All posts by EdTechRedefined

Leveraging Technology to Change the Professional Development Landscape

My question related to ISTE Coaching standard 4b is “how do we provide technology rich professional learning programs” for teachers. Just as things have been slow to change in education, it’s been equally slow to change in professional development. We often still model traditional lecture style models that don’t embrace available technology tools or don’t utilize them in ways that mirror the blended, personalized, transformative learning environments that we want for our students.

In the conclusion of The National Educational Technology Plan there is a call for the following changes to Professional Development for Teachers:

  1. Provide pre-service and in-service educators with professional learning experiences powered by technology to increase their digital literacy and enable them to create compelling learning activities that improve learning and teaching, assessment, and instructional practices.
  2. Use technology to provide all learners with online access to effective teaching and better learning opportunities with options in places where they are not otherwise available.
  3. Develop a teaching force skilled in online and blended instruction.
  4. Develop a common set of technology competency expectations for university professors and candidates exiting teacher preparation programs for teaching in technologically enabled schools and post-secondary education institutions.

Each of these items require changing the structure of our Professional Development  toward, mastery and evidence based learning as well a providing teachers with the tools to personalize their learning and experience technology rich learning environments as a student. As the saying goes, “you teach the way you are taught”. We won’t develop new teachers who naturally think and teach differently until we produce a generation of students who had the chance to learn differently. The first step will be to shift the experiences our current teachers have in pre-service and inservice trainings so that they know what it looks and feels like to be part of a transformative, tech infused learning experience.

Transforming teaching practice is bigger than just including technology. There are certainly larger questions about pedagogy and what we can learn from the learning sciences research that will have a huge impact on teaching and learning in the future.  Jennifer Graff suggests in her paper Technology-Rich Innovative Learning Environments (Graff 2013) that there are three drivers that technology brings to the change process. First, it can open up opportunities to improve teaching and learning that weren’t available before. We don’t have to rely on just the experts in our districts for learning. Webinars, MOOCs and video conferencing and online learning can provide teachers with access to amazing experiences from experts in their fields. Secondly, adults without digital literacy skills will be at a disadvantage and she suggests will “suffer from a new digital divide” of adults who can function in a digital world and those that can’t. Finally, technology is an integral part of functioning and accessing “higher order competencies” that make it possible to be productive in today’s society.

She used ‘Morel’s Matrix” to evaluate technology in education based on the four stages (emerging, applying, integrating, and transforming) to look at a number of areas but the one that stuck out to me was the one on Professional Development. Transformational PD involves integration, innovation, self-management on the part of the learners and involves a personal vision and plan (Graff 2013).   

When you put that together with the recommendations of the National Technology Plan it seems like there are four main things that an Technology-Rich professional learning environment needs to have:

  1. Clarity of Professional Competencies and Expectations – It’s difficult to develop personal vision and plans as a teacher if the overall direction is not clear. If organizations can develop professional competencies, teachers (both pre-service and inservice) would be able to set achievable goals and work towards mastery. Once mastery is achieved, it would be easier to set more innovative goals with the confidence of having the skills and abilities to meet them.
  2. Teach skills the same way they’ll be used; integrated into content areas and using blended and personalized delivery methods. Teach to the ’why’ first. Model professional development that teaches content and best instructional practice with the inclusion of technology to support and enhance the learning so that teachers understand why it’s useful. If it’s something that they’ve experienced that makes a powerful difference in their learning they will be motivated to learn how to do it so they can offer the same experience to their students.
  3. Use technology to provide choice, learning flexibility (i.e. time, place, duration, learning styles) and access to quality learning opportunities.
  4. Make use of professional networks and learning communities to expand learning opportunities outside the classroom or school and to access innovative ideas and resources.

 

References

Conclusion – Office of Educational Technology. (2016). Office of Educational Technology. Retrieved 17 March 2018, from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/conclusion/

Groff, J. (2013). Technology-Rich Innovative Learning Environments. Oecd.org. Retrieved 17 March 2018, from http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/Technology-Rich%20Innovative%20Learning%20Environments%20by%20Jennifer%20Groff.pdf

 

What does it Mean to Advocate for Technology?

As coaches and administrators we are aware that technology skills are important for our students. Computers are everywhere…in our pockets, on our desks, on our laps, in our clothing, cars, airplanes, farms, factories, restaurants, and doctor’s offices… you get the picture. We want our students to be competitive in the world, and be “college and career ready” when they leave our schools which, most would agree, takes at least some fundamental familiarity with computers. Why is it then, that in spite of 1:1 computer initiatives in our schools, better wifi access in more places and more tech savvy teachers than ever before, we still aren’t producing enough computer science graduates to fill the available jobs nor have we seen student achievement rise to the levels we’d hoped. I had hoped it was as easy as a cry for more advocacy for technology, support and training for teachers. As I was researching, however, I realized that the real answer is not necessarily more people advocating for more of those things, although it can’t hurt, but in advocating for the right things…changes in teaching practice and changes in attitude.

In the early years of computers in the classroom we thought technology was the answer to our education woes. It was going to change everything about how we teach and how students learn. They were “set to revolutionize the traditional teacher-centric lecturing style and to unleash the potential for improvements in teaching quality and efficiency.” (Falck, Mang, Woessmann 2017)  Unfortunately, the promises of technology to revolutionize teaching and to increase student achievement have largely fallen flat. This same study Virtually No Effect? Different Uses of Classroom Computers and their Effect on Student Achievement (Falck, Mang, Woessmann, 2017) posits that the “null’ effects on student achievement could be caused by “a combination of using computers for activities that are more productive than traditional teaching methods, thus improving student outcomes, and using computers in ways that substitute more effective traditional practices, thus lowering student outcomes.”

In the study they talk about the “opportunity costs of time”. Each day teachers are given a certain amount of time and they have to make decisions about how each of those minutes is spent. If they spend minutes on technology in ways that enhance learning and provide opportunities for exploration and creativity that aren’t  possible with traditional teaching methods then they are spending in ways that will likely increase student outcomes. If, however, they choose to spend technology minutes on things like drill and kill practice or electronic worksheets that are not as effective as other teaching strategies such as collaborative work, discussion, design thinking, communication, etc. the use of technology is actually lowering student outcomes because the opportunity for deeper or more effective learning is being lost. It all comes down to purpose. Why is the technology being used the way it is?

I’ve been advocating for years for technology to be used to “transform” teaching and felt that we will never really be able to change student outcomes for the better until we stop doing the same ineffective teaching that we’ve held onto for years and started to fundamentally rethink how we teach and what we expect students to do as learners. But I’ve been advocating for technology use in a broad way and have been happy with the low expectations we have of teachers using technology in our classrooms because “at least they are using it.” Maybe true advocacy is not allowing it to be ok that time being spent with technology is having a negative effect on student learning because it’s replacing good teaching strategies. Although I’d want to focus obviously on the transformative ways technology can impact student learning our schools need to have bigger discussions about the things that don’t work as instructional practices and help teachers make the connection that those same ineffective practices are equally ineffective when you add technology.

It think advocacy for the transformative power of technology will have to come through in the passion I bring to my communication with teachers and administrators, by modeling change and a growth mindset but most of all, by being a part of the bigger discussion around ensuring all teachers are using the best, research based, instructional practices to teach kids. If technology is the right tool to support those practices then I’ll be there to support, teach and guide teachers. But we have to be ready to let go of technology time and instructional practices that are not effective in helping our students learn.

References

  • Falck, O., Mang, C., & Woessmann, L. (2018). Virtually No Effect? Different Uses of Classroom Computers and their Effect on Student Achievement. Oxford Bulletin Of Economics And Statistics, 80(1), 1-38. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/obes.12192

What teachers need to learn about professional digital citizenship

The ISTE standards for Educators outline how educators can help model, support and teach digital citizenship for students. They are, as we’d hope, responsible use standards that focus on the things we do want teachers to do with technology. It uses words like “positive, socially responsible contributions”, “establish a learning culture”, “mentor students”, and “model and promote management of identity”. (See the graphic below for the full text of the Educator Standards.)

I am in full agreement that teachers need to be part of educating students about digital citizenship. In many districts it’s been a task turned over to librarians. For a long time libraries were where technology was happening and often the only place students had access to technology. However, in an age of 1:1 one devices, teachers are now in a better position to be able to address issues in the moment, spy out and use those teachable moments to teach students or reinforce digital responsibility, and they are there when the technology is being used. Librarians are still amazing resources for digital citizenship and digital and media literacy instruction. But what if we could take the task of teaching students those skills off the librarians plates and instead have them teach teachers those same skills?

I’ve been searching for a few months to try and find some resources to teach teachers about digital citizenship. I don’t mean how to teach them to teach their students, I’m talking about teaching teachers the things they need to know to keep themselves safe, protect their own digital reputations and become ethical consumers of digital information. I’m not sure its the same as just picking it up by osmosis as they are teaching students. It seems unfair but teachers, like a lot of public figures, are more in the spotlight than many other professions such as an accountant or a scientist. They work with children. There is a higher standard expected of teachers, especially in their interactions with students and parents. It’s not even enough to keep your professional and private lives separate online when everything is so searchable. So, I’d like to find some ways that I can help teachers understand their own professional responsibility when it comes to issues of social media, copyright, account privacy and other issues that could  affect them and their professional reputations.

Let’s take the ISTE for Educator Standards and see what teachers might need to know in order to be able to model and teach the standards and protect their digital reputations:

Standards 3a & 3d

These two standards are about positive relationships online and managing one’s digital footprint. We want teachers using social media. It’s hard to stay relevant and connected without a social media presence anymore, but we do need teachers to know how to keep their presence appropriate and manage their digital reputation. One interesting resource I discovered was Childnet International. Their  Social-Media-Guide-teachers-and-support-staff has some good advice about things like when it’s appropriate or not to “friend” students on social media, setting privacy settings on social media accounts and managing your professional reputation. Their online safety calendar 2017-2018 has links to video and print resources for teachers and checklists to help teachers manage their digital footprint and their social media sites. Their INSET Training also discusses issues of reporting and monitoring student behaviors. There are lots of good resources here that I will spend more time learning about and finding ways to incorporate into training for teachers.

There is also the issue of training teachers to take a closer look at the privacy policies of websites that they ask their students to sign up for. We have a responsibility to watch out for the welfare of our student’s data when they are too young to do it themselves. Becoming more familiar with what to look for in online agreements is essential. The document from the government: Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices seems like a good place to start to learn more about protecting students.

Standards 3b & 3c

The areas of being critical consumers of online content and the ethics of intellectual property rights have more in common with good practices for students but it’s incredibly tempting to “borrow” things from the internet for that lesson coming up in 15 minutes. Teachers need good instruction on copyright and fair use. Many districts are also helping teachers understand and define intellectual property rights in regards to teachers creation of content that they want to sell online. We may need some more open conversations with teachers about what belongs to the district and what belongs to teachers.

Training for teachers is beginning to take more shape in my mind. Using these resource I can hopefully get a good start on it anyway.

References

ISTE | Standards For Educators. (2017). Iste.org. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators

Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices. (2014). Washington DC. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Student-Privacy-and-Online-Educational-Services-February-2014.pdf

School Pack for Online Safety Awareness. (2017). Childnet. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://www.childnet.com/resources/school-pack-for-online-safety-awareness

 

The potential for micro credentialing in support of adult learning

As much as instructional leaders and Professional Development instructors know about best instructional practices, we often fall back on traditional “sit and get”, lecture style delivery methods, powerpoint marathons and packets of information when working with adults. It’s easy to see why in some cases. We assume adults can handle getting their information that way and that they’ll pay attention because it’s related to their job. We are often pressed for time, and need to communicate information quickly and we assume that adults will be interested to learn because we are trying to help them become better teachers.

But the reality is, we aren’t hitting the mark. The pressure of standardized testing has certainly had some negative consequences but it’s also put a spotlight on data. It’s made it clear that the traditional ways we’ve been teaching our students aren’t working for all of them. The fact is, we are failing some of our kids and need to change our teaching practices and our education systems. The growth of technology that’s happened at the same time has opened up possibilities and at the same time put pressure on our institutions to think differently about our instructional practices, our ways of delivering content, the ways students can show  mastery and evidence of their learning and it’s provided us the opportunity to have access to learning on our own schedules. The question is, why don’t we allow teachers to learn that way too?

Knowles (1984) identifies characteristics of adult learners that we need to revisit as we rethink how we can take the best parts of what we know about learning and bring that to new ways for teachers to learn too.

Autonomous and self-directed: If given the right tools,  teachers can often self identify their own learning needs. It may be useful for newer teachers to also have the support and insight of their principal or mentor teacher to identify needs as well. Although evaluation tools like TPEP in Washington State are used punitively by some districts, it is possible instead to use those tools as a mechanism to identify learning needs for teachers that will directly impact student learning. Once those needs are identified, we can help teachers by providing resources and tools to facilitate their own learning needs. Online courses and tutorials, personalized professional development, work inside PLC groups, and learning from other teachers can all provide avenues for teacher to learn on their own.

Respect for the foundation of life experiences and knowledge: Teachers enter the profession with a variety of experiences both in and out of the classroom. We know students learn better when they can connect their learning to prior knowledge and the same should be true for adult learners. Our Professional Development opportunities need to take into account the expertise in the room and help teachers make connections to their experiences. We need to respect and honor what those experiences bring to the table while still expecting a growth mindset and a willingness to at least entertain new ideas.

Goal-Oriented: Most adults will focus better and pay more attention to something they’ve chosen to learn because they are trying to learn something that will help them achieve a personal goal. We need to give teachers choices in their professional development so they can develop skills to help them reach goals that are important to them.

Relevancy- oriented & Practical: This all goes back to purpose. People don’t retain learning well if they don’t understand the reason they are learning. I’ve stopped getting frustrated by teachers who ask me questions that make it feel like they aren’t listening or paying attention to the email’s, trainings, resources, etc. that I’ve give them. People need to know things when they are ready to know them. If it doesn’t feel relevant and practical to them at the time it’s taught to them they won’t retain it or take the time to try it out. The trick is in finding ways to increase readiness and create the conditions for the learning to be needed so it is relevant for teachers. If I figure out the trick I’ll blog about it some other time.

ISTE Coaching standard 4b asks coaches to “design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning and assessment.“ Many districts have been successfully using technology to address some of these issues. Video tutorials, online PD courses, badge based learning, webinars and other alternatives for learning are becoming a more integral part of professional development options. One option I’ve been interested in learning more about is micro credentialing. Micro credentialing “offers an opportunity to shift away from the credit-hour and continuing-education requirements…toward a system based on evidence of progress in specific instructional skills.”  (Sawchuck 2016) I like the idea of a mastery based system that requires more of teachers than just “butts in seats”. Micro- credentialing allows teachers to be recognized for their expertise. One program in the Kettle Moraine district in Wisconsin involves peers in evaluating the evidence of learning from fellow teachers and approves the micro credential. Although I love that idea, I would think it would be challenging to sustain over a long period of time.

Christopher Pappas (Pappas 2014)  applied Knowles theory to eLearning and suggested that adults need to have a chance to absorb knowledge instead of just memorizing it; “ the subject matter should offer them the chance to fine tune skill sets and acquire (and retain) practical knowledge by doing, rather than just memorizing.” Micro credentialing also offers the chance for the hands on, practical and relevant learning that can benefit teachers and ultimately our students.

References

Pappas, C. (2013). The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – of Malcolm Knowles – eLearning Industry. eLearning Industry. Retrieved 9 February 2018, from https://elearningindustry.com/the-adult-learning-theory-andragogy-of-malcolm-knowles

Pappas, C. (2014). 9 Tips To Apply Adult Learning Theory to eLearning – eLearning Industry. eLearning Industry. Retrieved 9 February 2018, from https://elearningindustry.com/9-tips-apply-adult-learning-theory-to-elearning

Sawchuk, S. (2016). Can ‘Micro-Credentialing’ Salvage Teacher PD?. Education Week. Retrieved 9 February 2018, from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/03/30/can-micro-credentialing-salvage-teacher-pd.html

 

Essential Elements of Online Professional Development

I’m writing this from my cabin on a two week cruise to the Panama Canal. It’s given me a new appreciation for the ubiquitous nature of wifi and cellular data in the United States and how expensive it is if you want to stay connected to your online world. I’m considering it a technology cleanse!

My topic for this week was to look at the essential elements of online professional development. The ISTE 4b standard for Coaches asks them to “Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principals of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.” I believe that teachers need to adjust their mindsets to always be learners themselves. Even teachers in content areas that don’t change much, like social studies or math, can learn new ways of teaching and thinking about their topic in order to make it more relevant for their students.

The first step is knowing what makes good Professional Development in the first place. The Learning Policy Institute (Hyler & Gardner 2017) suggests that these characteristics are essential:

  • Content Focused
  • Incorporates Active Learning
  • Supports collaboration
  • Uses models of effective practice
  • Provides coaching and expert support
  • Offers feedback and reflection
  • Is of sustained duration

I’d argue that that would be true of learning for students as well but it meshes well with my own personal views of PD. We’ve done too much ‘one and done’ technology training for staff that doesn’t meet their needs or doesn’t happen when they are ready for it. Readiness is a difficult thing to overcome, especially with technology training. If you aren’t ready to hear a message or learn a skill, sitting through a two hour technology training is pretty much a waste of time. I’m still trying to figure out how to increase readiness but that might be a post for another time.

Online learning may be one way to provide staff with the learning they need when they are ready for it but there does need to be some motivation for that learning to take place. I really loved the idea of blended PD (Piehler 2017) that I came across from the Learning Counsel. The idea was to use online learning as part of a larger professional development plan that included coming together in PLCs to talk about what staff were learning from their online experiences and give them a chance to get support or to teach others what they’ve learned. I’d really like to find some ways to create that kind of culture in our district to make online learning more meaningful and useful.

As to what is essential for online PD, most articles I read agreed that clear content, easy navigation, interactive content and regular feedback are key. I really liked this article Essential Elements of an Effective Online Learning Experience” (Hathcock 2012) that talked about the importance of the instructor in the process of learning. I don’t think we can forget the value of a real teacher as a part of the learning process.

Losing internet connection again! Posting while I can. I’ll come back and add resources when I get a better signal!

References

Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M., & Gardner, M. (2017). Effective Teacher Professional DevelopmentLearning Policy Institute. Retrieved 21 January 2018, from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/effective-teacher-professional-development-report

Hathcock, D. (2012). Essential Elements of an Effective Online Learning ExperienceFaculty Focus | Higher Ed Teaching & Learning. Retrieved 21 January 2018, from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/mapping-success-essential-elements-of-an-effective-online-learning-experience/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=printfriendly&utm_source=tool

Piehler, C. (2017). A Blended Approach to Teacher PDthe Learning Counsel. Retrieved 21 January 2018, from http://thelearningcounsel.com/article/blended-approach-teacher-pd

A Reflection on Peer Coaching

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

Shared Vision

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

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

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

Integration of Technology to Promote Transformational Change

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

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

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

 

References

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

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Iste.org. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Kolb, L. (2017). Triple E FrameworkTriple E Framework. Retrieved 15 December 2017, from http://www.tripleeframework.com/

SAMR. (2017). Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. Retrieved 15 December 2017, from http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html

Saphier, J., & West, L. (2010). How Coaches Can Maximize Student Learning. Phi Delta Kappan91(4), 46-50. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/003172171009100410

Adding Technology Capacity to Buildings Through Coaching

coaching terms wordle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

Bentley, K. (2017). How School Districts Can Adopt the Technology Coach ModelCenterdigitaled.com. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from http://www.centerdigitaled.com/blog/technology-coaches.html

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

Hertz, M. (2011). Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech IntegrationEdutopia. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/mentoring-coaching-tech-integration-mary-beth-hertz

Instructional Coaching: Driving Meaningful Tech Integration. (2015). Edutopia. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/practice/instructional-coaching-driving-meaningful-tech-integration

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Iste.org. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

 

Evaluating Tech Integration

Part of the ISTE coaching standard 1:Visionary Leadership states that coaches need to “inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment. “ There are a few parts of that statement that stuck out to me this week. First, in order to implement a shared vision we need to share the same language and vocabulary. Tech integration models can serve as a common way to talk to staff about the purpose and uses of technology in their classrooms. It can be valuable for an organization to have a common model, not only to assist in implementing technology but using one that is widely used by professionals in other districts can open up opportunities for local and global PLNs and access to resources that have been vetted by others.  

The other part that stuck out to me was the idea of “supporting transformational change”. I know what the vision in my head is but it’s not always easy to guide teachers who are new to integrating technology through the process that I’ve spent years learning and experimenting with. It would be easier if we had a tool that 1) was related to our tech model, 2) would make it easier for teachers and coaches to work with and that 3)  would be, in part, a self guided way of analyzing a lesson or project to determine the presence and transformative power of technology but also it’s appropriateness and impact on students.

My district has been using the SAMR model for the last few years because it was widely used and seemed fairly easy for teachers to access. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, “What is Redefinition?”, I don’t find the model as useful as I used to.  It’s possible that it’s a good starter model for teachers who are just being introduced to technology integration but as a global model I’ve seen as many definitions of what constitutes modification and redefinition as I’ve seen presenters give examples to teachers. Honestly, I don’t know that we’ll ever really be able to redefine teaching with technology until we redefine teaching. If you start with a teacher who is unwilling to think differently about their instruction the best you’ll get is substitution and augmentation. Add it to a willing teacher’s classroom and you’ll often get modification but the only teachers I’ve seen truly start to redefine their teaching and learning using technology are the ones who are willing to rethink “normal” and “traditional” and take the risk to change instructional practices and use technology to support that change.

In Peer Coaching, Les Foltos states (Foltos, 2013) that improving learning requires two things:

  1. Helping prospective Peer Coaches develop insight into the characteristics of learning that will prepare students with 21st century skills.
  2. Using these insights and research from the learning sciences to come to agreement on a norm for effective 21st century learning.

I’m a big picture person. If my vision is to start moving those willing teachers towards rethinking instructional practice, I need a model that includes thinking about instructional practice as well as technology and 21st century skills and, I need a formative assessment tool to help teachers, coaches and principals reflect on the learning tasks they are asking students to do and also decide how technology can help that task be transformative.

Here are some possibilities:

The Lesson Improvement Process

Foltos’ chapter on the Lesson Improvement Process includes the following areas of emphasis:

  1. Create a Task – Relevant, real-world tasks that hook the learner and stimulate interest and an essential question(s). The use of the Learning Activity Checklist can help teachers look at levels of engagement, problem based tasks.
  2. Define Standards – A lesson’s purpose should be aimed at teaching to standards but it’s important to keep the focus on a small number of standards, including the technology based ones.
  3. Learning Context – helping teachers understand the depth of learning needed to master the standard and how to scaffold the learning in order to achieve that depth of learning, including assessing the learning and understanding of the students.
  4. Student Directions – “a road map (for the student) to solve the task their teacher outlined”. Choice, engagement and clarity are important to this process.
  5. Reflection & Feedback – using collaborative communication to pre-assess whether the lesson has the potential to meet the purpose of the learning
  6. Assessment – both summative and formative assessments to track learning and provide ongoing feedback for both the teacher and the student.
  7. Resources & Information – The tools and sources of information that will be used in the lesson. This is one of the areas technology can be integrated.

I like this approach for helping teachers rethink a learning target. It puts the standards and the intended learning first before considering the technology tool. It does include a template for developing a lesson, although the intention is more for the teacher and the coach to work together on the lesson design. This does give the coach the opportunity to guide the discussion by asking questions or prodding thinking in the four areas of standards, engagement, problem based and technology. This is a good model for lesson planning and a coach using it as a tool would be able to help teachers integrate more technology into their lesson.

TRUDACOT (Technology-Rich Unit Design And Classroom Observation Template)

TRUDACOT is another tool that is meant to be a discussion protocol between teachers or with coaches to rethink lesson design that includes the integration of technology. I like the potential of this tool to give teachers entry points into redesigning a lesson. Version 2 gives teachers and coaches a way to formatively assess a lesson, either before it’s taught or as part of an observation and then use the questions to pick one or two areas to redesign. Not all of the sections are centered around technology so it does get at some of the rethinking of instructional strategies that I want to get at as well as the technology pieces. The downside is that it is fairly long, 9 sections with 3-4 questions. It would be easy for a teacher to feel overwhelmed at first if there were a lot of “nos” so it would be important to focus small and pick one area at first to make changes in and work on improvement over time. I think I’d start by having teachers use it as a way to evaluate and improve sample lessons from videos or other sources until they see how it could be used effectively.

Triple E framework

Kolb’s Triple E Framework is an interesting way to look at technology and provides both a model and a tool for reviewing a lesson and considering how technology is used as a tool. It doesn’t focus as strongly overall on lesson design or standards but as a tool to review how technology is used to support instruction it’s simple and easily understood. Level 1 is about Engaged Learning. She’s especially interested in not only how students engage with the technology but how they engage with each other to co-create learning.  She still gets at the issue of “redesigning” instructional practice in Level 2: Enhanced Learning although she uses the term “value added” and defines it as “when the tool is somehow aiding, assisting, or scaffolding learning in a way that could not easily be done with traditional methods.” In Level 3: Extended Learning the focus is on audience. I’ve always felt that truly redefined learning has to somehow include a wider audience than just the teacher so this resonates with me. I’m going to introduce this model to a group of teachers I work with and see what they think.  We’ll try using the rubrics she’s developed for lessons and for apps to practice looking at sample lessons through this lens. I’m interested to hear what my teachers think.

TPACK

I do like the TPACK model because it brings together technology, pedagogical practice and the content area being taught. It is the trifecta. My frustration with it is that it’s fairly complicated for teachers who are just getting started. There has been a lot of research done on using the TPACK model to evaluate technology integrated lessons and there are rubrics available that could be used with teachers but there would be a longer learning curve with this model than with some of the others. I want to do some more work with it involving some more experienced teachers to see how they might use it.

I haven’t truly found one model and tool that gets at everything I’m looking for but it may be possible to use multiples ones. In the long run, they are all asking for the same things. How can we effectively use technology as a tool to help create relevant, real world learning for students that can’t be done in any other way?

References

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin.

Koehler, M. (2017). TPACK.ORG. Tpack.org. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from http://tpack.org/

Kolb, L. (2017). Triple E Framework. Triple E Framework. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from http://www.tripleeframework.com/

McLeod, S., & Graber, J. trudacot v2 annotated. Google Docs. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from https://docs.google.com/document/d/147Pqvr32qwnPXUBmUM1r8p10unZ-pID_cgLjkGwwAus/edit

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].