All posts by James

Regional Teacher Professional Learning and Technology – Module 5

Involving Many Stakeholders

Like some of my colleagues in the Digital Education Leadership M.Ed. Program at Seattle Pacific University, this quarter has led me to think more broadly about professional development for teachers and specifically professional development through technology. Much of the learning this quarter has been new and valuable to me as a first year instructional technology coach. I’m understanding more about the limitations on professional learning. At the same time I am becoming more and more involved with school and district leadership teams through my position, which exposes me to district and building PD models. Also, I have had the chance to read about some really great professional development initiatives that are happening and have thought, what would it take to make that happen here in WA or in my region, or in my district? By no means have I figured out how to do that, but I still have a desire to work toward better, more engaging professional development that reflects best practices and teacher needs. Although my lens has been fairly focused on building level learning up until now, for this post I’m going to try to zoom out a bit and think about region wide PD. As the final post this quarter, I am still considering how technology coaches implement technology rich learning environments which is ISTE-C 4b. However, as instructional technology coaches work in concert with district and building administrators, I’m going to talk about how I think they might aid in that development once again. A quote from the Office of Educational Technology continues to guide my thinking about professional learning, “technology should not be separate from content area learning but used to transform and expand pre- and in-service learning as an integral part of teacher learning” (National Education Technology Plan 2017). As I frame my thinking about professional learning, I’m always considering that technology is an integral part of that plan.

Learn spelled in scrabble tiles
Pieces of the puzzle

Regional Supports

The question I was asked to investigate this week originally was, what does the ideal technology rich professional learning program look like? I could have investigated that question alone because I’m still unsure of what the “ideal” program looks like even after reading about many great programs. Instead I chose to look at professional learning as a partnership. This quarter I’ve come across so many great partnerships, like those discussed in WA-TPL for example, and that makes me think that the ideal professional learning program would have to be developed in partnership with organizations that reach beyond one school, or school district. State partnerships certainly can help, but I’ve decided instead to focus on regional learning.  The same need is explained this way in the National Education Technology Plan, “broad, coordinated strategic planning requires a commitment from all parties involved to collaborate consistently across organizational boundaries.” Another resource that I found helps to explain how partnership with state, district and regional organizations might work to support professional learning. The authors of the study found that state policies and systems are important for the implementation of effective professional development. “But to ensure the quality of that professional development, it is equally critical to couple state efforts with professional associations and intermediary organizations that help extend the reach of state agencies, offer learning supports of many kinds, and provide a voice for local stakeholders and outside experts” (Chung Wei, Darling-Hammond, Jaquith, & Mindich 2010). Clearly there is a need for ESDs to be a part of professional learning.

Not Recreating the Wheel

In education we are usually great borrowing the work of others. Teachers are resourceful, they will find a way to get material especially lesson plans in the most efficient way. As designers of professional development couldn’t we be doing the same thing? In reading some of the national documents like the NETP or even WA-TPL it is clear that great learning is happening and needs of regions, states or other areas across the country may be similar. Often it seems that lack of resources prevents school districts from really developing a wide spectrum of professional learning that supports all staff. Educational service districts could play a role in alleviating the lack of variety and depth. I think that administrators could support teachers in seeking out additional professional learning and could even allocate time for that if they were familiar with resources that were available. I’ll expand more on these ideas in later paragraphs.

Vertical Disconnect

As a teacher, I’m not sure that my needs were considered for building level learning. I know that I didn’t feel district learning was always relevant to me and I often didn’t hear about professional learning that the ESD was offering. I often hear this complaint from teachers, whether it is voiced in such a direct way or not. Teachers feel like learning isn’t relevant to their needs. Perhaps we can prevent this from happening! As school districts are adopting a professional development plan for a curriculum, a standard, or technology, they could share that with their local ESD. I have a vision that the ESD becomes a virtual library of professional learning, which would allow it to pair districts together, and maybe even provide training to support the needs of more teachers, or extend that learning. Even a medium sized district like mine can’t possibly meet the needs of all of its teachers, a close ESD partnership makes sense. Systems should also be developed to gather a list of requests from teachers. Districts should encourage feedback – authentic feedback – from professional development. District level and building level feedback to let the district look for additional resources if needed. Those requests could shape building level learning, district level learning or regional learning. I may be advocating for something Vermont has been doing for nearly ten years, “the state is attempting to coordinate statewide professional development and allow districts to pool resources and share knowledge through state-supported Educational Services Agencies and intermediary organizations” (Chung Wei et al. 2010). If it has been working in Vermont, I wonder what might be keeping it from happening here?

Past Connections

Many ideas from my previous few posts definitely build to this one, and I would be remiss not to at least mention those themes. Some I mentioned previously are:

  • Administrators becoming instructional leaders
  • Educators turning to local and global PLCs
  • Staff input for professional learning

In addition to these ideas, administrators could be the missing link to provide relevant resources for their teachers. If administrators were really excited about professional learning, because of the impact it can have on their staff and students, connecting staff with additional professional learning opportunities and removing barriers to help get them there would make a lot of sense. I know when my administrator did that by allowing me to attend PD I was appreciative and it impacted my teaching. Maybe administrators would think about becoming experts on professional learning offered in their area if an ESD served as an organizational repository for that learning.

Administrator and Advocate

I don’t mean to say that administrators should know all there is to know about professional learning in their area. Instead, I hope that if they are able to partner with local institutions like ESDs, Universities, in addition to district leadership so that teacher learning could improve. If this were to happen states would prove to be a stronger network of educators because of the common learning and collaboration that would be happening. “A continuum of services should be considered and utilized, from site-based teacher leaders to ESD and state-level experts that can offer further support as needed” (Bishop, Lumpe, Henrickson & Crane 2016). Let’s follow the recommendation from WA-TPL to fully support professional learning in our schools. 

Building on Established Groups

Professional groups definitely are serving a need educators have to get connected and to learn about best practices of technology integration. I have written before about how  Twitter chats turn into a PLN because of the shared learning. Many local professional organizations are serving a similar role, like the Tech TOSA groups that meet in the Puget Sound area. In addition to these opportunities I think administrators and district leaders could partner with ESDs to provide even more focused professional learning for teachers. Maybe they could bring trainers into individual schools, maybe increased utilization of ESD resources would lead to more online trainings. A regional partnership seems like a great next step for school districts to collaborate and extend the learning for their staff since supporting it alone isn’t working. In addition WA-TPL advocates for continued bolstering of state-wide PD saying, “support systems should be scaled up statewide in order to build high quality professional learning” (Bishop et al. 2016). Hopefully this state level work is happening, while it is, I would advocate for strengthening regional systems to better support teachers all across the state.

Resources

Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf

Chung Wei, R., Darling-Hammond, L., Jaquith, A., & Mindich, D. (2010). Teacher Professional Learning in the United States: Case Studies of State Policies and Strategies (Summary Report). Stanford University. Retrieved from https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/pdf/2010phase3report.pdf

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update, Washington, D.C., 2017. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/

Best Practices in Professional Learning: Admin as Building Tech Leaders – Module 4

A New Generation

I heard this week that the PEW Research Center identified a generational shift for those born after 1996. They are now known as the post-millennial generation while awaiting an official name, (Dimok, 2018). It is interesting that the movement of education mirrors life and society. Just as we have moved into a new name for the latest generation of young people in America, the United States in December, 2015, moved from No Child Left Behind to a new revitalization of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965, called Every Student Succeeds Act. From what I understand about ESSA so far, I see that there is a shift from accountability in NCLB to thinking about the child as a complete learner, and beginning to re-think the parameters used to measure schools and including growth as a valuable indicator of progress, (ESSA Implementation, 2018). I found this video helpful to get an overview of where the state of Washington is going during the rest of the 2017-2018 school year.

For this module, we started off with a guiding question. What role should administrators play in professional learning programs and how do we advocate for their involvement and adequate professional learning support for technology-based learning initiatives? I decided to ask a question that would allow me to reflect on my own experiences. I’m thinking about an entire school community and how a principal can shape that community. So I’m wondering;


How can administrators work under district constraints and plan and advocate for PD that is best for their schools? What happens when administrators are involved in learning?
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  This idea is related to what I have been investigating for some of this quarter and in previous quarters. I have been thinking about administrators,what a collaborative staff and school looks like and how an administrator can craft and support that environment. It is not directly related to technology professional development, but I am going to try to weave it into my post in a meaningful way. I do want to consider and keep in mind that I am not an administrator, however, I have been fortunate to work with some very dedicated and effective administrators and I would like to talk about some of what I have seen in their work.

The Changing Role of Administrators

As I read about how an administrator supports their staff. I found some ideas that I had maybe been familiar with but hadn’t yet read about in literature. These ideas certainly relate to some of the work I have seen my past administrators engage in and they help me to see the shift that has happened since before 2008. The book Creation of a Professional Learning Community for School Leaders: Insights on the Change Process from the Lens of the School Leader, shares that previously administrators were managers. One administrator from New York put it this way:

Before, you ran your school, you carried your budget, you hardly ever saw anyone. Now, suddenly it’s different thinking, a different conversation. We are all learners. We are all to be involved in learning. It is not just about being an administrator, it’s about being instructional leaders, (Humada-Ludeke, 2013).

That quote captures the essential shift in my opinion and in my findings,

for administrators, “it’s about being instructional leaders,” (Humada-Ludeke, 2013).

Being an instructional leader must take a lot of hard work and focused planning. I know administrators have an insane amount of work to do with evaluations, student behavior, school management, parent and family relations, staff dynamics not to mention guiding the learning of an entire school. So know this is not a simple shift but I think it is probably one of the most important things an administrator can do well.

Another idea that I want to highlight is collaborative leadership. It reminds me of distributed leadership from my module 2 post. The Office of Educational Technology NETP Leadership section uses collaborative leadership to describe how leaders support learning, gather input from diverse stakeholders, communicate clear learning goals, and create a culture of trust and collaboration, (U.S. Department of Education, 2017). I have no doubt that collaborative leadership leads to an increase in buy-in which I will discuss again later in this post.

What Might an Engaged Administrator Do?

An engaged administrator keeps those tenets as a central part of their practice in a school. One of my previous administrators seemed to have this kind of laser focus. She knew that collaboration among staff was of the utmost importance. She kept coming back to a system that built collaboration, the grade level PLC. The leadership team remained focus on this goal of building a PLC that was focused on data in spite of the other mandates that came from the district level. That helped my team and our school to build a culture of collaboration. She also talked with us regularly about life which helped build a strong community among the staff.

Finally, one more way administrators can show they are engaged that is more directly related to my question and this module is to be a part of encouraging technology best practices through PD. I think an administrator could do some of this work on their own. Instead I think administrators can highlight and encourage staff members to share technology best practices that they are seeing in their time in classrooms. Another way to integrate technology into professional development is to learn to use a tool from staff members before demonstrating using it in PD or asking a staff member to demonstrate their work. My past principal was masterful in that way, she was always sharing best practices through technology by either learning herself or encouraging other teachers to demonstrate. Being closely involved with the PD happening in schools and best practices should lead administrators to engaging in best practices of technology integration.

Getting Started with Tech Integration in PD

So what might an administrator do if they don’t feel a strong urge to engage with technology? The first idea is to set up a team. In his article about helping administrators become technology leaders Morrison (2006), suggests an administrator establish a team of teachers from all grade levels interested in technology best practices and integration. I think having those teachers be a part of the building leadership team is a great way to ensure there is a voice advocating for technology in PD and instruction. Another way for administrators to get another perspective would be to stop by some PLC meetings. Administrators could spend PD planning time investigating the best practice of instruction with technology. As I found in my last post, about Local PLCs and Global PLNs, Twitter chats are a great way to participate in a discussion where you can learn a lot from educators locally and globally. Sometimes a little exploration goes a long way in fueling interest. If the focus is on the best professional development for your staff, planning and delivering the best professional development you are able, technology integration can naturally fit into that process.

Final Thoughts

Vancouver Public Schools has started to follow an interesting model of professional development and technology integration. They started with providing focused professional development for administrators. It might be something for other districts to consider to get all staff and buildings onto the same page. This model would allow administrators to use coaching support and would increase understanding of how instructional technology coaches can support them and their staff.

 

Building a community of learners is key in the classroom and it is also very important in a staff. To do that administrators really do need to be instructional leaders. However, just because they are instructional leaders doesn’t mean they can’t have help from others. There are supports they can put in place as I’ve described above that would help administrators advocate for their buildings through professional learning. In addition to the above ideas, I think Lewis (2015), offers great advice to administrators on how to engage and understand the needs of their teachers:

  • Offer teachers choice

Personalizing the learning gives teachers that choice and will likely increase buy-in.

  • Observe in order to differentiate

Decide what your staff needs to meet their needs. Once again meeting their individualized needs will lead to an increase in buy-in.

  • Be clear and transparent about why something can’t be done

Share the wider lense with staff when they suggest ideas that won’t work right now. Let teachers know where the district is going and where there suggestions would fit in. Also don’t forget about their suggestion. Keeping those ideas in some kind of shared document that staff can view just to keep the conversation going would let them know you are coming back to their ideas.

I think that as the culture in the school changes maybe looking out to other schools or groups of teachers around a school district for professional learning might be possible and become more common. Bishop, Lumpe, Henrikson & Crane (2016) indeed found that as one of the side effects of the transformation of professional learning in section 3.4. They also found a general positive perception of professional learning which would be a significant outcome in most buildings.

I’m still left wondering about some common questions that I wasn’t able to answer in this post.

      1. What is the best way to prepare new staff members for the team and collaborative culture? How can they be welcomed in a meaningful way?
      2. What does district wide implementation of professional development add or take away from this model?

To close, I should clarify that once again I’m an observer. I think I’ve worked with and seen effective principals and I’ve tried to share what I’ve noticed that they did. Also much of the literature I’ve come across supports a gradual shift. Ultimately an administrator has to work to make learning relevant for their staff and that is no small commitment. If they do I believe that they would notice a change in engagement, teaching and learning.

Resources

Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf

Dimock, M. (2018, March 1). Defining generations: Where Millennials end and post-Millennials begin. Retrieved March 5, 2018, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/01/defining-generations-where-millennials-end-and-post-millennials-begin/

Every Student Succeeds Act Implementation. (February 28, 2018). Retrieved March 5, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/esea/essa/default.aspx

Humada-Ludeke, A. (2013). Creation of a Professional Learning Community for School Leaders: Insights on the Change Process from the Lens of the School Leader. Rotterdam, NETHERLANDS: Sense Publishers. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/spu/detail.action?docID=3034878

Lewis, V. (2015, October 25). Why Most Professional Development Stinks—and How You Can Make It Better – EdSurge News. Retrieved March 6, 2018, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-10-25-why-most-professional-development-stinks-and-how-you-can-make-it-better

Morrision, B. (2006, October 31). 6 Strategies to Help Principals Become Technology Leaders. Retrieved March 6, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2006/10/6-strategies-help-principals-become-technology-leaders  

Office of Educational Technology. (2016, April 26). Sustaining a Culture of Learning for Educators. Retrieved March 5, 2018, from https://medium.com/@OfficeofEdTech/sustaining-a-culture-of-learning-for-educators-93363c2ecbea

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update, Washington, D.C., 2017. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/ 

Connecting PLCs to Local and Global PLNs: Module 3

Begin with the End in Mind

This quarter we continue to investigate ISTE-C Standard 4b about how Educational Technology coaches can model principles of adult learning while demonstrating best practices in professional development. It makes sense that we are spending our entire quarter considering this standard because of the importance professional development could play in the role of a teacher. In much of the current professional development it appears that there is an unmet potential. It’s not really a surprise then that I’m finding my post this module is related to the last two posts I’ve written this quarter. It too has elements of choice for teachers along with variety in the offerings for professional development.

I started off this module asking about teachers as learners and trying to decide how professional development opportunities could be continue to be relevant after a session ends? I was wondering how Twitter chats, hashtags and online PLNs could play a role in helping teachers to continue learning and how learning through technology in that way might demonstrate digital age best practices. I’m not going to completely abandon that idea but in conducting research I’ve decided to include some best practices for professional development in the physical school environment as well because in my school district this constitutes the majority of professional learning opportunities. I also know that previously PLCs were a part of the district but they were required, much like in my past district so I wanted to revisit the practice of PLCs in a way that might appeal to teachers even if it wasn’t a requirement. My new question became how can individual buildings and the school district support PLCs and teachers as learners? As I asked this new question I also had to consider if PLCs can support digital age best practices, and I think they do as I’ll explain a bit later as I look at the Triple E framework through the lens of professional learning. The only thinking that might be missing from this post for me personally as a technology coach is maybe what role do I play in supporting this kind of learning in my schools? I don’t know if I will get to that specifically in this post or not, but if not it is something I will continue to think about.

Starting the Change

Over and over again in my readings on professional development throughout my time in the Digital Education Leadership Program at SPU I’ve read about how important teacher choice is in education. In this case I’m talking about choice in professional development. This week I read an interesting paper on teacher agency in professional learning and I think it makes a good case for involving teachers in the process. The paper starts out by asking an important question, “What if we are operating under faulty assumptions about how adults learn and what motivates them to learn?” (Calvert, 2016). For my school district I think it is important to start to involve teachers in the process of shaping their own professional learning again. I’ve seen some of the school improvement plans for my buildings and I don’t know how much teacher input there is into a school professional learning plan. To get teachers engaged in their learning many resources suggest getting input from teachers. A popular way to do that in my district is through survey data. I’ve heard talk from the district level that they are afraid of survey fatigue but it seems to me that in spite of that possibility we have to find a way to have teachers weigh in on the learning they will receive at buildings.

For the school district the focus should begin to shift as well. There are many initiatives happening and I don’t doubt that they are valuable but if improvign teaching and learning is a focus then devoting some time to professional learning is important. A teacher survey is the first step to designing learning that will be meaningful to each school individually. With over 20 elementary schools the needs are diverse, so learning should be diverse especially if it is designed from input from staff members at individual buildings. If members of the leadership are concerned with getting input from staff members I think this quote is a helpful way to frame the thinking about teacher input. “They must understand the intangible, but enormous, value teachers place on being listened to and involved meaningfully as well as the benefits the school community enjoys when teachers are intrinsically motivated to pursue their continued development” (Calvert, 2016). More involvement translates to an improved school community, which is related to a district goal we are pursuing.

After staff have provided input (or maybe before the process starts they can make it clear that) the district will ask teachers to lead sessions of professional learning for their staff. This provides an opportunity for coaches to guide teachers in some best practices for adult learners or to provide some guidance on technology integration. Here is how one district tackled designing the learning, “after conducting the survey, Mieliwocki and Almer brought together teacher leaders from each school to talk about the survey results and make teacher-directed plans for professional learning,” (Calvert, 2016). Again support was provided but plans were individualized for each school based on local needs.

With input from schools the district office is better able to support individual schools and can support administrators. The shift from whole district to school based professional learning topics in fact might help administrators to better support their staff as talked about in the WA-TPL “when district leadership utilizes a research-based approach to making decisions about the design of professional learning opportunities, individual school leaders are better able to make decisions about how to meet the needs of all educators,” (Bishop, Lumpe, Henrikson & Crane, 2016). So,individualizing professional learning eases the burden administrators carry to make learning relevant to their staff. If a staff is able to pick their learning, it will be relevant!

One final consideration I read about for districts to support this initial change is to provide quality professional learning for principals. Some principals may need guidance on how to be instructional leaders in their buildings. They might not be aware of the adult learning principles, just as I was not aware of them before learning about them during this class. In addition to learning about adult learning principles, they can learn about why and how to give teachers support in their professional learning. I know principals are stretched thin, so I’m not saying they have to be a part of everything, they might have to release some responsibility to let teachers grow. However, it is clear that somehow, they should be learning alongside their staff, (Bishop, Lumpe, Henrikson, & Crane, 2016). As was said in Moving from Compliance to Agency, “the principal doesn’t have to be on every team, but she or he must foster a commitment of excellence, improvement, and shared leadership through such peer networks,” (Calvert, 2016).

Connection to Digital Age Best Practices

I wanted to clearly connect my thinking to digital age best practices since that was the original goal of this module and much of our learning as digital education leaders. In order to do that I want to use the Triple E framework from Liz Kolb. The Triple E is designed to analyze best practices in teaching with technology but I think it would apply to professional learning as well. The three E’s are Engagement, Enhancement and Extension. I’ve done my best to connect how those relate to digital age best practices in professional development.

Engagement

I think that teachers will be more engaged in their learning because of the level of involvement they are given by providing input on learning. In addition to that, Twitter or an educational chat on any other social media service provides access to learning and resources after initial exposure in a PLC. At a district level I think those resources could be shared with principals or may even be shared at a school level by teachers who are following or participating in Twitter chats to the benefit of others. Later at the end of this post I’ll share some possible resources that I found also for discovering Twitter chats. Overall, I think that school based learning would help ensure teachers are active learners instead of passive learners.

Enhancement

The understanding of content and professional learning is enhanced by using technology. Technology may even act as a scaffold providing multiple entry points and directions when staff members are researching or learning about the same topic. All contributions become valuable to the team, shifting the idea that any one person is in charge of the learning of others which shows respect for those participating in the PLC. To demonstrate understanding of a concept or topic or in a content area teachers could even participate in a micro credentialing course as a PLC or pursue some other kind of badging to demonstrate their learning. In addition to these ideas simply participating in a Twitter chat would provide additional understanding over time. One great resource I’ll share a link to later is Participate, because it shows daily or weekly educator chats that are upcoming and shows topics that will be discussed.

Extension

Teachers learning is extended when working with their PLC if they continue to investigate topics they are learning about outside of the school day. If teachers participate in a Twitter chat they are definitely extending their learning, and with a teacher laptop or smartphone they could do that learning from anywhere with an internet connection. Other tools like microcredentials are also available for teachers outside of the school day. Both of these tools help teachers to build a positive digital footprint and connect them with other educators across the country and world.

Ways to Connect

In this post I also want to make sure to share some ways that teacher can connect and for me as a coach, I think part of my role should be sharing the idea of participating in a Twitter chat with the teachers I work with. I came across a few good resources in my investigation this module as I read about “Professional Development for Globally Minded Educators” and “The Future of Professional Development is Collaborative Development,” both of those resources can be found below. They each talk about why educators might use something like a Twitter chat for professional development. In “The Future of Professional Development is Collaborative Development,” they provide a resource that I think would be beneficial for teachers getting started with Twitter chats. At the Participate website there is a way to search for Twitter chats that are happening that day or that week. The daily chats are even divided up by morning, afternoon or evening. One other resource I thought would be helpful for getting teachers connected outside of their PLC is the list of Education Chats from ISTE. They have curated a list of 40 chats that are worth the time of teachers. Finally here are a couple other ways to connect, you can use a variety of resources to search for hashtags on Twitter after you find a chat to follow or investigate.

      1. Twitter Search
      2. Twubs
      3. Tweetdeck

How to Share Information

Now I wanted to think about how this information can be shared with an entire school district to focus buildings on learning that applies for them and to encourage PLCs meeting within each building. First I think teachers need to be able to provide input through a survey or some other way to hear the voices of all affected. In addition to asking what professional learning would help them, I think the survey could be used to share a hashtag that teachers could use to track their learning and contributions on Twitter. Instructional coaches could help to share any shift in practice by giving a quick talk at staff meetings or in informal discussions with teachers. The district leadership could share the shift with principals in one of their monthly meetings. The changes I’ve written about would likely help teachers to be more active participants, and would also incorporate some of the characteristics of adult learning into professional learning.

Reconsider the Plan for Professional Learning

This post is meant to get schools and school districts to think about redesigning their professional learning with a focus on school level learning. The ways to do that are, turning over control to teachers at a school – not simply entrusting that work to an administrator or even to a leadership team – the input should come from the majority, if not from all of the staff. Evaluate the learning community a principal builds in their school. One way a district administrator could do that is by attending occasional staff meetings at schools, or through feedback forms filled out by school staff members. Provide additional coaching training and guidance for building a community of learners. Make it a part of a district wide focus. Encourage ideas and input from teachers. Provide a way for teachers to track the learning that they engage in over a school year, maybe as a part of their grade level goal, individual goal or SIP goal. Encourage reflection. I still am wondering how a positive impact on teaching and learning would be measured, maybe it could rely on SBA scores for some teachers, but maybe just as other data is used in Growth Goals the impact could be measured there. The report on Transforming Learning in Washington State provides some interesting data on the effectiveness of professional learning on classroom practice. I’m hopeful that as school districts continue to change professional learning and implement some of these ideas that are shared across the literature, teacher engagement will improve and we will be providing professional learning that considers the characteristics of adult learners and also models digital age best practices.

Resources:

Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf

Calvert, L. (2016). Moving from compliance to agency: What teachers need
to make professional learning work. Oxford, OH: Learning Forward and NCTAF.

Fingal, D. (2018, January 16). 40 education Twitter chats worth your time. Retrieved February 19, 2018, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=7

Spirrison, B. (2016, June 2). The Future of Professional Development is Collaborative Development. Retrieved February 18, 2018, from http://www.gettingsmart.com/2016/06/future-professional-development-collaborative-development/

Triple E Framework. (n.d.). Retrieved February 19, 2018, from http://www.tripleeframework.com/

Still Re-Thinking Professional Development: Module 2

Re-Thinking Technology Professional Development

During this module in our class focusing on professional development and program evaluation we were asked to consider the role that adult learning principles play in the planning of educational technology professional development. I found that to be a fascinating question not only because I had never heard of the adult learning principles, but also because I had no idea what took place in the planning of educational technology professional development beyond defining the need based on a new computer adoption, a new digital curriculum adoption or an [insert technology implementation here] and planning professional development backward from there. Previously, as a teacher I participated in train the trainer type events during which I wasn’t given any guidelines around adult learning principles as I went to instruct my staff full of adult learners.

Questions, Questions, Questions

Naturally based on my role as an instructional coach in multiple buildings I wanted to know about the process for planning school based PD that was deemed effective and important by teachers. Here are the three related questions that I asked. What is an example of effective technology professional development that is school based? What adult learning principles are present in PD that participants find effective? How does a school district vision for PD tie into school based technology professional development? All of these questions and ideas fit into the learning standard we are investigating which is ISTE standard 4 for coaches, indicator B, this indicator calls on 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.

In my short experience as a coach this indicator assumes a lot of the coaches role in the wider system represented in a school district. However, in this post I will do my best to share some resources that I hope support the conclusions I’ve come to about how coaches and any stakeholder who is providing PD for teachers can do so in a way that is beneficial to all involved.

A Gradual Change

As I read sources looking for information on how participants respond when adult learning principles are integrated into PD, I couldn’t find the voice of teachers. I was however able to find some who talked about how they modified the traditional style of professional development in order to incorporate the adult learning principles and to design better PD. So my investigation shifted again to a something I feel I’ve been investigating since last quarter or maybe since the summer, what is good PD and how do instructional technology coaches bring that to schools? It seems like in most places part of the puzzle is in place, either starting at the district level like WA-TPL describes it or from a individual school level. Progress is being made, but slowly, “we are looking at data to inform professional learning at the district level, but having that be a system that is in all of our buildings and culture is a work in progress,” (Bishop, Lumpe, Henrikson & Crane, 2016). Similarly, in changing PD and the focus of PD with instructional technology the change seems to be happening in pockets and slowly. I still wonder what a school looks like that is taking on this change. Maybe it is similar to the high school I described last week that organized their own two week PD combining blended learning, the unconference and traditional PD into their back to school training.

Gamification, Digital Badges and Blended Learning in PD

My first resource in my search is from a company that is using gamification, digital badges and blended learning to make some of those changes to professional development. To them adult learning principles are part of the reason why those approaches make sense. My resource focuses specifically on personalizing PD and shares how to go about doing that. One way to accomplish a shift in PD is to get a variety of stakeholders on the same page, including teachers, administrators, TOSAs, and the technology department, (Schnurr, 2017). Another shift that is happening in PD is the changing role of facilitators. According to Schnurr, 2017, facilitators hold less of the knowledge and act more as a teacher would in the gradual release of responsibility model where learning is scaffolded at first and eventually turned over to participants. As the role of the facilitator changes, I think that participants might find those sessions to be especially successful, but I haven’t found that stated explicitly in my resources. The author states that using a blended learning model changes the role of a facilitator naturally since facilitators first teach teachers how to use tools and then teachers engage with content through those tools.

Going 1:1

Many districts are moving to a 1:1 model with devices. It is seen as the essential way to integrate technology into instruction. However, providing devices isn’t enough according to Salisbury Township School District. To transform a district there has to be a shift in mindset and daily practices of school leaders, teachers and students, (Ziegenfuss & Fuini-Hetten, 2015). According to the authors a few key ideas helped them maximize the PD they implemented district wide:

  • Align PD goals with 1:1 program goals
  • Rethink human resources, and positions within schools
  • Personalize PD through differentiation and choice
  • Evaluate PD efforts to meet developing needs

The theme or personalization is present again along with some restructuring at high levels within the organization. I often think there is some disconnect or maybe a nebulous vision for professional development with technology instead of a clear singular focus connected to student learning.

Image credit: flickr

Changing Professional Development Locally and Distributed Leadership

It’s great to read a study that is happening in the state I live in just to know that some of the same changes are happening close to home. In reading the report about Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State the idea of distributed leadership caught my attention. I want to share a few ideas related to PD and school success I thought were key to this section of the report. “In order for district leaders to provide a coherent professional learning plan that is data driven, meets the needs and circumstances of all educators and is focused on improving student learning, a distributive leadership model is necessary,” (Bishop, Lumpe, Henrikson & Crane, 2016). Much like it sounds, distributed leadership allows the expertise to drive innovation rather than role or years of experience, (Harris, 2014). It seems like a great way to approach professional development as well as the integration of technology into PD and instruction. If we were truly using this model I think planning of professional development at all levels would be more inclusive.

As an instructional technology coach one of my roles right now is simply asking how teachers and other members of a staff can provide input into their own learning. I think that in doing that I’m striving to get all stakeholders on the same page but now it seems like a long journey. It is important for adult learners to feel that they are able to provide input in designing practical professional learning that will serve them in their roles. Again personalizing the learning of a staff seems like the most efficient way to do that. As an instructional technology coach, I could also be modling how technology allows us to do that. As I sit in on designing professional development sessions for summer learning I will continue to bring in teacher input and attempt to shift the learning based on new learning. I’m really hoping for some input from teachers though and feedback on an effective model for school based professional development so that I can learn how I might provide that for my schools.

Resources:

Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf

Harris, A. (2014). Distributed leadership. Australian Council for Educational Research – ACER. Retrieved from https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/articles/distributed-leadership

Schnurr, S. (2017, February 15). Personalized PD & Adult Learning: Facilitation & Support. Retrieved February 2, 2018, from https://www.alludolearning.com/blog/2017/02/personalized-pd-adult-learning-facilitation-support

 Ziegenfuss, R., & Fuini-Hetten, L. (2015, December 8). A PD Story: Bringing 1:1 Technology to Our District. Retrieved February 2, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/pd-1to1-technology-to-district-randy-ziegenfuss-lynn-fuini-hetten

EDTC 6106 Module 1: Choice in Professional Development

Professional Development for Teachers and My Question

This post marks the start of the winter quarter in my M.Ed. program in Digital Education Leadership. This quarter our class is Professional Development and Program Evaluation. It seems like it will be very timely for me to focus on professional development again as some of our district PD offerings are ramping up for the Spring and will continue again at the start of the next school year. This class is asking us to consider the ISTE Coaching Standard #4 indicator b – which asks coaches to design, develop and implement technology rich learning programs that promote adult learning and model digital age best practice (ISTE, 2011). For our first module in EDTC 6106 we were asked to consider the question:

How should we design professional development that utilizes educational technology?

10 Things Teachers Want for Professional Development - via Sylvia Duckworth
10 Things Teachers Want in PD – image credit Sylvia Duckworth

I was initially interested in investigating what participants say about the integration of technology into successful professional development offerings. However, upon further reading, investigation of materials and reflection my inquiry ended up taking a slightly different path. As I read about successful teaching practice in the National Education Technology Plan (NETP) from the Office of Educational Technology, I was reminded about how much exposure we give our students to concepts before we ask them to master those concepts. As a former 4th grade teacher I’ll use multi-digit multiplication as an example. In the CCSS 4th grade students are exposed to the concept of multiplying a multi-digit numbers using various methods, they see it modeled by the teacher repeatedly and practice for months before they are asked as 5th graders to master the standard algorithm of multi-digit multiplication. Also students are first exposed to multi-digit multiplication in 3rd grade when they begin multiplying one digit whole numbers by tens up to 90. In the 4th grade year, multiplication is certainly one of the most important or emphasized math standards in my experience, but notice that it isn’t found there in isolation. I started to wonder why then do we say to teachers, come to this PD and learn about this tool or technology and now go use it in your classroom. There is no way we would expect that of our students especially in a foundational and transformational concept like multiplication! Well, I keep hearing how educational technology is transformational (and I agree) but I wonder, why is it that so many teachers fail to find it transformational in their teaching? I guess this is where my inquiry led me in this module. I’m wondering:


How can professional development integrate technology in a way that is transformational to teaching and learning?
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Based on our readings this module and past readings technology integration in the classroom should be purposeful and lead to positive outcomes for students. I think the same should be true of teacher professional development, it should prepare teachers to change their teaching. That might sound simple, but it seems without a radical and a continual change to the traditional methods for planning and getting professional development the status quo will continue. Luckily there are pockets of change happening. I came across a few different examples in the resource I found and the resources my colleagues in this program shared. Together they show change happening.

How Professional Development is Changing

In my resource from EdSurge, I found a great example of how buildings can begin to change their professional development offerings to bring about change. The high school I read about designed their back to school PD around a need they noticed through observation, personalized learning. Then the leadership team for the school decided to create a back to school professional development event that included personalized learning to show teachers how powerful it is, and to teach them by doing (Campbell & McDonough, 2017). The building redesigned their traditional back to school PD session, which amazingly went for 2 weeks, and included a tic-tac-toe board game of choice. Within those choice they allowed teachers to be leaders. Much like an unconference there was room to guide sessions as participants wanted. This school decided to integrate some technology tools into their trainings, like using Remind to send out PD updates, or Google docs to change agendas, but it wasn’t the focus of most sessions. One brilliant choice they made that stood out to me was, to collect data at the end of the PD from teachers and then they used that data to drive the learning sessions throughout the year. They even asked teachers to continue their learning and published the slide deck, The Learn Project, (Campbell & McDonough, 2017).  In doing those things they gave the teachers choice and a voice in their learning and it seems to have paid off.

Other resources talked similarly about what how necessary choice was to the learning of teachers. Pernille Ripp shared how at her district, “our two days consisted of many different things, all meant to fulfill the needs we not only have as a community, but also as individual learners,” (2015). Additionally, Rich Czyz (2015), advocates for breaking the mold of traditional PD in his post. Much of his methods are short quick classes that happen in the span of 15 minutes. Nearly all of these articles also mentions something outside of the physical professional development class. Many reference Twitter or some other web hosted forum that enables staff members to participate in PD from anywhere at any time. Online professional development was also mentioned in many of the articles I read.

My Lingering Thoughts

Investigating effective PD leaves me with unanswered questions. However, working in a department that plans PD is helping me to begin to better grapple with some answers. I am finding that change takes time, but it is nice to see elements of this change already happening. Online PD can meet the needs of many learners especially those who may not feel comfortable with a particular technology tool or district web resource but ideally choice would permeate in person PD sessions as well not just as online. Even if a tool like online PD exists, word needs to spread. Initiatives like the report Transforming Learning in Washingtion State, WA-TPL, seem necessary to continue to make change.

A quote from the report leaves me hopeful “the original purpose of the WA-TPL project was not simply to transform the professional learning in participating districts, but to impact the larger system across the state by providing insight into the processes that support the development and sustaining impact of effective professional learning,” (Bishop, Lumpe, Henrikson & Crane, 2016). Now it is up to those of us designing professional development in districts or in buildings to be the continual voice for change.

Resources:

Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf 

Campbell, D., & McDonough, M. (2017, May 30). Tic-Tac-Toe Your Way to Teacher Choice: A New Model for PD – EdSurge News. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-05-30-tic-tac-toe-your-way-to-teacher-choice-a-new-model-for-pd

Czyz, R. (2015, October 27). Creating Innovative Professional Development Models In Your District – ISTE Community. Retrieved January 22, 2018, from http://connect.iste.org/blogs/rich-czyz/2015/10/27/creating-innovative-professional-development-models-in-your-district

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards For Coaches. (2011). Retrieved January 22, 2018, from http://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

National Education Technology Plan. (2017). Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/

Ripp, P. (2015, November 3). How to Do PD Right – Yes, It’s Possible. Retrieved January 22, 2018, from https://pernillesripp.com/2015/11/02/how-to-do-pd-right-yes-its-possible/

 

The Coach – Administrator Connection: Module 5

Connecting and Collaborating with Administrators as an Instructional Technology Coach

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

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

Some of the takeaways for me from this post are:

  • Align on a coaching model

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

  • Learn Together

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

  • Support Your Coaches Learning

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

  • Offer Leadership Guidance

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

  • Appreciate your Coaches

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

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

Resources

Aguilar, E. (2014, October 9). 10 Ways for Administrators to Support Coaches. Retrieved December 10, 2017, from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/coaching_teachers/2014/10/10_ways_for_administrators_to_.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB

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

Walpert-Gawron, H. (2016, June). How to Be a Change Agent:The Many Roles of an Instructional Coach. Educational Leadership, 73. Retrieved December 11, 2017, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/jun16/vol73/num09/The-Many-Roles-of-an-Instructional-Coach.aspx

Is SAMR Enough? Module 4: Teacher Practice and Technology Integration

Introduction to Module 4

For my post this week in Module 4 of my fall class, in Educational Technology Leadership I decided to focus on the SAMR model for technology integration. My district uses SAMR as a way to gauge technology integration but I wanted to know if there was a way to use that model as I work with teachers so that it doesn’t feel like an extra layer to them. It seemed to fit in this module since my professor asked us to think about what skills, resources and processes will you use to help peers co-plan learning activities they want to improve? Again since our district is already committed to using SAMR I thought I could use my question to aid teachers in the district plan for technology integration. Basically I wanted to know how can the SAMR scale be used to help improve learning activities in a way that is manageable and beneficial for a classroom teacher? My goal in this investigation is to try to not add anything else to a teacher’s plate.

In my investigation I came across some other technology integration protocols that might be useful to a teacher or a technology coach, especially if a district didn’t have a protocol they were committed to using or if it wasn’t clearly implemented or understood. With the help of my professors I found the Triple E as well as TPACK. In my own searching I also came across a protocol called the Trudacot. In addition to SAMR I will spend some time reflecting on the Trudacot and using it to answer my question for the module. I didn’t feel that I had time in this post to get into Triple E or TPACK during this post.

Connection to ISTE Coaching Standards

This module seems to have an extremely clear connection to two of the ISTE Coaching standards we are focusing on throughout the quarter. First ISTE-C 1d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms. The second standard supported by this module is ISTE-C 2f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences. The reason why I think the connection is so clear in this module is that in using the technology integration protocols I have seen seems to guide teachers back to focusing on what is really good teaching. As coaches if we continue to remind teachers that the focus is on good teaching, I think that some of the concerns and discomfort with technology might actually be erased. Furthermore, as we continue to advocate for good teaching through using a reflective process like Trudacot or SAMR I think that collaborative higher-level thinking among teachers and coaches will continue to shape innovation and fuel the change process. I’m excited that my district has decided to use the SAMR model as a way to gauge technology integration and I hope that through this post I can figure out some ways to guide teachers as we think through the process together.

Three Resources to Consider: The SAMR Model, Trudacot and Peer Coaching

SAMR

There is a lot of information on the SAMR model available on the web. There are some very well known blogs that have taken up the SAMR model as a topic for their posts including Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. She has even linked other SAMR resources from all across the spectrum of use to her page. So, there is abundant information available. Still I’m not sure that teachers fully understand the model (or that I do) and from what I’ve read during this module this is a common problem. One great thing about SAMR is its simplicity in comparison to some of the other protocols, it’s only four sections. However, maybe for that reason there seem to be some misunderstandings.

The SAMR Model by Dr. Ruben Puentedura
Image created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D.
http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/

As I look at SAMR as a part of my job, talking through it with other coaches and using the protocol my district has developed to measure technology integration I realized that don’t know if teachers are taking advantage of the SAMR protocol to leverage technology and improve student learning. As a coach I wonder how I can aid that change and what support I can offer to teachers in that process?

Even though it is short, I think SAMR can seem a bit complicated and foreign to teachers especially those who might be unfamiliar with the model in the first place. I think as a coach it is important to emphasize that often it is appropriate for teachers to stay in one area of the continuum, to ebb and flow depending on many factors, or to move up slowly during the course of a unit. Many of the resources I’ve read this module emphasize again that there are many great lessons that don’t have to incorporate technology (Swanson, 2014). In other words, focus on good instruction, not technology.

One great addition to the SAMR that I think would be very helpful to teachers is Kathy Schrock’s graphic and blog post that connects Bloom’s to SAMR. Teachers across the spectrum are more familiar with Bloom’s than SAMR so to me it makes sense to connect the two to help teachers see how as you move up the SAMR ladder the cognitive load increases, (Schrock, 2013). The language of Bloom’s is familiar to teachers. They feel confident working to improve a lesson to move students from knowledge toward evaluation, however going from substitution toward redefinition might feel foreign. As a coach I think I can help to bridge that gap by using the work Schrock has done by using Bloom’s to explain SAMR. Finally, in discussing higher level thinking it is possible that the discussion may lead to the integration of technology into a lesson or unit thereby moving the lesson or unit up the SAMR scale.  

 Digital Bloom’s Video

Trudacot

The next model I wanted to discuss is called Trudacot. Trudacot is a discussion protocol designed to facilitate deeper learning. Trudacot is short for Technology-Rich Unit Design And Classroom Observation Template. In his post introducing Trudacot Scott McLeod argues “while SAMR is useful as a concept, its use of four levels often puts teachers on the defensive because they feel labeled and judged when placed into a lower level” (McLeod, 2017). I think he is right because I got the feeling that teachers might have felt judged during our latest technology walk through. Some even asked about the effectiveness of the snapshot view that we got of classroom practice. Their feelings are valid, even though we have said it is not evaluative, it’s hard to feel that way when 2 adults enter your classroom and take notes as you teach or as your students work. One thing they may not know is that in our walkthroughs we are categorizing technology use on the SAMR scale we are collecting a longitudinal study of integration since it has been done in the district over a two year period.

Regardless, this reaction by teachers is what got me thinking about how we could support integration without overwhelming teachers. I think the key lies in a coach thoroughly understanding the protocols and questioning techniques needed to help teachers move to purposeful integration of technology because of high quality teaching and reflection throughout that process.

The Trudacot discussion protocol seems to aim to get teachers to consider instruction instead of focusing on the technology through a series of questions that are answered by the teacher. I would think that these questions could be easily used by a coach to help stimulate the lesson design process, but there are a lot of questions. In order to not overwhelm a teacher it would be necessary to either unpack the process together slowly or a coach could internalize the process and call upon it in a discussion with a teacher drawing from the questions and categories in Trudacot.

Peer Coaching

Les Foltos, in his book Peer Coaching (2013) is continually saying it doesn’t make sense to overwhelm teachers by giving them a number of different areas of focus to consider. That is making more sense to me as I learn more about these protocols. Part of the coaches job seems to be eliminating those choices through careful consideration and asking questions of the teacher to draw out what they would like to focus on. “Too often, teachers plan their lessons around technology instead of putting learning first, (Foltos, p. 136, 2013). As a coach, at times I feel I’m dealing with two extremes of the spectrum. There are teachers who are fully focused on technology, while others seem that they couldn’t care less about integrating it into their classroom instruction. Whether that comes from learned helplessness or just the overwhelming amount of work teachers are expected to do I’m not sure. As an instructional technology coach I think looking through the lens of instruction and higher level thinking is helpful. I wish I could help teachers to understand that the work we can do together should lead to higher quality instruction and deeper learning even if my title is instructional technology coach, it’s still all about the learning.

“The coach’s job is to bring the conversation back to pedagogy and learning objectives before talking about technology. It is at this point in the process when meaningful conversations about integrating technology occur, (Foltos, p. 151,  2013). Clearly coaches, teachers and students benefit when there is a clear understanding of a technology integration model or protocol but that isn’t the ultimate goal. As a coach if I can clearly understand the tool used by my district and even other protocols, I believe I can use that knowledge to help teachers improve instruction while at the same time integrating technology in more meaningful ways. It’s not about the tools, it’s about the teaching!

Resources

Common Sense Education. (2016, July 12). What is Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqgTBwElPzU&feature=youtu.be

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781483300252

Going Deeper with Learning Technology Integration — A 9-Question Protocol. (2017, October 5). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://frontandcentral.com/moving-to-digital/going-deeper-learning-technology-integration-using-9-question-protocol/

SAMR. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html

Swanson, P. (2014, December, 16). Rethinking SAMR – Teacher Paul. Retrieved November 30, 2017, from http://www.teacherpaul.org/2889

Trudacot. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/resources/trudacot

Turning SAMR into TECH: What models are good for. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://www.litandtech.com/2013/11/turning-samr-into-tech-what-models-are.html

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

Module 3 of EDTC 6105 and my definition of the problem

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

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

The Coaches Role

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

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

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

Challenges for Teachers

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

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

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

What to Try

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

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

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

9-fundamental-d_19217909_509343d7c3bf1adffcfc2e825791322c41d30799

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

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

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

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

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

Collegial Relationships and Instructional Coaching: Module 2

Introduction to Module 2 and My Question

This week I was thinking about developing professional relationships when in a new role. I wanted to reflect on that process and find out what was normal. At the same time I wanted to consider ISTE 1 d for coaches, how coaches advocate for change, that is the standard behind our module. So in my research for my M.Ed. in Digital Education Leadership Program at SPU, I decided to look for some sources outside of the world of education where coaching has been around and has been popular for some time. I will try to share best practices for building collegial relationships and some things that stood out to me in particular as useful from what I found in the business world and a connection between instructional technology coaching and literacy coaching. 

Building Collegial Relationships

 

How do we build collegial relationships? I find myself wondering about that, probably in part because I am building collegial relationships across schools, in a new district all at the same time. It’s common practice for coaches to only go into classes after they have been invited, probably to avoid any feeling of evaluative practice being associated with them. So here I am waiting for an invitation. How do instructional technology coaches develop relationships across multiple school buildings? It is something that takes time as I’ve read multiple times in the book Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration (Foltos, 2013),  and in other resources I’ve used for my past two blog posts. I came across an article at Mindtools about building great relationships at work. I don’t want to summarize the entire article here, but you can go and read it if you would like, but I do think much of it applies to new coaches and anyone who has many interpersonal interactions at work. Instead I want to talk about parts of the article that stood out to me as an instructional technology coach. The article does link Mindfulness to building great relationships at work. That seems to be a hot term lately in education, and for good reason. I wrote about  mindfulness in my mission and vision as a digital education leader earlier in my program. Being mindful seems to draw us out of ourselves, that reflection leads us to think more about others and their needs and concerns, not just focusing on our own. It makes sense that practicing mindfulness in regard to your words and actions would lead to better work relationships. A couple other ideas stood out to me from this article, one was identifying your relationship needs along with focusing on your EI and listening actively and being positive  (Mindtools, n.d.).

It seems important to know what you need from others and what they need from you, especially in the position of a coach (Mindtools, n.d.). Part of a coaches role is helping teachers to figure out what they can do to grow their practice, through reflection. To me that seems like another way to say, understand what others need from you. As an instructional technology coach I also need to know what I need from others, or what I can learn from them. There is so much to learn, it’s important to keep that in mind in order to take advantage of the many opportunities I have to learn from others. In addition, I want to be sure to voice what I have learned or am learning from them, to emphasize the peer to peer relationship we have. Continue reading Collegial Relationships and Instructional Coaching: Module 2

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