Coach vs. Expert/Consultant/Mentor/Trainer/Tutor (6105 Module 1, ISTE-CS)

This quarter we are tackling the role of coaching. We have touched on specific ISTE Coaching Standards in past quarters, but this quarter we are really digging into what coaching is. And over the last two weeks, some of my peers and I have been thinking really hard about the distinction between a coach and an expert. In Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, Les Foltos talks about how, as a coach, you typically do not take on the role of an expert. After talking a little more about this idea, I realized that I was personally characterizing the role of “an expert” differently than what was meant. …But what was meant? Even after more discussion, the idea wasn’t clear in my mind and I decided that before I can really dig into coaching this quarter, I need to know what others mean when they use these words. So my question became:

What is the difference between a coach and an expert?

In my search for an answer, I found that the dichotomy being described shows up under different names depending on the field (e.g.: education, finances, business, exercise):

  • coach vs. expert
  • coach vs. consultant
  • coach vs. trainer
  • coach vs. tutor
  • coach vs. mentor*

*In my search, the coach vs. mentor dichotomy didn’t seem to describe the same dichotomy as consistently as the others.

To my surprise, despite the different names, many articles tended to describe approximately the same two ideas, and seeing the distinction described in so many ways across so many fields really helped me build the picture of what is being contrasted here.

I should note that I did an informal search to find these articles. Some of them come from organizations which are interested in selling you something (like coaching). But I don’t think that inherently makes the information they have to offer, or the insights I gained, invalid; it’s just something to keep in mind. I was interested in what information is “just out there,” and to my surprise it was pretty easy to find what I was after in a lot of places.

With that in mind, here are the articles that helped me shape a distinction between coach and expert (etc.):

The Coach vs. the Expert/Consultant/Trainer/Tutor/Mentor

Below are two “phrase clouds” that I created based on the articles (I’ll discuss how I created these a little bit later). It’s funny to me, because I feel like the ideas in the clouds are not all that different than what we said in the discussions leading up to my investigation, but my understanding is completely different. Perhaps what helped me the most was defining the role of an expert in a way that highlighted why/when you would want an expert, instead of defining an expert through a list of things a coach should not do. Doing this helped me strengthen my idea of what it means to be a coach. Since the focus for me was really about pulling out and shaping the picture of an expert, I think I’ll start with trying to convey my newly-constructed image of an expert.

There are definitely people in my life that I want to emulate. Whether it’s their subject matter knowledge, empathy, listening skills, critical thinking skills, studying skills, parenting, etc., they embody some thing I admire and would like to be better at. I know that in these kinds of situations, I learn a great deal about how to do the thing by observing them do it, and I try to channel them as I learn to do it too. They are being my expert. I am trying to align to them. I may deviate from whatever alignment, but at the start I’m working towards being more like them. This is essentially social learning.

There is nothing wrong with positioning someone this way and learning from them through that positioning, however it is not the goal of coaching. Instead, coaching is about bringing to life what’s already in you, and helping you discover your own path and solutions. You are the expert when you work with a coach. A coach will help you think about what things to consider, and then you make the decisions. A coach facilitates your growth by teaching you strategies and broad skills to help you succeed. This makes a coach more flexible in terms of who they work with, because a coach is not an expert in your subject area or students. An expert, on the other hand, is an expert only in their field of expertise; they have specialized information and a more narrow focus. It reminds me a little bit of the difference between Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs) and Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) from the Next Generation Science Standards, where what the coach has to offer is like CCCs, and the expert might teach you DCIs. (The analogy breaks down if I think about it too hard, but the image of skills which are relevant across subjects vs. learning specific information is all I’m getting at.)

When you need someone to provide you with recommendations, advice, or solutions, you are asking them to play the role of the expert. I can think of many instances where Person A asks for advice, and Person B doesn’t feel like they should tell Person A what to do. So instead, Person B will frame their response as “Well, if it were me I would… because…” I now think of this exchange as a mini-negotiation of roles. Person A is essentially asking Person B to be the expert for a moment, but Person B is resisting taking on that role in full. I think a lot of advice happens this way, and I’m wondering how this scenario is related to expertise, if at all. By framing their thoughts in this non-advice way, Person B is sharing some sort of knowledge, but not really as an expert, and definitely not as a coach. The idea of expertise and its role in a coaching relationship are two things I would like to unpack in the future.

I want to reiterate that the role of the expert as the advice-giver or decision-maker is not a bad thing. There are indeed many places in life where experts are needed. When you want to share responsibility for a product, project, or event, you want someone to be comfortable making decisions and operating as the expert. For a brief moment I considered the idea that maybe when you are learning you want a coach, not an expert. But I don’t buy that in full. I think in some situations you want a coach and in some situations you want an expert. (Or maybe it’s more about what you get rather than what you want.) I’m a fan of social learning, which is essentially a “learning from the experts” model, so I don’t think it’s fair to say that learning can only happen with coaching, and I feel like when people are pushing coaching really hard, they sometimes say this (in a nearly identical way that sometimes people seem to say that students only learn from student-centered approaches compared to teacher-centered approaches). Instead, I think we need both types of learning. Sometimes we need to align to others, but we also need people in our lives who help draw the greatness out from within us, and that’s what a coach does.

The ideas here have led me, again, to other questions, including:

  • How does one become a coach for a person – i.e., how do you get others to position you as a coach instead of an expert? Especially when they have a tendency to position you as an expert.
  • Can you really exist in both roles for someone? I think it’s possible, at lease on some level, and indeed, a few articles mentioned how being able to operate as both is extremely powerful. So then how do you do that?

Additionally, I feel like I’m now ready to ask:

  • What is particular to digital education coaching, as opposed to “coaching,” broadly speaking?
Coding for My Phrase Clouds

In order to develop the phrases for the phrase clouds above, I used a qualitative research program called Dedoose (not free) to code for ideas within the articles I read. What do I mean by coding? The process of “coding” as I have done here is similar to highlighting with multiple colors, where each color is highlighting only one category of thing. Then you could count the number of times you used each color to count how many times each category came up. That is essentially what the table below represents, but instead of using a color to tag an idea, I wrote a phrase. (I exported my coding information from Dedoose and put it into Google Sheets.)

This table represents the very first pass at any coding, which essentially means that the numbers don’t fully/accurately represent how many times any given idea came up across the articles. Looking at this now, I can see that the codes with the highest numbers are characteristics of the roles which I was already familiar with, and that may account for why the numbers are so high on the first pass (because I knew to look for those things right away). Codes with very low numbers have a higher chance of being too low because sometimes I didn’t code for it right away.

Despite the table not fully representing how often each idea came up, I thought I would share it with you anyways so you can get at least some idea of how consistently specific ideas from my phrase clouds were mentioned, and to help share my process.

 


References

501 Commons. (n.d.) What’s the Difference Between Coaching and Consulting? Retrieved from https://www.501commons.org/resources/tools-and-best-practices/management-leadership/whats-the-difference-between-coaching-and-consulting

Aguilar, E. (2017). What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring? Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/coaching_teachers/2017/07/whats_the_difference_between_c.html

Big Beacon. (n.d.) A distinction between expert and coach: “I know” versus “I trust.” http://bigbeacon.org/2013/06/a-distinction-between-expert-and-coach-i-know-versus-i-trust/

Financial Mentor. (n.d.) The difference between mentoring and coaching. Retrieved from https://financialmentor.com/financial-coaching/differences/mentoring-and-coaching-the-difference

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

Heah, M. (2013). Coaches vs trainers. Retrieved from http://www.nationmultimedia.com/business/Coaches-VS-Trainers-30203957.html

Health Action Inc. (n.d.) Expert model versus coaching model. Retrieved from http://www.healthandwellnesscoaching.org/tools/02Notes/DefinitionofCoaching.pdf

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

Levine, T. (n.d.) The difference between a coach and a consultant. http://www.sideroad.com/Coaching/coach-versus-consultant.html

Mrooney. (2017). Are you a trainer or a coach? Retrieved from http://www.trainingforwarriors.com/are-you-a-trainer-or-a-coach/

Rosen, P. (n.d.) The difference between tutoring and academic coaching. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/tutors/types-of-tutoring/the-difference-between-tutoring-and-academic-coaching

Bridging the Gap: From Teachers to Technology Coaches Module 1

New Learning

This week I am writing my first blog post for a new quarter, one where we will explore what it means to be a servant leader following the model of a peer coach. Through the quarter my classmates and I will use those two frameworks to investigate the integration of technology into instruction. This quarter is different than those before because previously I’ve been reflecting on my own classroom, my instruction, my students or at times my organization. In contrast, this quarter I will reflect on my work as a technology coach as I work in classrooms around my school district in a variety of lessons and subjects. It is a new experience for me just as being a technology coach is new.

My Questions

I shouldn’t be surprised then that I’m looking for clarity. I guess it is fitting that my question leads me in two different directions during this module. On one hand I am curious to find out how technology coaches play a role in implementing strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations in schools and classrooms? Secondly, I want to know how can a coach aid in the change process while maintaining (or establishing) a positive relationship?

Advocating for Teachers and Change

Those two things seem at odds for me both from my personal experience two months into the role of being a technology coach and from my experience as a classroom teacher. Through my daily practice and the communication I have with the technology department I’m starting to see how I might be able to initiate change and push for innovation in classrooms. Often in our weekly meetings with the technology department a manager has said something similar to this, we can solve a problem or recommend a product or service but it is up to the coaches to tell us what is really happening in the classroom and how teachers and student are affected by those changes. We are teachers, we work with teachers, so our insight should be supportive to limitations in the classroom environment and sensitive to the needs of teachers. In a way I guess we can as coaches can act as a bridge for the technology department and the teachers. I would like to think that our work allows for more proactive support as opposed to reactive support. Finally one last way to support innovation is by having a clear focus and goals.One way to have and maintain a clear focus is alignment in purpose and goals at all levels of an organization. I’ve read that support from an administrative or district level is extremely important for the success of the coaching program and the individual coaches. This support is reflected in the impact on teachers and students based on these resources. In Exploring Coaching for Powerful Technology Use in Education, Ehsanipour and Gomez Zaccarelli (2017) write,

As the Annenberg Institute for School Reform asserts, “[i]nstructional coaching is fundamentally about teachers, teacher leaders, school administrators, and central office leaders examining practice in reflective ways, with a strong focus on student learning and results as the ultimate barometer of improvement” (King et al., 2004, p. 3).

In order for that to happen, all parties would need to be on the same page, working toward the same goal and in support of the work of individual coaches. At a high level within an organization coaching would be understood and thought of as a method for improving teacher practice and student learning with a focus on results. I do wonder how those results and data would be collected and evaluated, but that would lead me to an entirely different exploration and post.

The ISTE for Coaches Visionary Leadership Standard a through d
Visionary Leadership ISTE Coaching Standard 1

Building Relationships

In my reading over the past two weeks I’ve read some articles and reports that begin to touch on the idea of initiating and sustaining innovation while maintaining relationships. I’ve read that it takes a lot of reflection.Trying to find information about how coaches aid in the change process but continue to establish and maintain positive relationships was challenging. At best I have speculations and loose connections from different sources. I think this is a question that I will continue to revisit as I gain experience as a technology coach and make inroads in a new district. In some respects being new might be seen as a benefit, I don’t know the majority of what was happening before now, and I bring new ideas from my previous experience because of those two things my suggestions might be seen as more acceptable than a coach who is already established in a district and has been for some time. At the same time I have to learn quickly what was done before, what didn’t work and why. There is a lot to catch up on.

Clarity?

One ideas has arisen consistently in my reading is the clarity of a coaches role. According to Elena Aguilar clarity is important. Coaches should know their roles, what it means, there should be a shared definition and the coaching role should “be discussed between coachees/mentees to ensure clarity” (Aguilar, 2017). I wonder when this comes up in a coaching relationship? Does it occur naturally at some time in meeting with a teacher or in passing like it has with me? My conversations about clarity have been informal and infrequent, once a teacher said something like, “I want to do this ______ in my classroom, is that something you can help with?” I said, “Sure!” because as I work to establish relationships putting in the time seems most important. Now I’m looking ahead and wondering when is there a shift, when do we move toward a more focused or intentional integration of technology? I’m curious about interactions like the ones described in Exploring Coaching for Powerful Technology Use in Education like this, “in a coaching relationship, teachers and coaches engage in a sustained professional dialogue aimed to improve teaching by developing instructional skills (Lofthouse, Leat, Towler, Hall, & Cummings, 2010)” (Ehsanipour & Gomez Zaccarelli, 2017). When do those begin to happen? It might coming but I’m not quite sure when. I think at this point building relationships and being generally helpful is a big part of my focus.

Conclusion

Working as a technology coach does have inherent value for teachers and students, but I don’t know if it is always easily seen. I think establishing relationships is key to finding value as a coach and providing a valuable service for teachers and students. Finally, I think those who are successful share this common trait – “These successful individuals and organizations know what their purpose is, and because they lead with their purpose, they are able to impact those around them and get their “clients” on board” (Ehsanipour & Gomez Zaccarelli, 2017). In my time as an elementary instructional technology coach I hope my purpose is clear. When purpose is clear and clearly communicated it allows for true visionary leadership.

As I end my first reflection of the quarter I’m still left with some additional questions from my reading and writing that weren’t necessarily related to my two questions above. I wanted to have some recorded to return to later in the quarter or further in the future.

More Unanswered Questions:

Here are some of the questions I’m continuing to think about going forward:

  • How can a peer coaching role clearly be communicated when working in multiple schools?
  • Coaches might assume the learning for teachers.
    • If that has happened, how can learned helplessness be limited or reversed?
  • How is risk taking rewarded or discouraged in my district or in the schools I work in?

I might be able to reflect on these questions in future posts, but in case I don’t I wanted to make sure I recorded them on my blog.

Resources

Aguilar, E. (2017). What’s the Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring? Retrieved October 16, 2017, from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/coaching_teachers/2017/07/whats_the_difference_between_c.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB

 

Ehsanipour, T., & Gomez Zaccarelli, F. (2017). Exploring Coaching for Powerful Technology Use in Education (pp. 1-18). Digital Promise. Retrieved from http://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Dynamic-Learning-Project-Paper-Final.pdf

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=nlebk&AN=1046240&site=ehost-live

PLNs: Throwing a Stone in the Water

I recently facilitated a short after school meeting between the health teachers at 4 different schools by Skype. I’d used Skype previously to hold a meeting for 3 individuals from different buildings to plan a training. My district is pretty geographically spread out so it’s a hassle to travel for short meetings. There were a couple of things I walked away from the health meeting thinking. First, how cool was that? I had groups of three or four teachers meeting in a room at each school. They did the same brainstorming and sharing process we would have done if we’d met but they did it in their own space and used www.answergarden.ch to record their thinking so we could all see it. The process didn’t really change but the tools contributed to a more efficient meeting. It also dawned on me how unusual it is for teachers in our district to talk to each other school to school like this. It’s been eye opening in many ways and some good decisions have been made about making our standards more consistent. Now the question is,  how can I encourage them to continue to talk and work together, even after our work is done this year?

The answer may lie in PLNs only on a smaller scale at first. Brianna Crowley’s article, 3 Steps for Building a Professional Learning Network, helped me think about the broader idea of PLNs.

Although technology is often the vehicle to build connections, a PLN is about relationships. To conceptualize a PLN, envision three layers like the ever-widening rings formed when a rock is dropped into still water. The smallest inner circle represents buddies and mentors; a middle ring holds niche passion groups; and the outer layer comprises professionals and rockstars. The smaller the ring, the closer that group is connected to you in your PLN. (Crowley 2014)

As with any group, the development of a PLN needs to be personal. Everyone has different interests and passions and they’ll only find a PLN useful if they are interested in what they learn through it. I do like the idea of starting with a platform that you are familiar with. It will be interesting to find out what teachers in the groups I’m already working on are using already. If they aren’t, it might be worth starting small and using a tool like Yammer. We already have it in the district. It’s easy to use and could be a good stepping stone. I also like her visual of the rings. It would be easy to help teachers pick one from each ring to start with and ask them to try it out for a month and then report back to the group about how their rings are expanding.

What I’m most interested in right now is the idea of creating a vital, passionate network of teachers across the buildings in our district. It would have to focus on learning. I wouldn’t want it to become a place for gripping or negativity. Montana state has a much more challenging geographic issue but their development of the Digital Professional Learning Network has brought educators together to learn with and from each other. They’ve helped people make connections by using tools such as webinars, video conferencing, online learning for teachers and from that have forged active online communities on Twitter.

We pride ourselves in our district on developing positive relationships and I think using tools like blogs, Skype and Yammer as well as our Kyte Learning videos and experimenting with webinars this year as a place for people to share and learn together would be a good place to get started. It would be amazing to have an active, engaged, collaborative PLN across our whole district. Even if we started with technology I think it would spread to other subjects if people saw the value in it.

Resources

The Expert and the Coach

There are coaches and there are experts… This quarter in EDTC 6105 we’re looking at coaching – a logical next step which looks at how we, as ed tech leaders, can help our fellow teachers improve. The ISTE standards this time around (1b and 1d) focus on  “contribute[ing] to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and … Continue reading "The Expert and the Coach"

EDTC 6105: Visionary Leadership and Peer Coaching

Beginning my second year of Grad School has me shifting from learning about digital education as a teacher and into the role of coaching supporting other educators. This year I’ll be exploring more of the ISTE coaching standards, beginning with Standard 1: Visionary Leadership. B. Contribute to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels. For my first post I’ll be exploring how coaches can successfully inspire and assist peers with planning, implementing, and evaluating technology integration.

What is a coach?

When I hear the word “coach”, I immediately envision my dad.  My dad has played and coached sports since before I was born. Having limited coaching experience myself, my memories are as a spectator and what I’ve observed over the years.  As I thought more deeply about the label “coach”, I realised there are a lot of parallels between what I saw in my dad and what I’ve seen in education.

Take basketball for example.  My dad would spend hours watching teams play at various levels, always with a notebook in hand.  He’d write down plays, ideas, and enjoyed talking to our family about what he looked forward to sharing with his team. He started each season hoping to help his players develop new skills and be better athletes both on and off the court by the end of the season. During practice he’d explain, model, select players to carry them out, and modify based on the outcome.  Nothing was ever set in stone.  He guided them, but never did things for them. A coach can’t run on the court to help a player when they get nervous and players learn to work together, communicate, and actively be in the moment if they want to win. No matter the outcome of each game, there was always discussion about what went well, what they can try to improve before the next game, and praise about what the players achieved, not praise of the coach.

I feel these strategies also apply to peer coaching in education. Gaining insight into coaching through Les Foltos’ book, Peer Coaching, I’m beginning to see coaching as an extension of working with students. We want to inspire others to challenge what they know and continuously explore new skills.  We also want teachers to have a toolkit of resources that they can recommend to students so that students can explore which tools help them succeed. So what qualities are needed to establish a positive coaching relationship? After looking at sources from multiple countries, a few key principles keep re-surfacing.

  • Willingness
  • Personal Relationship
  • Trust and Support vs Judgement
  • Understanding of the Education System
  • Time
  • Reciprocal Communication

Willingness

In peer coaching, both educators need to be willing participants. In addition, they need to feel supported by others (colleagues, administrators, district). Both educators also need to see the value in collaboration and establish a realistic goal that they are trying to achieve to increase student achievement. The teacher needs to be willing to take risks, explore, and understand that the partnership is fluid .

Personal Relationship

If the participants do not already know each other on a personal or professional level, then the next step is to take time and understand the needs of the teacher and the students.  Les Foltos recommends that coaches spend the first meeting getting to know the teacher and allowing the teacher’s needs to guide the direction of their time together. What is also implied with establishing a relationship is that the coach’s role begins as a listener, not someone offering advice. As a listener, coach’s can paraphrase their understanding of the teacher’s needs and begin to understand the teacher’s perceptions and experiences with technology before discussing integration.

Trust and Support vs Judgement

Teachers need to feel they can trust their coach as a friend, not someone who’s coming into their classroom to judge them.  Establishing trust takes time. For the partnership to be effective, the coach needs to enter without power, judgement, or evaluative mindset.  The coach should appear knowledgeable but not assume the role as expert, creating a hierarchy in the relationship. Trust is also important for when challenges arise in order for the partnership to remain intact.

Understanding of the Education System

I’m sure most teachers can relate, but when I think of Professional Development trainings that were a waste of time, a few reasons immediately come to mind: 1. mandatory attendance, 2. the presenter has no idea what my student population is, 3. the presenter knows nothing about the resources available in our district, 4. this has nothing to do with my content area.  The worst trainings combine all four!  

For example, I teach ELL offering language support during reading and writing.  A few years ago, our district adopted a new Math curriculum with mandatory trainings for all certificated staff.  So I sat there for three days, frustrated at my use of time. I quickly learned all the teachers who teach Math were also frustrated and do not see how this curriculum would work in their classroom, it added fuel to the fire and a mob mentality.  Our speaker promoted using the curriculum on computers and tablets during the lessons on a regular basis and talked about great tech features.  The problem was we did not have a computer lab and averaged 1 device to 5 students.  His lack of knowledge about our district led to a group of educators leaving the training frustrated rather than excited to try what he’d presented.

Point being, coaches need to do some research, and ask questions to better understand the building they’re serving and the teacher needs. Even within the same building, peer coaches need to look at the specific grade level and content area they wish to support. Coaches need to see the teacher’s classroom environment before offering any recommendations. In regards to technology, what already exists in the building or district, who else might be available to observe in action, and what options are available to help the teacher successfully integrate technology in the classroom? What concerns does the teacher have about technology integration?

Time

Time is a big factor for teachers.  It feels like there is never enough!  In a peer coaching partnership, both participants need to establish a timeline for the long-term as well as protocols to follow with each meeting in order to respect each other’s time.  In addition, realistic goals and timelines need to be discussed and adjusted as needed.  This ties back to willing participants.  If teachers feel pressured or that something will be lost versus something will be enhanced they will begin to resist, and coaches have to work much harder to bring them back on board. Meetings should typically have an agenda, protocol, allow time for the teacher to feel their time is validated and end with an action plan.  This ties into communication.

Reciprocal Communication

With time being valuable, to respect all involved, communication preferences should also be discussed in the early stages of collaboration. Today there are so many ways for teachers to collaborate beyond the classroom.  Once communication methods are in place, these can be used as reminders for upcoming collaboration.  For example, if email is the chosen form of communication outside of scheduled in-person meetings, then the emails should serve as reminders for both participants responsibilities for how to come prepared. This may also require communication with other staff in the building, administration, or outside. Teachers need to feel they can reach their coach and receive feedback in a timely manner.  

Connection to Technology Integration

Technology can be daunting for teachers.  There are so many unknowns, and for teachers who are used to be in control, adding digital devices into the classroom can create anxiety.  So how can peer coaches then use the above guiding principles to support their colleagues? Coaches need to do research after each meeting so explore what tools are available that could meet the teacher’s needs to enhance student achievement.  With that, coaches need to share technology as an approach to help students meet grade level standards and develop 21st century skills.  This needs to be done carefully to avoid teachers feeling pressured to add more to their day.

Conclusion

In conclusion, like sports, peer coaches need to recognise that teachers come in with a wide range of abilities and strengths.  The coach needs to support teachers in recognising their long term goal and create opportunities for them to work towards successfully meeting that goal.  The coach’s role should guide the teacher to independence and self-discovery for what works best for them and their students, while providing access, not direct instruction.  Although this is simply the tip of the iceberg, I feel it’s a starting point for me as I look into peer coaching opportunities within my own building this year.

Cited by Queensland Government

References

Brown, L. (2014, February 28). The Importance of Trust. Retrieved October 14, 2017, from http://teachforall.org/en/network-learning/importance-trust

Cavanagh, M., Grant, A., & Kemp, T. (2015). Evidence-Based Coaching Volume 1 : Theory, Research and Practice from the Behavioural Sciences. Australian Academic Press.

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

“Role of Coaching in an Educational Setting.” Queensland Government, Department of Education and Training, 29 Jan. 2015, from education.qld.gov.au/staff/development/performance/resources/readings/role-coaching-educational-settings.pdf

Education Peer Coaching in the Digital Age – EDTC 6105

This quarter in my studies in Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I am studying the practice of peer coaching. Throughout this quarter we will explore the ISTE coaching standards and specifically standard 1: Visionary Leadership.
Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 11.42.09 AMWhile I received peer coaching as a new educator and continually distribute peer coaching as I continue in my career, it is interesting to see how experts define the process.

What is peer coaching?

In the Digital Promise piece created by the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching at Stanford, it states three of the most widely held definitions of peer coaching. “Some define coaching as a tool to develop teachers’ ability to identify how helpful an instructional strategy is in supporting student learning (Russo, 2004). Others describe teacher coaching as a mechanism to achieve fidelity of implementation of novel teaching practices (Devine, Meyers, & Houssemand, 2013). Salavert (2015) describes coaching as an “apprentice-based approach to support professional and personal development towards achieving set goals” (p. 2). Sutton et al. (2011) add that a coach “works collaboratively with a teacher” (p. 15).” But as we attempt to drill down a definition I appreciate something simple like “Coaching can… give educators the knowledge and skills they need to grow professionally and, in turn, serve the diverse needs of their students” (Digital Promise, 2017).  We as educators and professionals need to always keep the student in mind.  I intend to focus heavily on this element in my explanation of what is essential to peer coaching especially as it connects with edtech development.

What is essential in a peer coaching relationship?

Coaches can take several different approaches to the relationship they create when they enter into a peer coaching arrangement.  As we can see in the image there are four “common forms of coaching” and although I believe that the coactive approach is what I want to focus in on for my purposes this quarter.  It “entails the coach taking more a holistic approach by striving to help the client feel fulfilled and balanced” (Digital Promise, 2017, pg 6).  If the teacher who has entered into this relationship does not feel like their life is balanced and their schedule can handle a peer coaching relationship – how will they be able to learn anything from the situation?  Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 11.56.29 AM

Of course, there is also more to the arrangement but I want to keep those elements at the forefront to the rest of the setup of peer coaching.  As Les Foltos establishes in Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration that there are the four C’s to keep in mind when it comes to student success; Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity.  As a peer coach to a professional educator though I will need to keep in mind other themes.

Participation

A coaching relationship needs to consist of willing participants, who are open to building trust with one another (Foltos, 2013).  This trust is the root of a working relationship that encourages boldness and growth.

Benchmarks

It is essential to set goals and norms collaboratively. While it can begin with a school or district goal, it can also stem from goals set by the coaching partnership (Foltos, 2013).

Respect & Kindness

Setting a practice of respect and kindness is a separate consideration from participation. It is crucial to address time as a factor and be sensitive to both sides in a coaching relationship, and recognizing certification hours and/or compensation for work being done outside of the school day can adequately value the process.

What does it mean for a “coach” to implement a comprehensive use of technology to support a digital-age education for all students?

This year I have a new role outside of public education, and I am working with teachers in different states, different countries, and with decades of more experience than I have. But as I have read more and more research there is a clear divide between how teachers feel about using technology in their daily lives and how students think. In a recent presentation, I heard a stat that blew my mind “92% of teenagers are online every single day, and 24% are constantly and continually connected to the internet (Pew Research 2017).  With that being the case some of our educators are not only out of touch but with the continued exponential growth of data the divide is growing larger each day instead of each year or decade.  I know that each generation has felt this divide due to age and what is now as the “digital native” but I think something different is happening as I watch education professionals almost ward against technology instead of embracing it.

In a recent survey we did internally at Edmodo, we asked teachers who were active users last year to tell us why they did not come back.  We had about 11% of those who answered the survey (~400) tell us they went back to paper and pencil or paper and email instead of using an LMS.  When asked why they made this decision they said it is just “easier for them” and when I read that I can see those teachers who back away from technology.  Those teachers though are doing a disservice to our students and not meeting them where they are.  They can even create a sense of anxiety when they do not use technology because they are less accessible for the student.

Coactive Learner-Centered Peer Coaching

At first, when I started listening to the recorded panel discussion it was just for work, but then I realized that what they were talking about correlates with our peer coaching discussion.  As I look to the future and see the creation of plans which are really for the benefit for the administration and policymakers I want to address meeting the students where they are and what it means for a “comprehensive digital-age education for students.”

I believe that the peer coaches need to meet the peer or student where they are in their learning, time of day, and the mode of communication that works best for them.  The coach is a guide and cannot do the work for the person but must have a light nurturing touch when it comes to coaching.  Experienced peer coaches understand that one way to show respect to their peers is to learn with and from them.  It is very similar to teaching “the coach needs to show respect to get respect” (Foltos, 2013, chapter 1). I had used this phrase in teaching on several occasions when students were out of line or acting out, and they did not like my response.  “Well you have to show respect to get respect, ” and they would roll their eyes because they were teenagers but it works the same with peer professionals. 

As in the panel discussion put on by Higher EdSurge, it demonstrates that coaching on a one-on-one basis is vital at all levels of education and professional development.  If we can suspend the idea that we are teachers and not students I think that several of these ideas correlate with our reading.

Regarding student success especially a digital-age student what does that mean? Success is hard to measure – and even more so because it depends on who you are asking and they will give you different metrics to measure that success against. But for the panel discussion, it was college completion and how colleges are trying to help with success. Less than ½ of college students today finish their bachelor’s degree in four years. Minority and low-income students are graduated at the campus average.  

An example of how one company is trying to improve student success through coaching  Dwight Smith (Assistant Director of Programs at Beyond12).  He explains the experiences Beyond 12 provides and the intentional use of the word “Coaches.”  These people wear so many hats and interact with students in unique ways.  The word coach is a catch-all for all that they do for the students.  Beyond 12 does not see their work as a replacement to traditional advising in college but more of a compliment.  Encourage students to take advantage of that is available at the colleges they attend.  Coaches are recent college graduates, and the majority of them are first in the family to attend college.  Coaching comes from a place of understanding where the students are coming from and what they are going through. Near-peer model or virtual coaching – texting. Facebook, Snapchat, online and not necessarily in person. Beyond 12 believes in the “Co-active coaching model, students are creative and resourceful on the whole.” Guide them in curriculum, activities, and support in social-emotional issues, and the coaches try to balance. Continually communicate the college completion is one step in the process and is not the finish line. It is an important step in the process, but it is not the end of the line for their life.

Then Charles Thornburgh (CEO at Civitas) a big data analytics company, we are an outcomes company that secondary success for the economy by 2025.  Right now in the U.S., just 60% of students complete their bachelor’s degree and take on average six years to get there. For two-year college programs, only about a third of students achieve their certificate or associate degree within three years. The numbers are even more troubling when placed alongside rising tuition costs, which prevent many students from adding extra semesters to finish their program.

Some institutions are thinking about how to change that through tech-augmented academic advising. That can take some forms: from early-alert systems that flag students in need of extra support, to predictive analytics, to online (and increasingly self-service) degree-planning services.  But technology alone doesn’t help students get through the hardest parts of college: people do. In this meetup, EdSurge will ask experts about the shifting role of advisors, as well as how, when or even if technology should be used to intervene with students.

Finally, something in the K-12 arena needs to change, and I think that starts with providing this same type of human-to-human and tech-augmented peer coaching.  We do not want to lose any more teachers due to burn out.  We need to show them how technology can not only help their lives become more comfortable but will inevitably create produce students who will be much more successful in their future endeavors outside of college and university.

Reading and Resources

Ehsanipour, T., & Gomez Zaccarelli, F. (2017, July). Exploring Coaching for Powerful Technology Use in Education (Center to Support Excellence in Teaching – Stanford University, Ed.). Retrieved October, 13, from http://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Dynamic-Learning-Project-Paper-Final.pdf

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

Higher EdSurge: Panel Discussion Coaches, Computers & College Completion: Can Tech Get More Students to a Degree? (2017, September 27). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from https://www.facebook.com/higheredsurge/videos/vb.372280739820732/469617456753726/?type=2&theaterhttps://www.facebook.com/higheredsurge/


Hello, world!

I am so excited to begin my MEd. journey at Seattle Pacific University! This blog will serve as an ongoing portfolio of my learning throughout the Digital Education Leadership program. Please check out my About Page for more information.

Workshop proposal: Students, technology, and new Google Sites (Community Engagement Project)

This quarter, our Community Engagement Project was to create a professional learning presentation or workshop. For this project, my classmate, Ryan Gritter, and I decided to work together to design a two hour workshop, which we titled Theory and Practice: How Students Use Technology and Using (new) Google Sites to Reach Them.

Workshop description: In this workshop we will use new Google Sites (and other Google products) to discuss how technology impacts student learners and examine how to incorporate digital tools to promote collaboration in and out of the classroom. Specifically, we will consider issues of ethics, privacy, etiquette, and online community, and we will discuss how to improve pedagogy through digital tools like Google Sites. During the workshop participants will create their own Google Site and get a chance to “be the student” by engaging in digital collaboration.

During the workshop, we plan to alternate between discussing how technology impacts student learners and giving participants hands-on time with new Google Sites. Ryan and I have submitted our workshop proposal to NCCE’s 2018 Seattle conference (Feb 14-18) and we are waiting to hear back from them.

Addressing Teachers’ Needs

This workshop addresses teachers’ needs in a few ways. On the content knowledge side, we will discuss some elements of digital citizenship (ethics, privacy, and etiquette). We will also provide them with additional related resources to explore after the workshop is over. Additional resources include information on:

  • Selecting tools that are compatible with your school’s technology infrastructure
  • Tutorials on using new Google Sites
  • Pros and cons of new Google Sites
  • Online community and collaboration
  • Accessibility and assistive technologies

On the practice side, we will try to give participants an experience in using Google Docs to collaborate and get help from each other during the workshop itself. Google Docs makes it easy to collaborate from a distance or asynchronously, but we want to show how this digital tool can be used to benefit synchronous classroom environments.

Lastly, we want to give them some experience with a new digital tool. In November 2016, Google released new Google Sites. Like other Google products, Sites is free to use and part of G Suite for Education. However, it doesn’t seem as widely utilized as, for example, Google Docs. So to give participants exposure to this digital tool, we will use new Google Sites to host our content and to have participants engage with the content during the workshop. One nice thing about this platform is that it can (and will) remain available to the participants after the workshop ends.

(Note: Classic Sites is currently still available, but Google intends to phase it out. See this post for more information.)

Promoting Active Learning and Collaboration

Everything we do on Google Sites is intended to promote active learning. Based on the prompt, “Knowing is obsolete – Why or why not?,” participants will discuss their own thoughts on the question in small groups and then everyone will “blog” about their own thoughts by creating a new page on the Site. However, in order to do this, we will need to take some time to learn how to navigate the Site as an editor. Once we have done both those things, we will also take time to “comment” on each other’s blog posts.

(I have put “blog” and “comment” in quotes because new Google Sites isn’t specifically a blogging platform, and there is no commenting feature. However, we will work around these characteristics of new Google Sites to do these things anyway.)

Collaboration is promoted primarily through the Back Channel. I knew I wanted a place where participants could chat about the topics or ask questions in real time, but I wasn’t sure what platform I wanted to use to do that. I was inspired by this blog post to use Google Docs for the Back Channel. My hope is that participants will utilize the Back Channel throughout the workshop to expand on ideas and get help from each other. In order to get them started in the Back Channel, we will have them respond to a prompt at the start of the workshop. Here is a picture of the top of the Google Doc.

Picture of the Back Channel Google Doc. The Table of Contents has "questions." "notes," and "other thoughts." The community guidelines are: assume goodwill, jump in where you can add value, reciprocate (even in advance). The logistics are: add new content to the beginning of each section, indicate yourself in your comments through your name or a chosen screen name, feel free to add sections and if you do, use heading 1 for a new first-level heading and update the table of contents.

In line with my first blog post of the quarter on connecting classroom management to collaboration, I chose to include the community guidelines and logistics in order to try and establish initial expectations and practices for the Back Channel.

Publishing the Google Site

Since we are waiting to hear back from NCCE about our workshop proposal, we will not publish the site just yet. If we are accepted to the conference, the website will be publicly available after the workshop. If we are not accepted, I will revamp the site and publish the content. In the meantime, here is a peek at the home page.

Picture of the home page. Shows the workshop title and description. Also shows the sidebar navigation panel; most of the navigation items are expended to show subpages.

Screencasting in the Classroom: Using Video for School Based PD with Staff and Students

Community Engagement Project

For the final project in EDTC 6104 – Digital Learning Environments I’m reflecting on my Community Engagement Project. Using screencasting in the classroom for instruction with students or PD with staff members. I attempted to identify a learning need for a community of educators and design a workshop and presentation to distribute the content through a presentation at a local conference. I initially had a difficult time thinking of an area where I was comfortable and capable of providing PD or exposure to a specific topic for a group of K-12 educators. Eventually I settled on the topic of screencasting. I decided to apply to present this project at a local technology conference, NCCE. When I was thinking about the length I knew it would be between 30 and 60 minutes based on the topic and what I had to say luckily the conference application helped, since there was a choice for a 50 minute spot or a 2 hour spot. I went for 50 minutes.

Engaged and Active Learning

A focus of our class was active and engaged learning in a digital environment. It was a challenge to incorporate into PD especially since I am used to sit-and-get style of PD. I have done a lot of thinking and reflecting on how to adapt and update PD to a more engaging style, but putting it into practice has proved to be difficult. One way I’ve attempted to engage learners is to provide freedom, and that is a great draw of video, you make videos that fit the purpose according what is needed in your class or by your staff. I hope participants will be engaged because they are able to apply this learning to their individual classrooms and plan videos for their students or staff. Another idea was to incorporate flipped learning content into the session. I decided that trying to get participants to record their own screencast before coming to the PD would hopefully help spark an interest and facilitate buy-in from participants. I also decided to try to gather the recorded videos together along with a description to create a library of screencast and video resources that would hopefully benefit teachers for use in their classrooms or job. To get participants involved in the session I attempted to have them script and record a screencast toward the end of our time. In planning for this, I have some concerns because I’ve heard conference wifi can be unreliable at times and video of course requires more bandwidth.

I really hope that the idea of a library of screencast videos would serve as a springboard for teachers recording more videos, or using videos linked through this Google site in their own classrooms. I will be interested to get feedback and track the use over time through some sort of analytics. As I was thinking about adding one more website to teachers taxed brains, I became concerned that mine would not stand out. I don’t have any answers, and I realized I have no way to remind anyone that it exists. I’m hoping that if my training is valuable and the videos recorded by others are shared this will become a valuable site for the teachers that visit. Who knows, maybe it can be used by my school district in some way. Right now, as you can see below it is just beginning as a basic Google site with four different pages focused on gathering and sharing screencast videos and my presentation.

The main page from the screencast collective website.

Content Knowledge Needs

During this quarter we focused on the ISTE Coaching Standards, and specifically standard 3. We covered the standard extensively and because of the time we put in reflecting and applying standard 3, I felt that my project meets many of the indicators for standard 3. I had difficulty explaiThis is the draft website showing my presentation resources. ning other content knowledge standards that are me by using screencasting for student learning and staff PD because the application is so broad. However, I can reflect on how I have used screencasts and instructional videos in my classroom in the past and share the content knowledge I have incorporated and what standards those videos could address for students or staff. I was looking back at some of my instructional videos tied to 4th grade math standards and I found that instructional videos for two chapters on fractions covered nearly all of the common core state standards for fractions for 4th grade. Instructional videso do differ from screencasts in my experience in recording however, and I have not yet made such a clear connection to standards in my own screencasts. I find that I often use screencasts to allow for more time to focus on standards within a lesson or in class because they help explain how to use a tool or how to navigate within a tool that will be used often in class.

Teachers Needs

One benefit of choosing to focus on screencasting and video is that it can be used for a variety of purposes. The skill of recording screencasts can be focused on student needs or the needs of teachers. I was able to record videos that I used for both purposes which I felt could be beneficial to share with other teachers. Teacher needs are vast, and we are stretched in many different directions. Recording a video can be one way to alleviate some of the pressures felt by teachers because it allows some basic needs and directions to be explained outside of the instructional block, or frees the teacher to focus attention on complex standards or deeper thinking.

The shared screencasts page from the screencast collective website.

Collaborative Participation

In past classes and in our class on on Digital Learning Environments we’ve been studying about engagement and professional development and best practices around engagement. So, naturally I want to make the professional development I’m providing as engaging as possible to those in attendance. From past investigations I should know how to do that but I found that knowledge very difficult to put into practice! I found that there were outside factors that limited my ability to provide the type of collaborative participation I wanted. Our class often discussed the constraints of the wireless network at large conferences, so when leading a PD session that is focused on videos posted online, naturally audience participation in the form of making their own videos is limited. Honestly, because of those limits I find myself more understanding of the typical forms of PD we experience as teachers. That being said, I don’t want my desire for transformation of PD to end here. I hope that in my upcoming classes and in my new job this year I will be able to continue working to transform the type of PD teachers experience. It is great to hear about things that are working across the country from our readings, as well as reading and hearing from classmates about their experiences in providing meaningful and differentiated PD opportunities. I still have a lot left to learn, in fact I’ll never be finished learning as all teachers know, but I feel that I’m on a great path that will hopefully benefit others along the way.

Resources

Building Technology Infrastructure for Learning. (2017, June). U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/files/2017/07/2017-Infrastructure-Guide.pdf

What is troubleshooting? What is it not? (Module 3, ISTE-CS 3e)

For my last week of exploring ISTE Coaching Standard (CS) 3: Digital age learning environments, I focused on indicator 3e – “troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments.” I initially started off with different questions, but they led me to these questions:

What frameworks or models are there for troubleshooting? What counts as troubleshooting? And if it doesn’t count as troubleshooting, then what is it?

What is troubleshooting?

Troubleshooting is one of those things that we often talk about without defining. And even more, specific language might be used when defining troubleshooting in a specific context. So based on the definitions or descriptions of troubleshooting from the resources I found, I feel like this general definition summarizes the idea well:

Troubleshooting: “Effective troubleshooting is a multifaceted exercise in diagnosis and deliberation, analysis and action” (Krieger, 2010) for the purpose of attempting to fix a failing or otherwise misbehaving system (Kuphaldt, n.d.).

What is troubleshooting not?

Debugging. This word came up when I asked my friend what general troubleshooting techniques are used in his discipline, computer science. The techniques he told me about didn’t quite match what I was expecting to hear. To me, he was telling me more about debugging techniques rather than troubleshooting, which led us to this forum response on the difference between debugging and troubleshooting:

The difference to a professional software developer is:

“Debugging” usually refers to the act of finding out what is causing a bug in a computer program, done by a person with the ability and authorization to change the computer program to fix the bug once the problem is found and pinned down.

“Troubleshooting” usually refers to the act of finding out how to fix or work around a problem in a computer program one is trying to get to run. Usually it is done by a person who does not have the option to alter the code, but has a program that is supposed to already be debugged. It involves finding conflicts in configuration or the like.

There are definitely overlaps, but they have different main usages. I would suggest that in your context of classroom work, that you use “troubleshooting” most of the time. “Debugging” would apply mostly when attempting to figure out how to alter the lesson plan so the problem does not reoccur on subsequent attempts to teach the same lesson. (Truffula in Debugging vs. troubleshooting, 2014)

The distinction ends up being important due to its implications for a solution. For example, Krieger (2010) says, “It’s common and understandable for users to blame the software or hardware when something frustrating happens that they don’t understand. For a troubleshooter to do the same, however, is an almost certain setup for failure.” I believe Krieger says this because when we believe a problem is caused by a bug, we give up on finding a solution, and the belief that a solution can be found is arguably a prerequisite for persistence in troubleshooting. See Kayne’s (2017) article What is the Difference Between Troubleshooting, Testing, and Debugging? for more elaboration on the differences between these terms.

Problem solving. When you are troubleshooting you are trying to solve problems, but does that mean you’re problem solving? If you are problem solving, does that mean you are troubleshooting? In academia, I don’t think these two words are interchangeable, though, like troubleshooting and debugging, I think they probably have some overlap. The main idea about troubleshooting that seems distinct from problem solving is that troubleshooting happens when a system is failing, misbehaving, or not working as expected; problem solving seems to encompass more than that. Perhaps troubleshooting is a subcategory of problem solving.

The Weyerhaeuser Company has a nice troubleshooting website which outlines the troubleshooting process at their company (it appears that they manufacture things). On their website they distinguish between problem solving and troubleshooting in the following way:

Problem solving is used for longer-term, more complex problems that require more data analysis and a team approach. Working through a problem may take several weeks but will often lead to major improvements in processes, products, or services.

The Weyerhaeuser Troubleshooting Process is designed for “on the floor” situations where time is of the essence. These problems usually take only a few minutes, hours, or shifts to solve. If it takes much longer than that you might consider using a longer-term problem solving process. (source)

Their definition of problem solving doesn’t seem to strictly match the academic use of the term, but I found it helpful nonetheless.

Troubleshooting: The Process

The resources that I found seem to agree on at least three basic steps for troubleshooting:

  1. Know the problem
  2. Narrow down the cause
  3. Verify the solution

But together the resources create a better picture of what troubleshooting entails. This outline strongly resembles *Steve Litt’s Universal Troubleshooting Process (UTP) because his process has the most steps and all the resources I found align with at least one item from the UTP. But this list combines information from Johnson, Flesher, and Chung (1995), Krieger (2010), Davies (2006), Weyerhaeuser Company (2004), Litt (2014), and Kuphaldt (n.d.).

*See the heading titled “The 10 step Universal Troubleshooting Process” for Litt’s elaboration on each numbered step below. I recommend checking it out. There’s a lot he talks about that I don’t mention.

But before getting to the steps of troubleshooting, I think there’s one prerequisite worth listing, which often seems to be assumed.

Prerequisite: In order to troubleshoot, you need at least some content knowledge. Particularly I’m thinking of conceptual understanding of the system and its components (Johnson et al., 1995) and relevant terminology. You don’t need to know all the content, but you need to know enough of something, and obviously, the more the better. It is incredibly difficult to Google something if you don’t know what key terms to use. And beyond that, if you don’t have a conceptual understanding of the system, it can be very hard to use the information you find to answer your own question or to even know to ask a question.

For example, when I was first trying to get my computer to read text to me (see my previous blog post here), I didn’t know the term “screen reader” so I didn’t find that software right away. Then once I found the software, I didn’t have a conceptual understanding of how it worked, so I didn’t know that I should be looking for the “button” command key which will cycle through clickable buttons on a webpage.

1. Prepare: This might require certain tools, software, or setting up your work space. Litt emphasizes having the right attitude and describes that here; I think persistence is one of the things he describes. Krieger emphasizes the importance of always assuming you could be wrong.

I have definitely experienced something like “putting on” a troubleshooting-attitude. I recall a night when my printer wasn’t working. After some halfhearted attempts to get it to work and deliberation over whether or not I really needed to print the thing, there was a distinct moment where I went, “Fine, I am going to commit to attempting to fix this.” After something like 5 hours I finally got it working. I think I cried in celebration.

2. Damage control plan: Litt was the only person I found who mentioned this, but it’s incredibly important! If you’re going to mess with things, make sure you backup whatever content you might affect.

3. Know the problem: You need to be able to clearly state the problem and fully understand the problem. Here are some questions that will help you get a complete picture of the problem:

  • What works?
  • What doesn’t work?
  • How are the working and non-working things related?
  • Have the non-working things worked in the past? Has the problem happened before (prior occurrence)?
  • Have there been recent changes to the system?

I think using the process of Rubber Duck Debugging during this step (and the next) could be beneficial. I say this because the act of trying to email someone about a problem often causes me to refine my answers to these questions.

4. Reproduce the problem: I think being able to reproduce the problem is really a sub-point of knowing the problem because you have to be able to answer the question: Under what conditions does the problem happen? I think sometimes this step might get skipped, particularly if the problem and solution are well documented. But sometimes being able to reproduce the problem is super important.

I can think of a handful of examples off the top of my head when I needed to be able to recreate the problem. Two of my examples involve reaching out to tech support and it’s probably safe to assume that in order to get help from tech support, they will need to be able to recreate the problem themselves (especially if it’s not a known problem).

5. Corrective maintenance: Looking at Litt’s description of this, I think it’d be fair to summarize this as “restart and update” but it includes other things like cleaning terminals. Corrective maintenance includes the things you would typically do for general “system health.”

6. Narrow down the problem: Easier said than done. “Your success or failure lies in what you choose to eliminate, and more importantly, why. It’s a game of Pick Up Sticks where you evaluate, reason, then remove any obstacles that get you closer to resolving the problem without breaking anything else. How you make those choices depends entirely on the questions you ask and how you interpret the answers” (Krieger, 2010). And to pull out some of Litt’s comments from Step 1 Prepare: “Don’t try to fix it, just try to narrow it down. Don’t panic. Don’t get mad. Be patient and don’t skip steps. Practice teamwork. When you get in a bind, just ask yourself ‘how can I narrow it down one more time?'”

7. Solve the problem: Once you think you’ve narrowed down the problem, solve it. Solutions can be broken up into at least two categories: fixes and workarounds. Illig (2010) describes the difference between these two things here. In short, a fix is a solution that will eliminate the problem and a workaround is a solution that will avoid the problem. For example, OwossoBob posted this workaround for the problem of the new Google Sites not (yet?) having a “site comments” feature.

Once you’ve solved your problem, don’t stop here!

8. Verify the solution: You want to make sure the problem is fixed and that the solution didn’t cause another problem. Additionally, Krieger says, “If you don’t know why it works, it isn’t fixed. … If the fix doesn’t work consistently, it most likely doesn’t work at all.”

9. Take pride in your solution! I’m glad Litt included this step because it is certainly a clear stage in the process!

10. Prevent future occurrence: Document your problem and solution and then share the information with your community to help them quickly resolve the problem should they encounter the same issue. This could be a great focus for student blogging on a class blog or website.

Is it Troubleshooting? And does it matter?

Two of my questions at the start of this post were:

What counts as troubleshooting? And if it doesn’t count as troubleshooting, then what is it?

But does it really matter whether your troubleshooting, debugging, problem solving, or doing something else? I think it does because learners will need different kinds of support depending on the activity they are engaged in.

With that in mind, here are three examples of activities I engaged in during my recent “text-to-speech adventure,” which I blogged about here. During that adventure, I did a lot of things, but was any of it troubleshooting? After thinking about troubleshooting more, I decided that a lot of what I did was not troubleshooting.

Not troubleshooting: I’m thinking about everything I went through to learn enough about screen readers so that I could use one to turn on accessibility mode on Ebook Central. And since I didn’t know enough about screen readers in order to have any expectations about how mine should be behaving, I can’t say that at any point my screen reader wasn’t behaving as expected. Therefore, I wasn’t troubleshooting…right? So what was I doing? I think I was engaging in the prerequisite that I listed above: acquiring content knowledge. I was learning the basics of using a specific program, and based on the definitions I’ve read, technically that is not considered troubleshooting. Perhaps this is the kind of activity which would well supported by a “click this button” type of tutorial.

Not sure: I’m having a harder time deciding whether or not I was troubleshooting during a different activity. My favorite text-to-speech reader for Chrome and Safari, ttsreader.com, has a Chrome app (here) for their website. It wasn’t immediately clear to me what the app does because the website works without installing it. So I got on two computers at once, one with the app installed and one without, and explored how the features differed based on which computer I was using. Once I realized that the website “remembers” a setting when the app is installed, I started confirming that it remembers other settings too.

Going through this process helped me prevent “a misbehaving website” down the road, and I can see how I might have needed to troubleshoot in the future had I not realized that you need the app for the website to perform as described by the developers. So was I troubleshooting? I’m not sure. I might say I was preemptively troubleshooting because I assumed that not understanding the differences between with-app and without-app would impede my ability to help others troubleshoot in the future. Thinking of myself as part of a community and wanting to support that community was really what encouraged me dig in and find an answer to my question.

Definitely troubleshooting: However, I was definitely troubleshooting when I was trying to add new voices for MS Speak and I couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t work. The answer to this problem is that there is no known solution to this well documented problem in Windows 7. (It seems to be a bug!) And I suspect that Microsoft’s workaround to this problem is to continue to allow users who utilize assistive technologies to upgrade to Windows 10 for free (see this), rather than fixing the bug on Windows 7.

Troubleshooting and ISTE-CS 3e

Troubleshooting is one of those terms that gets used so much and so loosely that it can seem to become a catchall word for “figuring things out.” In that respect it reminds me of the word “identity.” And for me to be able to engage in CS 3e, it was important for me to go through this process of thinking about what troubleshooting is and what it isn’t. The next step for me would be to think about what it looks like to teach troubleshooting. I know that modeling the troubleshooting process is one way to teach it, but what other ways can we teach and learn it? In the future I think it would also be nice to make an infographic based on the information I found.


References

Davies, J. (2006). Chapter 16 – Troubleshooting TCP/IP. Retrieved from https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb727023.aspx#EFAA

Debugging vs. troubleshooting [Online forum comment]. (2014, October 14). Retrieved from WordReference Language Forums website: https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/debugging-vs-troubleshooting.2909914/

Illig, T. (2010). The difference between a workaround and a fix [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.paraesthesia.com/archive/2010/01/29/the-difference-between-a-workaround-and-a-fix.aspx/

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