Can one person both lead by example and work as a peer coach?

In response to this sentence, which I wrote in my last blog post:

“If I imagine a person embodying all the things stated in the ISTE-CS, I imagine a person who is leading by example and actively advocating for the meaningful integration of technology and education; neither of these characteristics are in line with the goal of peer coaching,”

my classmate, James, asked me:

“Do you think one could both lead by example and work as a peer coach depending on the circumstances? I’d be interested to hear if that fits into the parameters you’ve developed through your other posts about experts versus peers versus peer coaches.”

My short answer to this is: Of course! I just don’t think you can engage in both of those activities at the exact same time.

I’ve been thinking that I would like to elaborate on my thinking about this, and this seems like a good opportunity to do so. Admittedly, I believe I’m thinking about all this in a very specific way, and I definitely don’t expect someone to organize their thinking in the same way that I have. But let’s see if I can put my thinking into words. 

My Long Answer

Let’s define two things: the activity you’re engaged in, and the “hat” you are wearing (or the role you’re embodying, or the identity you’re “activating”). What I want to do is define peer coaching as a set of activities, and an ISTE Coach as a hat. I think making this distinction can get a little hairy, but through writing the rest of this post I’ve convinced myself that I’m happy with this choice.

Why does it get hairy? Because, if I say that I’m wearing my ISTE Coaching hat, then that implies I’m probably engaging in a certain set of activities. But I’m still not thinking of ISTE Coaching as an activity, I’m choosing to think of it as a hat I can wear; a perspective I can come from; an identity I can activate. I think this way of thinking works because putting on a certain hat probably implies a certain set of activities, but the reverse isn’t true; engaging in an activity doesn’t necessarily imply that you are wearing a particular hat, and this is the crux. (Side note: Heck yes! This so jives with what I know from academic identity literature.)

When you begin the peer coaching activity, you should start off as perspective free. You don’t approach your coachee with an agenda on the back burner. Does that mean that every time you approach this person, you approach them in peer coaching mode? No, because it’s an activity you engage in, not a hat you wear, and you’re not always engaged in that activity when in the presence of that person. Does that mean that you can’t throw different hats on and off as needed during the activity? No. Personally, I think I should be allowed to throw on any hat that I see fit in the moment. But my hats are tentative, and I’m always ready to take them off or put on a new one. The goal is to take the hat off when it is no longer needed, or to switch your hat when a new hat is needed. You’re always checking back in to see if the hat you’re wearing feels like the right hat to wear. And the hat you choose to put on is always in response to your coachee’s needs. During peer coaching, a secondary activity you are engaged in is the activity of waiting to seeing which hat you need to put on, not planning out which hats you want to wear in advance, based on your own goals.

So can I wear my ISTE Coaching hat while peer coaching? Yes. Can I embody that hat while peer coaching? No – not based on what I think it means to embody a hat. Can I embody that hat sometimes, and peer coach at other times? Yes. Can I truly ever rid myself of all hats? No.

You and your coachee are not always engaged in the activity of peer coaching. Hence, you aren’t always restricted to the activities that are specific to peer coaching while you’re with that person. You can lead by example sometimes, and then switch gears to focus on a coachee and their specific needs at other times. I keep thinking of the phrase “you do you.” People expect you to do you when you’re doing your own thing. And assuming you don’t go around telling people that they’re wrong if they don’t copy you, you doing things in your own way won’t stop people from trusting that you support their choices. So I think, most definitely, you can lead by example and peer coach, I just don’t think you can do them simultaneously.

21st Century Skills to Connect Teachers and Coaches: Module 3

Module 3 of EDTC 6105 and my definition of the problem

For this week my program is focusing on 21st century learning. The topic alone brings a lot of questions forward, what is 21st century learning? Does it matter to teachers and students? How do you measure 21st century learning? My search for resources didn’t really narrow down my options much. Since we are focusing on peer coaching and thinking about how we define 21st century learning and how to use that definition in our coaching, I started to wonder, do teachers and coaches define 21st century learning in the same way? I think that often we do, but for a large portion of teachers maybe it isn’t even considered because of all the other worries and concerns that come with teaching in a classroom with nearly 30 unique individuals from different backgrounds and environments in the same room. Teachers are busy, they have a lot on their plates as I’ve said before on this blog, so I think 21st century learning might not be on the forefront for many teachers. I wonder how coaching can help teachers to move toward sharing the same definition technology coaches have of 21st century learning, and integrating that learning into their practice.

In framing my question it is important to note that teachers and coaches are in vastly different circumstances at least based on my limited experience as a coach. The pressure I feel as a coach is different than the constant pressure I felt as a teacher to bring my students to standard in a subject that they didn’t necessarily like or in an area of need that supported my growth goal. I want to share that struggle with teachers and offer support that will help them achieve those goals. However, coming from the realm of the classroom teacher and having been a teacher in a dual language classroom for the last 8 years gives me insight into what teachers experience. Based on my reading I have tried to think critically about some ways that teachers and coaches can work together to see growth in students while at the same time improving teaching practices in classrooms.

The Coaches Role

As a coach I feel like part of my job is knowing the latest research and knowing and being able to visualize ways that teachers can subtly change their practice in order to improve student learning. Many teachers do this same research and learning while teaching full time, but I have to acknowledge that in moving into a coaching role part of my responsibilities include knowing the current best practices in teaching pedagogy and specifically technology integration. It doesn’t necessarily mean I know any more than teachers, but it is still worth stating that part of my role includes researching how to help teachers move toward incorporating 21st century learning into their classrooms. As a coach, I have additional resources and time available that teachers do not always have. I can use that time to research how to support growth in teaching practices and instruction.

One other benefit from a coaches role is the exposure I have to different classrooms. As a classroom teacher I maybe got to see 2 or 3 different classrooms a year max, instead I had to learn what teachers were doing from reading, or listening to them describe their practice. Recently in my coaching role I was able to tour every classroom in 8 different elementary schools. That exposed me (although briefly) to a couple hundred teachers and their approach to teaching literacy, math or another subject and showed how they were integrating technology. That is many times the exposure I would have gotten to different classroom as a teacher and I’m not even considering the classrooms I have visited at other times this year as a co-teacher.

Not surprisingly because I’m an instructional technology coach, I think that technology might play a prominent role in allowing for better differentiation in the classroom and might lead us to improving our teaching in a way that lifts students to a higher level of achievement, including mastering 21st century skills. Foltos, (2013) makes the role of a coach clear when he writes that a “coaches job is to encourage innovation.” He goes on to add that, “without this kind of outside stimulus, drawing on prior learning may only succeed in supporting the status quo,” (Foltos, 2013). As a coach, I’m available to be the outside stimulus that can aid in integrating 21st century learning into the classroom.

Challenges for Teachers

It might sound easy so far, just organize a meeting with a coach and voilà, 21st century skills will arrive. I must acknowledge that integrating 21st century skills into your teaching will not be a quick and effortless process, change is usually difficult and often slow. As I reflected, I drafted a quick list of things that might qualify as constraints to a classroom teacher:

  • Lack of time
    • No formal collaboration time – or fragmented focus during that time
  • Curriculum
  • Evaluation
  • Standards
  • District or school policies
  • Lack of training

This is just a quick list I came up with while outlining this post, it isn’t intended to be exhaustive, but I’d love to hear of you have other constraints that might keep you from integrating 21st century skills into your teaching. Or, on the other hand, if any of the things listed actually drive you to integrate 21st century skills into your teaching.

What to Try

I think a great place to start is to “define the skills and competencies your students will need,” as Foltos, 2013, shares in Peer Coaching. Then match those competencies with school goals, and pick one skill to work on. Slowly add to those skills to change your practice. This is the work that coaches and teachers can do together to lead to more 21st century skills being taught in all classrooms. Another good resource is the 6 Essential Modern Teacher Skills and Why You Need Them from the Global Digital Citizenship Foundation. The author defines these skills as:

  1. Adaptability
  2. A desire to learn
  3. Confidence
  4. A knack for teamwork
  5. An empowering nature
  6. A global mindset

If you consult other sources you might see different skills. From what I have read there doesn’t seem to be consensus about what skills are definitely 21st century skills. P21.org seemed to focus much attention on critical thinking and how to teach it. Notably, incorporating PBL into undergraduate education courses led to more effective critical thinking skills as noted by Ventura, Lai & DiCerbo (2017). It also seems to be different if you are talking about teachers skills or students skills. I think both are important because to teach skills to our students, we need to possess those skills. Many of the skills listed above are facilitated through technology. Similarly, there is the graphic of 9 Fundamental Digital Skills for 21st Century Teachers from educatorstechnology.com 

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I believe that in partnership with instructional technology coaches if they are available, or with the right mindset when using technology student learning will increase.

I would encourage teachers who are able to pick a skill they want to learn and email or call a coach to begin working on learning that new skill. Have a learning goal in mind, a project or a lesson where you integrate that skill or tool into your teaching. Try to think beyond that even to see how students could use the same tool to produce something that demonstrates their learning. Then continue to use those skills in a number of lessons or a unit. Another idea for how to work with a coach would be to offer personalized learning to students. Develop fluency in tools that lend themselves to this personalization. Finally, ask questions. Ask your coaches, ask your students maybe even ask of yourself. How can the work be improved, extended, modified to reach more students? That is how we empower students to be 21st century learners and it’s one of the ways we demonstrate that learning to our students. Here is a quote from The Global Digital Citizen Foundation that just might sum up how difficult and necessary it is to work to define 21st century learning and to incorporate it into our teaching. A final quote comes from 4 Common Misconceptions about Teachers We Must Rethink.

When writing lesson plans, you need to connect to curriculum, design essential questions, and create challenging projects. Students need something to strive for that will develop skills for living successful and happy lives. This isn’t a lesson that comes from any textbook, either; it has to come from the mind and heart of a passionate teacher.

Doing those difficult things will certainly lead to increased development of 21st century skills in teachers and students.

Resources

4 Common Misconceptions About Teachers We Must Rethink. (2017, September 10). Retrieved November 12, 2017, from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/4-misconceptions-about-teachers?utm_content=60114297&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

9 Fundamental Digital Skills for 21st Century Teachers. (2016, December 30). Retrieved November 12, 2017, from http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2016/12/9-fundamental-digital-skills-for-21st.html

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

Ventura, M., Lai, E., & DiCerbo, K. (2017). Skills for Today: What We Know about Teaching and Assessing Critical Thinking. Pearson. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/Skills_For_Today_Series-Pearson/White_Paper_-_P21_-_Skills_for_Today-What_We_Know_about_Teaching_and_Assessing_Critical_Thinking_v4_1.pdf

Watanabe-Crockett, L. (2017, February 24). 6 Essential Modern Teacher Skills and Why You Need Them. Retrieved November 12, 2017, from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/six-essential-modern-teacher-skills-need

21st Century Technology Hierarchy of Needs

It’s interesting…just like the ISTE tech standards over the years have shifted from very skill based standards to much more global digital learning standards, so have the discussions around teacher tech standards. Are we getting ahead of most teachers in that discussion though? Is the reason for that shift partly because we believe everyone has got the basic standards or that we just can’t wait for everyone to catch up and need to push the conversation forward?

ISTE Coaching Standard 1d says that coaches need to “implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms.” With the speed at which technology changes, this suggests that there will always be a need for people in districts that are the innovators and early adopters and I would suggest that those people need to be in three strategic areas in order for real change to happen. First, the district leadership from Superintendent to Principal need to be on board with the possibilities that technology brings. It would be most helpful if they embrace technology use to the point that they use and model it’s use with their staff and actively expect it from their teachers. Second, there have to be classroom teachers who are innovative and stretching the district and their tech departments to think differently, try new things and use technology in creative ways that pave the way for change. Finally, I would make the case that, if there isn’t strong leadership at the principal level, there is a role for Instructional Technology coaches (or whatever they are called in your district). Coaches whose whole focus is on learning and leading around “initiating and sustaining” technology innovation can be the keys to translating technology for the teachers and administrators that aren’t on the forefront of technology.

I’m a Digital Learning Specialist in my district. We changed our name this year to what, we hoped, better reflected the focus of our work. Our goal is to help students learn with digital tools. It’s about the learning first. Unfortunately, we are still seen most of the time as “the tech people” which translates to the problem solvers and fix it people. It’s not what I want to be doing. A few years ago, when our technology just didn’t seem to be working and teachers were frustrated and ready to give up, it struck me that what was going on was similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. I developed a digital version using some thinking that I found online and I regret not keeping track of the author.

My thinking was, and still is, that some teachers are functioning at the bottom of the pyramid in basic needs and safety/security. If things don’t work, they don’t have the time, energy or knowledge to problem solve their way out and they get stuck. Innovators will find a work around or figure out how to fix it. The folks functioning at basic and safety levels will never progress beyond that level until their tech works they way they want it to work and it works reliably.

Usability comes next and is essential. There are no two ways about it, there is a certain level of skill needed to tackle technology tasks. Some folks will need to be “trained” on each new piece of technology. Others will learn technology in a more conceptual way and will be able to adapt what they learn to other digital tools. The help button question mark  is the help button in almost any program you come across now and many other icons are becoming standard across website, like the stack of three or four horizontal lines that denote a menu of choices. These however are skills. In 2005 THE Journal ran an article about the the 20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have (Turner 2005) These were very skill based but I think many of them are still relevant. Downloading and installing software is becoming a thing of the past now that so many things are web based and our storage options are becoming more web based as well and you can exchange PDA knowledge with SmartPhone and you’ve got a lot of it covered.

Interestingly, they redid the survey in 2014 (Thompson 2014) and you can already see a shift away from just skills toward a change in attitude (willingness to learn), connection, collaboration, and communication. All important 21st Century Skills as defined by the P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning)

10 Skills Every Educator Should Have.

  1. Searching the web effectively
  2. Mastering Microsoft Office & Basic Word Processing
  3. Being Willing to Learn New Technology
  4. Connecting with Social Media
  5. Sharing and Collaborating via YouTube & Blogging
  6. Unlocking the Potential of Mobile Devices
  7. Reaching Out with Emails
  8. Making Your Point with Presentation Software
  9. Googling It
  10. Getting Ahead in the Cloud

These skills I believe are also a part of the upper parts of my Tech Hierarchy of Needs which come with Proficiency and allow for creativity. Until we give teachers the skills to become confident and successful with technology, some of them will have trouble reaching the newer Technology standards reflected in the ISTE Educator Standards which seem to assume that most teachers are already proficient tech users. The problem is, I don’t think that’s realistic to expect yet. It’s certainly a worthy goal and one many educators can reach but there are still teachers and students who will need help with the bottom half of the pyramid for awhile.

References

Turner, L. (2005). 20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have — THE Journal. [online] THE Journal. Available at: https://thejournal.com/articles/2005/06/01/20-technology-skills-every-educator-should-have.aspx [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

Thompson, G. (2017). 10 Tech Skills Every Educator Should Have — THE Journal. [online] THE Journal. Available at: https://thejournal.com/Articles/2014/01/22/10-Tech-Skills-Every-Educator-Should-Have.aspx?Page=4 [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

P21.org. (2017). Framework for 21st Century Learning – P21. [online] Available at: http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-framework [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

“A Tale of Two Attics” or “What Sherlock Doesn’t Know Won’t Hurt Him”

A Literary Indulgence Permit me, if you will, to begin with a rather lengthy quote from the Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet. Here we see Watson describing his new roommate, Sherlock Holmes: His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing. … Continue reading "“A Tale of Two Attics” or “What Sherlock Doesn’t Know Won’t Hurt Him”"

EDTC 6105: What Defines a 21st-Century Classroom?

Continuing in my Digital Education Leadership program, I’ve been asked to consider the role of three ISTE Coaching Standards and how they can be utilized to support others.

These standards led me to question what traits define a 21st-century classroom. How could I share these traits with others? If I walk into a classroom to observe a lesson, what evidence would I look for? Two images of classrooms came to mind, the past and the present.

Classroom Design

Thinking of a traditional classroom, the desks were in rows, the students worked independently at their seats, and the teacher typically remained in the front of the room. Mary Wade’s infographic (click to enlarge) shares what many classrooms resemble today. Immediately, her infographic reminded me of several classrooms in my building.  Students sit in table groups, have a common meeting place on the carpet/rug, comfortable seating options for independent reading, a semi-circle table for small groups, and utilizes wall space.

What stood out to me though was the fact many of the teachers would not describe themselves as tech savvy, innovative, or 21st-century teachers. If we want to support more tech integration in our schools that foster 21st-century learning, then we must first give teachers credit for the amazing things they already do. For example, a peer coach could photograph a teacher’s classroom then ask the teacher to use the above graphic to identify their own 21st-century practices.

Student Learning Opportunities

Once teachers understand conducive classroom configurations, the next step is to set goals for student learning. Defining 21st-century learning varies depending on the source.  In 2010, Elizabeth Rich asked eleven educational experts from around the country, “How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning?” and she received eleven different answers.  Reading various perspectives, a few important facts kept reappearing.  In particular, the need to teach history and literature from the past that can help shape students views on the current world they live in. A big shift from previous generations entails preparing students for multiple careers in their lifetime, not just becoming an expert in one field.  Therefore, both content and skills come into play and that is where technology can be a tool to help meet the needs of diverse learners. Perhaps one of the biggest shifts in learning has been to make student learning more personalized, global, and collaborative. 

A 21st-Century Teacher

What traits then define a 21st-century teacher? How do we guide teachers to see themselves as providing 21st-century learning? Tsisana Palmer’s post 15 Characteristics of a 21st Century Teacher  suggests a list of characteristics that can both elevate the teacher’s expertise as well as student learning.

Palmer gives great evidence to support these characteristics.  However, if there is one thing I’ve learned this quarter so far, it is to start small with goal setting. As a “coach-in-training”, my advice to teachers wanting to create a 21st-century classroom, is to first recognize what is already happening, then set SMART goals to gradually strive for the environment you desire. For example, this year my district adopted a new literacy curriculum.  Looking at the list above, collaboration is built-in to the curriculum.  Therefore, teachers can check that off their list and choose something else they’d like to focus on.  Perhaps they are studying erosion in Science and visit a local watershed.  What if they are able to then connect with another classroom in another region.  Teachers can collaborate online to provide students opportunities to share and compare their findings.

Coaching Support

So how can peer coaches support teachers in this process? First, identify what is already happening in the classroom and what the teacher feels is working well. Then question what shifts the teacher is hoping to make. Providing options that may exist in other classrooms in the building or nearby schools can provide observational opportunities and collaboration with someone not traditionally connected to the teacher. Coaches can provide suggestions based on the teachers questions, but should not simply hand over resources. In addition, remember to start small. The goal is not for teachers to demonstrate everything on the list, but to begin looking at how to implement 21st-century learning opportunities to enhance student learning.  Once teachers determine the characteristics they’d like to implement and feel supported, it’s time to collaborate on how to make it a reality.

References

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

Palmer, T. (2015, June 20). 15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher. Retrieved November 11, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/15-characteristics-21st-century-teacher

Rich, E. (2010, October 11). How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning? Retrieved November 11, 2017, from https://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01panel.h04.html

Wade, M. (2016, March 29). Visualizing 21st-Century Classroom Design. Retrieved November 11, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/visualizing-21st-century-classroom-design-mary-wade

Compatibility between peer coaching and the ISTE-CS (Module 3)

After thinking hard about what peer coaching is and isn’t, I decided that it was time to go back to the ISTE Coaching Standards (CS). I had a few things on my mind, but overall, I was wondering:

How can I incorporate the ISTE-CS into my new understanding of peer coaching? Is the kind of coach described in the ISTE-CS compatible with peer coaching?

Incompatibility Between the ISTE-CS and Peer Coaching

My first impression of the compatibility between the ISTE-CS and a peer coach is that they are not necessarily compatible, but I should definitely elaborate on what I mean. What I mean is, if I imagine a person embodying all the things stated in the ISTE-CS, I imagine a person who is leading by example and actively advocating for the meaningful integration of technology and education; neither of these characteristics are in line with the goal of peer coaching. They are by no means negative characteristics, they are just not characteristics of peer coaching.

I say this because I think “leading by example” is fairly synonymous with “leading as expert.” The idea of “leading by example” is to say “this example is one to follow and emulate,” and following in someone’s footsteps is a completely different picture than working as peers to discover the coachee’s path. When leading by example, the answers reside within the person leading, not within the person emulating; this is the opposite of peer coaching, where the answers reside within the coachee.

Additionally, ideally, a peer coach shouldn’t be pushing any sort of agenda, and I think “actively advocating for the meaningful integration of technology and education” is starting to cross that line. I want to reiterate that this advocacy is not bad, it’s just not the goal of peer coaching. Of course, as humans, we can’t eliminate all biases from our work as a peer coach, but we should be careful when actively advocating for something.

Making the ISTE-CS Compatible with Peer Coaching

All that said, I do think that the ISTE-CS can inform peer coaching. Since “asking questions” is a hallmark of peer coaching, I decided that I wanted to try and use the ISTE-CS to come up with questions that I could ask, as a peer coach. I tried to keep the technology focus a separate part of the questions, when I could, to reduce the advocacy angle. My goal was to look at the indicator and come up with one or more questions that could get at what the indicator was talking about.

After doing that, I decided I wanted to pull out as few words as possible from the indicator to summarize what the indicator was talking about; this is what is bolded at the start of every number. It was something I personally needed to do, for myself, to “see the landscape” of everything in the standards – or to see the document as a whole. There are a lot of similar words in the ISTE-CS, and I felt like I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. (Doing this actually gave me insight I didn’t have before. I half thought that some indicators repeated themselves in terms of the ideas being focused on, but really they don’t overlap all that much!)

Peer Coaching Questions Based on the ISTE-CS
  1. Visionary Leadership
    1. Vision: What is your vision of how technology could be incorporated into the instructional environment?
    2. Planning: What is your plan to reach your vision? How will you evaluate the success of implementation? Do you need to communicate with anyone about your plan?
    3. Support: What policies, programs, and funding exist to help you implement your plan? What procedures must you go through to implement? Does your plan align with the school’s or district’s technology plan and guidelines?
    4. Sustaining: What challenges might stop you from implementing or sustaining your plan?

  2. Teaching, learning, and assessments
    1. Standards: How does this technology-enhanced learning experience address content and technology standards?
    2. Diverse needs and interests: What research-based instructional strategies and assessment tools can address the diverse needs and interests of all of your students? What are the diverse needs of your students for assessment? For instruction? Are there technologies that can help you meet their diverse needs?
    3. Real-world problems: Are there local or global communities that your students could interact with during the learning experience? Is there a way they could assume a professional role and research real-world problems? Could they collaborate with anyone outside the classroom? Could they produce a meaningful and useful product?
    4. Creativity, higher-order thinking skills: How does the learning experience allow for creativity, higher-order thinking skills and processes, and developing mental habits of mind? Are there technologies that could help your students engage in these things during the learning experience?
    5. Differentiation: How can the learning experience be differentiated for students? Can technology be used to aid in differentiation?
    6. Research-based best practices: What does research say about best practices for ____?
    7. Formative and summative assessments: What kinds of formative and summative assessments do you use? Are there other kinds of assessments you could use that might help students convey their ideas in new ways? How can technology help create a rich variety of formative and summative assessments?
    8. Student achievement data: What kinds of student achievement data could be collected during the learning experience? Who will use it? How will it be interpreted? Who will it be communicated to, and how?

  3. Digital age learning environments
    1. Classroom management and collaborative learning: Does the learning activity create any challenges with classroom management? Is technology creating classroom management challenges? Does the learning activity incorporate collaborative learning? Is there a technology that could help with classroom management or collaborative learning?
    2. Maintain and manage tools: How do you manage digital tools for yourself? For your students? How can students manage their own digital tools?
    3. Online and blended learning: Is there any blended learning incorporated into the classroom? Could there be? Could digital tools increase student choice in the activity?
    4. Assistive technologies: What assistive technologies do you use? What assistive technologies would be helpful to your students? Can you incorporate any of these into your classroom?
    5. Troubleshooting: How do you troubleshoot problems (tech problems or otherwise)? How do your students troubleshoot? How can you teach troubleshooting skills? What do you need in your classroom to teach troubleshooting skills?
    6. Select and evaluate digital tools: What is your school or district’s technology infrastructure? How do you ensure that you select tools which are compatible with your school or districts’s technology infrastructure?
    7. Communicate locally and globally: What digital communication and collaboration tools do you use in your classroom to increase communication and collaboration between: you, students, parents, peers, and the community?

  4. Professional development and program evaluation
    1. Needs assessment: What technology-related professional learning do you feel like you would most benefit from?
    2. Professional learning programs: In response to (a), can you get this professional development through your school or district? Can we do anything to support your professional development?
    3. Evaluate results: What does research say about the results of specific professional learning programs?

  5. Digital citizenship
    1. Equitable access: What do students have equitable access to in your classroom? Where do you feel like equitable access could be improved? How can we improve equitable access? Can a technology help?
    2. Safe, healthy, legal, and ethical uses: Where are some opportunities in the curriculum to talk about safe, healthy, legal, or/and ethical uses of digital information and technologies?
    3. Diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness: Where are some opportunities to promote diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness? Can a technology help promote those things?

  6. Content knowledge and professional growth
    1. Content and pedagogical knowledge: Is there a technology you would like to learn more about for classroom use? Maybe a technology you have never used before, or one that you would like to deepen your knowledge about?
    2. Organizational change and leadership: What are the dispositions of your leadership regarding technology in the classroom? What kind of change can you advocate for within your school or district? How can you advocate for that change?
    3. Reflect: What are some professional practices you have in place that you feel work really well? What are some things that you feel could run smoother? How do your beliefs and dispositions about technology affect your practice? How do the dispositions of your peers affect their practice?
Reflecting

The exercise of turning all the indicators into questions was quite valuable. It made me realize that this is something you can (probably) do with any set of standards, and I feel like it made the standards more manageable. Some of my questions were geared towards taking the first steps in the direction of the indicator, but I envision an iterative process where we use an indicator to come up with questions to pursue, and then come back to the indicator to come up with follow up questions.

For even more questions, there’s always questions like: “but what do we really mean by ‘troubleshooting’?” I find these to be enjoyable and enlightening rabbit holes of their own. I did not include these kinds of questions in my list above, but they are often the kinds of questions I pursue.

The 21st-Century Skill & Art Form – The Feedback Loop

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This week in my studies with the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, I am continuing to explore ISTE Coaching Standards 1 and 2 by investigating what effective student learning looks like. Just as norms are an essential part of a peer coaching relationship, so too is a shared vision for what effective 21st-century education looks like. This shared vision creates a starting place for any collaborative work.

As Les states, “Communication and collaboration skills are vital to helping coaches build a relationship with peers, based on respect and trust, and assist peers to develop answers to the issues they face as they work to improve teaching and learning for their students.  Effective coaches use these sets of skills and trust as a springboard to encourage their learning partners to take risks and adopt innovative teaching and learning practices. ” 

As we begin thinking about the 21st-Century skills that teachers must interweave into their curriculum, I believe that one of the most important is communication.  This communication piece led me to my question for this post.  Precisely, how can we communicate to educators that quality professional development can come from your professional learning network?  When I imagined this conversation with a potential person I am coaching I wondered if they might not appreciate a line like this.  Perhaps this educator would not like that I used a “buzz” phrase like PLN or that I asked them to break out of their comfort zone.  As it states in Designing Classroom Environments“Teachers must be enabled and encouraged to establish a community of learners among themselves (Lave and Wegner, 1991). These communities can build a sense of comfort with questioning rather than knowing the answer and can develop a model of creating new ideas that build on the contributions of individual members. They can engender a sense of the excitement of learning that is then transferred to the classroom, conferring a sense of ownership of new ideas as they apply to theory and practice.”  This is why I decided to take a deep dive into Stone & Heen’s book Thanks for the Feedback: the Science and art of Receiving Feedback Well

Within the book the authors explain how giving and receiving feedback is a skill and even goes as far as to say it is an art form.  I will admit that at times in my life when I have received critical feedback without any positive elements it was tough to recover and become motivated to work afterward. I had a couple of particularly harsh interactions with an AP Literature teacher in high school and with one of my bosses when I first became a teacher.  It is just happenstance that these were both women whom I admired and obviously wanted positive reinforcement but instead received some feedback that led me down unproductive paths.  As the authors wisely explain “we swim in an ocean of feedback. Each year in the United States alone, every schoolchild will be handed back as many 300 assignments, papers, and tests.  Millions of kids will be assessed as they try out for a team or audition to be cast in a school play.  Almost 2 million teenagers will receive SAT scores and face college verdicts think and thin” (pg 2).  And as the end goal within this process is to always keep those teens or students in mind I want to look at specific element within the “Learning Design Matrix” (Learning Design Matrix.doc) “receive real-world feedback on their work from an audience or subject-matter expert from outside the school.”  Then to take that feedback and “Reflect on, revise and improve their work while engaged in learning”.  These two elements of receiving feedback, taking it, processing it, and then making productive changes is indeed a learned skill.

Applying this feedback loop to Adult learners who can then pass it along to our students of the future. 

Stone and Heen go one to say, “it doesn’t matter how much authority or power a feedback giver has; the receivers are in control of what they do and don’t let in, how they make sense of what they’re hearing, and whether they choose to change” (pg. 4).   Now that I have changed careers and moved into the EdTech sphere and received a new title that probably did not exist in the same capacity twenty years ago I can say the review process is essential.  Keeping an open two-way communication between a whole team is a constant necessity, from morning stand-ups, sprint meetings, project managing, and weekly check-ins.  It is important to give constructive feedback to peers on their work and receive feedback in the same manner.  It must push the project forward, and if something you are excited about gets push to next quarter or next year, you have to think about the company as a whole.  I say all this because as an educator I felt much more self-propelled.  My day-to-day was consumed by what and how I wanted to proceed through the material.  I was able to read the room, and I knew my students the best to gauge where to go next.  Teachers are all very skilled project and program managers, and I wish they were perceived more so in the professional world.  Needlesstosay I mean to explain this because when I entered my new world of EdTech the number of stakeholders in “my” projects grew.  The ownership of plans and projects is shared and constantly refined as more minds are consulted.  Therefore, I would state that for peer coaching, teaching, learning, and 21st-century skills this feedback loop is instrumental to teach.  And as Stone and Heen wrap up their argument of the necessity for feedback they explain “Indeed, research on happiness identifies ongoing learning and growth as a core ingredient of satisfaction in life” (pg. 4).  Meaning that humans crave the continual learning process, but the only way to get better at something is through practice.  If we are trying to motivate students and teachers, we must make it clear that we are not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings or put anyone down.  As peer coaches and teachers we see this all as practice to help encourage the user to gain experience and eventually become proficient at a particular skill.

 

Resources:

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

National Research Council. 2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/9853.

Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2015). Thanks for the feedback: the science and art of receiving feedback well. London: Portfolio Penguin. doi:https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=bWw2AAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PT21


Peer vs. Peer Coach vs. Coach (Module 2, ISTE-CS)

I have a million and one questions this quarter as we continue to think about peer coaching and the ISTE Coaching Standards. Most of them seem to center on two main questions:

  1. What is it that we do? What does this master’s program qualify someone to do?
  2. What is peer coaching?

As a start to an answer for 1, I think one of the things a digital education leader can do is peer coach, and of course one of the lenses a DEL peer coach will bring to the table is that of integrating education and technology. But in order to understand what that means, I need a clearer understanding of peer coaching. In my last blog post I wrote about the difference between a coach and an expert, and for this post I’m focusing on the differences between a peer, peer coach, and coach. My guiding question has been:

As a peer coach, am I primarily a peer, or primarily a coach? How are these three roles the same or different?

In peer coaching there is an emphasis on the “peer” part, but the way I’ve been thinking about coaching seems fundamentally un-peer-like. I feel like I can easily see a difference between a peer and a coach (though I’m not sure I have the words yet to describe that difference). So is a peer coach more like a peer, or more like a coach? Are there ways in which a peer relationship is very different from a peer coaching relationship? Are we orienting towards each other in fundamentally different ways in the peer and peer coaching relationships?

Peer First

I’ll start off by saying I do feel like I have an answer to my guiding question: As a peer coach, I am primarily a peer.

I was super excited to find a resource that touched on the exact thing that was troubling me – that the word coach implies some sort of difference in status – and it was validating to find out that I’m not the only one who feels this way. What I found was an excerpt (the first chapter) to Pam Robbins’ (1991) book How to Plan and Implement a Peer Coaching Program. Reading these few sentences, in particular, really helped me bring my understanding of peer coaching into focus:

“Peer coaching is a confidential process through which two or more professional colleagues work together to reflect on current practices; expand, refine, and build new skills; share ideas; teach one another; conduct classroom research; or solve problems in the workplace. Although peer coaching seems to be the most prominent label for this type of activity, a variety of other names are used in schools: peer support, consulting colleagues, peer sharing, and caring. These other names seem to have evolved, in some cases, out of teacher discomfort with the term coaching. Some claim the word coaching implies that one person in the collaborative relationship has a different status.”

My new understanding is that peer coaching is an activity that peers engage in together. Defining my primary role as a peer and our activity as peer coaching helps me understand the intention behind how people in a peer coaching relationship position each other. I see it as taking friends or peers who can care about each other, and putting them in a context where they are collaboratively engaged in the activity of improving and growing in some regard; for teachers, it would be the improvement and growth of teaching in order to better facilitate student learning.

To me, the general description above gets at the heart of peer coaching. Beyond that, there seem to be specific ways to implement peer coaching that would more or less count as having “high fidelity,” which I say based on reading Robbins’ (1991) book, Les Foltos’ (2013) book Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, and Queensland Government’s (n.d.) PDF Peer Coaching Models Information. I trust that there is value in structuring the activity of peer coaching in the ways that they outline, but learning those ways takes time, as does developing those practices between people.

Moving Forward

I am now wondering about how to create the conditions that allow peer coaching to be implemented with fidelity, or to otherwise reach its full potential. Given my current work/school surroundings, I would like to consider what pieces of those conditions are already in place and what would be reasonable next steps to take in order to work towards peer coaching.

I would also like to look closely at the ISTE Coaching Standards again, now that I have a better understanding of peer coaching, in order to think about how those two things fit together.


References

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

ISTE: International Society for Technology in Education. (2017). ISTE standards for coaches (2011). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

Queensland Government. (n.d.). Peer coaching models information. Retrieved from http://education.qld.gov.au/staff/development/performance/resources/readings/peer-coaching-models.pdf

Robbins, P. (1991). How to plan and implement a peer coaching program. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Not All Learners Want to Learn What You Have to Teach.

It’s an ongoing frustration many of us have. In spite of the amazing training opportunities we offer, online or in person, some people just don’t want to learn what we have to teach about integrating technology into their instruction. It’s not malicious, at least most of the time, but I’m beginning to believe that people only have so much capacity for change. It’s not that they wouldn’t do their best to learn and put into practice something new if they were told they had to but if it’s one of too many new things all at once, something has to give. For many teachers, the fact that technology is not a topic on the state tests keeps them from giving it much thought, although the same people will complain that the lack of keyboarding skills keeps our kids from really being evaluated on their thinking on those same tests.
Although it is a stereotype, I do hear a larger percentage of teachers over 50 tell me that they “don’t do technology”. There is some truth to the fact that that even though personal computing technology has been available to that age group for a good portion of their lives, not all of them were innovators or early adopters. Many of those folks may have become the early or late majority of adopters because of job requirements but their learning may have only been focused on the task they needed to do with technology and never really translated to their personal usage. The laggards would have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the tech age and only because Facetime is the only way they can see their grandkids regularly.

So I get it. In an article on Wild Apricot (Ibele 2011) called “Guide to Helping your Members Embrace Technology” they mention an AARP survey of retirees and what they want from their technology.

They want technology to:

  • be safe and easy to use;
  • adapt to their specific needs;
  • connect each other;
  • act as a tool not a tyrant;
  • be a force of good.

Isn’t that what we all want? I find that baby boomers are not the only age group that feels that way. I run across young teachers, fresh out of school who tell me that “they don’t do technology” and we have students in all of our classes who can snap chat with their eyes closed but will hesitate to use PowerPoint or video because “they don’t do technology” either. I worry about pigeon holing any generation as particularly more open to technology. I don’t believe in the idea of a digital native. I think that you will always have people from all generations that will fit into the curve. What we need to look at is how we can work with the late majority and laggards to bring them around to at least making the effort to use technology for our student’s sake.

I came across a post by Kerry Pinny (Pinny 2017) in which he is suggesting that we’ve been having the wrong conversations with people about technology. He mentions what many of us know, that technology is just a thing and it’s only useful if people use it but he reminds us that “If you do not consider the people in technology then you are doomed to failure.”

In the end, all the resources I looked at came down to the same thing…it’s about building relationships. We will only meet those reluctant learners when we get to know them. We need to find out what place technology could serve in their lives or their classrooms so our discussions are relevant. We need to know what their real fears are around technology use so we can help scaffold their experience or give them the support they need to give it a try. Building trust with them will allow us to have those conversations about how passionate we are about providing technology opportunities for our students, and how they can help us reach that goal, without it sounding insincere.

Pinny also suggests showing people real examples of how what technology can do and explaining the “why” to them. No one likes their time wasted. Making it relevant, easy to use and immediately applicable is important for busy teachers.

I clearly have been stuck in my office too much lately. My new goal for the rest of the year is to start getting to know more of the teachers that often close their doors and hope that technology will go away. It will take some time to build relationships but if I can leverage some of the tech leaders who are already in the buildings who already have relationships with those folks I think I can help create change, even for our most reluctant learners.

Resources

 

EDTC 6105: Establishing Trust Before Technology in the Classroom

In my previous blogpost, I began looking at how peer coaches can inspire and assist teachers with technology implementation.  Continuing to use ISTE Coaching Standards (2f) to drive inquiry, I am now looking specifically at the importance of establishing trust.

A recent study surveyed 250 teachers regarding technology in the classroom. They found that 78% surveyed, do not feel adequately trained to effectively use technology in their classrooms (Bolkan, 2017). In addition, 82% find value in technology and believe that it can help prepare students for future careers. So how can peer coaching help the majority of teachers who feel lost with how to implement technology?

We work in an environment where many teachers feel like they are constantly being evaluated, judged, and pressured to change something in the classroom. With changes to curriculum, standards, and assessments, it’s no wonder that many teachers are overwhelmed by the thought of adding technology into the mix. So what can a peer coach do to start the dialogue?

Understanding that everyone has a unique background story on how they ended up in the classroom, it is important for coaches to take time getting to the know their colleagues on a personal level before attempting to offer coaching advice. Trust must be established before advice can be given.

“Coaching can’t succeed without a trusting, respectful relationship between the coach and the collaborating teacher.” – Les Foltos

TRUST

Trust begins with understanding the needs of the teacher and for them to understand the coach is an ally, not an evaluator.  In his book, Peer Coaching, Les Foltos makes several strong claims to the importance of trust. In particular, that trust and respect lay the foundation for collaboration.

So how can a novice coach, begin the process? Starr Sackstein, highlights 5 steps for building trust in her post, 5 Steps for Building Trust in a Hybrid Teacher/Coach Role.

  1. Send out a needs assessment and a letter that clarifies the role of the coach and confidentiality
  2. Meet with teachers individually to review needs
  3. Listen carefully to what teachers are asking for and what their students need without pushing an agenda.  Use this time to get to know the teacher’s situation and work on establishing a positive relationship.
  4. Open up coaches classroom for visits and share a schedule with staff so they are aware of what you are doing and what they can come observe
  5. Based on needs assessment and conversations, begin to support the teacher as they set goals and work together to create strategies to implement.  Continue to follow up with the teacher to ensure their needs are being met.

To summarize ways to establish trust, I created the following acronym, highlighting 5 attributes.

This is a starting point for me, and a tool that can serve as a reminder during collaboration. In theory, peer coaches want to avoid taking on the role of “expert” and instead use guided questioning to allow the collaborating teacher to determine which tools or strategies may work best to fit their needs.  By setting goals together and continuing to show teachers you care about how things are going, coaches can continue to foster that sense of trust.  

Supporting Veteran Teachers

Beyond trust, and again avoiding the role of expert, I question how to support veteran teachers who may be reluctant to integrating technology. Our schools are comprised of staff with varying skills, languages, previous careers, degrees, and background knowledge.  This is why the needs assessment is so critical in establishing how coaches can establish rapport. With the statistics above finding 3 out of 4 teachers feeling they lack adequate technology training, these are the teachers peer coaches need to reach out to.

Veteran teachers already know the education system better than anyone else. So how can a coach who might have considerably less experience in the classroom, create a successful collaborative relationship with veteran teachers? Peg Grafwallner, recently shared some tips in her post, Coaching the Veteran Teacher.  

  • “Be cognizant of your tone and demeanor.”
  • Ask to observe with the intention of documenting their strengths that could benefit novice teachers
  • Follow up the observation with questions about the lesson. What did the lesson tell them about how students learn or how they’ve modified teaching to meet the needs of their specific students each year.
  • Actively listen to their responses and ask clarifying questions
  • Ask if you can support a future lesson by teaching a specific strategy or skill either whole class or with a small group of students

As a former middle school teacher, some of these points really had me thinking. We had amazing veteran teachers at my school that knew the content inside and out, could predict where their students would need scaffolding or higher level questions to challenge their thinking. However, many of these teachers typically attended PD focused on curriculum or school-wide training and did not have the opportunity to infuse technology into their classroom. As a coach, I see so much potential in even training students to use technology, who can then model for their teachers and peers, helping alleviate the stress on teachers.

Veteran teachers deserve respect for what they do know and should feel encouraged to integrate technology, not forced. This might mean there is a need for additional training and support for these teachers and time should be allocated during their work day, not in addition to what they are already doing.  Perhaps an administrator could cover their class while they observe technology being used in another classroom. Pairing them with a novice teacher who may need support in classroom management or curriculum, but is strong with technology could also be beneficial.  

Conclusion

Reality is, that in many schools across the United States, teachers feel overwhelmed by technology integration.  As more schools and districts add tech support in the buildings, these teacher or coaches need to establish positive relationships with the staff before suggesting digital tools. Whether coaches are working with one teacher or supporting an entire school, they need to begin by assessing the needs of each individual, respect where they are at, and create collaborative plans to support classroom needs.  Finally, teachers need to be able to trust that their coach is looking out for them, is supportive, nonjudgmental, and reliable.

References

Bolkan, J. (2017, October 27). Most Teachers Say Classroom Tech Helps Students, but Teachers Need More Training. Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/10/26/most-teachers-say-classroom-tech-helps-students-but-teachers-need-more-training.aspx

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

Grafwallner, P. (2017, October 16). Coaching the Veteran Teacher. Retrieved October 27, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/coaching-veteran-teacher

Sackstein, S. (2015, August 18). 5 Steps for Building Trust in a Hybrid Teacher/Coach Role. Retrieved October 27, 2017, from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/work_in_progress/2015/08/5_steps_for_building_trust_in_.html

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