All posts by James

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

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

Module 3: Troubleshooting for All

Introduction to ISTE 3E and 3G

This week for my M.Ed. Digital Education Leadership program blog post at Seattle Pacific University. I’m reflecting on a different part of the ISTE coaching standard #3. For this module we are considering indicators E and G of Standard 3. Initially those two indicators and topics seemed unrelated but I think they really do overlap more than I first thought. Initially in considering the role students and teachers play in troubleshooting technology versus collaborating locally and globally with students, parents, peers and the larger community I decided to focus on troubleshooting. However, I think the two may be more connected than I originally considered. The question that chose to investigate was related to my school district. I wanted to know what tools or resources they had in place for teachers and students who need to troubleshoot technology so that they feel empowered to troubleshoot on their own. I also want to consider what technology coaches can do in order to encourage teachers to troubleshoot on their own.

Empowering Teachers

The first step that I see in helping teachers to become empowered users of technology who troubleshoot their own problems is encouraging them to begin to do that work. Perhaps even before providing that encouragement technology leaders will need to provide some modeling or sharing how we troubleshoot our own technology problems. I will plan to write a bit more about this later in my post. In order for teachers to be successful troubleshooters of their technology, however, they will likely need scaffolded help. In many of my previous readings and posts related to PD the idea that good teaching for students and  adults is the same has come up repeatedly. That is why I believe that some explicit teaching around troubleshooting is necessary for teachers. In my past experience working with teachers and collaborating in general the collective intelligence is far superior to the ideas of one person. Therefore, my hope in continually exposing the district staff to the idea of troubleshooting a device on their own and modeling with the  resources I use is that it will lead to a culture where it is natural for teachers to troubleshoot their own problems more often. My second hope is that by devoting a small amount of time to troubleshooting consistently will aid in creating of a community of resources related to troubleshooting to build a repository of solutions and resources for finding those solutions across an entire school district.

Troubleshooting Help – Some Resources

The next part of my research into troubleshooting tools involved actually looking for tools that were used in my district as well as other tools I could find around the web. I was able to find some pretty good resources but many, as happens with technology, seem outdated.

The first thing I noticed when looking for tools to help with troubleshooting technology within my school district is that there is a troubleshooting and PD website that does exist! It is just like what I was hoping to find, a place where collective intelligence is leveraged for the benefit of all. I was happy to see that they have a fairly advanced page with many working links that includes resources in a variety of formats. I saw documents, slideshows and videos depending on the topic you choose to learn more about. Some offered explanations or PD but others were basic directions on how to use a tool that would likely work for troubleshooting. Another positive aspect of this website is that it utilizes tools and resources that are already available from the web as well as incorporates tools and resources created by the technology leaders from within the district. I think this provides a good mix of showing teachers what is available and encouraging them to create and share their own knowledge. In addition to this webpage there is another page offered by the district that is an instructional technology blog. On the blog there is also a combination of different types of information. Some link to PD or other district websites and some are setup type tips that would be helpful to a teacher or student who was troubleshooting their technology. One point of interest for me is whether or not these resources are widely shared across the district or in trainings and how often they are updated. I hope to find out when I attend the new employee training later this month.

The next resource I wanted to share that I discovered in my search this week is from Pace University in the state of New York. Pace has an interesting idea in their website that is for troubleshooting all about computers for teachers or students. They have attempted to put the most important technology issues on their site and then further divided that into five subsites. The layout is great, and I like the subsites as well as the visuals on the homepage of the site. It would likely still be useful if it was current, but much of the information appears to now be out of date. I actually had a pretty difficult time finding a technology troubleshooting website, especially one made for teachers because I think much of this work has been taken on by districts, and probably also because so many specific problems can be solved by searching the web. Searching the web is one basic way to troubleshoot many technology problems but I wanted to provide two resources that might be more focused and powerful than a general web search. I want to talk about product forums and support pages. I’m choosing to discuss Google Forums and Google Product support because I use a Google account at work and students in my district use Chromebooks and have G Suite accounts.

Google Forums and Support

Google product forums is an extensive website that revolves around all of the products Google offers and allows users to ask questions and get answers from community members, volunteers or Google employees. I’ve found that each time I use the forums I learn something new, often in addition to the solution I was looking to find. As you can see the forum has an extensive list of products. Google Forum Homepage

I was look there today and was reminded that I can use the shortcut ctrl + ? to bring up the help menu on a Chromebook. One great reason to use these forums if that you often get specific step by step support tailored to your problem, or you can find past posts by searching that explain the exact topic you are trying to solve. Another similarly useful resource is the Google Support website.

Google's Product Help WebsiteFrom what I can see the support website is more general whereas forums are for more technical or specific problems. I’m not sure, so if you happen to know please provide a clarifying comment! The great thing about support and forum type of websites is that all major technology companies seems to have them. Whether you prefer to use Microsoft, Apple or Google products and services each of those three major companies has these dedicated websites. Now you don’t even have to go to the Apple Store! I think that because we do so much of our work on specific devices from one of these large companies, and because so much is now done online the best troubleshooting for most people will probably come from a major forum or product support website.

Empowering Students

Since the resources I’ve listed above are all free to use without any password protection or other restrictions I see no reason why those same sites should not be shared with students. If we are looking to empower students to be creative thinkers and problem solvers then troubleshooting should be a skill they acquire. It has been my experience that my former students are some of the most eager people to troubleshoot technology problems. When I reflect on my classroom practice from past years, I think if I had strategically provided them with these resources they would have been even more independent in their use of technology and in finding solutions for problems. I also wonder if more students would have demonstrated competency in troubleshooting. Explicit teaching and modeling can be used here with students and teachers alike. As I said above, there is a connection between encouraging local and global collaboration and confidence in troubleshooting. If you use technology sometime you will encounter a problem. Our students will continue to use technology just as students across the world will use technology. Students will collaborate with others who are far removed from their learning environments, when problems come up they should have some strategies for solving those problems. As Lindsay (2016) states, students should develop global competencies in order to be prepared for the global jobs they will be competing for tomorrow. Let’s work to help our students be prepared to compete globally by helping them become proficient users of technology. 

My Thoughts for Teachers Leaders

The way forward could help to shape classroom cultures, mindset and the entire environment of  a school or district. If we are willing to be patient, resist the urge to provide answers, model our own troubleshooting with both staff members and students, and encourage flexible solutions to problems then an important shift can continue to happen. Our goal as technology leaders should be to help spur this change. Change can happen, especially if we provide staff and students with some resources that they can use to move past the initial stage of just giving up. If we want students to persevere in their lives, shouldn’t we be willing to do the same in front of them and in front of our own colleagues? Certainly we need to test, prepare and do our best to ensure that our instructional time is spent instructing, but next time you have a technology hiccup maybe we should stop and think about what our reaction and solution teaches those around us. I would also encourage you to model if possible or share some resources that you use to troubleshoot technology to other teachers in a PD or in an informal setting. Finally, if you have resources from your school district or from another website that you would like to share with others below, please comment.

Resources

Computer Troubleshooting for Teachers and Students- Home Page. (n.d.). Retrieved August 4, 2017, from http://webpage.pace.edu/ms16182p/troubleshooting/home.html

Edmonds – Instructional Technology. (n.d.). Retrieved August 4, 2017, from https://sites.google.com/a/edmonds.wednet.edu/imd/home

Google Product Forums. (n.d.). [Forum]. Retrieved August 5, 2017, from https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!home

Google Help. (n.d.). [Forum]. Retrieved August 5, 2017, from https://support.google.com/

Lindsay, J. (n.d.). How to Encourage and Model Global Citizenship in the Classroom. Retrieved August 5, 2017, from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/global_learning/2016/07/how_to_encourage_and_model_global_citizenship_in_the_classroom.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB

Miller, A. (2015, May 11). Avoiding “Learned Helplessness.” Retrieved August 2, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/avoiding-learned-helplessness-andrew-miller 

Module 2: Collaboration Across Districts in Technology Selection

Collaboration Across Districts in Technology Selection

ISTE Standard 3 for Coaches

This week for my reflection on ISTE Coaching Standard 3 we were using this question to frame our investigation: How do we evaluate, select, and manage digital tools and resources for teachers and students that meet accessibility guidelines and fit within our institution’s technology infrastructure? I decided to focus on part of that question with my own investigative question. I asked: What is an effective process to evaluate, manage and select digital tools that solicits feedback and buy-in from teachers and administrators? This week I didn’t choose to focus on accessibility guidelines because when I read the standard it wasn’t something that initially stood out to me. Over the two weeks I’ve seen what my colleagues are going to investigate and I think I will come back to accessibility in another post, hopefully in the near future. Also I know that one project I will be working on this year is working to help make sure all websites of my new district are ADA compliant. That will be new learning for me and I’m excited to put what I learn into thoughts in a future post.

This week I decided to focus on the structure of technology adoption and approval of apps, software, websites, add ons and other forms of instructional technology that affect teachers and students. I’ve only worked in one district so I have limited experience, but it sounds like in talking with colleagues and some informal surveys my previous district was ahead of many others in their processes for approval of technology use. The one thing I always thought about was that the process you were supposed to follow and the website to check for approval was difficult to get to and not known by everyone. That is part of the reason that I wanted to write about this topic. So that led me to insert the idea of buy-in into my question. I was not really shocked to learn that “nationwide 51% of teachers select up to half of the education technology they use” (Johnson, 2016). I was never sure was our district technology portion of the website under advertised or if teachers just weren’t interested in whether or not the district supported a tool and if it was ethical to use with students. Is it something that they saw as important? Additionally, how many administrators were asking teachers about the technology tools they used with students and whether or not they were approved by the district, protected student privacy, made an impact on student learning? Those are some questions that are still lingering for me even as I try to record my leaning around this standard and topic.

Making an Improvement

So what could districts do to streamline this process? What could they do to include more administrators and teachers and spread the word about approved and supported technology tools within a district? One idea I like is to have a building technology team. It could be incorporated into the leadership team but if an administrator made sure that the team occasionally revisited approved technology and communicated that with staff members perhaps there would be more widespread use of those tools. Of course, administrators would either have to be given new information from the technology department or remember to review that information themselves. I think building it into a method of communication that already exists within the district infrastructure would make the most sense and be the least burdensome to all.  

Many of my other ideas come from two resources that I came across. The first resource is my professor for this class Ellen Dorr, she has worked with the technology team in her district to develop an impressive process and system of evaluations and surveys that lead to a recommendation from the school district along with a designated level of support that the district will provide for that tool.

Denver Public Schools also has a website, called The Academic Technology Menu, with a layout that seems easy to navigate for teachers and other staff members. I’ve included a screenshot of the main page below:

The main reason I thought to include the DPS resource is because it seems easy to navigate for teachers. Speed is key, the website has clickable headings that expand and lead to related web pages. If you click on a category like Math, you can even sort resources based on many different categories.

If you clicked on a main page heading like Curriculum & Content Solutions: Career and Technical Education you can even sort the results in useful ways such as by approval status, grade level, cost and type of technology. Those are some features that seems to make this website very friendly for teachers. I would think that the district worked hard to develop it in this way so resources would be easy to access.

One additional feature that I saw from Ellen and from DPS was a flowchart that explained the steps of the approval process. The unique feature that Ellen talked about and that I saw from DPS comes in the final section of the flowchart, where results are listed there are more than two options. As you can see there are tools that are not allowed, tools allowed with cautions, tools allowed and tools that are supported. The biggest clarification this gives, in my opinion, is that you can clearly see if a district will support a specific tool with PD or if it will not. Since some of my previous posts have been focused on what is next for Professional Development, I think that the mention of a tool being supported with PD or not is important for buy-in from teachers.

The last resource that I found to be relevant to my question of how to get the district, administrators and teachers on the same page with technology adoption and implementation was an article that isn’t actually about technology. The title itself is provocative, Listening to Teachers: How School Districts Can Adopt Meaningful Change. The article chronicles how a district in rural New Hampshire first listened to teachers then fully committed to professional development across the entire district to support and sustain the change that they wanted to see. The key takeaways for me were that administrators and teachers were able to attend the same professional development sessions in order to learn together. Then administrators were able to function in two roles simultaneously, they could coach teachers as well as evaluating them as they normally would. It doesn’t sound like it was an easy process for them but I think it would be valuable to have an administrator function as a coach (thereby non-evaluative) and separately as an administrator normally would. One other interesting point that was made is because administrators were so familiar with the problem based learning program they had implemented, they could collect student data that helped them to know if students were getting to where they wanted them to be. Additionally, they had identified behaviors they might see in students who were participating in a well run problem based learning classroom. I imagine that all of this learning could be equally powerful if a district focused on the 21st Century Skills or any number of outcomes that technology could help students and teachers to achieve.

Conclusion

If the ideal is that districts, administrators and teachers are all working collaboratively to identify and use technology tools in the most effective way possible in order to support student learning then I think that there is still work to do to achieve that goal. Having a clear process that is accessible to all teachers within a district is one important step. That process could be communicated in new staff trainings, reviewed at the start of each school year or made known to building level leadership teams to spread the process across the district. A flowchart for teachers to be able to see the steps of the process is helpful so they know whether or not to request an application or tool, and what will happen when they do. A district website that clearly displays approved and not approved tools is necessary so teachers know where to look for tools. Collecting feedback via survey or through another method is a key way to find out if a tool really is aiding student achievement. Student feedback is important as well, providing them surveys or another way to give their own feedback would help buy-in across districts. Finally, I think if a district is committed to a tool or resource then professional development should be required for all staff including administrators. Cohesion will be more far reaching if everyone understands key terminology, learning targets, processes for evaluating learning with technology like the SAMR model or knows the ins and outs of technology tools that have been adopted and supported by each district. These are some ideas that I think would allow all levels of a school district to work toward the common goal of integrating technology tools in a way that has a positive impact on student learning.

Resources

DPS: ATM Approval Process. (n.d.). Retrieved July 23, 2017, from https://atm.dpsk12.org/process.aspx

DPS : Academic Technology Solutions Menu. (n.d.). Retrieved July 23, 2017, from https://atm.dpsk12.org/

Johnson, K. (2016, March 15). Resources to Help You Choose the Digital Tools Your Classroom Needs – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 13, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-03-15-resources-to-help-you-choose-the-digital-tools-your-classroom-needs

Schwartz, K. (n.d.). Listening to Teachers: How School Districts Can Adopt Meaningful Change. Retrieved July 12, 2017, from https://appserver-ec711ff6.c.pantheon-dmz.internal/mindshift/2015/08/11/listening-to-teachers-how-school-districts-can-adopt-meaningful-change/

Module 1: Blended Learning in PD

This quarter we will consider how to best create and support digital learning environments through the lens of a technology coach. In module 1 we are focusing on performance indicators a & c under ISTE Standard 3 for Coaches. Those two indicators ask how collaboration and classroom management can be used effectively to maximize the use of digital tools and resources in technology-rich learning environments by teachers and students, (ISTE, 2011). Indicator 3c asks coaches to “coach teachers in and model the use of blended learning, digital content and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators,” (ISTE, 2011). The part that stands out to me most as I transition into my new role is indicator 3c. I decided to continue my investigation into best practices in professional development, work that I started in my final post last quarter that can be read here (link). In that post I talked broadly about professional development (PD) and about how it could be improved to best serve teachers who integrate  technology into teaching. Here I will continue that work by focusing on how technology coaches can support teachers to through the PD.  Today my question deals specifically with blended learning, and asks how it can be incorporated into professional development for teachers so that they can begin to use it in their classroom. 

My reading notes are below:

Blended Learning in the Classroom

As I was reading about how to best incorporate the blended learning model into a classroom I read that the most effective way is to have technology integration that is perfectly matched to a curriculum. Karen Johnson writes that for Pamela Baack to commit to blended learning the school’s choice to use Zearn allowed all activities to be focused on the same goals, (Johnson, 2016, June 14). I think this is an ideal approach but in my experience it would be rare for teachers to have that option. Instead as technology coaches I think part of our work is to show, and maybe talk about, how it is an ongoing process to find a blended learning tool that works well within a classroom. That work is likely never finished.

In my research a lot of what I read about personalization of learning in a classroom through blended learning applies to adult learning as well. I often read about practices that are used with students being applied to PD. Two articles by the same author gave me a basic plan for how I might demonstrate blended learning to teachers within a PD session and they left me with many other questions to investigate.

Ideas for Blended Learning in PD

The first idea from the EdSurge article by Stepan Mekhitarian is to incorporate some blended learning into your demonstration or use of technology within the PD session. He does write that it shouldn’t just included for the sake of having it in there, it should be thoughtfully integrated and tied to the overall instructional focus and goal of the PD session. In other words, pick a tool “to further advance learning and progress toward the objective” (Mekhitarian, 2016, November 19). The author says this might look like using Google Docs to collaborate during a PD on questioning. Or collect responses from participants and use them in the activity. These both sound like fine ways to demonstrate integration of technology but they seem to be low on the ladder in SAMR. I would think they are at the Substitution level and maybe collecting survey responses instantaneously might land in the Augmentation or Modification stage. I still wonder what a more powerful demonstration of blended learning might look like for teachers.

The next suggestion is to co-plan and co-lead professional development with teachers to build capacity in those teachers as school leaders and instructional experts. This is an area where I see a lot of potential growth for my previous district  and I’m interested to know where my new district is at with this point. I see great potential in this area because many teachers have a wide range of technology skills and many no doubt have powerful and innovative applications of technology that they are using in their classroom however, in order to build this practice in teachers I think that there would need to be a more consistent focus on encouraging those teachers to present. In my previous district there were times where teachers were asked to share a PD because of an area of strength they showed, but the PD provided was sporadic and often seemed disconnected from the larger vision of the district or the plan of individual schools. I don’t yet know all that goes into planning PD for an entire district, nor do I know how much flexibility there is in sight based PD throughout the year but I hope to find that there will be an opportunity to co-plan and co-lead PD with teachers who are harnessing the power of tech to improve instructional outcomes.

The final idea suggested in the EdSurge article from Stepan Mekhitarian is to offer a place for optional workshops where teachers who use blended learning resources can gather to discuss and compare resources as well as continue to learn about resources that were introduced in a PD session.

In the second article Mekhitarian suggests some similar ways of incorporating blended learning models into PD for teachers. He adds a more explicit call for peer observation, which I think would benefit teachers in multiple ways including building a peer group around blended learning. Both articles have good points but I also would have liked a more clear example for many of his ideas. Hopefully as I work to provide PD for teachers I am able to record some ways that I demonstrate using blended learning and I can add those back to this post. In the end I think a clear vision and purpose for PD from administration will support teachers. This quote from Ellen Dorr resonated with me, “teachers are going to create strong learning environments for their students when they are involved in similar environments themselves–and it’s up to you to support them, administrators” (Dorr, 2015). Now I will have a role in that work.

Resources

Dorr, E. (2015, November 4). How Administrators Can Design the Best Learning Experiences for Teachers – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-11-04-how-administrators-can-design-the-best-learning-experiences-for-teachers

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Retrieved July 1, 2017, from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

Johnson, K. (2016, June 14). 6 Steps to Make Math Personal—Tech Makes It Possible, Teachers Make It Happen – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 7, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-14-6-steps-to-make-math-personal-tech-makes-it-possible-teachers-make-it-happen

Mekhitarian, S. (2016, November 19). Understanding Blended Learning Through Innovative Professional Development – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 7, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-11-19-understanding-blended-learning-through-innovative-professional-development

Strauss, V. (2015, June 15–500). Blended learning: The great new thing or the great new hype? Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/06/21/blended-learning-the-great-new-thing-or-the-great-new-hype/

Module 5: Designing Meaningful PD for Teachers – What’s Out There?

Designing Meaningful PD for Teachers – What’s Out There? by James Bettis

From my interpretation of the standards,  ISTE 5 is about how teachers model lifelong learning and engage in learning to benefit their school or community through the use of digital tools. I wanted  to find what districts might do to craft the best PD that they can for teachers who are at all different levels of comfort and proficiency with technology. Additionally if districts develop a successful model for tech PD I think that would give teachers some of the tools they need to lead in their individual schools. When I write about technology I’m referring to technology for professional daily use as well as integrating technology into the learning environment. The reason I want to focus on both professional use and technology integration is because I’ve noticed that the questions I field in my current position deal with both use and instructional integration and I think that a varied approach will serve the most teachers.

First, it is important to acknowledge that there are different levels of learners, and from there I think that districts need to build in means for teachers a varying levels to receive quality professional development. I also think it is important for districts to help buildings to organize their own technology PD in innovative ways. I have a few ideas about what has worked for my building, or some teachers in my building but overall I’m hoping to suggest an approach that might work to help teachers receive high quality and meaningful PD to aid technology integration.

Through the years I’ve attended a number of professional development classes taught by different instructors. From those experiences I’ve tried to distill down what makes for a fulfilling experience in a tech PD. I’ll admit that I’m somewhat confused. Thinking back I know I have been to some great sessions and some that felt less than great. I know that often the learning just has to makes sense for the learner, still I think there has to be some kind of formula or guideline. What makes it click? One experience I’ll highlight worked for me. I went a training on Vodcasting, which is recording a short video for students to use. I’ve always been drawn to video so I had a particular interest in the topic. It was a great combination of something that felt relevant to me and something I could foresee helping my students. In that sense, I think it fit the perfect time scenario. Also it was just beyond my realm of comfort. In order to do the homework required of the class, I had to learn to use iMovie, which I don’t find intuitive at all. That class pushed me, but today 7 years later, I find that I’m still using some skills from that class in my classroom to create math videos. That seems like a relatively successful PD and it doesn’t even fit all of the guidelines that I read about this week. So I can imagine that if PD opportunities were redesigned with best practices in mind to serve the most teachers possible with sustained focus, many more would be meaningful for more teachers.

As a side note, one of my colleagues in the DEL program posted a great overview of what she has been doing in her district, and it is a wonderful meaningful approach for teachers. I would like to link it later with her permission.

Based on my reading I have some good ideas about what could be meaningful for teacher going forward but I wonder how we are affected by past PD experiences? Changing perceptions will take time. No doubt providing a meaningful set of professional development classes for teachers is a struggle districts will continue to have. I hope that through new ideas and strategies all professional development will become more meaningful for more teachers rather than just a signature to say that you have attended, because you had to pick a class, or you had to be there for some other reason. I’m excited that part of my new position will be providing PD regarding technology, I’m excited to learn more about the process and to attempt to provide meaningful and engaging PD.

The ideas below are some of the things that I think might lead to a meaningful transformation in professional development. Of course this is really just scratching the surface in terms of resources that are available. However, I thought I would include them because I found them to be innovative or essential or both and I think they could help to further differentiate the PD that is offered.

Interesting approaches to PD that I came across in my reading:

  • Leveraging Twitter as a district to host chats, showcase work and provide a space PLC just like Twitter is great at doing within district (Raths, 2015)
  • Allowing microcredentials as a way to demonstrate competency (Raths, 2015)
    • If you want to learn more about microcredentials, I came across them when writing a post on ISTE 2 where I learned about Deeper Learning
  • Establishing and maintaining a district repository of tools, videos, screencasts and other resources related to technology PD
  • Establishing a strong team of technology coaches to journey with and guide teachers
  • Provide enough PD for sustained learning (50 hours!) (Crawford, 2014)

To me these are just some of the ways to start changing the PD model from within a school district. Ideally it would be great to see a state get involved in this process to encourage districts to begin to change the way we do PD. I’m excited to have a chance to do this in my district and to support teachers as they continue their journey to meaningful technology integration. If you would like to read more in depth about any of the ideas I’ve presented here, I found a great resource from EdSurge that is cited below. It really seems to be a an amazing guide to how some districts are retooling professional development.

Reflection

This quarter I feel that I have grown quite a lot in my understanding of the ISTE standards for teachers. From the start I had a hard time shifting my focus from students to teachers. At the start I don’t feel that I understood the standards for teacher well. Now through our investigation and blog posts this quarter I feel that I have a much better understanding of these standards and I understand how the connect and link to the student standards. Knowing my own predisposition for rigidity and how I resort to the standard practice I think that my growth in ISTE #1 is the most significant. I also feel that it is an area where I can continue to grow as long as I push my own thinking and remind myself of the myriad of ways there are to learn and to demonstrate learning. Another area for growth for me is in regard to ISTE Standard 5 and Coaching Standard 2. As a technology coach I feel much more prepared to lead other teachers as they strive to use technology in a meaningful way with students, to facilitate assessing students in a formative way and to connect with other teachers across the globe. Through the investigations I have completed during this last quarter and from reading the investigations my colleagues have posted, I feel infinitely more prepared to respond to the needs of teachers. I can’t wait to draw upon the resources and tools I have come across in this course as I assist teacher with the integration of technology into their classes.

Resources

20 Tips for Creating a Professional Learning Network – Getting Smart by Miriam Clifford. (2013, January 17). Retrieved June 4, 2017, from http://www.gettingsmart.com/2013/01/20-tips-for-creating-a-professional-learning-network/

A Blueprint for Personalized Professional Development by Teachers, for Teachers – EdSurge News. (2014, October 22). Retrieved June 5, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2014-10-22-a-blueprint-for-personalized-professional-development-by-teachers-for-teachers

A Guide To Crafting The Perfect Next Gen PD Model – EdSurge News. (2015, February 14). Retrieved June 6, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-02-14-a-guide-to-crafting-the-perfect-next-gen-pd-model

A Guide to Proficiency-Based Professional Development – EdSurge News. (2015, February 22). Retrieved June 7, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-02-22-a-guide-to-proficiency-based-professional-development

Crawford, A. (2014, December 5). A Farewell to Pointless PD – EdSurge News. Retrieved June 7, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2014-12-05-opinion-a-farewell-to-pointless-pd

From Pre-Fab to Personalized: How Districts Are Retooling Professional Development – EdSurge Guides. (2015, January 22). Retrieved June 5, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/research/guides/from-pre-fab-to-personalized-how-districts-are-retooling-professional-development

Patterson, M. (2016, April 54). Tips for Transforming Educational Technology through Professional Development and Training [Text]. Retrieved June 4, 2017, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2016/04/tips-transforming-educational-technology-through-professional-development-and

Raths, D., & 02/04/15. (n.d.). 5 Tech Tools That Help Personalize PD -. Retrieved June 7, 2017, from https://thejournal.com/articles/2015/02/04/5-tech-tools-that-help-personalize-pd.aspx

ISTE 4: Teachers Who Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Ethical Use – Can We Try Different?

The Standard

ISTE for Teachers Standard 4 states that “teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices” (ISTE 2008). To me that seemed like quite a charge. It’s a huge responsibility for teachers, but it is one that is essential in the 21st century. Initially I was planning on investigating how primary teachers demonstrate to their students that they are ethical users of technology and I wondered how that positively impacted students? When I started researching and thinking about how teachers could be empowered to be responsible and ethical users of technology, I began to realize the vast quest that this standard entails. Like many of our modules in the Digital Education Leadership Program at Seattle Pacific University, I think that is the point of our assignment and our research. We are working toward a M.Ed. but we are also embodying the charge of the school of education at SPU, part of the mission is “to equip educators for service and leadership in schools and communities by developing their professional competence and character, to make a positive impact on learning.” I think that part of the reason we are focusing on standards that are very broad is to prepare us for conversations we will have with teachers and other stakeholders in the future as we become technology leaders in our schools and districts.

Try Different

Maybe we can’t just try harder, maybe we need to try something different?

Technology PD and Teachers

Recently I found myself in a PD for Code.org this week and while listening to the presentation and participating in the PD, I was thinking about the ethical use of technology by teachers and how it relates to how we teach digital citizenship to our students. I had a realization and thought that made sense to me. I don’t think that districts can expect teachers to be examples of ethical users of technology unless they are willing to invest in some kind of PD to encourage teachers to be aware of the lapses, blind spots and disconnects in the ethical use of technology. As users of technology, and teachers we are all over the place in our use and struggle to grasp content in any technology PD. Therefore, I think that slowing down and building in a focus on ethical use to every PD would aid in the process of teachers demonstrating this ethical use to students in the classroom. Are there standards that explain how to demonstrate ethical use in an elementary school? What does this instruction look like in primary versus intermediate grades? I mostly found resources for teaching digital citizenship to students, as expected. There is definitely room for improvement there in my own classroom as well as in my school. Using an LMS as a safe environment that mimics social media is one strategy (Hertz, M.B., 2011). Engaging videos like Follow the Digital Trail with Pause & Think are great for primary students. I guess in my research I came to realize that while teaching digital citizenship is necessary, I struggled to find how we can encourage and empower all teachers to teach it. They have to know that it matters! I think certain groups in every school could help to transmit that message with some slight modifications to common practice.

The Current System, Slightly Modified

Teachers who are motivated and fluent users of technology can be examples for students. It seems that most districts, based on my experience, as well as the experience of colleagues I’ve talked to in this program, expect librarians to be the main instructors responsible with informing students about the expectations for digital citizenship. Therefore, librarians would be the ones who receive PD related to digital citizenship from technology coaches or coordinators. In my building we have a technology team but most of the professional development is actually done by the administrator or the coaches and leadership team members. What if districts invested in these teams and encouraged them to demonstrate ethical use of technology to the rest of the staff? I imagine that doing so might help it to trickle down to students. In my building this seems like it would be a good start. Or, could a technology team at a building level provide the necessary PD yearly to encourage ethical use from teachers? I think it is possible but it would take a district level commitment that I have yet to see or hear about from others. Additionally I think that districts could continue to empower a larger number of students to be ethical users of technology by offering optional technology classes taught by a district level technology employee or a motivated teacher in order to focus on ethical use and integration of technology into learning.

This week I’m also reflecting on my own use of technology. What is my use like at school and at home? How are the two related? Where can I improve to be a better example? What are the primary reasons that I even use technology? I’ll continue to think about those questions and make it a goal to build in new habits when I identify a lapse or blind spot.

My notes from readings:

Other Questions and Conclusion

Is video PD a reliable way to help teachers remain current on ethical use of technology? Thinking about my role as a technology leader in my school I realize that my example in the ethical use of technology matters. I also think that administrators can influence a teacher’s ethical use of technology by becoming an example and referring to ethical use. Teachers are definitely busy, it is a challenge to fit in anything extra, but building in new habits can be a good investment for our own ethical use and examples for students. I think that teams in each school building could start off by being the example for how to do this to the general classroom teachers. Again, as I have said in past posts, I’m really just scratching the surface for ISTE 4. 

A Promising Resource

One resource that I came across really seemed say a lot that resonated with what I know and have learned about technology through my own use and through PD was about preparing teachers for technology integration. I don’t know that it is entirely relevant to this post on ethical use and how teacher promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility, but it is a resource I will likely return to later. The article by Jacobson, Clifford and Friesen makes me excited to see how new teachers will be trained to integrate technology into their teaching, and perhaps with an increased focus in the university, these new teachers will be prime examples of digital citizenship for their students. However, in the meantime this paragraph might fit where we are currently at, and hopefully it motivates reluctant adopters to give it a try:

“Learning and teaching with technology is hard, it can be overwhelming, and the field is always changing. The way in which preservice teachers reacted to the ICT Program of Studies and building web pages is much like the reaction of many class room teachers and faculty members when they grapple with how to integrate technology and the curriculum. It is also the way that experienced technology users venture into an area that is unfamiliar to them. Because the field is changing so quickly, everyone is in some sense a beginner. And everyone has exactly the same starting place where they are, at the moment. While where you are will change with experience and the acquisition of skills and knowledge, there will always be new skills, new knowledge, and new starting places for us all (Jacobson, Clifford, & Friesen, 2002).

I think this is an attitude we should all strive to have in our approach to technology, ethical use and the integration of technology into our classrooms.

Resources:

Follow the Digital Trail. (n.d.). [Clip]. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/videos/follow-the-digital-trail

Hertz, M. B. (2011, October 12). Teaching digital citizenship in the elementary classroom [Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/digital-citizenship-mary-beth-hertz

Jacobson, M., Clifford, P., & Friesen, S. (2002). Preparing teachers for technology integration: Creating a culture of inquiry in the context of use. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 2(3). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/volume-2/issue-3-02/current-practice/preparing-teachers-for-technology-integration-creating-a-culture-of-inquiry-in-the-context-of-use/

Ohler, J. (2012). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital edge. Education Digest, 77(8), 14–17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=f5h&AN=83515505&site=ehost-live

Ribble, M., & Northern Miller, T. (2013). Educational leadership in an online world: Connecting students to technology responsibly, safely, and ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 137–145. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1011379.pdf

Seattle Pacific University School of Education. (2017). Retrieved from http://spu.edu/academics/school-of-education/about/four-commitments/conceptual-framework

Simsek, E., & Simsek, A. (2013). New literacies for digital citizenship. Contemporary Education Technology, 4(2), 126–137. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED542213.pdf

Venosdale, K. (2012). Try Different [Digital Print]. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/bcXwrr 

Module 3: Collaboration with Parents, Student Motivation, and Success

Collaboration and Success

This week we were looking at the ISTE Standard for Teachers, #3 and specifically it seems to deal with parent communication or collaboration with parents, peers or the community. So based on my interpretation of the standards and conversations we had in our class that led me to two related questions. How does collaboration with parents, peers, or community members support student success and innovation? How can asynchronous collaboration or communication be used to increase parent, peer, or community involvement in the classroom as an aid to student success? Those two questions are obviously big questions, with complicated answers, but I think it is something teachers are constantly considering. As teachers we have limited time with students. Taking into account the different subjects, changing classes in middle through high school, state testing, other required assessments, daily interruptions to the regular schedule, not to mention absences, appointments and behavior challenges and the giant chunk of time we think we have is whittled away like a piece of stone for a sculpture. Without vision and laser focus it turns into nothing more than chunks of rock on the floor, signs of a missed opportunity. I know I have had years like that as an elementary teacher. I reflect on my year with a particular class or my work with a specific student and ask, where did the time go? It is difficult to measure what I have accomplished and I can be left thinking about missed opportunities.

In that respect partnering with parents and other members of the community to aid student success is particularly interesting to me for a couple reasons. First, if partnering with a member of the community or a parent does in fact provide additional motivation to students then it would likely lead to increased student success during the school year. I would likely see results in the classroom. There have been rare instances where I’ve felt like this has worked, or almost worked. One instance was this year. I introduced a student to a series of books and he started reading them like crazy. He went from reading fiction reluctantly to being a ravenous reader. He read nearly 20 short chapter books in just a few months or so. I was excited and I thought I had clearly communicated that excitement with his parents. However, I didn’t know that at home his parents were saying that the books he was reading were too easy for him. They were concerned that he needed to be reading more difficult books. Instead of partnering we ended up battling about appropriate level of reading for this student. Honestly, I just wanted him to be interested in reading so I didn’t push the issue too much, and he is still finding books that interest him. He is just reading more slowly as he tackles more complex texts. This week I’ve been reflecting on that story and I can’t help thinking that it was a missed opportunity. It might be that because parents in my class were not more familiar with the reading curriculum, this particular parent didn’t understand that there is complex work to do in a text in spite of the level of that text.

The second reason partnering with parents or other community members is so interesting and intriguing is that it provides a path for students to continue their learning outside of the classroom and beyond the school year. Robby Desmond writes in his blog post about some exciting possibilities that could come from partnering with parents. His perspective is that of an online reading tutor, but I think that his enthusiastic approach to involving parents should at least cause us to reflect on our own involvement of parents and community members. He suggests that exposing parents to the goals of lessons and a curriculum then parents will become a part of the learning process (Desmond, 2013).

An added benefit of involving parents and authentic learning is shared by actual students in the video about Expeditionary Learning (EL) at King Middle School. The school is unique of course, embarking on a 4 month investigation that is supported by teachers of different disciplines allows for deeper learning. Students are designers, creators and problem solvers. Through this project they use many of the categories of skills for deeper learning (Kabaker, 2015). It is hard to say whether it is because the EL approach to learning in general or specifically because of the parent integration at the end of the project but two of the students who are highlighted in the video reflected on their presentations in a way that seems to show that they positively affected performance. “This is live, you’re showing what you’re learning to other people, which kind of gives you something more back I think.” said Emma Schwartz. “You have to be clear and concise. Giving presentations is so important because it really arms you with skills that you will need later in life” shared Liva Pierce (EL Education, 2013).

Portland Maine Problem Solvers from EL Education on Vimeo.

At King Middle School, an EL Mentor School, teachers have swapped traditional curriculum for an unusually comprehensive science curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving, with a little help from some robots.

Do I think that it is possible (or even helpful) for parents to know absolutely everything that is happening in my classroom? I don’t think many parents want that. I’m not even sure how to provide that kind of access based on my current teaching. I feel torn between providing more information to parents to extend the learning like Desmond suggests and reluctant because parent involvement is never universal.

Ultimately I think in order to provide some kind of consistent communication that is beneficial to parents, teachers and students it needs to be a school wide implementation. I find that my communication is usually lacking often because of a lack of time. Maybe I haven’t given it enough of a try to see the way it can transform learning. In her article Linda Flanagan provides some ideas that really resonate with me as an elementary teacher. She says, “To make outreach more attractive to teachers, schools need to make communication central to the teachers’ work, not just an add-on to their growing list of responsibilities. In practice, that means making time during the school day for teachers to contact parents, Kraft says (Flanagan, 2015). That would help. In the meantime I have seen some beneficial aids to communication in recent years, Flanagan mentions text message based communication in her article and I think that Remind.com is a tool that is doing a great job of connecting parents and teachers through text messages. To me parent communication is one of those measures that is tricky to quantify. I know it positively impacts students but I’m still left searching for the best way to reach parents in a meaningful way while focusing on all of the other responsibilities we have as teachers.

Resources:

Desmond, R. (2013, March 12). Asynchronous Teaching, Helping Parents, and the Connected Teacher [Blog]. Retrieved from http://rossier.usc.edu/95468/

EL Education. (2013). Portland Maine Problem Solvers [News Video]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/68323188

Flanagan, L. (2015, November 17). What Can Be Done to Improve Parent-Teacher Communication? [Blog]. Retrieved from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/11/17/what-can-be-done-to-improve-parent-teacher-communication/

Kabaker, J. (2015, February 11). Supporting Deeper Learning in the Classroom. Retrieved from http://digitalpromise.org/2015/02/11/supporting-deeper-learning-in-the-classroom/

 

Deeper Learning and Formative Assessment Module 2 EDTC 6103

Deeper Learning for All

This module asks how a teacher can best design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments from ISTE Standards for Teachers #2. I am becoming more and more passionate about the idea of making learning relevant for students through the use of digital tools. I’ve always had a desire to make learning relevant for students, (Why do I teach right?), but in my exploration of technology integration over the past 5 years or so and more acutely since I started my M.Ed. in Digital Education Leadership I’ve felt an urgency to make learning relevant through the use of technology.

Everyday I see the negative effects of students who are not totally engaged in learning. No matter how much I think that the learning matters to them, and in spite of my desire to communicate the authentic connection that many standards in fact do have to students lives, still they are unable to fully connect to their learning. I am convinced that technology can empower teachers to help students make authentic connections with their learning. Additionally, I am convinced that through careful planning, intentional integration, a refusal to settle and a focused desire to make learning meaningful teachers can make changes to the learning environment that will positively impact their students. I’ve seen too many videos and read too many articles related to personalized learning, challenge based learning, design thinking and project based learning to think that these approaches do not positively impact students. So today and during this module my desire was to find out how can I go about beginning the process of transforming my classroom or at the very least one subject into a more powerful and more authentic learning environment for students.

I wondered, how can teachers begin to transition from dispensers of knowledge to co-constructors of knowledge with students while moving toward empowering students to discover their own knowledge through personalized learning, connected learning or other authentic learning experiences? What are some initial steps that can be taken by teachers to move toward a learning environment that engages students in investigating their own interests related to content standards? Really these questions are focused toward my own practice. How can I move toward breaking away from traditional teaching in order to harness the power of “deeper learning approaches [that] are more effective than traditional lecture-style models of teaching,” (Adams Becker, Freeman, Giesinger Hall, Cummings, & Yuhnke, 2016).

I knew this was a lofty question, but I decided to give it a try. After investigating for the limited amount of time that I had, I have a few ideas. My thinking is definitely still in process, but I’m starting to piece it together. Maybe the most exciting advancement is that the more co-workers I talk to about the prospect of starting a project related to deeper learning, the more I’m finding are interested in the same thing!

The Ostensible First Step for me

Changing the environment

The traditional classroom environment is boring. I’m no interior designer, but even I am not inspired when I step into a traditional classroom. I believe that a classroom probably shouldn’t look like it did when I went to elementary school close to 30 years ago. I know that not all of us can work in newly remodeled schools, but what can we do to change the environment nonetheless? I want to begin changing my classroom environment. I think that the video on Flexible Classrooms that I found from Edutopia offers some good insight and suggestions for teachers.

According to Lisa Molinaro, the principal of Woodbrook Elementary School, the first thing that needs to happen for Albemarle teachers to successfully create a flexible classroom is: “The teacher must have a vision for his or her room. The teacher must be willing to say, I’m going to throw out some of this stuff. I don’t need this traditional schooling equipment,” (Flexible Classrooms: Providing the learning environment that kids need, 2015). Some ideas that I have to try for my room are, increase the types of seating that I have, as well as add flexible book shelves that can be moved to create work spaces, nooks, or in order to open up the room.

“We’re really looking at how we support kids working collaboratively,” Fisher says. “And we can’t do it if we’re isolated in rows and every kid is an island,” (Flexible Classrooms: Providing the learning environment that kids need, 2015). With collaborative learning in mind, I will develop a vision for my own classroom. 

Possible Next Steps

As I change my learning environment, I can begin to focus on modifying my instruction as well. Of course I’m constantly changing my instruction, but a drastic change that would enable deeper learning seems daunting to me. Honestly, I couldn’t find a lot of information on what to do next. I do have some ideas based on the resources I found and investigated but it is simply my own interpretation of what would work best in my school, my classroom and for my students. From what I have read thus far on deeper learning, that is the best way to start.

I have slowly, over the past two years, often unknowingly, integrated concepts of personalized learning into my math instruction but I still struggle to make math meaningful for my students, especially those who feel that they are not good at math. I know a couple areas of focus persist that are seemingly unrelated to deeper learning. I want to continue to ensure that my students develop a growth mindset and model that for them. Also I want to encourage students to make real world connections to the math we are learning. Finally, I want to begin to design a project based learning assignment for the end of the year that will use the variety of math concepts we have studied during the year.

I read in many resources about the importance of knowing your student population when deciding about what technology will work for them or, which learning style is best for students. I think that age matters. What works for middle elementary students? That is something I will continue to investigate.

Also one definite next step came from sharing my ideas with other teachers. I found that many of the instructional coaches at my school are very excited to delve into deeper learning. That gives me some support in taking on this work in my school and in my classroom.

Integrating Assessment into Deeper Learning

During this module I was reminded that a plethora of formative assessment tools that are moderately easy to use do exists. I chose to focus on Socrative, but in my investigation and through talking to classmates I was reminded of a few other relatively easy to use resources. Some ideas I want to keep in mind for formative assessment are Plickers, Google Forms, Seesaw, Recap and a few more. I did find a video by Richard Byrne that most closely resembled my idea of a simple formative assessment. In the video from his blog Richard explains how to use a feature that was added to Socrative sometime around 2013. He suggests that you can take a quiz and add possible answers students would enter in order to create a self-grading quiz, (Byrne, 2013).

Here are the answers I attempted to account for…

That is exactly the type of thing I was looking for! I wondered if that same quiz could integrate a reflection or short answer question. I found that it was possible to combine a self grading quiz with a reflection question, or so I thought until I saw the grading form. As you can see in my attached spreadsheet that shows the results, it didn’t work perfectly on my first try. According to Socrative, none of my students got any answers correct, but when I went back to check there were 12 out of 17 who had correct answers, about 71%. I know I must have done something wrong, but I was hoping it would be so easy that I’d get it right the first time. Still in spite of this setback, I do think that Socrative is a great formative assessment resource, and the self-correction tool is one I will learn how to use correctly. I also am really happy that I’m not limited to just multiple choice or questions that will not facilitate deeper learning. I’m glad that reflection can be demonstrated through the same tool.

This post is another of mine that doesn’t end with a “solution” that is as clear as I would like but there is evidence that the difficult work is worth beginning. One idea that keeps coming back to me and pushing my to change my thinking is this quote from the Horizon Report: “deeper learning occurs when students are provided with greater flexibility and choice so that their passions can guide them,” (Adams Becker et al., 2016). I will work to use my classroom environment, technology and formative assessment to enable and encourage deeper learning. 

Resources:

Adams Becker, S., Freeman, A., Giesinger Hall, C., Cummings, M., & Yuhnke, B. (2016). NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 Edition. The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2016-nmc-cosn-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf

Basye, D. (2016 10–23). Personalized vs. differentiated vs. individualized learning. ISTE. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=124&category=In-the-classroom&article=Personalized-vs-differentiated-vs-individualized-learning&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=EdTekHub

Byrne, R. (2013, April 19). Video – How to use the new features of socrative [Blog]. Retrieved from http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2013/04/video-how-to-use-new-features-of.html#.WP2D4FMrLUp

Flexible classrooms: Providing the learning environment that kids need. (2015, August 4). [Video Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/practice/flexible-classrooms-providing-learning-environment-kids-need

Free online resources engage elementary kids. (2012, June 13). [Video Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/tech-to-learn-free-online-resources-video

Roc, M. (2014). Connected Learning Harnessing the Information Age to Make Learning More Powerful (pp. 1–11). Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/ConnectedLearning.pdf

Module 1 EDTC 6103 Video Integration into Google Classroom

During the Spring quarter in the Digital Education Leadership M.Ed. program at SPU we are investigating the ISTE Standards for Teachers. Our first module asked us to reflect on and investigate ISTE Standard 1. The standard led to the question; how can teachers use their knowledge of content, teaching, learning and technology to advance student learning, creativity and innovation in face-to-face and virtual environments? This question connected with a topic related to one of my posts from last quarter.

I thought it would be fitting to investigate how a teacher can use their knowledge of subject matter and technology to facilitate student learning using Google Classroom through video or screencasting.

Again I’m thinking about how well chosen video can aid instruction, provide direction even encourage reflection by students. In addition to video, I wonder if screencasts done by a teacher would lead to some of the same outcomes?  Finally I wonder how a teacher’s use of technology might lead a student to reflect on their learning using the same technology, or through commenting on a video? Can student learning be advanced through these methods?

From my research it is easy to find advice on what tools to use to make screencasts or videos, or statements that say that instructional time is increased but data on student learning is harder to find. The idea that in a 1:1 classroom teachers could save instructional time by having students watch screencasts or instructional videos at home or at another time in order to avoid explaining procedures and directions does make sense to me based on my experience in an elementary classroom. However, it might take even more planning in a school without 1:1 devices. I don’t work in a 1:1 school, however through BYOD and computer or iPad carts it could be possible to move our 3:1 ratio up to 1:1 on certain days or at certain times.

These are my notes from module 1

So how does using a screencast or video in Google Classroom relate to instruction? One piece of advice that is often repeated by an instructional coach at my school is that the lesson is just an invitation. That is good advice, it is always good to remember more teacher talk does not necessarily lead to increased learning. With that in mind I think that using a screencast or a short video to give instructions or possibly a series of directions could in fact benefit a student’s understanding. Even creating a lesson recap, which I will talk about a bit later, would support the idea that students don’t have to be with me at all times in a lesson to further their conceptual understanding of concepts. Suppose an ELL is able to go back to and replay directions as needed? Wouldn’t that give them additional time and chances to process the language which might lead to an increased understanding? Obviously other scaffolds are needed, but repeated exposure is a start.

More reading notes

Related to my use of Google Classroom, I am specifically interested in cataloging video within the stream. I have begun using classroom in one subject area in my day in an intermediate elementary classroom, but I’m finding that the stream is becoming difficult to navigate for students. I came across a post by Alice Keeler that might help to solve my problem. In her blog post she suggests creating an additional class to use purely as a video resource. The class can be called a video library so that students know exactly what they will find in that stream. There she suggests posting videos for instructions that are about 30 seconds in length and linking them to assignments in the other class. 30 seconds! That seems tough, but it makes sense because she adds, even in a 1 minute video it can be tough to find that one spot. If I’m talking about ELL students again how much more difficult would understanding become for them within a longer video. She also suggests creating a playlist of videos to explain a larger concept, or a set of directions with each video being under a minute long. A couple takeaways for me are to create shorter videos for instructions but also to create shorter videos to explain content. Another related support for navigating the classroom stream is the ctrl + f function. In trying to find a way to search the stream I found that there is not really a way to do that yet apart from ctrl + f. This is a topic that could be taught to students and recorded in a screencast to help them navigate more efficiently. The Google product forums are a great place to look for advice related to the use of Google Classroom.

Another idea for using video or screencasts to introduce new concepts or recap previous lessons. This approach can help you flip your classroom which allows for an increased amount of rigorous or collaborative work to be accomplished during class (Fiorentino & Orfanidis, 2017). I think of teachers in my school who are asking students to complete complicated multi-step projects over an extended period of time, similar to what we read about during this module challenge based learning (CBL), project based learning (PBL) or design thinking processes, they could begin to integrate Google Classroom as a way to post directions through video, text or screencast to allow students to focus on difficult or collaborative tasks while at school, instead of taking time to read or listen to directions. Directions could even be shared in advance and watched for homework.

In my school I think that many teachers are inspiring student creativity in many different ways. I’ve seen teachers engaging students in a poetry unit that culminates with a poetry slam where students present their own original poems to a wide audience of parents, staff and community members. I’ve also see a unit about Greece culminate with Greek days, where students try to replicate the ancient Greek culture and engage in some of the oldest olympic events as a grade level tracking their performance and comparing results as a class. Finally I’ve seen students in my school take their learning around simple machines in science and culminate the unit by building Rube Goldberg machines using a combination of simple machines. Many of these projects would definitely fit into the CBL, PBL or design thinking processes. I wonder if any of these teachers have used these processes to complete these projects? If not, would any of those frameworks improve their projects?  Maybe some professional development focused in those three areas would allow teachers to get even more out of the amazing projects they have created. Perhaps focused integration of technology would lead to increased student learning or understanding. In the very least teaching students about how they can use video to record and improve upon their design processes would begin to use some of the 21st century skills that they will need to be successful in the workforce. It is even possible that if teachers use Google Classroom to present their projects it could increase efficiency and lead to greater outcomes for students.

Teachers can make videos or screencasts to support content instruction, minimize whole class directions, or to encourage reflection during and after instruction or throughout the process of PBL, CBL or design thinking processes. Students could also make videos or screencasts as a way to demonstrate learning, especially after a unit. These videos and screencasts will likely lead to increased understanding by students. I am still looking for definitive evidence to support the idea that reflection through technology would advance student learning but it seems like something I could investigate in my own classroom through the use of commenting within Google Classroom, or video reflection. Instruction that is implemented through Google Classroom frees up the teacher to work with struggling learners or to check in with students for an extended period of time as they explore a concept in class. Finally through media students can access the content of the classroom from anywhere at any time which would allow for more collaboration or exploration in the classroom leading to increased learning outcomes.

All of this leads me to believe that a logical course of action for my classroom is still to encourage students to find academic content on YouTube. Then I will post those videos within my Google Classroom stream that is specifically dedicated to video and link those assignments in my original classroom. Then continue to create my own content related videos or screencasts. I will also use videos and screencasts to teach students how to use the Classroom stream more efficiently and as a recap to lessons that are taught in class. Eventually I would even be interested in creating a flipped classroom if only in one subject as a starter in my elementary classroom. I see all of those concepts as supports that will aid in student understanding. Ultimately I think all of those supports will lead students to become more creative in their demonstration of learning as they see how I use video in new ways. Finally, I will encourage students to reflect through comments or through their own videos that they will in turn post in our Google Classroom stream which will lead to the collaborative construction of knowledge.

Resources

Brown, P. (2016, February 17). 7 ways to spark collaboration and imagination in your classroom [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-02-17-7-ways-to-spark-collaboration-and-imagination-in-your-classroom

Fiorentino, J., & Orfanidis, D. (2017, March 14). New G suite apps to boost your effectiveness. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/new-g-suite-apps-boost-effectiveness-jacqueline-fiorentino-danielle-orfanidis

Harmon, E. (2016, November 1). Searching within the classroom stream [Public]. Retrieved from https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/google-education/pK3Y5HItlMs;context-place=topicsearchin/google-education/searching$20within$20the$20stream

International Society for Technology in Education. (n.d.). ISTE Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-teachers

Juliani, A. (2013, January 23). 10 commandments of innovative teaching. Retrieved from http://ajjuliani.com/10-commandments-innovative-teaching/

Keeler, A. (2016, August 29). Google classroom: Video playlists in a video library [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://alicekeeler.com/2016/08/29/google-classroom-video-playlists/