Category Archives: coaching

Technology Professional Development That Teachers Can Use

Many districts are seeing the value of hiring teachers with the job of helping other teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. Although these positions can have many different titles (tech integration specialists, technology coach, educational technology consultant, technology coordinator, etc) and different districts use people in these roles in different capacities, having a person support and coach classroom teachers as they integrate technology into their classroom is becoming a necessity in education.  ISTE summarizes the role of these professionals in the “ISTE Standards for Coaches”. The 2nd standards reads, “Technology Coaches assist teachers in using technology effectively for assessing student learning, differentiating instruction, and providing rigorous, relevant, and engaging learning experiences for all students (ISTE, 2011). Teachers have so much to try and stay on top of these days, such as new and changing standards, standardized testing, teacher evaluations, social-emotional learning needs, and outdated curriculum that needs to be supplemented.  Integrating technology in efficient and meaningful ways can make life easier for students, teachers, and families. However, making these shifts and trying new things can be daunting when your plate is already full. Having a specialist whose job it is to help teachers make these changes by providing trainings, individualized coaching, and on-going support can have tremendous benefits to a district. But, with so many teachers on different pages as far as their experience, skill set, and comfort level with technology, it can be hard for a technology coach to provide professional development to a large group of teachers with the goal of everyone leaving feeling that their time was valued and that they now have something new they can implement in their teaching.

What do Teachers Want/Need? Just Ask!

When you are not currently teaching in a classroom position, it is hard to know what exactly teachers want or need at any particular moment.  Like with so many things in life, when you don’t know or aren’t sure, just ask! People appreciate this! This can be done in formal or informal ways.  An easy way to formally survey a group of teachers to which you will be providing upcoming training is to send out a Google Form with a variety of answer formats (multiple choice, open-ended questions, scales (1-10)). Be sure to ask a variety of questions and be specific in your requests for information from teachers (Gonzales, 2016).  Informal ways of getting to know what your audience’s preferences for a training might be to come to the school a week or two beforehand and stop in classrooms before or after school to chat. Or eat lunch in the staffroom and engage teachers in casual conversation on what they might be looking for as far as technology integration needs. Another option would be to “work the room” as teachers are arriving at the training and getting set-up. Gonzales writes in her blog about ed-tech consultant, Rodney Turner, using this strategy, “If you can’t send out a survey ahead of time, you can still get to know your audience the day of the training. Rodney Turner describes how he does this: “What I love to do is to circulate the room. I come in early, and I set my stuff up and have it done, so that way as people are coming in, I talk to them: ‘Hi, how are you doing, my name’s Rodney, where are you from, what grade, what do you teach…what do you want to learn from this session?’ And that has helped me so much in being able to reach out to people to understand where they’re coming from.” (Gonzales, 2016).

Enlist Help from the Experts

When teachers want help on how to prepare for a lesson or how to understand the curriculum, they typically walk next door or down the hall.  Note the percent of teachers who say ideas from other teachers is the most helpful when it comes to technology training in the chart below (Education Week Research Center, 2016 ).

Teachers respect other teachers and know that “they know what it’s like”.  Teachers are such an invaluable asset to each other because each and every teacher has different skill sets, different teaching styles, and different teaching experiences. You can learn something from every teacher and every teacher can learn from you.  When a technology coach is planning for a professional development training they should enlist help from the group they will be “training”. Find the “experts” in different areas of technology and use them to share examples of what they have done in their classrooms and what has worked and what hasn’t. In her blog post, Gonzales talks with tech coordinator Sarah Thomas about how she looks for teachers in the audience as a potential resource.  “Not only does this approach enhance her presentation, it also makes the training more enjoyable for the teacher who already has that knowledge. “There’s nothing worse than being at a session where you already know what’s going on and you’re just kind of being talked at, you know?” says Thomas.” (Gonzales, 2017).

Provide Options

If there are several technology coaches in your district, or if you have enlisted the help of teacher leaders (see paragraph above!), then another way to help provide staff with technology integration learning experiences that are best suited for their needs is to provide options for professional development.  This might be structured with multiple “levels” on the same topic that teachers can self select in to, or it might be that you have a larger menu of a variety of options so that teachers can choose what will be most useful for them depending on factors such as their grade level, subject area, and their experience with technology.  Another option is to make these trainings optional for teachers or offer 3 different session times and someone can attend 0, 1, 2, or 3 sessions based on their needs. The key here is to give teacher’s choice on how they spend their time. Everyone wants to feel that their time is valued, especially teachers with limited time and ever-growing demands on this time.

Follow-Up

Receiving a lot of new and exciting information can feel both inspiring and overwhelming.  You walk out of a professional development session and you can’t wait to get back to your classroom to try out all that you have learned, but when you arrive at school the next day you are met with a long to-do list just to keep on top of your daily work routine.  Or after reflecting on the training, you have some logistical questions to figure out before you attempt implementation of what you just learned. When this happens, teachers will either struggle through and give this new skill or strategy their best shot or they will throw the towel in because they don’t have what they need to feel confident implementing what they have learned.  This is the time period when we need to “capture” these teachers and give them what they need to feel empowered to make this change in their teaching. Following up in a timely manner is key.

Be sure to send the teachers you are training away with your contact information and a digital link to any resources you shared or any resources that might help them deepen their understanding of what they have learned (Gonzales, 2016). But, as a technology coach, don’t rely on teachers to reach out to you. Technology integration, although we all know how important it is, is only one aspect on a classroom teacher’s job. Reach out to them, whether it’s individually, as a large group, online, or in-person.  Make that connection and work on building these professional relationships.  “What I have said to the teachers I work with is that the time we are together, in person, is just the start of a conversation. Because technology grows and changes so quickly, we can’t rely on traditional methods of learning to stay on top of it. We can’t wait for a textbook to be published; to really make the most of what the machines can offer us, what we ultimately need is each other, so staying connected is an essential part of any tech training. (Gonzales, 2016).”

 

Sources:

 

Flanigan, R. (2016). Education Week (35, 35), pp. 31-32. Ed-Tech Coaches Becoming Steadier Fixture in Classrooms

 

Gonzales, Jennifer (2016). Cult of Pedagogy Website (Retrieved on May 24, 2018) from: https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/tech-training-for-teachers/

 

ISTE.org. (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, May 30) from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

 

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/

A Reflection on Peer Coaching

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

Shared Vision

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

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

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

Integration of Technology to Promote Transformational Change

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

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

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

 

References

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

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

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

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

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

Adding Technology Capacity to Buildings Through Coaching

coaching terms wordle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The ISTE Coaching Identity (Module 5, ISTE-CS)

I feel pretty satisfied right now with the idea that peer coaching is an activity that someone might choose to engage in, and is a subset of the broader term “coaching” (for more information about different coaching approaches, see Borman and Feger, 2006; and Kurz, Reddy, and Glover, 2017). This fits into the ISTE Coach Standards as one way to engage in the coaching-related indicators. However, only a third of the ISTE-CS relate to the activity of coaching; the rest relate to modeling behavior or advocating for technology integration (I use these remaining two categories loosely). So:

If only a third of the indicators relate to actual coaching, what is this “thing” that we call the ISTE Coaching Standards? It’s not just about coaching, so what is it about?

What I see in the ISTE-CS are guidelines for an identity. Being an ISTE Coach, in its entirety, is more like a way of being than it is just choosing to engage in various activities. 

The ISTE Coaching Identity

The primary indicator that supports this idea is CS 6c:

Regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology enhanced learning experiences.”

This indicator defines an ISTE Coach’s purpose, which is to promote technology enhanced learning experiences, and directs the ISTE Coach to reflect on his or her practices and dispositions. It is the element of reflection that solidifies for me the idea that the ISTE-CS are working to achieve identity formation. Sfard and Prusak’s (2005) theory of identity states that identities are stories told about persons (yes, they are equating identities with stories), and additionally, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are particularly important. But in order to have an opportunity to create and tell stories about ourselves, we must reflect. So to me, CS 6c says, “Develop your identity and compare it against the prime directive ISTE Coaching.” In light of the rest of the indicators, CS 6c says something more elaborate: “Look at all the activities you’ve engaged in. Notice how by engaging in these activities you have created stories about yourself. Compare these stories to the ISTE Coaching Identity and evaluate how you want your stories to change or remain the same – i.e., continue shaping your identity against the ISTE Coaching Identity.”

Peer Coaching as an Activity, Not an Identity

While I’ve chosen to call peer coaching an activity and not an identity, you could certainly argue that one could develop a peer coaching identity. In fact, by Sfard and Prusak’s (2005) definition of identity, if you engage in peer coaching at all, there will likely be stories about you as a peer coach, and therefore you will then have a peer coaching identity. But because of the scope of activities which I think count as peer coaching (see my past blogs Peer vs. Peer Coach vs. Coach, Compatibility between peer coaching and the ISTE-CS, and Can one person both lead by example and work as a peer coach?), I think that the ISTE Coaching Standards describe an identity which can encompass the peer coaching activities, whereas the reverse is not true – a peer coaching identity can’t encompass all of the ISTE Coaching activities. Therefore, for the purposes of my blog, I choose to continue calling peer coaching an activity and the ISTE Coaching Standards guidelines for an identity.

But, Good Teaching First

Beyond the role of coaching, the ISTE-CS also ask you to be a role model of, and an advocate for, technology integration. However, one of the key ideas from Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration by Les Foltos (2013), which I think should overlay the ISTE-CS, is that good teaching comes first and then technology integration comes into play to support good teaching: “Technology integration is all about the interrelationship of pedagogy, content, and technology. And technology is the least important of the three elements in this equation” (p. 151). This idea isn’t abundantly clear to me in the ISTE-CS, but it is of the utmost importance.

My Mental Model

I can think of more than one way to diagram this, but the most straight forward way (maybe) is to just diagram the main activities that you engage in as an ISTE Coach, with the overlaid lens of “good teaching.”

One large circle labeled "ISTE Coach" with three smaller circles completely inside the larger circle. The three circles are titled "model," "advocate," and "coach." Completely within the circle labeled coach is another circle labeled "peer coach." The whole diagram is covered by a half-transparent blue square with faded edges. The square is labeled "good teaching lens."

Either this diagram is over simplified, or the words I’ve chosen aren’t quite right – I’m using the verbs “model” and “advocate” loosely – but it highlights the main thing I’ve been thinking about all quarter, which is how peer coaching fits in in the scheme of the ISTE-CS. I’ve said that it’s one way to engage in coaching, out of many possible ways. Another way to look at it, which is consistent with my diagram being a diagram of activities, is that it is a collection of a particular set of activities that a coach can do, among a wider set of possible coaching activities (for more information on coaching activities, see Borman and Feger, 2006; and Kurz, Reddy, and Glover, 2017).

I’m curious where I’d be right now if someone had just drawn this diagram for me at the start of the quarter. Would I have been able to quickly adopt the model? I think so. But is this even close to what other people would draw? I have no idea! I would love to know how you would diagram, or otherwise draw, your thinking regarding the ISTE-CS and the related peer coaching.

 


References

Borman, J., & Feger, S. (2006). Instructional coaching:
Key themes from the literature. Retrieved from https://www.brown.edu/academics/education-alliance/sites/brown.edu.academics.education-alliance/files/publications/TL_Coaching_Lit_Review.pdf

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

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

Kurz, A. Reddy, L. A., & Glover, T. A. (2017). A
multidisciplinary framework of instructional coaching. Theory Into Practice, 56(1), 66-77. http://doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2016.1260404

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

Let me ask you a question…

The Tricky Nature of Questioning in Coaching We’ve already established this quarter that coaching is not about being an expert. It’s not “I Know” as much as it is “I Trust” (Goldberg).  The module for this week’s post dealt with how to build that trust. One key element was to ask questions rather than provide … Continue reading "Let me ask you a question…"

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

The Expert and the Coach

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