questions, what does an engaged administrator do to support a coach in their building? And how can I help to engage administrators to make the most of my coaching role in their schools? Those questions will likely make sense to my peers who have been reading my previous posts this quarter because they are in a similar vein to my other posts. I was excited to investigate what an engaged administrator might look like from a coaching role, and brainstorm what I might be able to do to help further engage the administrators I work with. I also want to add that my past experience as a teacher in a school with an administrator who collaborated and met with her coaches regularly, did in fact give me an idea about some of the things an engaged administrator might do with coaches.

As I was looking for resources to guide my investigation I found a blog post written by Elena Aguilar titled “10 Ways for Administrators to Support Coaches,” which made my search fairly easy.

Some of the takeaways for me from this post are:

  • Align on a coaching model

That is one of the things I have been wondering about during this year. What do principals expect of me as a coach? What is their idea of the coaching model I am following? Aguilar suggests that coaches and administrators discuss these questions and more, then she adds, “Discussing these with a coach can lead to more cohesion and clarity as well as surface any large discrepancies” Aguilar (2014). In my monthly meetings with administrators I would like to get a better sense of what type of coaching model would best benefit their school.

  • Learn Together

Our team has often talked about what learning is happening at elementary leadership meetings but as of now we are not included. I think knowing that learning would help us support each other. The point of Elena Aguilar, (2014) though is, principals can ask questions of coaches to learn about instructional best practices and I think if principals were doing that collegiality between administrators and coaches would grow as well. Maybe another approach is inviting administrators to our professional development. Maybe asking them to come to NCCE is an opportunity to build trust, and mutual support for one another.   

  • Support Your Coaches Learning

This point encourages administrators to invest in a coaches learning and growth through PD. The author suggests that learning to instruct adults is often the most difficult thing for coaches to learn, so investing in that growth will in turn help coaches and teachers. As I provide PD for schools this year I’m going to ask for explicit feedback about how to improve my work. I was able to give my first whole staff PD last Friday, and now I think my next step is to solicit feedback form the principal and assistant principal.

  • Offer Leadership Guidance

Aguilar says, “coaches are leaders who need leadership development” (2014),  and that is definitely how I feel. Certain staff members, but not all, do seem to look to me as a leader. Often, I’m asked about the plans of the district. A lot of that depends on my coaching relationship with that staff member. Guidance from a leader is definitely something I am looking for in my position and in each of my schools. Again, I think this often comes up in whole staff PD settings so asking administrators who sit in for those trainings about how I handle staff questions is a good next step for me.

  • Appreciate your Coaches

This point is about recognizing the contribution that a coach makes to your school. I understand that I’m still working on my contributions, but I admit it would be nice if an administrator knew what I was doing. In my monthly meetings with administrators we do get to talk about what I‘m doing in the school, but usually I’m leading that part of the conversation. I am hopeful though that sometime later in the year, they hear about my work from a teacher and mention it to me in one of our meetings. That’s recognition for me!

It also seems that as I am given the opportunity to speak in front of a staff more often and if I continue to ask for feedback from administrators they will certainly see some of the work I am doing. As an instructional coach in a handful of schools my role might be unique or at least of less focus in the literature I have read but many of the same concepts still apply. One overarching theme this quarter has been building relationships and I recognize that just as I am doing that with teachers, I am still definitely doing that with administrators. I’m hoping that the reading I’ve done for this post will keep me moving in the direction of strengthening relationships with administrators and in turn will allow me to experience greater buy-in and participation in coaching in each of my schools. 


Aguilar, E. (2014, October 9). 10 Ways for Administrators to Support Coaches. Retrieved December 10, 2017, from

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

Walpert-Gawron, H. (2016, June). How to Be a Change Agent:The Many Roles of an Instructional Coach. Educational Leadership, 73. Retrieved December 11, 2017, from

“How’m I Doing?”: How to Tell if Peer Coaching is Working and if You’re Doing it Right

A Seemingly Simple Question I’m the kind of person who likes feedback. I like to know if I’m headed in the right direction and if I’m doing the right things to get there. The late Ed Koch, former Mayor of New York, used to ask people, “How’m I doing?” and it quickly became a sort-of … Continue reading "“How’m I Doing?”: How to Tell if Peer Coaching is Working and if You’re Doing it Right"

Digital Readiness Project


For my culminating project for my Values, Ethics, and Foundations in Digital Education class, I was asked to assess the digital readiness of a school district by conducting an interview and then completing a report. In considering the questions to ask to gauge the district’s digital readiness, I was not sure if I was asking the right questions or asking enough questions. The topic of digital education is a very broad one. Ultimately, I devised my questions based on the following sources: ISTE Coaching Standards, Ribble’s Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship, and the Digital Leap Success Matrix published by the Consortium for School Networking. My professor helped me to further refine and clarify my questions.

This district I analyzed serves students in a largely impoverished rural community. It is a small district comprised of three elementary schools and one junior high school. The district serves 3,530 students and employs 155 teachers Nearly half (46.5%) of students are classified as English Language Learners whose first language is Spanish. Additionally, 8.6% of students receive Special Education Services. The district has a graduation rate of 92%. 83.6% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The interview was conducted in November of 2017 via a collaborative Google Doc with the district’s technology integration coach, who wished to remain anonymous.


Before getting into the practical questions, I wanted to get a feel for my interviewee’s philosophy on technology in education. In my experience, a person’s individual beliefs greatly influence their attitude and actions. Individual philosophy plays a large part in successfully implementing technology in a district, from the superintendent, principals, coaches, and teachers–all must be onboard in order to truly achieve success.

My guiding questions were: What role should technology play in education? and What responsibilities do educators have in teaching students to safely use technology? My interviewee sees the role of technology as an accelerator in the classroom. The district is focused on implementing the 4 C’s of 21st Century Learning (Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Critical Thinking) and technology offers an opportunity to redefine the skills and tasks necessary to meet that goal. He also cited a quote by Alice Keeler, an author and Twitter-guru: “Good teachers can’t be replaced by technology. What tech does is allow teachers to spend more time focusing on their learners and buildings those relationships” (2014). As far as individual teacher responsibility, it must be a priority for teachers to explicitly teach and model digital literacy and citizenship. Students need this guidance from teachers because “[w]e are ushering in a new era of digital users who need relevant and moral examples and experiences to share and shape their digital impact.” 


Community Support

A benefit of being part of a small community is that you can bring multiple stakeholders together. The district is fortunate to have the support of the local government including an educational partnership initiative with a full-time director. Through this partnership, students are served via a library/learning center within walking distance to 3 of the district’s 4 schools. Services provided at this center include a library, a computer lab, and low-cost supplemental classes for students and parents. This access is a blessing to many students in the community and helps bridge the digital divide with its free computer and internet use.

Devices & Access

In terms of access to technology on campus, the district has made great strides in a short period of time. Prior to the investment in Chromebooks, the district had little IT support and investment in technology was low. Each school site had a computer lab, some classrooms had a handful (2-4) of older PCs for student access, and each teacher had a PC. A roving class-set of 10-year-old mini-laptops was available at each site. The internet was very slow and did not allow for multiple classes to access simultaneously. In just five years, the use of technology has completely shifted. Each student K-8 has access to a Chromebook in the classroom. The internet has been updated. Additional IT support staff have been hired, including my interviewee who works full-time supporting teachers as they integrate technology into the curriculum.

One way that the district is planning for the future of technology in learning is by investing in a robust infrastructure. Funds are set aside in the district budget for longterm repairs and replacement of their chosen device, Chromebooks. In addition, for each order of Chromebooks, the district purchased an additional 25% to serve as backups in case of damage. Teachers experiencing a broken Chromebook can request a replacement.

Digital Citizenship

With the addition of Chromebooks into the classroom came the need to implement digital citizenship. In searching for an existing curriculum that met the ISTE Standards to “[m]odel and facilitate safe, healthy, legal, and ethical uses of digital information and technologies,” the district discovered the Common Sense Media framework which consists of differentiated lessons for students K-12 (ISTE Standards: Coaches, 2011). The lessons are based on the research of Dr. Howard Gardner and the Good Play Project at Harvard. The purpose of the program is to “address[] real challenges for teachers and students to help schools navigate cyberbullying, internet safety, and other digital dilemmas” (Common Sense Education, 2017). The lessons on Common Sense Media cover Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship: Etiquette, Access, Law, Communication, Literacy, Commerce, Rights and Responsibility, Safety, and Health and Welfare (2013). Elementary teachers are required to implement the program which includes a scope and sequence for each grade.

Online Safety

To further ensure the safe use of technology while at school, the district takes standard precautions. At the beginning of the school year, all students, staff, and parents are required to sign the district’s Acceptable Use Policy before being allowed to access to school technology. Many teachers also use individual Chromebook contracts that outline the rules and consequences in student-friendly language. Administrators and teachers alike are responsible for monitoring students’ use of technology. They are assisted in this task with monitoring software that records every action a student takes while using a Chromebook. Other settings within Google are employed for student safety such as moderate restrictions on YouTube, disallowing of out-of-network sharing, and disabling Gmail. Furthermore, standard web search filters are in place.

Teacher Support

The district would not have been able to make as many digital strides without the teacher support organized in large part by my interviewee. This element of support and encouragement has been fundamental in getting reluctant teachers on board with technology. My interviewee’s professional development and coaching reflects the ISTE standard 5a: “Model and promote strategies for achieving equitable access to digital tools and resources and technology-related best practices for all students and teachers” (2011). His two goals are to help give struggling teachers the basic knowledge and skills they need to access the district’s 16 current systems and adoptions as well inspire and coach 21st Century educators to become innovators.

The opportunities for support within the district are incredible. After-school workshops called “Appy Hours” are held regularly. At these workshops, teachers can be paid their hourly rate to learn a variety of applicable technology skills. Different levels are offered on numerous topics so that all teachers can benefit no matter their existing technical ability. Content of the sessions is informed by teachers themselves through a survey sent at the beginning of the school year. If teachers are interested in taking their knowledge to the next level, day-long Boot Camp sessions are offered throughout the year to prepare them for Google Certification. Perhaps most unique is the ability of teachers within the district to book the technology integration coach to come into their classroom to either teach a model lesson to the class, or to work with the teacher in developing tech lessons, troubleshooting issues related to tech integration, or any other needs as they arise. Because his time is split between three schools, each site also has at least one appointed ‘Tech Ninja’ who is a volunteer tech mentor. He/she can provide help (usually same-day) if another teacher is struggling with technology use or implementation.   

Google Apps for Education

Google Apps for Education (GAfE) has been a game-changer for many teachers and students. Unlike paperwork which can easily become lost or damaged, all work completed in the Google Suite is saved automatically to the Cloud and can be accessed from any device at any time. This ability has enabled students to complete projects across disciplines and to make better use of their time (for example, if they finish early in one class, they can complete work via Google Classroom for another teacher). Students appreciate that they can collaborate with peers and receive comments, suggestions, and revisions in real-time from their teacher. They also appreciate how easy Google Classroom makes it to view the status and grade of any assignment.


Access at Home

The most straightforward challenge within the district’s technology implementation is the lack of access within student homes. Since the district serves students from a low socio-economic background, many students lack access to computers. Many students do have access to the internet (87% according to a 2015 survey), however, that access includes parents’ Smartphones which do not offer the same learning potential as PCs or laptops. To truly bridge the digital divide will require the effort and collaboration of the school district, parents, and the city. My interviewee has a bold vision for the future. He said, “I dream of students taking devices home, checking out wifi pucks from the school library to take home, free wifi at all local businesses, [and] the city offering a reduced rate for home internet to low income families.”

Equitable Experience Across Classrooms

Another key element in moving the district forward and ensuring that all students have a quality experience with technology in the classroom is finding ways to ensure all teachers are properly trained. The district and the technology integration coach have gone above and beyond to provide opportunities for teachers to take professional development or receive individual advice through on-site Tech Ninjas and opportunities to work individually with coaches. However, many teachers still do not take advantage of the opportunities because time after school is often spent coaching sports, tutoring, grading, and performing other such tasks. New strategies that could be explored include lunchtime mini-PD sessions, hosting PD asynchronously in Google Classroom, and using district-mandated PD time.


I came away from the interview excited for this district and where they are headed in the future. So many of the key components of successful digital implementation are in place: access, infrastructure, funding, teacher training, community support, and a solid support system to teach students digital citizenship and literacy. While the district has not yet adopted a formal digital mission statement, their actions are in line with Ribble’s stance on technology in schools: “As technology continues to become a more integral part of students’ lives, making sure that all members within school environments are well versed in appropriate use and digital citizenship will be an imperative” (2013).


Common Sense Education. (2017). Digital Citizenship. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Dec. 2017].

ISTE Standards: Coaches. (2011). [PDF file] International Society for Technology in Education. Available at: [Accessed 6 Dec. 2017].

Keeler, A. [alicekeeler]. (2014, August 29). Good Ts can’t be replaced by tech. What tech does is allow Ts to spend more time focusing on their learners & building those relationships. [Tweet]. Retrieved from

Ribble, M. and Miller, T. (2013). Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Network, [online] 17(1), pp.137-45. Available at: [Accessed 7 Dec. 2017].

Digital Education: Mission Statement

My Mission is To:

  • Model and promote the responsible, legal, and ethical use of technology through my personal actions.  
  • Equip all students with the tools necessary to survive and thrive in our increasingly digital world.
  • Share technological wisdom and best practices with fellow teachers via formal or informal mentorship.
  • Use technology to bridge gaps in access, knowledge, communication, and cultural understanding.

Because I believe so strongly in the potential for learning and community-building through technology, I am compelled to model and promote methods that ensure students and teachers alike can safely, ethically, and effectively use technology as we work toward a brighter future.


Why is technology in education no longer optional?

Students’ shifting needs

If educators truly wish to prepare students for “a future not yet written, then we need to consider the critical need for all students to receive a viable education that not only includes core content but also purposeful integration of the 4 C’s” (Johnson, 2017, p. xvii). The National Education Association’s Four C’s of 21st Century Learning include creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. This simplified framework was developed to address the changing needs of modern students: “In the 21st century, citizenship requires levels of information and technological literacy that go far beyond the basic knowledge that was sufficient in the past” (, n.d.).

Meeting the needs of all learners

One of the most exciting promises of technology in education is the potential to bridge the gap between students of different socioeconomic statuses. This difference is known as the digital divide and it further disadvantages already at-risk students. However, students’ access to technology in school can compensate for lack of access to technology within the home: “…the power of access in the hands of motivated learners may make up for a lot of disadvantages” (Jones & Bridges, 2016).

Why is there a need for leaders in digital education?

The power of mentors

Whether sharing resources, modeling effective use of technology or providing feedback, mentors are a fundamental part of technology implementation in schools. According to Palmer, the power of mentors is that they awaken a truth within ourselves (2007). Just as students need guidance when navigating new content, teachers need support when implementing technology for the first time.

Training gaps

Policy has not caught up to practicality. 95% of all educational buildings in the United States are equipped with computers according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (2016). While an encouraging statistic, purchasing computers and equipping teachers to use them effectively are not the same. The majority of teachers in America (78%) feel that they have not received adequate technology training (Ascione, 2017).

What does it mean to be a digital education leader?

Digital wisdom

Digital wisdom is the interaction of the human mind with digital technology and the realization of the possibilities and responsibilities that that interaction affords. To put it another way, “…wisdom is needed to engage with and live within the technology and media that have become our environment” (Campbell & Garner, 2016). Digital wisdom encompasses using technology intentionally and with care and consideration given to individuals and group affected by our online actions.

Proactive, not reactive

Digital education leaders recognize that technology is a powerful tool that can be harnessed for both positive and negative outcomes. They make a distinction between the undesired behavior and the device, which is merely a tool. With this foresight, they proactively teach and model the appropriate use of technology while equipping students with the tools needed to avoid the pitfalls of technology. Leaders also approach both the consumption and production of technology within a moral framework by considering the broad implications of their actions online.

My Guiding Principles:

Ethical framework

A strong moral framework should support the decisions we make as educators, and that includes the use of technology. The ‘Golden Rule’ is a simple moral test that can be applied to every situation. Though mostly connected with the Judeo-Christian Bible, the concept of the Golden Rule can be found throughout history in various iterations within many proverbs and religious texts. At its core, the Golden Rule asks a person to consider the potential harm or benefit of one’s actions upon another. The 18th Century philosopher Immanuel Kant borrowed from the Golden Rule when shaping his Categorical Imperative. In an attempt to remove the subjectiveness of the individual in favor of a more universal interpretation, Kant called for individuals to act as they would want all others to act toward each other.

The consideration of others put forth in the Golden Rule and Categorical Imperative is reminiscent of the concept of mindfulness cited by Howard Rhinegold as a way to reclaim digital agency and attention (2012). It can also be related to Carrie James concept of conscientious connectivity which aims to cultivate agency, reconnect disconnects, and correct blind spots in technology use (2014). The underlying message is that through careful consideration of ourselves and others, we can make better choices online and also guide students in making wise and ethical choices in their online actions.

It’s not the technology; it’s what you do with the technology.

Technology is no substitute for quality teaching. It is therefore important not to become too excited about access in and of itself. What is done with the access matters most. The quality of instruction is much more important than the delivery method. Likewise, the method of use has much more value than the device itself (Jones & Bridges, 2016). This is why it is so important for districts to set aside funding for ongoing technology training and coaching where knowledgeable digital education leaders can model the effective use of technology while incorporating it with existing core standards and content.

Technology is an opportunity to “promote diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness by using digital-age communication and collaboration tools” (ISTE Standards: Coaches, 2011). With the advent of the internet, learning is no longer tied to a physical classroom. Not only can the internet be a tool to discover new cultures and perspectives, it can facilitate communication between students from across the globe. Technology can also bridge differences in learning styles and experiences. For example, students might be offered multiple modes of information to study.

Technology creates opportunities for engagement. Student engagement is a key component of learning. When students use technology to facilitate learning, they are engaged with the content in new ways. For example, instead of reading a textbook to learn about World War II, students could view interviews with veterans online. These types of learning opportunities make content real for students.

Technology also provides opportunities for ownership. Educators are doing a great job of creating rules (don’t share your location with strangers, don’t cyberbully, don’t give out your password), but are failing to help students build a positive digital identity with technology and are therefore missing out on the bigger picture. One example of building a positive digital identity would be a digital learning portfolio. Identity-building has not only social and academic benefits, but also supports the teaching of digital citizenship. Teens who have a personal investment in technology via ownership are more likely to consider the ethical issues of online life (James, 2014).

Don’t be a tool of your tool.

The concept of agency in technology translates to using technology for a particular purpose with intent and foresight. An individual practicing agency would not spend hours mindlessly viewing strangers’ photos on social media. This is not as simple as it seems. The on-demand stimulation and dopamine boost provided by technology can make it difficult to put down the device. Worse still, many students feel participation in online communities is compulsory to a healthy social life. Students even feel that sacrificing their privacy is a compulsory aspect of internet use. It is apparent educators are not teaching students to use the tool, rather than be used by the tool.

Attention, when explicitly taught, can increase students’ agency. Often attention is thought of as a fixed quantity when in reality the human brain is highly plastic and can adapt with proper training. According to Rhinegold, the keys to building attention are setting a specific task using premeditation and then practicing willful inattention to unwanted distractions–such as turning off the cell phone (2012).

Attention is a skill that can and should to be taught to students beginning in the early grades. The key, according to Jennifer A. Livingston, is to combine awareness of how attention works with strategies to hone that attention (as cited in Rhinegold, 2012). Once these tools are given to students, they must be allowed to practice them and self-evaluate their own progress.

In addition to agency and attention, digital citizenship is a necessary set of skills in order to use technology ethically. Educators are obligated to “[m]odel and faciliate safe, healthy, legal, and ethical uses of digital information and technologies” (ISTE Standards: Coaches, 2011). One framework mentioned in the Ribble & Miller article for implementing digital citizenship is the R-E-P model. The ‘R’ stands for Respect and focuses on the importance of having empathy in online interactions (including recognizing the digital divide) and the legal obligations of Fair Use, copyright, and piracy. The ‘E” is for Educate and considers how to protect personal and financial information and how to navigate technology to meet various needs. The ‘P’ is for Protect and encourages students to inform adults if an online situation is making them uncomfortable and also to have a healthy online-life and real-life balance.

Digital literacy: a building block of modern society.

According to the Jisc webpage entitled “Developing Students’ Digital Literacy,” the definition of digital literacy is having the skills necessary to live, learn, and work in a digital society (2015). Beyond digital citizenship and the ethics of online life, students must be given the tools to navigate the endless amount of information available online. It is imperative that educators “promote strategies for achieving equitable access to digital tools and resources and technology-related best practices for all students” (ISTE Standards: Coaches, 2011).

Using search engines effectively is a key skill that is often overlooked in the classroom. To connect students with the most credible and relevant data, it is important to teach advanced search terms and the need to read multiple sources before making a conclusion.

Once information is found, it must be properly used and cited. The issues of Copyright and Fair Use can get complex, which is perhaps why many teachers teach MLA or APA citation but never go deeper. In a time when many students’ dream job is being a YouTuber, educators do students a disservice by not explicitly teaching Copyright and Fair Use.

Just as important as accessing information is detecting misinformation. Whether intentional (fake news) or accidental (uncited information or rumors), misinformation is an increasing problem. Students must be taught to be critical consumers, a skill they woefully lack according to a 2016 Stanford study. The consequences of misinformation are serious: “At present, we worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish” (Stanford History Education Group, 2016).  If educators are not willing to teach students to identify misinformation, we risk allowing politicians and corporations to rob students of agency.

Howard Rhinegold cites Dan Gillmor’s Five Principles of Media Consumption as one framework that can be used to teach students to detect misinformation online. The principles are: be skeptical, exercise judgment, open your mind to other sources, keep asking questions, and learn the techniques used by the media (2012). Another suggestion Rhinegold makes is to use the triangulation test before sharing information online. Under the triangulation test, information should not be shared unless it has been validated by three credible (and independent) sources.


Digital literacy, citizenship, and agency must be interwoven in the core curriculum and explicitly taught and modeled on a regular and ongoing basis for students. Likewise, teachers need support and guidance in implementing technology. Because I believe so strongly in the potential for learning and community-building through technology, I am compelled to model and promote methods that ensure students and teachers alike can safely, ethically, and effectively use technology to further the goals of public education.

We have a duty to equip all students with the tools necessary to navigate online life safely, legally, healthily, and ethically. I am driven to this principle because of my belief in the Golden Rule. I want my students to make choices online that keep themselves safe both mentally and physically, promote kindness and compassion toward others, and enable them to access and manipulate information online for their own edification.

I likewise feel driven to provide access to tools and resources for all students, especially those disadvantaged economically. Technology has the power to transform education and information, thereby helping students to rise above difficult circumstances. Our students are the future. It is in everyone’s best interest to have an educated, responsible, moral, and technically-literate society.


Ascione, L. (2017). Still? Most teachers feel unprepared to use technology in the classroom. [online] eSchool News. Available at: [Accessed 3 Dec. 2017].

Campbell, H. and Garner, S. (2016). Networked Theology: Negotiating Faith in a Digital Culture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, pp.19-37.

Hibberson, S., Barrett, E. and Davies, S. (2015). Developing Students’ Digital Literacy. [online] Jisc. Available at: [Accessed 2 Dec. 2017].

ISTE Standards: Coaches. (2011). [PDF file] International Society for Technology in Education. Available at: [Accessed 6 Dec. 2017].

James, C. (2014). Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Johnson, L. A. (2017). Cultivating Communication in the Classroom: Future Ready Skills for Secondary Students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Pr.

Jones, M. and Bridges, R. (2016). Equity, Access, and the Digital Divide in Learning Technologies: Historical Antecedents, Current Issues, and Future Trends. The Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology, [online] pp.327-47. Available at: [Accessed 2 Dec. 2017].

Mayclin, D. (2016). Computer and technology use in education buildings continues to increase. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Dec. 2017]. (n.d.). Preparing 21st century students for a global society: A guide to the 4 C’s. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Dec. 2017].

Palmer, P. (1998). The Courage to Teach. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass, pp.1-34.

Rhinegold, H. (2012). Net Smart. The MIT Press, pp.77-145.

Ribble, M. and Miller, T. (2013). Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Network, [online] 17(1), pp.137-45. Available at: [Accessed 2 Dec. 2017].

Wineburg, S. and McGrew, S. and Breakstone, J. and Ortega, T. (2016). Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning. [online] Stanford Digital Repository. Available at: [Accessed 3 Dec. 2017]

EDTC 6105 : Maintaining Balance While Teaching and Supporting Others

Anyone who’s ever worked in a school, knows that the school day for teachers does not end when the bell rings.  The question many then ask is, what are teachers still doing at school 2 hours after the bell, or why was there car parked there all day Saturday?  Looking at this week’s coaching standards for my Masters program (see below), led me to question how teacher’s find balance in their lives to avoid wearing too many hats or living the life of the spinster teacher of a hundred years ago who dedicated her entire life to the children and the community?

This school year has taken my career in a new direction, owed to pursuing my Masters in Digital Education Leadership. Teaching full-time and trying to find time to support others with tech integration has proven to be a challenge.  Staying at school late is not an option for me or my family. Working on weekends in the classroom would only be possible if my 5 year old came with me.  

So then, how can I effectively model tech integration for others with the responsibilities of a classroom teacher?

Through reflection, I kept getting drawn back to three main factors: common traits of teachers, resources, and understanding personal boundaries.  Our mentor text this quarter, Peer Coaching, frequently refers to relationships and resources. In hindsight, I wish I had thought about all of this in August, but as I prepare for Winter Break, it gives me time to rejuvenate and set new goals for the second half of the school year. I also need to remind myself, this time I am the student, learning how to better support colleagues.

Common Traits of Teachers

Having established that relationships are vital to a coaching partnership, has led me to think about teachers in general. What common traits can be found amongst teachers?  According to, there are five common personality traits found amongst great teachers:

  • Empathy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Creativity
  • Dedication
  • Discipline

Focusing on understanding the common traits lends itself to generating enthusiasm for collaboration and recognising colleagues strengths.  Part of coaching is helping others recognise their strengths and how to use them to intentionally support student growth goals. In addition to recognising teacher strengths, it’s important to survey teachers to know how they might be interested in supporting colleagues.  For example, those teachers that are extremely creative, let them share some lessons that they’ve had great success with.  For the teacher’s who struggle with getting specific students engaged, seek out those who’ve had a positive connection with that student. Coaching is not just about supporting all staff, but also about how to manage a supportive collaborative environment.

Understanding Limitations with Resources

Resources is a broad term, yet extremely impactful with tech integration.  Resources can bring the best intentions to a halt.  As a classroom teacher, I am not fully aware of resources available or the politics about how they are distributed in the district. What I do know however, is that without support from administration, access to technology, and time to collaborate, my mentoring/coaching efforts are doomed to fail.  

Integrating any new curriculum or tool requires thoughtful planning in order to be sustainable.  As a classroom teacher, and not a coach, I struggle with time to ask and find answers to questions before trying to jump in and support my colleagues. This means that planning in isolation, even with the best intentions, is likely to end in frustration. In regards to technology, coaches and mentors must first consult administrators, tech specialists from the district, and possibly content coaches before simply supporting a teacher’s vision with digital tools. This again, requires time, which may turn some teachers away from implementation.

Juggling Multiple Roles

As mentioned before, teachers work well beyond the bell.  Emails abound offering or requesting teachers to be part of a PLC, lead after school tutoring, coach an after school activity for students, or participate in Professional Development. How can teacher mentors and coaches then find time to collaborate with others?

Teacher mentors and coaches can easily fall into a trap of taking on too much. Despite their enthusiasm and dedication, teachers can take on more than they can handle.  Pedro Diaz, the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute, offers some great advice in his post How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work. First, he identifies the common traps when asked to take on another task at work. Three common problems, which I know I’m guilty of: we want to please others, our lack of self-awareness, and we don’t think we have a choice.

Moreover, Diaz offers strategies on how to approach multiple responsibilities.  He emphasizes learning how to wait.  It’s okay to think about something without committing right away. While contemplating, ask yourself what specific role you’re being asked to support, will you need further training to complete the task, and does it fit into your schedule?

Next Steps

As I prepare for Winter Break, I want to be realistic, proactive, and fully engaged in what I’m doing.  In order to to achieve these personal goals, I’m looking at the school calendar for next term.  Along with teaching, I am responsible for state testing for 4 grade levels.  I want to continue mentoring colleagues with tech integration and encourage others who are showing interest.

Knowing that I will be asked to participate in other areas as well, or fill in, I’ve realised I need to give myself time to reflect before committing. Wanting to adhere to Diaz’s advice, I’ve created The Juggling Act criteria (see above). Before taking on anything else this year, it’s important to ask: what is the specific task, time commitment, skills required, and if anyone else is similarly qualified to complete the task.  Then before saying, yes, consider workload so that I don’t jeopardize my current commitments.


Diaz, P. (2017, June 8). How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Hertz, M. B. (2011, November 14). Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from

Mormando, S. (2017, May 04). 5 Tips for Preparing Teachers for New Classroom Tech Tools. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from

A More Effective Online Peer Coach

As part of my studies with the Digital Education Leadership program at SPU, I recently engaged in and completed an exercise in peer coaching with a teacher.  I took into consideration that I now work at a startup, and the professional learning I would be working with her on would be all online and for a particular product. I gradually transitioned from the point of power and requests to a more to a collaborative partner, capable of leading and guiding inquiry. I practiced communication skills, including active listening and questioning strategies as my collaborating partner and I worked to rebuild our ECT program at Edmodo. Much of my work in this course centered around the study of Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Communication by Les Foltos

Beyond what we already learned and addressed how can I create a broader and more personal relationship when conducting online peer coaching?

As part of my reflection, I am considering how I can engage in peer coaching practices without ever having a traditional classroom to step into.  All the coaching is done online through Edmodo classroom and groups. On top of that, how do I evaluate and create metrics of success on the online coaching model? As I work in a business where I must demonstrate all efforts as value to the company.  So I must put forth a plan to revitalize the ECT program.

What is essential to the program to create trainers who we can trust? What support does my facilitator need from me to be more successful in the next cohort? 

Research by Shauna and Baker (2005) explains that One of the challenges resulting from the growing popularity of online education is how to efficiently evaluate online instruction.  Within their paper “Peer Coaching for Online Instruction: An Emerging Model for Faculty Development” where the central question isn’t whether this new approach to education is effective — the plethora of “no significant difference” studies mainly render that question moot — but what steps can be taken to not only ensure that individual courses are useful but provide the necessary guidance to promote faculty growth and development as they teach online.

Ensuring Quality of Online Instruction – Peer Coaching Cycle – “A team of experienced online instructors is currently adapting this peer coaching model for the online environment and has performed preliminary online peer coaching during this past academic year.”

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Within the protocol, the coach logs into Blackboard course site multiple times during a week. “We encourage the online peer coach to take particular notice of the virtual classroom environment and interpersonal communication dynamics.  Such facets include the design and layout of the blackboard web pages, the tone of the announcements and course materials, the level of learner-instructor engagement and learner-learner engagement in class discussions, the types of media used for presenting materials, the ease of navigation, the clarity of course instructions, and the instructor’s mastery of the course content and effectiveness at presenting it to the class.” As I look towards the future of our program, at Edmodo I see how important it is to figure out a way to evaluate the course as it is happening.  The program facilitator is an experienced teacher but teaching online with a cohort from 19 different countries is a whole different beast.  The kids that come to school every day are pushed from so many different sides to attend her class while these grown adults must see value and excitement every single time they log into the system.  It was tough to witness the attrition (the loss of customers or clients over time) because the end results are ECTs and these advocates are so valuable to the company.  As it sits thought it is just too long to keep hard-working teachers engaged, six weeks is a long time to stay concentrated on anything in this day and age especially when there isn’t any promise of compensation at the end.

How do I want to proceed with rebuilding the program?

Recently, I attended Advocamp an Advocate Marketing Strategy conference in San Francisco because that is a significant aspect of my job.  It was put on by a company called Influitive which is in the business of creating online hubs for other businesses to host advocate marketing campaigns and challenges.  It really allows you to gamify the system and reward your advocates with rewards and points.  The most valuable session I attended was by Deena Zenyk, from Influitive her session was titledUncover the hidden value of your advocacy program by learning to use the power of campaign-based planning.” She recently wrote a book about the Six Habits of Highly Effective Advocate Marketers and “Consider your last big purchase: What influenced your decision? A paid advertisement? A polished press release? A celebrity Twitter endorsement? A marketing email? A product webpage? Probably not. More than likely, you listened to someone you know and trust. An authentic voice with relevant experience is the most convincing proponent when we’re considering a new product or company. That is the power of an advocate.”  I think that this message although hard for some teachers to believe but sometimes we are a hard audience to sell to and we really only like to listen to people who have gone through what we have.  Sometimes I talk about my first couple years of teaching at an alternative high school like some people talk about serving in the military.  Now I know it is not comparable to what our military does for our country, but I genuinely do not feel like people at my work know what it is like for a teacher unless they have themselves have taught a couple of years.  That is just one reason why our ECT program brings so much value to our company because teachers only like to hear from other teachers when talking about a product.  But how do we create a course that is the right balance between getting enough experience with the product and short enough to keep everyone’s excitement and engagement?    So Deena Zenyk mentioned a system that CISCO put together years ago called VSEM, Vision, Strategy, Execution and Metric.  Moreover, I am going to put my program through this organization and see what comes out.  Here is what it looks like when diagramed.

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Is collaboration worth the investment? As you plot the next steps in your collaboration journey, it helps to understand the returns that are possible

The improved collaboration represents the best opportunity for business leaders to tap the full range of talents of their people, move with higher speed and flexibility, and compete to win over the next decade. But building a collaborative organization requires a transformative approach to culture, processes, and technology – along with an unwavering commitment from top to bottom. Leaders who encourage change on all three fronts will be rewarded with an energized organization that can adapt quickly to changing markets and deliver results.

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Foltos, L. (2015). Principals boost coaching’s impact: school leaders’ support is critical to collaboration. Journal Of Staff Development36(1), 48-51,.

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