Category Archives: coaching

Preparing our Students to Work Collaboratively

In my course, Educational Technology Leadership, we are currently exploring what 21st century learning looks like and how coaches can use this understanding to guide their work. Using the ISTE Standards for Coaches as a framework, for this module we are looking at 3 standards:

ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership

  1. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms

ISTE-C Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

  1. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences

ISTE-C-Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth

  1. Engage in continual learning to deepen content and pedagogical knowledge in technology integration and current and emerging technologies necessary to effectively implement the ISTE Student and Educator standards

When I think back on my own education and my current work as a teacher as well as what I am learning in my own program as a student, one of the most significant shifts I see in 21st century learning is a focus on collaboration.  With the technological advances and increased access to both devices and information, it is often viewed that technology has isolated people and taken away face-to-face interactions. While this is true in some ways, I believe that technology has and should be a catalyst to increase, encourage, and make available opportunities for beneficial and meaningful collaboration in the lives of 21st century learners.  However, as educators, we are tasked with helping our students make productive and positive use of these opportunities.

The goal of collaboration is that more brains together increase the quality of the end product as well as the experience of the process. This happens because tasks can be shared, members can “specialize” in areas, and each collaborator brings a unique background and set of experiences.  Previously, most collaboration happened in person during real-time. Phone and email increased the options for collaboration but today’s technology allows for collaboration to occur on a much larger scale and can connect people who will likely never be able to meet in person.

Most teachers (and people) recognize that collaboration is an important life skill and something we should be doing in our classrooms, but often we forget that knowing how to collaborate is a skill-set in and of itself.  Just like social skills that we teach (and should continue to teach) in early education, our students need us to teach and model and scaffold collaboration skills. They need to understand the goal of collaboration and how to engage in the process successfully. In an Edutopia article, Mary Burns writes,  “Promoting real collaboration is hard to do well—and it doesn’t just happen on its own. If we want real collaboration, we need to intentionally design it as part of our learning activity (Burns, 2016).”

In Burn’s article, “5 Strategies to Deepen Student Collaboration” (Burns, 2016) she describes some very helpful strategies for teachers when they are using collaboration in their classroom. Below is her list (Burns, 2016) and my summary of her description:

1. Create Learning Activities that are Complex

When activities truly challenge our students, they are motivated to get help from others and need more than one idea or strategy.

2. Prepare Students to be Part of a Team

Students need to understand the goal of their group work. There needs to be some work done as far as expectations and building relationships before the “real” collaboration can begin.

3. Minimize Opportunities For Free-Riding

One of the biggest issues with group work comes when a member isn’t doing his/her share of the work.  By giving meaningful team roles and having students evaluate themselves and their peers (Burns, 2016) the likelihood that a team member will not contribute their share is decreased.

4. Build in Many Opportunities for Discussion and Consensus

As I mentioned earlier, the process is just as (if not more) important than the product in collaborative student projects.  Emphasizing this to the students and providing them time to learn from the experience is key.

5. Focus on Strengthening and Stretching Expertise

Not all students in a group will have the same level of knowledge. The goal really needs to be on what each member can bring to the group and how all members can learn something from each other. Like in all areas of our classroom, the focus should be on growth not solely achievement.


Mary Burns summarizes this all very well when she writes, ““As teachers, we can promote real collaboration by shifting our role from instructor to coach—promoting team autonomy, checking in on students and providing instant feedback, and helping them increasingly learn to work together productively to attain a common goal (Burns, 2016).”

One of my favorite places to go when I am looking for digital tools is Common Sense Media’s Top Lists.  They have list of Student Collaboration Tools which includes 28 resources, K-12.  While I don’t have experience with many of these, I have had good experiences with Google Hangouts, Google Drive, and Padlet both as a student and a teacher.  Since I teach Kindergarten currently there aren’t many on this list that would apply to my classroom, but I am interested in trying out Popplet and PenPal Schools, both of which are free or have a free version.



Burns, M. (2016). 5 Strategies to Deepen Students Collaboration.  (Retrieved on 2018, Oct. 30) from:

Common Sense Media website. Top Picks: Student Collaboration Tools. (Retrieved on 2018, Oct. 30) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, November 5) from:

Embracing Imperfection in Our Classrooms

In this week’s module for my Educational Technology Leadership course, we are looking at resources, skills, and processes that might help us as we co-plan learning activities with our peers. Using the ISTE Standards for Coaches as a framework, for this module we are looking at these 2 standards:

ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership

  1. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms

ISTE-C Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

  1. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences


For my work this week I want to look out how best to help teachers embrace “mess” in their classrooms. We want to encourage our students to take risks, try the hard stuff, and focus on growth, yet sometimes we don’t model that in our classrooms. I can’t speak for secondary teachers, but as a primary-grade elementary school teacher I know that there are a lot of teachers who want things to look “perfect”…myself included. And we feel pressure (either real or imagined) from families, peers, and ourselves to have our classrooms, bulletin boards, and newsletters looking “good”.  But it goes much further than this. We also want our learning activities to go according to plan and we don’t want things to get “messy”.

I found an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Pedagogy of Imperfection” by Maha Bali that really dove into this issue that I have been considering.  My favorite quote of the article is, “The problem with this is that we are often presented with polished projects and we start to associate imperfection with unpreparedness. (Bali, 2017)”  This is often how I feel when things don’t go “right” in my class. I fear I was unprepared, but often I don’t think that was the reason. While this article is short, nearly every sentence resonated with me and helped me to better understand how important it is for teachers to embrace and celebrate “imperfection” and the process rather than the product. Our students learn just as much from our behavior and responses to what is happening in the classroom than from our carefully constructed learning experiences. If we want our students to take risks, be ok with “imperfection”, and value the process of getting to the final product then we must model this in our teaching and behavior in the classroom.

In this article Bali talks about how perfection is a self-defined construct and that learning is an imperfect process (Bali, 2017).  Bali has listed 3 areas in which we, as educators, might start when it comes to embracing imperfection in our classrooms.


  1. Keep your pedagogy open.
  2. Take more risks.
  3. Encourage imperfection in student work (Bali, 2017).


I can relate to all three of these.  I’m a planner, so it makes me feel like I have things under control when my plan book (at least the basic structure of my lessons) is filled out weeks in advance and things are going according to schedule.  Doing this, however, can make me feel like I “messed up” if I need to adjust things or if I don’t end up doing thing according to plan. Being prepared and organized are key to being a successful teacher, but not to the point where you fear adjusting your plans and learning experiences when it feels like that it what is best for your students.  Taking risks is one of those things that is important to model for students. When we say one thing, “try new things, don’t be afraid to fail, take risks”, and then model that in our classrooms, it has a much greater impact on our students. They need to see how we react when the technology doesn’t work or the art lesson is a disaster. Because it’s not really about the failure, it’s about how we react to it and how/if we persevere afterwards. Encouraging imperfection in student work is a way we let students know that the process of learning is just as valuable (if not more) as the end result.  In my Kindergarten class, my students are just beginning to write. They know a few sight words and might be able to sound out a few short words. But they have so much they want to say in their writing. I encourage them to try those words that they probably can’t spell. If they want to write about the “gigantic cat”, I want them to try and spell “gigantic” rather than change their story to the “big cat” just because they know how to spell the word “big”.

We want our students to participate, share their thoughts and ideas exactly as they are, and try new things. We want to cultivate classrooms that encourage this and one of the first steps to doing this is to look at our teaching practice.  Are we modeling what we are encouraging our students to do?

“Seeing other people make mistakes, laugh it off, and keep going helps to open doors for others to join in the experimentation. If there is no expectation of perfection, this gives a sense of permission to participate (Bali, 2017).”


Bali, M. (2017). Chronicle for Higher Education: Pedagogy of Imperfection. (Retrieved on 2018, November 12) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, November 5) from:

What Teachers Want: PD Barriers and Solutions

This week’s post is heavily influenced by a discussion I had with colleagues as we were attending a professional development session. I walked away from the post-PD discussion thinking about the ways in which districts could better facilitate PD with teacher needs in mind.

Most administrators and coaches can agree that relying on one-size-fits-all, spoonfed traditional professional development is not optimal for teacher development. So how can we better mee ISTE Coaching Standard 1d, “Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms?” (, 2017)

Encouragingly, research has found that coaching and collaboration support teacher development and improved student outcomes. School leaders have subsequently implemented “coaching, feedback from observations, and professional learning communities, or PLCs” (Johnson, 2016).

While this sounds promising, the reality is that there is an enormous disconnect between research findings, administrator’s approach to PD, and how teachers perceive PD:

Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014

This is an area of teaching that I feel strongly about as we struggle to be considered professionals and recruit/retain new teachers. Jennifer Gonzalez, the author behind the brilliant blog Cult of Pedagogy, says it best:

“After listening to thousands of teachers tell their stories, I have reached the conclusion that there is one deciding factor that determines where teachers will fall on the continuum, one element that makes the difference in whether the teachers in any given school will lean toward positive and productive or desperate and crushed: That element is the administrator. Behind every teacher story is an administrator who is interpreting policy, setting expectations, and establishing a tone that will determine the quality of their teachers’ work, and by extension, the education their students receive. If too many teachers are drowning at the unhealthy end of the continuum—and our current teacher shortage suggests that this is the case—then too many administrators are tolerating, or creating, unhealthy working conditions. Administrators who may have forgotten what it’s like to be a teacher.” (2017)

For this post, I am going to explore three popular areas of PD (coaching, PLC’s, and workshops) to identify what barriers exist within each and then propose solutions to those barriers.  

Area 1: Coaching


  • Distribution of coaches: Fewer than half of all teachers in America receive coaching in the course of a school year.  (Johnson, 2016)
  • Stigma of receiving coaching: The majority of existing coaching is focused on struggling or new teachers which results in a negative stigma associated with coaching. Veteran teachers who could otherwise benefit from coaching feel they are ‘in trouble’ if assigned a coach.  (Johnson, 2016)
  • Frequency of coaching: Coaches are spread thin throughout districts in the US. Despite the benefits of regular, intensive coaching, most teachers who are assigned coaches only meet monthly or a few times a month (33%) or even less frequently than monthly (27%). (Johnson, 2016)
  • Disconnect between observation and coaching: Teachers struggle to find meaning and value in observations that result in quantitative written feedback. Without offsetting the feedback with qualitative, in-depth feedback and mentoring, it can feel hollow. (Johnson, 2016)
  • Experience of coaches: Teachers are skeptical of coaches who also serve as administrators or coaches who have not been in the classroom for many years. Teachers may feel that the person lacks relevancy and the ability to provide authentic, effective feedback. (Johnson, 2016) Further, there is a perception by teachers that some coaches are in that position because the administration did not want them in the classroom. (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014)


Two easy solutions to the lack of coaches and quality of administrator-only feedback are the #observeme and Pineapple Chart methods of peer feedback (both of which are explained clearly in this post by Robert Kaplinsky). Essentially, both strategies allow teachers to invite colleagues into their class with some areas of feedback in mind. This allows teachers to gain input from fellow respected peers and also to get targeted feedback. The bonus is that both tools are invitation based– no surprise visits!

When observations are completed, it is so important for administrators or coaches to take the time to debrief with teachers and provide qualitative comments. Just as handing an essay back to students with no comments and only a score is devaluing and unhelpful, so is observation that only results in a score on a scale. Just as with students, feedback should also be specific. Goals should also be established for moving forward. I found the following Post-Observation Coaching Protocol from Engage New York to be very valuable in ensuring the observation process is beneficial for both teachers, and coaches/administrators:

Instructional coach and blogger Lisa Westman has written a wonderful guide for new instructional coaches that includes the importance of building credibility. Some key ways to build credibility and rapport as a coach include sharing your passion, modeling continued learning, and being consistent and honest. (Westman as cited in DeWitt, 2016)

Area 2: Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)


  • Admin-directed content: Teachers feel that when administrators dictate the content of PLC meetings, they are less productive for teachers and therefore student achievement. (Mielke, 2015)  Administrators’’ priorities often are informed by test scores and raw data whereas teacher priorities are shaped by knowledge of individual student needs.
  • Summative vs formative: Similar to the first barrier, asking PLCs to focus solely on standardized test scores is often at the detriment of valuable in-moment formative data that teachers gather each day in the classroom.  (Mielke, 2015) Teachers understand that test scores are so rarely reflective of student ability and only address a limited area of knowledge. Also, emphasizing test scores and criticizing teachers for these scores in impoverished districts where students are often reading and writing many grades below level seems unfair and counterproductive. It should come as a surprise to no one when a high schooler reading at 2nd-grade level scores poorly on a CCSS reading test.
  • Less talking, more acting: If all a PLC ever does is talk about what they’d like to do or rehash what has already been done, teachers are not going to see the meeting time as valuable. (Mielke, 2015). Without action, a PLC is just a mandated chat session that robs teachers of valuable time to plan, grade, and support student learning.


A successful PLC allows teachers the opportunity to set the agenda and norms. Just as in the classroom, ownership leads to engagement. When administrators trust their teachers to know which areas students need support in the most, PLCs can better serve those students. Summative data should be considered in conjunction with formative data.  

Mielke suggests administrators pose questions for PLCs to explore rather than issuing demands. For example, PLC members can identify an area of need and then admin can play a supportive role by developing inquiry questions. For example, “You’ve said often that your curriculum maps aren’t always aligned. What would you need to align them?” (Mielke, 2015)

In a 2014 survey completed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, teachers reported that the top four areas they would like to see implemented in their PLC are 1) time for lesson planning, 2) the opportunity to discuss learning objectives, 3) development of teaching skills and content knowledge, and 4) the chance to debrief on student behavior, class procedures, and expectations. Allowing and encouraging PLCs to focus on areas of need will allow PLCs to be productive and not just another task added to a teacher’s already full plate.

Area 3: Workshops


  • Time, the most precious commodity: When planning meetings or workshops, how deliberate is the consideration of the meeting’s necessity and length? Is the content of the meeting absolutely essential to all people required to attend? Has this content already been delivered in just a different way? All of these questions are critical to the planning of meeting and workshops and yet like most teachers, I can count on one hand the number of meetings and workshops over the years that have met these criteria.
  • Needs-based approach: Many administrators encourage teachers to differentiate instruction and content for students and then neglect to do so when providing PD workshops. What is relevant and helpful to a first grade PE teacher rarely will be as beneficial for a high school chemistry teacher.  


Being absolutely deliberate about the frequency, length, and content of meetings and workshops is vital in making teachers feel respected and valued. If the message can be delivered via email, do it. Consider some out-of-the-box ways of communicating. Trainers and coaches can prepare videos for dissemination via YouTube or meetings can be held virtually through Google Hangouts or Voxer. I’ve previously blogged about Google Classroom being repurposed as a tool for collaboration which would work well school-wide for PD purposes. Anytime that asynchronous collaboration can be provided, schools will get more buy-in.

Though it requires more time and planning, targeted, choice-based PD will impact the engagement of teachers: “Whenever you can give your teachers choice in content, process, or product, you’ll get better results.” (Gonzalez, 2017).


Though this post is in part a condemnation of current practices, I hope there is also some light at the end of the tunnel. Research has shown the areas that work (coaching and collaboration) and it is encouraging that schools are attempting to put this research into practice. I hope that moving forward, teachers and administrators can work together to refine the coaching and collaboration models into methods that work for each individual school and its unique culture and needs.



Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2014). Teachers Know Best: Teachers’ Views on Professional Development. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved from

DeWitt, P. (2016). Instructional Coaching in 20 Seconds or Less. Retrieved from

Gonzalez, J. (2017). What Teachers Want You To Know: A Note to School Administrators. Retrieved from

Johnson, K. (2016). 5 Things Teachers Want from PD, and How Coaching and Collaboration Can Deliver Them—If Implementation Improves – EdSurge News. Retrieved from

Mielke, C. (2015). Is Your Professional Learning Community a Farce?. Retrieved from

Tools to Evaluate 21st Century Teaching

Earlier in the EDTC program, I blogged about Future Ready Schools which is an initiative aimed at evaluating a district’s current progress in terms of meeting 21st-century learning goals. The feedback I received from my peers was that it seemed like an interesting program, but left little support for teachers wishing to independently identify their own areas of possible improvement. For this week’s post, I wanted to focus on evaluation tools available to teachers for self-assessment or coaches for mentor feedback. While many options exist for teacher feedback, my focus was on observation tools that support teachers in implementing 21st-century learning skills in support of ISTE coaching standard 2: “Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences.”

Before considering frameworks for evaluation, it’s important to establish what is meant by the term ’21st-century learning.’ I found the above graphic from the Partnership for 21st Century Learning to be helpful in considering the interconnected skills required of 21st-century learning. 21st-century learning focuses on deep rather than shallow learning, opportunities for real-world problem solving, overarching themes that cross disciplines, and equipping students with the ability to process, filter, and synthesize information from a variety of sources.


Evaluation Tool 1: Council for 21st Century Learning

The Council for 21st Century Learning is committed to supporting 21st-century learning by offering consulting and training to districts and schools. Their work begins with a diagnostic to identify areas of need. Support is then provided through coaching, workshops, and presentations. One thing I find interesting about C21L is that they emphasize two components for successful implementation- in and for. Learning IN the 21st-Century involves the use of technology to process, interact, and publish information. Learning FOR the 21st-Century refers to the experiences and skill sets necessary to thrive when interacting with technology such as critical thinking and collaborating. C21L has publicly shared many resources on its website that are available for all teachers to use.

The following observation form is designed to be used by coaches or administrators when completing walk-through evaluations. The checklist format makes it easy to take note of the various elements within the classroom environment. I appreciate how comprehensive this list is. In addition to types of technology use (by both student and teacher), there are places for feedback on the types of instructional strategies being used, student grouping, and even levels of Blooms’ taxonomy. Instead of using this checklist solely for evaluative purposes, it would also be a powerful tool for teachers to utilize when planning or reflecting on a lesson.

Evaluation Tool 2: Strengthening Your Reflective Commentary

This tool was created by AJ Castley and included in various methods on the Warwick Learning and Development Centre for teachers to self-assess. The form provides teachers with 7 open-ended questions to consider their teaching across 3 areas: teaching, assessing, and curriculum design. Within each broad question are more particular questions designed to walk teachers through a deep analysis and reflection of what went well and what could be improved within a given lesson. Some of the guiding questions include “Why did you do it that way? How else might you have done it?” I thought this tool paired particularly well with the conversations my 6105 class has been having about probing questions (see my earlier post on Inquiry Method for Educational Coaching).

These questions on this form facilitate strong self-reflection for teachers choosing to use individually. The framework would also work well for coaches looking at ways to draw out reflection from a teacher. Another way to utilize these reflection questions is to frame discussion within a PLC about a lesson or unit.

Evaluation Tool 3: Learning Design Matrix

One of the resources shared in my 6105 class this past week aligns with my exploration of feedback tools. The Learning Design Matrix was adapted from Eeva Reeder, a frequent Edutopia contributor on Project Based Learning. Within the four-square matrix, teachers and coaches can consider elements of a 1) Standards-Based Task, 2) Engaging Task, 3) Problem-Based Task, and also how technology enables and/or accelerates learning of that given task. Rather than viewing the matrix as a comprehensive to-do list, it is helpful to choose several key elements and consider how a lesson you’ve taught or want to teach fits within those elements.

Coaches can use the matrix when evaluating a teacher’s lesson or unit or when assisting them in planning. One activity we completed in class was reviewing a teacher’s unit plan and reflecting on the unit in light of the matrix. My classmates and I found elements of the matrix being used in the unit with success and then considered how we could improve the unit plan using other elements from the matrix. It was an extremely enlightening exercise.

Coaching with TPACK and Teacher Narratives

Since the release of the National Research Council’s A Framework for K-12 Science Education in 2011 and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013, elementary and secondary science teachers have been in a exhilarating phase of adaptation and transition. Teachers are opening their minds to new ways of thinking about science education, and, with the right support, are in a position to revolutionize the way kids learn science in America.

Effective coaches help teachers succeed by helping them to identify their own learning goals, while honoring teacher expertise. Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua (2013) propose that allowing teachers to tell their stories in the form of teacher narratives will allow coaches to uncover the teacher’s own knowledge construction following an inductive approach, while using TPACK as a reference in identifying goals for coaching.

Photo by Kamyar Adl (2007) “Hat shop” in covered market, Oxford.

Considering the innumerable roles K-12 teachers assume, or “all the different hats they wear,” on a daily basis, conjures the image above, of a person standing in a well-stocked hat shop. So, a good place to start is to categorize teachers’ areas of expertise. Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK), is a framework that “attempts to identify the nature of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration” while recognizing that each component is situated in a unique context (, Koehler, 2012).

According to Koehler and Mishra (2009), content knowledge is teachers’ knowledge about the subject matter, pedagogical knowledge is teachers’ knowledge about the methods of teaching and learning and technological knowledge is teachers’ knowledge about working with tech tools and resources. The three types of knowledge interact in seven different ways, constituting “the seven components of TPACK,” together with context, the eighth component.

As noted by Harris and Hofer (2017) in their study of the use of TPACK by schools and school districts for professional development, the construct has been appropriated, understood and enacted to serve several functions, including: a connector, a grass-roots initiative, a check-and-balance, an instructional planning tool, a technological focus, a compass and a collaborative process. Study participants reported that “the construct helped them conceptually and organizationally to both honor teachers’ professional experience… and concomitantly help teachers to further develop that knowledge and practice with well-informed, judiciously chosen digital tools and resources applied in effective ways” (p. 11).

Part of what makes the TPACK framework so useful for teachers is that it can be flexible, dynamic and adaptive, lending itself to be used in so many different ways and also to be modified. Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua (2013) have adapted the model to more accurately represent the complexity of the contexts, or “scope” (p. 288) in which teachers teach. In the figure below (See Figure 1, Porras-Hernández & Salinas-Amescua, 2013), context is divided into three different levels: the macro context defined by social, political, technological and economic conditions, the meso context defined by the local community, school district, school and administrators and the micro context defined by the in-class conditions for learning. Conditions of all three context levels comprise the learning scope, and each affects how students learn in the classroom.

In a further adaptation of the TPACK construct, Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua (2013) include knowledge of the main actors in education processes, the students and of the teachers. Here, the teacher is positioned as “the active constructor of knowledge” (p. 233). Teachers should actively seek knowledge of their students’ previous knowledge, interests and attitudes, in order to plan and adapt their learning activities. Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua argue, “It is not neutral knowledge that teachers build in the reflection process, but a personal posture that involves beliefs, motives, and a teacher’s raison d’être,” or reason for being (p. 233). In other words, teachers’ self-knowledge plays an integral role in understanding how they affect student learning.
The figure below (See Figure 2, Porras-Hernández & Salinas-Amescua, 2013) shows a model of TPACK that includes “Knowledge of Students” and “Teacher’s Self-knowledge.” With this more complex model, we come much closer to a complete understanding the components of teacher knowledge (narrowly avoiding the diagram becoming as complicated as the hat shop metaphor).
Finally, Porras-Hernández and Salinas-Amescua (2013) offer a practice that would allow coaches to discover the depth of what teachers know, a concept they call “teacher savvy” and develop further into “pedagogical savvy” (p. 235-236). Many of the most effective teaching strategies are those that have been honed by teachers in classrooms over years of communicating with other teachers and from their own experience, so why not start by allowing the teacher to share what they know in the form of a “teacher narrative?” Through reflections on their daily experiences, teachers can “distance themselves from their practice and transform it” (p. 236).
As a coach, I envision this practice as a teacher journal or log, where the teacher writes about a meaningful experience along with everything that comes up for them. Then, together with the coach, the teacher can review the narrative and codify it with components of TPACK, including the three levels of context and student and teacher knowledge, looking for strengths and weaknesses. In this way, a teacher can identify their own growth goal, and take a more holistic and inductive approach to learning with the help of the TPACK construct.

Harris, J. B., & Hofer, M. J. (2017). “TPACK Stories”: Schools and School Districts Repurposing a Theoretical Construct for Technology-Related Professional Development. Journal of Research on Technology in Education49(1/2), 1–15.
Harris, J.B., Phillips, M., Koehler, M., & Rosenberg, J. (2017). TPCK/TPACK research and development: Past, present, and future directions. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology33(3), i–viii.
Koehler, M. J. (2012). TPACK Explained. Retrieved 23 October 2018 from
Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.

Porras-Hernández, L. H., & Salinas-Amescua, B. (2013). Strengthening TPACK: A Broader Notion of Context and the Use of Teacher’s Narratives to Reveal Knowledge Construction. Journal of Educational Computing Research48(2), 223–244.

The Inquiry Method for Educational Coaching

Inquiry is a powerful tool used by teachers to foster curiosity and independence within students. Instead of spoon-feeding content, students reach their own conclusions. Popular options for incorporating inquiry in the classroom are 20-Time or Genius Hour where students explore a topic of their own choosing. Inquiry is about more than just student-driven projects; it’s also a methodological shift where you respond to questions with other questions instead of simply providing an answer. For example-

Student: Why does the character react like that?

Teacher: Let’s consider the character. Pretend that you are his same age and have his same motivations and fears. What would you feel like if your best friend betrayed you?

Inquiry is truly an art. Having seen the power of inquiry for students, I wanted to consider its application and impact when used by technology coaches to support teacher development. One component of ISTE Coaching Standard 2 is to “coach…and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design.” (, 2017)

Why Inquiry?

  • Avoid learned helplessness and empower teachers: Foltos points out that taking on the role of an expert who has an answer for everything can do more harm than good when coaching teachers: “Successful coaches realize that routinely taking on the role of expert with answers is the wrong path toward collaboration and capacity building.” (2014) A downside to simply providing answers without encouraging independence through inquiry is that teachers come to rely on the coach. Inquiry, on the other hand, is empowering.

Implementing Inquiry as a Coach

  • Begin with specific need: Instead of one-size-fits-all professional development, scholars like John Dewey encourage teachers to identify specific content-area problems and then explore possible solutions. This problem-solution method is effective because it “unleashes an inquiry process in which the quest first for definition, then for resolution becomes a compelling necessity” (Demetrion as cited in Ermeling, 2012). Coaches can play a valuable role in guiding teachers toward identifying needs and then creating plans to meet those needs.
  • The three lenses: Ermeling presents a fascinating argument for why educators seeking to grow with the inquiry method must learn to see their subject matter through three lenses. The first is the lens of the researcher which asks the teacher to “formulate hypotheses, collect data, rely on evidence for decision-making, and generalize from findings.” The second lens requires an educator to “sequence and connect students’ learning experiences.” The final lens, that of the student, “represents an educator’s capacity to view instruction through the eyes of the student, anticipate their thinking and use this knowledge to build experiences.” (Ermeling, 2012)
  • Creative data sources: To measure the efficacy of any newly implemented strategy, teachers are encouraged to collect data which can then be shared with a coach before planning the next steps in the inquiry cycle. Evidence should drive reflection, analysis, and next steps. Coaches can assist teachers in moving beyond traditional assessments in order to gather data. In Ermeling’s exploration on the features of the inquiry process, he includes “student work, student interviews, student questionnaires, checklists, self-assessments, portfolios, systematic classroom observations, test results, [and] audio or video recordings from the classroom” as valid data points for teachers and coaches to consider. (2012)
  • Give it time to stick: Inquiries that expand throughout several months or even the entire school year are preferable to short, brief inquiries. The reason for this is so that a coach and teacher can definitely state what cause produced what effect. (I would add the personal caveat that what works for one group of students may not for next year’s batch.) This investment requires a shift away from a focus on the “length of time or number of strategies” and towards “persit[ing] long enough to arrive at some important findings–tangible and explicit cause-effect connections between instructional decisions and student outcomes.” (Ermeling, 2012)

Tool of Inquiry: Probing Questions

Probing questions are an effective tool of inquiry which “are designed to get the teacher to think more deeply about and develop answers to the issues important to him or her.” (Foltos, 2013) Probing questions can and should be used at any point in the Inquiry process described in the previous section.

Do’s and Don’t of Probing Questions

Don’t ask if you have a preconceived answer in mind

Do paraphrase the teacher’s perspective before beginning

Do use open-ended questions

Don’t be afraid of simple questions

Original source: The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation by Elena Aguilar

Found via: “Effective Communication & Questioning When Coaching” by Ann Hayes-Bell


When I think about using inquiry in coaching, I am reminded of the following Proverb: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. The beauty of inquiry is that you can give a teacher the tools necessary to investigate and solve future problems for themselves.



Aguilar, E. (2013). The art of coaching. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.

Ermeling, B. (2012). Improving Teaching through Continuous Learning: The Inquiry Process John Wooden Used to Become Coach of the Century. Quest64(3), 197-208. doi: 10.1080/00336297.2012.693754

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching (1st ed.). Corwin.

Foltos, L. (2014). The Secret to Great Coaching: Inquiry Method Helps Teachers Take Ownership of their Learning. Learning Forward35(3), 29-31. (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].

Initiating and Sustaining: Two-Part Approach to Successful PD

The good news: teachers desperately want quality technology professional development. The bad news: many still aren’t receiving options for high quality, ongoing professional development. ISTE Coaching Standard 1d asks coaches to “implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms” (, 2017). As I considered this particular substandard, I immediately focused in on the initiating and sustaining wording. The combination of initiating and sustaining is critical to the success of technology PD.


Needs-based PD

Just as students have a wide variety of needs, so do teachers. One way to identify the needs of teachers is by creating technology PD that is customized. Prior to planning PD, surveys can be a valuable tool in determining teacher needs. Using a combination of closed and open-ended questions, “Try to ascertain which members of your teaching staff need training on specific technology tools or techniques and determine which are comfortable using technology but need more help integrating it into instruction” (Roland, 2015). PD sessions can then be targeted based on staff interest and ability. PD sessions can also be “self-contained so that teachers can choose to attend workshops only in the areas where they need extra learning” (Roland, 2013).

The technology coach at my former school did a wonderful job of hosting PD that was teacher-driven and needs-based. Workshops for new tools were leveled for beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners. Other workshops were created after polling staff to identify needs and interests. By avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach, he was able to effectively implement technology innovation in our district.

Constructivist PD

All PD walks a fine line between theoretical and practical.  Quality technology PD should begin with a solid presentation or discussion of WHY this particular tool, device, or method is a good fit for meeting the needs of learners. Once a theoretical basis exists for using the technology, teachers need the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the technology while under the guidance of an experienced peer or coach.

This critical shift in how PD occurs can be described as dissemination versus implementation. Teachers need the opportunity within a PD session to work directly with the new tool or method being introduced. This can be accomplished through a learning environment “where we see demonstrations, engage in simulations, have time to practice new technique with expectations of ongoing support and collaborative reflection and sharing” (Kelly Young as cited in Ferlazzo, 2015).


PD as a Cycle

Similar to the shift from dissemination to implementation is the idea that PD should very much be a cycle of inquiry where teachers are exposed to new ideas, allowed the opportunity to practice the concepts learned at the PD, discuss what worked and what didn’t with an experienced coach or peer, and set new goals based on that conversation. This cycle is necessary because “the process of improving teaching and learning is not often smooth or instantly successful” (Foltos, 2013).

Sean McComb, a National Teacher of the Year, believes that once-and-done PD is rarely effective. McComb advocates a three-part approach to successful PD: give teachers choice, make the content relevant and job-embedded, and don’t limit exposure to a single session. Successful and sustainable change requires that teachers “learn about a way to improve, have the opportunity to plan and implement, and then reflect and adjust, ideally in company and collaboration with colleagues or a coach” (McComb as cited in Ferlazzo, 2015).

Take and Go PD

Best practice when providing PD for teachers is to include take-home resources which can be either digital or paper. These materials might include “online tutorials, help sheets or short videos [which] will allow [teachers] to review the training on their own if they do forget how to do something” (Roland, 2015). It is also best practice to provide contact information so that attendees know how to reach the presenter should they have any questions.

Teacher and technology coach, Craig Badura, has taken the idea of distributing materials to a new level with his gamification-like App Task Challenges.  The Challenges involve short and simple directions to walk teachers through the process of using a new app or aspect of an app. Badura explains, “I have to have teachers get their hands dirty while they’re learning a new tool, so to speak, but they have to have that assurance that I’m going to help them clean up when they get done if they need that help during that time” (as cited in Gonzalez, 2016).


Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching (1st ed.). Corwin.

Gonzalez, J. (2016). How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Your Teachers | Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved from (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].

Roland, J. (2015). Empowering teachers to implement technology-driven educational programs. Retrieved from

Engaging the Community: Using Technology in Primary Literacy Group

Introduction and Reflection


For this quarter’s final project for my Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, we were asked to engage the digital community by preparing a presentation for a digital education conference.  We have submitted our proposal for the NCCE conference in Seattle in February 2019. While we haven’t yet heard if our proposal has been accepted, the process of coming up with an idea and working through the process of putting together a presentation that we feel will meet the needs of K-2 educators has been very valuable. Perhaps the most powerful learning that I gained from this project was having the opportunity to work with one of my classmates.  In my own classroom I am always talking about collaboration and how multiple brains working together bring more to our creative work and that we can often learn more from our peers than from the “teacher”. I am so glad that my peer and I took advantage of this opportunity. While I have more years of experience in education, I am moving into a grade level this coming year that I don’t have a lot of experience with, while my partner has been teaching this grade for most of her teaching career.  She also did her teaching training at a time when technology was prevalent in the classroom and most likely addressed in university education programs, where I began teaching using a overhead projector! We both brought different experiences and skill sets to our work together and I feel this allowed for our presentation to be better suited for a range of learners. Collaborating on a project like this felt more “real life” and finding the time to collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously as well as meshing our academic work was an experience and skill that reminded me that these are the experiences and skills we should be “teaching” our students in the classroom if we are, indeed, preparing them for future lives in the “real world”.


Professional Development that Meets Teacher Needs


Our presentation is planned for 50 minutes.  We chose to do a session rather than a workshop because we felt that most of our audience would have some background in primary classrooms and with using technology.  Educators coming to our presentation will be actively engaged in the learning by completing a poll and also by visiting and exploring some of the digital resources we plan to share.  During our presentation we plan to meet content knowledge needs by providing teachers reasons for including technology in the primary classroom, strategies and tips for implementing technology, and resources of which digital tools we recommend.  Teacher needs are addressed because we hope to provide teachers with information and ideas that can take back to their classroom and implement immediately. Teachers find value in professional development that prepares them to make immediate changes in their teaching that don’t require a ton of planning and time.  Collaborative participation is promoted by giving time during our presentation for the attendees to talk about which (if any) of the resources we share that they have used in their classroom and also by giving us suggestions of digital tools they have used that aren’t included in our list.


Presentation Slides

Here is a link to our tentative Slides presentation:



Accessibility for all learners is important so that all content can meet their needs. For our presentation we wanted to make sure we had multiple forms for our learners to obtain information. Our main source of sharing our presentation will be projecting to a screen. For projecting our slides, we have picked larger fonts and colors that offer contrast for better viewing. In addition, we will offer hard copies of all materials discussed during our session. Finally, we created an overview video including our slides that is presented with Closed Captions for learners who need that support.



Here a link to an overview of our presentation:



For this quarter’s work on Digital Learning Environments we focused on ISTE Standard for Coaching #3. Each week we focused on a couple indicators of this standard and this culminating project reflected our understanding of all seven indicators.


ISTE Standards for Coaches

  1. Digital Age Learning Environments Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.

a) Model effective classroom management and collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology-rich learning environments.

b) Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments.

c) Coach teachers in and model use of online and blended learning, digital content, and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators.

d) Select, evaluate and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning.

e) Troubleshoot basic software, hardware and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments.

f) Collaborate with teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning and are compatible with the school technology infrastructure.

g) Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers and the larger community.

Our presentation meets all 7 indicators of ISTE Standard 3 for Coaches as described below:


a.) We will share information about multiple ways to structure students’ use of digital tools and well as many management tips, both for the classroom environment and the technology.

b) We will provide suggestions for variety of digital tools for the primary classroom.  We will briefly explore a few during the presentation as well as include links for attendees to try out some resources we have shared after the presentation is over.

c) We will provide a lot of links to resources in our presentation. 50 minutes isn’t a lot of time, but we have a lot of information to share and want attendees to continue the learning after the session.

d) We have created a closed caption screencast providing an overview of our Slides presentation as well as been intentional with our choice of  font and graphics.

e) We have included a slide on technology management and also a slide of how to have volunteers and support staff assist when students encounter technology difficulty.

f) We chose to do this project and create this presentation as a team. We also want our presentation to be a collaborative session. We will stop and ask the audience to share anything they might want to add or share their experiences with the topic we are discussing.

g) Our presentation materials (slides and screencast) will be shared on our blogs, available on the NCCE conference website (if we are selected to present), and we will encourage attendees to share any pieces of our presentation with their colleagues once they return home. We will also share our contact information with attendees for follow-up or clarifying questions.


Resources (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, August 22) from:

Using literature to teach students that taking risks, making mistakes, and persevering are key to success in today’s digital world

The Importance of Troubleshooting


Those of us who have ever used technology, especially those of us who rely on technology heavily in our daily lives, can recall a time (or 20 times) when the technology just didn’t work. Perhaps we knew the reason and could quickly troubleshoot the issue, perhaps we knew the issue but didn’t know how to fix the problem, or perhaps we didn’t understand why the technology wasn’t working.  All of these situations are frustrating, some more than others. Many of our students are attending schools that utilize digital learning environments and teachers are working hard to teach students how to use different devices and programs and also teaching students how to be respectful and safe digital citizens. But often how to troubleshoot the technology when things aren’t working correctly isn’t taught. We just stop using the technology, or call the Help Desk, or wait to try again later.  But if our students are depending on technology in their daily academic and personal lives, they should be equipped with some skills to problem solve technology “issues”.

ISTE Standards for Coaching 3e is “Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments.”  While technology coaches are not IT specialists, it is important that they can troubleshoot basic problems. However, I think a goal of technology coaches (and all teachers who use technology in their classroom) should be to teach students how to troubleshoot basic technology problems.  Having technology not work as you had expected is frustrating and often a response is just to quit or give up. But, like with all aspects of school (and life), we are trying to teach our students that accepting obstacles, learning from mistakes, and figuring out how to persevere and problem solve are critical skills that will serve them throughout their lives in many situations.


How to Help Students Learn to Take Risks, Make Mistakes and Learn from Those Mistakes

How do we teach our students to take risks when there is an “easier” option?  Make mistakes without feeling like a “failure”? And to continue to problem solve and work hard even when feeling frustrated.  In the Brookings Institute blog, Kate Mills and Helyn Kim have written about “Teaching Problem Solving: Let Students get ‘stuck’ and ‘unstuck’ ”.   My favorite sentence in this post is: “Helping my students grow to be people who will be successful outside of the classroom is equally as important as teaching the curriculum.” Sometimes we, as teachers, can lost sight of that goal. I also enjoyed reading about how this teacher “normalizes trouble” in her classroom in hopes that her students learn to accept challenge and failure as opportunities for growth.  Another key point I took from reading this post was the importance of making sure students know that the teacher is not there to solve their problems, but there to support students as they solve their own problems.

“In the real world, students encounter problems that are complex, not well defined, and lack a clear solution and approach. They need to be able to identify and apply different strategies to solve these problems. However, problem solving skills do not necessarily develop naturally; they need to be explicitly taught in a way that can be transferred across multiple settings and contexts. (Mills & Kim, 2017)”.  I feel that one of the ways that these problem solving skills can be explicitly taught is through children’s literature. Reading books that show examples of characters struggling with problems, “failing”, and then persevering aloud to students and then having class discussions, as well as independent reflection time afterwards, could really help our youngest students gain the understanding of these mindsets that will be important to the success of their digital learning experiences.



Literature Recommendations

Grit, perseverance, growth mindset, and learning to fail are all “buzz words” in classrooms today. And for good reason.  As educators, parents, employers, and member of society we know (or are learning) that these characteristics, values, and attitudes are linked to success in school, career, and life.  We also recognize that often these “skills” are not explicitly taught. One of the reasons is that it is hard to “teach” these values and attitudes. However, literature allows readers to connect to the characters as an “outsider”. And often when we are outside a situation we can more easily see what is happening and learn from the situation. For this reason, teaching social-emotional skills and mindsets through literature is very effective with students. Below are some examples for books to use for primary students. I referenced Good Reads for suggestions, but many of these titles are ones I have used in my own classroom. These are just 10 books, but there are numerous books out there at every reading level and interest area that can be used to teach students skills such as risk-taking, perseverance, and acceptance of failure.

By Andrea Beaty


The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires  

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

What Do you Do with a Problem by Kobi Yamada

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

The Dot by Peter Reynolds

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams

Journey by Aaron Becker

Brave Irene by William Steig

Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back up Again) by Dan Santat


Sources: website. (Retrieved on 2018, August 10) from: website. (Retrieved on 2018, August 18) from: (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, August 18) from:


Kim, H & Mills, K. (2017) “Teaching Problem Solving: Let Kids Get Stuck and Unstuck”. Brookings Institute Blog. (Retrieved on 2018, August 10) from:


Digital Tools for Students with Dyslexia

What is Dyslexia?


Dyslexia is the most common learning disability,  affecting 10-20% of children and adults. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that causes difficulty with language skills, specifically reading (IDA website).  It is a disability that affects an individual throughout their life, although with interventions and supports people with dyslexia can become highly successful (Redford, 2014).  The following paragraph comes from the Yale Institute for Dyslexia and Creativity, which borrows their definition from the book Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.


Dyslexic children and adults struggle to read fluently, spell words correctly and learn a second language, among other challenges. But these difficulties have no connection to their overall intelligence. In fact, dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. While people with dyslexia are slow readers, they often, paradoxically, are very fast and creative thinkers with strong reasoning abilities.

Source: IDA website-


The Impact of Technology

Advances in (and increased access to) technology have had a significant and positive impact for students with dyslexia.  Technology has the ability to provide students with supports such as more time, the ability to use assistive technology to read and write, and ways to provide interventions without drawing attention to the disability.  Many of the digital resources that have and will continue to provide support to students with language-based learning disabilities are free. Technology also allows increased access to information about dyslexia and the ability to connect online with others who share a common interest, such as dyslexia.  



Through my research and my experience working with dyslexic students, I have come up with some recommendations as listed below. I have grouped these recommendations into three categories: reading and learning, note-taking, and writing. These are the three areas of school where students with dyslexia typically experience the most difficulty and where technology supports and resources can be very valuable and dramatically transform the learning environment and opportunities for success for students with dyslexia.


Reading and Learning

  • Provide shorter and less dense reading assignments, but still at same reading and information level
  • Allow students to listen to audio books (either human read or computer-generated)
  • Assign graphic novels for reading (Redford, 2014)
  • Make sure to increase font size and use font that is simple
  • Provide students with text to speech technologies

An example of using Assistive Technology (browsealoud) to read a website.

Source: IDA website-




  • Provide typed notes when appropriate
  • Allow students to record lectures/instruction/ assignment directions
  • Allow students to take pictures of the board or any other visuals in the classroom


Spelling and Writing

  • Allow student to type their writing whenever possible and ensure they have instruction in efficient keyboard practices (Redford, 2014)
  • When students are generating ideas or mapping out their writing, allow them to dictate their thinking so that their ideas are able to be captured as their thoughts and creativity flow (Redford, 2014)
  • Provide access to programs that can translate speech to text
  • Encourage use of spell-check, spelling predictors, and grammar programs


Most Important

  • Allow extra time for students with language-based learning disabilities for reading, writing, test-taking, etc.
  • When appropriate provide the whole class with the accommodations options listed above for two reasons. 1) Accommodations for students with a learning disability are often beneficial to all students and 2) It allows the student(s) with dyslexia to access these supports without drawing attention to their disability



Chernek, V (2015). “Will Accessible Books Improve Reading for Students with Dyslexia?” EdSurge. (Retrieved on 2018, August 5) from:


Common Sense Media for Educators website. “Best Assistive Technology for Reading in the Classroom”. (Retrieved on 2018, August 3) from:


Eide, F (2015) “3 Technology Must-Dos for Dyslexia at School” Dyslexic Advantage (Retrieved on 2018, August 5) from:


International Dyslexia Association website: (2017) ISTE Standards for Coaches. (Retrieved on 2018, June 21) from:


Hamman, J (2018). “Accommodating Students with Dyslexia”. Website (Retrieved on 2018, August 1) from:


Redford, K (2014). “Kids Can’t Wait: Strategies to Help Struggling Readers” Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity (Retrieved on 2018, August 5) from:


Shapiro, L (2018). “How Technology Helped me Cheat Dyslexia” (Retrieved on 2018, August 5) from: