Category Archives: Collaboration

EDTC 6105: Visionary Leadership and Peer Coaching

Beginning my second year of Grad School has me shifting from learning about digital education as a teacher and into the role of coaching supporting other educators. This year I’ll be exploring more of the ISTE coaching standards, beginning with Standard 1: Visionary Leadership. B. Contribute to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels. For my first post I’ll be exploring how coaches can successfully inspire and assist peers with planning, implementing, and evaluating technology integration.

What is a coach?

When I hear the word “coach”, I immediately envision my dad.  My dad has played and coached sports since before I was born. Having limited coaching experience myself, my memories are as a spectator and what I’ve observed over the years.  As I thought more deeply about the label “coach”, I realised there are a lot of parallels between what I saw in my dad and what I’ve seen in education.

Take basketball for example.  My dad would spend hours watching teams play at various levels, always with a notebook in hand.  He’d write down plays, ideas, and enjoyed talking to our family about what he looked forward to sharing with his team. He started each season hoping to help his players develop new skills and be better athletes both on and off the court by the end of the season. During practice he’d explain, model, select players to carry them out, and modify based on the outcome.  Nothing was ever set in stone.  He guided them, but never did things for them. A coach can’t run on the court to help a player when they get nervous and players learn to work together, communicate, and actively be in the moment if they want to win. No matter the outcome of each game, there was always discussion about what went well, what they can try to improve before the next game, and praise about what the players achieved, not praise of the coach.

I feel these strategies also apply to peer coaching in education. Gaining insight into coaching through Les Foltos’ book, Peer Coaching, I’m beginning to see coaching as an extension of working with students. We want to inspire others to challenge what they know and continuously explore new skills.  We also want teachers to have a toolkit of resources that they can recommend to students so that students can explore which tools help them succeed. So what qualities are needed to establish a positive coaching relationship? After looking at sources from multiple countries, a few key principles keep re-surfacing.

  • Willingness
  • Personal Relationship
  • Trust and Support vs Judgement
  • Understanding of the Education System
  • Time
  • Reciprocal Communication

Willingness

In peer coaching, both educators need to be willing participants. In addition, they need to feel supported by others (colleagues, administrators, district). Both educators also need to see the value in collaboration and establish a realistic goal that they are trying to achieve to increase student achievement. The teacher needs to be willing to take risks, explore, and understand that the partnership is fluid .

Personal Relationship

If the participants do not already know each other on a personal or professional level, then the next step is to take time and understand the needs of the teacher and the students.  Les Foltos recommends that coaches spend the first meeting getting to know the teacher and allowing the teacher’s needs to guide the direction of their time together. What is also implied with establishing a relationship is that the coach’s role begins as a listener, not someone offering advice. As a listener, coach’s can paraphrase their understanding of the teacher’s needs and begin to understand the teacher’s perceptions and experiences with technology before discussing integration.

Trust and Support vs Judgement

Teachers need to feel they can trust their coach as a friend, not someone who’s coming into their classroom to judge them.  Establishing trust takes time. For the partnership to be effective, the coach needs to enter without power, judgement, or evaluative mindset.  The coach should appear knowledgeable but not assume the role as expert, creating a hierarchy in the relationship. Trust is also important for when challenges arise in order for the partnership to remain intact.

Understanding of the Education System

I’m sure most teachers can relate, but when I think of Professional Development trainings that were a waste of time, a few reasons immediately come to mind: 1. mandatory attendance, 2. the presenter has no idea what my student population is, 3. the presenter knows nothing about the resources available in our district, 4. this has nothing to do with my content area.  The worst trainings combine all four!  

For example, I teach ELL offering language support during reading and writing.  A few years ago, our district adopted a new Math curriculum with mandatory trainings for all certificated staff.  So I sat there for three days, frustrated at my use of time. I quickly learned all the teachers who teach Math were also frustrated and do not see how this curriculum would work in their classroom, it added fuel to the fire and a mob mentality.  Our speaker promoted using the curriculum on computers and tablets during the lessons on a regular basis and talked about great tech features.  The problem was we did not have a computer lab and averaged 1 device to 5 students.  His lack of knowledge about our district led to a group of educators leaving the training frustrated rather than excited to try what he’d presented.

Point being, coaches need to do some research, and ask questions to better understand the building they’re serving and the teacher needs. Even within the same building, peer coaches need to look at the specific grade level and content area they wish to support. Coaches need to see the teacher’s classroom environment before offering any recommendations. In regards to technology, what already exists in the building or district, who else might be available to observe in action, and what options are available to help the teacher successfully integrate technology in the classroom? What concerns does the teacher have about technology integration?

Time

Time is a big factor for teachers.  It feels like there is never enough!  In a peer coaching partnership, both participants need to establish a timeline for the long-term as well as protocols to follow with each meeting in order to respect each other’s time.  In addition, realistic goals and timelines need to be discussed and adjusted as needed.  This ties back to willing participants.  If teachers feel pressured or that something will be lost versus something will be enhanced they will begin to resist, and coaches have to work much harder to bring them back on board. Meetings should typically have an agenda, protocol, allow time for the teacher to feel their time is validated and end with an action plan.  This ties into communication.

Reciprocal Communication

With time being valuable, to respect all involved, communication preferences should also be discussed in the early stages of collaboration. Today there are so many ways for teachers to collaborate beyond the classroom.  Once communication methods are in place, these can be used as reminders for upcoming collaboration.  For example, if email is the chosen form of communication outside of scheduled in-person meetings, then the emails should serve as reminders for both participants responsibilities for how to come prepared. This may also require communication with other staff in the building, administration, or outside. Teachers need to feel they can reach their coach and receive feedback in a timely manner.  

Connection to Technology Integration

Technology can be daunting for teachers.  There are so many unknowns, and for teachers who are used to be in control, adding digital devices into the classroom can create anxiety.  So how can peer coaches then use the above guiding principles to support their colleagues? Coaches need to do research after each meeting so explore what tools are available that could meet the teacher’s needs to enhance student achievement.  With that, coaches need to share technology as an approach to help students meet grade level standards and develop 21st century skills.  This needs to be done carefully to avoid teachers feeling pressured to add more to their day.

Conclusion

In conclusion, like sports, peer coaches need to recognise that teachers come in with a wide range of abilities and strengths.  The coach needs to support teachers in recognising their long term goal and create opportunities for them to work towards successfully meeting that goal.  The coach’s role should guide the teacher to independence and self-discovery for what works best for them and their students, while providing access, not direct instruction.  Although this is simply the tip of the iceberg, I feel it’s a starting point for me as I look into peer coaching opportunities within my own building this year.

Cited by Queensland Government

References

Brown, L. (2014, February 28). The Importance of Trust. Retrieved October 14, 2017, from http://teachforall.org/en/network-learning/importance-trust

Cavanagh, M., Grant, A., & Kemp, T. (2015). Evidence-Based Coaching Volume 1 : Theory, Research and Practice from the Behavioural Sciences. Australian Academic Press.

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

“Role of Coaching in an Educational Setting.” Queensland Government, Department of Education and Training, 29 Jan. 2015, from education.qld.gov.au/staff/development/performance/resources/readings/role-coaching-educational-settings.pdf

Community Engagement Project – EDTC 6104

Increasing Family Engagement Through Digital Portfolios

This summer I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone.  In my own building, I worked as the Site Coordinator for summer school, my first time truly managing other staff and being in charge of a building.  With my Masters program through SPU, I’ve submitted my first proposal to a conference.  While this has been daunting, I have enjoyed both challenges.  Having taught ELL for seven years, I’ve taught summer school, both initiated and led before and after school programs, and attended workshops, but have never sought out a leadership role.  This summer has shifted my own perception of what I’m capable of and how I can contribute to others.

Trying New Strategies to Engage ELL Families

One of my greatest challenges as an educator and coach has been communication with families.  Working in schools where the majority of the parents are not native English speakers, communication is often limited, lost in translation, and we frequently rely on students to be the translator to get messages through to families. Based on my own experience in Title 1 schools in two different states, ELL families are less likely to initiate communication with teachers and less likely to use email as a frequent communication tool. Numerous studies agree that in general, low-income and/or ethnic/racial minority families are less likely to participate in school events and certain aspects of the children’s education. (Dong-shin Shin and Wendy Seger 2016). Many of these same families have limited access to technology and less exposure to 21st century skills.  Therefore, I feel it is important for teachers to not only introduce 21st century skills to students, but also help coach their families in how to use technology as a communication tool, professionally, and share their funds of knowledge.

What do we know about family involvement in Title 1 schools?

The most extensive research comes from the Hoover-Demspey and Sandler study known as the HDS Model.  Their findings claim parent involvement is based on these key factors:

The Parent Institute, 2012

This chart supports evidence that parents who do not speak English or were not educated in the American education system are more likely to find it difficult to participate at the school site. Furthermore, these families may have varying cultural views on what parent involvement entails based on their own cultural experiences. Particularly in low-income/immigrant families, parents may be limited in time by constraints related to their occupation, caring for other family members, or cultural commitments. So how can I connect families to what’s happening in the classroom when they are unable to attend our events? How do we support our illiterate parents?

This past year I’ve been searching for digital tools that help connect with families and offer translation.  Partially motivated by several great digital programs students have used for projects without a common way to share their work with families. I was fortunate enough to attend the International TESOL Convention to learn more about what other teachers are doing around the world and what I might be able to apply in my own building. These challenges inspired my quest for a better system to increase parent engagement, empower students, while still meeting performance standards.

My search led me to discovering digital portfolios.  With the intention of supporting students and increasing family engagement, the platform I am most eager to explore at this time is Seesaw.  

Digital Portfolios – Empower Students and Engage Families

My Proposal

Searching for conferences to submit proposals to was a foreign concept to me.  After looking at larger conferences, I decided to do some google searching of my own and happened upon the WAESOL (Washington Association for the Education of Speakers of Other Languages) website.  I was so excited to see that they were accepting proposals for their 2017 conference to be held this upcoming October.  My greatest challenge was the deadline to apply, in July.  I had anticipated having all summer to explore apps, compare, and learn.

The 2017 WAESOL Conference will take place in October in Des Moines, WA.  My proposal was for a Teacher Demonstration session which is 45 minutes.  Knowing the conference targets ELL teachers, I feel I have a fair understanding of the participants who attend these workshops. Also, knowing the state standards we all address, I felt I could really streamline how digital portfolios can support teachers, students, and families.

How can I encourage others to buy in to using digital portfolios?

When thinking about how to get others excited, I thought back to various workshops I attended at the TESOL convention.  How did speakers get and maintain my attention? Beyond teachers wanting to learn about the topic, I want them to understand I am like them.  I am currently teaching, at times overwhelmed feeling I can’t take on anything else, yet wanting to serve our population and advocate for the ELL families in our state.

With attendees coming from around the state, we share the same teaching standards, evaluation systems, language barriers, gaps in formal education, as well as successes and challenges.  Rather than simply digitizing portfolios, this platform allows us to record students speaking and reading which is critical in their language development.  Students can monitor their own progress as well as have some control over the work they choose to publish.  Parents will have the opportunity to become involved digitally without needing to come to the school.  

In lieu of adding to the work day, digital portfolios can create a classroom system where students become more actively involved in their published work with the awareness of an authentic audience. Attendees will be able to make connections between digital tools and what they are already doing in the classroom. How can I achieve this in just 45 minutes?

Below is a mini-version of my slide presentation.  Starting with questions to gauge the audience, I might modify the direction of the workshop.  My intent is to truly highlight strengths of Seesaw and how it aligns well to tools and standards already utilised in K-12 classrooms. Again, by addressing the standards met and how teachers can use digital portfolios as evidence of their own professional growth, it is simply modifying how teachers capture the work already taking place.

After sharing how Seesaw can work for students, teachers, and parents, attendees will have the opportunity to explore Seesaw or another platform on a personal or shared device. Attendees will log in to a mock class as a student and be asked to upload photos, record audio, and take notes.  The audio and note-taking questions will align with teacher background which in turn will give me a better understanding of the who’s in attendance. If teachers prefer another platform, I’d like to hear about it and why it works for them.

Why Seesaw?  

So Why Seesaw?  Yes, there are other great platforms out there, however at this time, I am choosing to implement and promote Seesaw.  As mentioned in previous posts, many of our ELL students come from high poverty families without internet access, consistent working phones, first generation to have formal education.  Seesaw does not require an app like some other platforms. At this time, Seesaw allows teachers to assess reading, writing, and speaking, which all ELL teachers do anyway, now they can simply store data in one location. Seesaw offers voice messaging, which most platforms do not.

For example, we’ll look at one of my students from Guatemala.  He speaks Spanish. Great! We have Spanish support in my building so easy solution is send home all information in Spanish.  However, neither of his parents had more than 4 years of school.  His mother struggles to read in Spanish and his dad works long hours.  Who will translate? His mom does however have a phone and they frequently go to a coffee shop where she can access free wi-fi to chat with family back home.  How can I utilize this knowledge to support the family?  His mother can use the QR code to access Seesaw and look up his published work while she’s at the coffee shop and leave him voice messages.  

How else can Seesaw help?  Parents can give access to other family members.  We have many students who go to outside agencies for after school tutoring.  Those agencies then contact us wanting progress reports.  To eliminate this step, we could simply give the access to Seesaw and they can log in on their own to see how the students are performing as well as give feedback.  It’s another way to show students we all work as a team to support their academic growth and language development.

How does Seesaw support teachers in the classroom?  In my limited experience (one month) Seesaw has great support for teachers using the platform.  Through frequent email updates, I’ve learned about free webinars, updates to the system, Facebook groups to join that are grade level or content specific, and have joined a new group of educators who vary in experience. This is one of the driving reasons why I feel I can recommend Seesaw to others.  I may not know the answer to a question, but I feel I now have a support network I can quickly turn to and be directed to the person who has the answer.

Resources

The Parent Institute (2012) Why is parent involvement important? Retrieved from https://www.parent-institute.com/pdf-samples/h-d-and-s-model.pdf

Park, S. S., & Holloway, S. D. (2012, November 30). No Parent Left Behind: Predicting Parental Involvement in Adolescents’ Education within a Sociodemographically Diverse Population. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1012012

Shin, D., & Seger, W. (2016, January 13). Web 2.0 Technologies and Parent Involvement of ELL Students: An Ecological Perspective. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1100691

Module 1: Blended Learning in PD

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

My reading notes are below:

Blended Learning in the Classroom

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

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

Ideas for Blended Learning in PD

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

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

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

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

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

The Role of the Librarian in Facilitating Project Based Learning Experiences

Overview Being an English teacher, I have had the chance to work closely with my school librarian over my five years of teaching.  I somewhat selfishly… As technology brings changes to the learning environment, this also alters the roles educators play in how they guide students and facilitate learning experiences.  This changing role is particularly […]

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

Collaboration and Success

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

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

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

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

Portland Maine Problem Solvers from EL Education on Vimeo.

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

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

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

Resources:

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

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

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

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

 

EDTC 6103 Module 3: Modeling Digital Age Work and Learning

For my reflection this week, I’ve been asked to look closely at ISTE Teaching Standard 3.  Unlike my previous focus of incorporating digital tools in the classroom, this standard has me searching for ways to improve communication with parents. The particular pull out students I serve all have primary languages translatable by other support staff in my building.  The challenge is knowing how best to communicate and collaborate with parents to truly help integrate them into the American education system.

Spring is an extremely busy at my school with multiple events, testing, field trips, and summer opportunities.  In a school where the majority of parents speak a language other than English at home, we provide translation in 7 languages.  Although this does not meet all the language needs of our families, it covers the majority.  Our bilingual assistants are working extra hours providing translation to families in person, over the phone, or simply transcribing information for teachers to send home.  

ISTE Standard 3 has me questioning what I can do to improve both communication and collaboration between parents and staff in my building.
  • Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation.
  • Communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital age media and formats.

Barriers

Nicole Krueger’s article “3 barriers to innovation education leaders must address” sparked my interest in looking for innovative ways to enhance communication.  She mentions barriers such as community resistance, access, and policies.  My district is definitely impacted by access and policies.  Working in SE Seattle, our public schools all have a high ELL population. We have  great families, yet they do not have to same background with the American education system and connections to openly advocate for equitable access to learning and technology.  I work with a dedicated staff who value culture, provide opportunities for parents to be involved, yet I feel it is the same parents I see at most events or volunteering in the classrooms.  Our Caucasian population are the minority in the building, yet their parents make up the majority of our PTSA. This led me to question how can we increase our parent involvement and communication when there is an obvious language barrier?

After reading a thorough article about the challenges of ELL parent involvement in Arizona, I began to categorise my reading into what we already do and what we can discuss as future implementations to increase involvement.  In their research, Arias and Morillo-Campbell, noted that 10% of the schools in the USA hold almost 70% of the K-5 ELL students.  Of those schools, similar to my building, nearly half the students receive ELL services.  This is the demographic of parents we need to truly support.

module-3-parent_22253214_f8345dfc41a0dfa6d0d23dbd4ec28da22d1d01e3

Getting To Know The Community

Having only been at my current school for less than 3 years, I still feel relatively new to the community.  With that, I am not sure what has been tried in the past, what has been successful that may have been forgotten about, and who might be able to best bridge the culture gap to promote further collaboration between parents and staff. Regardless of cultural background and education, these parents need to be understood, have their wishes for their children heard, be included in decision-making, and given multiple opportunities to integrated into our school communities.  What are we doing beyond annual conferences, newsletters, and emails to truly support these families?

Just like our students who learn in different ways, we need to provide our families with communication options, training, and support.  Knowing not all of our parents are literate in their primary languages, there are families who benefit most from face-to-face or phone communication.  Then we have the parents who are working more than one job, unable to come to school who appreciate emails or letters home.  But how do we know those parents are truly receiving all the information we send?

Tech Tools to Connect with Parents

Using an after school program as my pilot group, this week I started using Remind. Instantly I felt excited at the possibilities of having tool that keeps phone numbers private, works in a text like format, and allows me to include images with the text.  The true selling point though was reading that they support 70 languages. To further explain why I love Remind as a tool, it allows me to send a quick message to parents without all of our phone numbers appearing.  I can also change the language, create the message in advance, and receive feedback from parents.  

This week we only had 2 parents who could attend our soccer game.  I already had 5 parents join Remind.  I was able to send a reminder about the game, take a team photo to send out, and let parents know the ETA for the team returning to school. Two parents responded within minutes after I posted.  Prior to Remind, I’ve had little communication with parents other than sending letters home to sign and return.  Frequently our organisation has last minute changes to scheduling which I always regret not being able to notify families in a more timely manner.  I’m hoping that Remind can be used to overcome these challenges for at least some of the families. The photo feature is also great, as I can share photos of the games and events for those parents who are unable to attend.

In addition to using apps like Remind, Common Sense Media shared a blog titled 6 Tech Tools That Boost Teacher-Parent Communication. I love the idea of having blogs linked to our website that feature student voices in primary languages and student work for parents to connect with outside of the classroom.  These tools are great, however, many create barriers with our ELL families due to lack of internet access, non-translatable data, lack of understanding to make sense of the data, and cultural differences. Although the school could lead workshops and trainings on how to use these tools, they require additional supports in order to be successfully implemented into a high poverty school.

Non-Tech Strategies

So how can we still increase communication and collaboration without tech tools?  We need more opportunities such as focus groups to get a better understanding of the cultural understanding of our parents regarding education at school versus at home, homework, what a classroom looks like, American expectations of parent involvement, etc.  We should be encouraged to do home visits.  Without truly understanding the families we serve, how can we truly serve their children?  Schools should also find ways to participate in community meetings for various ethnic / language groups and work on collaborative strategies to break down cultural barriers.  Without leaving the school, our ELL families deserve more than one parent-teacher conference per year.  I know that if I moved to a new country right now, I would hope I could meet with my son’s teacher multiple times to ensure he is actively engaged, showing academic and social growth as well as meeting other criteria.  When schools have a large group from the same culture, we could also give leadership opportunities to families to instill some of their educational best practices into our school.

Next Steps

This standard has given me a lot to think about.  Having never visited schools in China, Vietnam or Somalia for example, I have limited understanding in how our education systems differ.  This gives me room to grow as an educator, to learn more about where our families are from and how to work together to successfully bridge the gap between school and home. My first step will be collaborating with our bilingual staff to learn more about what they’re hearing from families.  

I have several ideas I’d love to discuss with my colleagues and administration as we start planning for next year. In particular, I feel our school website definitely has room for improvement.  Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I look forward to exploring what other high poverty schools with large ELL populations have successfully implemented to integrate ELL parents as valued members of the school community.

Resources

EDTC 6103 Designing Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

This week’s assignment excited me, looking at formative assessment tools.  This year I am part of a team from my school, that is participating in a district wide training on how to strengthen formative assessments in our building.  I’ve been feeling the progress is slow, and although it’s a two year project, I feel I haven’t really gained any new insight this year.  However, with this task of looking closely at ISTE Teacher Standard 2, I felt compelled to find tools that will help my team. This led to my quest:

How can I support a grade level team with formative assessment tools?  What tools are user friendly, allow teachers to collaborate, share resources, and provide direction for reteaching?  Better yet, which of these are free?

Initially I perused several articles, and noticed 3 resources in particular that were mentioned: Kahoots, Socrative, and Plickers. Inspired by an article from Edutopia, .  The article, 5 Fantastic, Fast, Formative Assessment Tools, mentions Socrative, Kahoots, Plickers, and Zaption (which can now be replaced by EdPuzzle, another resource I’ve been wanting to test out). In the audio, Richard Byrne, a teacher from Maine, discusses strengths found in the various resources.

Another resource that had a wealth of information comes from a NWEA blogpost. This post shares 55 digital tools and apps recommended for Formative Assessments.  Again, mentioning the tools above, but also introducing GoFormative, which I’d love to try when I have access to devices again.

So how do these resources compare?  Looking closely at ISTE Standard 2.a and 2.d, I want to adapt our current practices to incorporate digital tools for assessment and help inform student learning and our teaching. I’m also looking for tools that do not require student email logins and are free to educators. 

Plickers

I’ll begin with Plickers.  Plickers stood out to me for three reasons. First,  it uses a code, in place of English words, which I think is beneficial for ELL students and anonymity in general. Second, a teacher in my building recently started using Plickers and I know I can see it in action.  And lastly, since are computers are all tied up with testing for the next 6 weeks, Plickers seems like a great non-device formative assessment tool! Plickers is great for schools who do not have easy access to devices (like my school).  With the simplicity of my cell phone, a document camera, and one computer, I can pose questions on the screen and students hold up their individual card to share their response.  My phone then scans their cards giving me instant feedback.  This is great for teachers who want a quick response. Within a minute, I can have all students answers and the ability to keep their data for later.  Students do not need to write, are not able to read their peers responses, and these responses can immediately inform teachers on where to go next.  Data is stored in reports that can be downloaded into an Excel document.  Two drawbacks are that the program only allows multiple choice or true false options and there is not a shared databank of content for teachers to pull from.

Kahoot

Moving on to Kahoot, this is a fun way to excite students about quick checks.  Similar to Plickers, it only allows multiple choice or true false options.  It also exports data into Excel in a user friendly format. Where Plickers lacks shared resources, Kahoot lets you access a large databank of resources.  In order to use Kahoot teachers will need a document camera to display the questions and multiple devices for student access.  Students input their own name which requires teacher monitoring to enable teachers to use data later on.  It gamifies formative assessment by rewarding points based on correct response and response time.  Having tested this with my students, they absolutely loved it!  This is a great tool for quick checks, review before a test, or even pre-assessment.

Go Formative

Having just touched the surface on how to use Go Formative, this tool seems to most versatile for a free platform. Teachers can upload content in a variety of ways, and also allow students to answer using multiple choice, short answer, true/false, or draw their response.  Their reports are comparable to Plickers and Kahoot.  

Wishful Thinking

The one resource I’d love to push for my grade level team however is MasteryConnect. Sadly, this program has limited free access, but has the tools I am looking for in regards to team planning, collaboration, and reteaching. Looking at the review on EdSurge, I felt this is something my school lacks and is similar to a successful tool we used at my previous school several years ago.  I also like how Socrative can be linked to MasteryConnect, but again, Socrative is not free for teachers either.

In conclusion, I feel I have several resources I’d like to take to my team and discuss how we can simplify our teaching by utilizing tools that allow instant grading and excel to compare data.  My goal is to not reinvent the wheel, but find ways to work smarter, not harder.

Resources –

Edutopia. (2014). Tech2Learn: Success Stories of Technology Integration in the Classroom. Retrieved from www.edutopia.org. (includes… https://www.edutopia.org/blog/blended-learning-working-one-ipad

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

Davis, V.(2015, January 15). 5 Fantastic, Fast, Formative Assessment Tools. Retrieved April 23, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/5-fast-formative-assessment-tools-vicki-davis

Take Three! 55 Digital Tools and Apps for Formative Assessment Success. (2016, June 07). Retrieved April 23, 2017, from https://www.nwea.org/blog/2016/take-three-55-digital-tools-and-apps-for-formative-assessment-success/

Zdonek, P. (2016, September 26). Putting the FORM in Formative Assessment. Retrieved April 23, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/putting-form-in-formative-assessment-pauline-zdonek

MasteryConnect (Product Reviews on EdSurge). (n.d.). Retrieved April 23, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/product-reviews/masteryconnect

EDTC6016 Module 4 Resolution: Building Relationships Between Educators and Administrators on a Foundation of Trust

Overview

What does a successful marriage, a first-time skydiver, and a educator/administrator relationship have in common?  They all rely on a foundation of trust. A marriage between a couple who lack trust in one another will likely end in divorce.  A skydiver who lacks trust in their instructor or equipment may plunge to their death.  An educator who lacks trust in their administrator or an administrator who lacks trust in their educators may drastically limit the opportunities for growth for themselves as well as their students.  While this third scenario may not be as immediately consequential, the long term effects make for an environment with little respect, learning, and integrity.

My master’s cohort has spent the last several weeks looking in depth at ISTE standard #4 for coaches, outlined below.

ISTE Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation – Performance Indicator B

Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.

After all I’ve studied on this standard, I felt a bit “burnt out” when I originally read this week’s triggering question:

“What role should administrators play in professional learning programs and how do we advocate for their involvement and adequate professional learning support for technology-based learning initiatives?”  

I immediately thought of the necessity to differentiate professional development, but I’d covered that in a previous reflection. I then thought of the value of teacher voice and formative assessment but I’d done that too.  Luckily, my professional learning circle helped steer me towards a realization—most of my research and reflection has been based on how to plan and deliver great professional development.  What I had neglected to look at was the groundwork administrators and educators must lay to create an environment for powerful professional learning opportunities.  This led me to look at the necessity of building trust between administrators and educators as I studied the question:

Before teachers and administrators can collaborate together on professional and technology-based learning they must establish a relationship of trust.  How can they build this trust and what might stand in their way?

Characteristics of Trust

In her Edutopia article “When Teachers and Administrators Collaborate” Anne O’Brien, deputy director of Learning First Alliance explains that “trust alone does not guarantee success, [but] schools with little or no trust have almost no chance of improving” (O’Brien, 2014). So how do we build trust?  To begin, we must understand what combined characteristics create trust…

How do Educators and Administrators Build Trust?

Future Questions

  • What elements, aside from trust, are necessary as part of building a framework for effective professional development?
  • Gordon, J. (n.d.). 11 Ways to Build Trust. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.jongordon.com/positive-tip-buiild-trust.html

Resources

Alrubail, R. (2015, March 19) Administrators, Empower Your Teachers. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/administrators-empower-your-teachers 

Brewster, C., & Railsback, J. (2003, September). Building Trusting Relationships for School Improvement: Implications for Principals and Teachers. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://educationnorthwest.org/sites/default/files/trust.pdf

Gordon, J. (n.d.). 11 Ways to Build Trust. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.jongordon.com/positive-tip-buiild-trust.html

OBrien, A. (2014, November 20). When Teachers and Administrators Collaborate. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/when-teachers-and-administrators-collaborate-anne-obrien

EDTC 6106 Module 4: What Makes Effective Leadership?

This week, I chose to focus on the question, What are the elements of effective collaborative leadership regarding technology?  While researching this, I quickly came to understand that the question applies to both business and education.  A number of sources, in both genres, referenced a technology committee as a common element in establishing and maintaining collaborative leadership.  

Horvat (2015) states in a business article, “When members from different roles and backgrounds come together to discuss priorities and make decisions, your firm benefits from more informed and sustainable decision making. In short, your firm will be more successful.”  Brooks (2012) also highlights this in an education article, “technology projects which have been most successful, are those which have been endorsed and driven by an institutional Technology Committee.” The articles go on to share important considerations regarding the committee.  I have combined these findings into reflection questions.  See Figure 1.  As you look at Figure 1, how does the Technology Committee in your district compare?

Figure 1

In my mind, those last two questions are particularly critical.  According to Hovat, one common mistake made by a committee is coming up with a plan and not communicating the plan or progress made on the plan to others.  In this day and age, I can see many avenues for doing that – webpage, social media, email, and physical announcements.  However, there is not much worth sharing if there is not a clear collaborative vision to the work.  The National Education Plan (2016) states, “The vision begins with a discussion of how and why a community wants to transform learning.  Education leaders need personal experience with learning technologies, an understanding of how to deploy these resources effectively, and a community-wide vision for how technology can improve learning.”

Does your district have a vision statement specific to technology integration? In my district, it is called the e-Promise.  It was penned collaboratively by our Technology Committee last spring and into this fall.  See figure 2.  

Figure 2

Having a vision in place is one step toward fulfilling ISTE Coaching Standard 4b: Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.  In fact, The National Education Plan (2016) warns against, “Leaders who believe they can delegate the articulation of a vision for how technology can support their learning goals to a chief information officer or chief technology officer.” The report states that those who do, “fundamentally misunderstand how technology can impact learning.” Those are some harsh words towards those that choose to not collaborate.  

In closing, Brooks makes one more great point that I want to highlight.  He says,  “Flexibility and a willingness to work are the key factors for membership on a given technology committee.”  How are the members best identified or selected?   This is something I will continue to reflect on and I hope you do too.

Sources:

Brooks. K. (2012). What Makes an Effective Technology Committee in Education (v.2). Retrieved from http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2012/06/20/what-makes-an-effective-technology-committee-in-education-v-2/#

Horvat, L. (2015). How to Create an Effective Technology Committee.  Retrieved from https://accellis.com/how-to-create-an-effective-technology-committee/

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

Office of Educational Technology. (2016).  National education technology plan.  Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/files/2015/12/NETP16.pdf

Images:

Visualpun.ch. (2011). Collaboration. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/9zsb65

Module 3 Resolution: Collaborative Learning Strategies for Professional Development

Overview

After many conversations with educators and administrators, collaborations with my digital education leadership master’s cohort, a few months of pouring over professional development research, and reflections on my own experiences I can confidently say that most educator professional development opportunities are lacking in one way or another.  A few repeated sentiments include: most PD is just not relevant to my classroom, or, I know it’s going to be a waste of my time, or, it’s just filled with a bunch of top-down jargon, how is it best for students?  This makes me sad.  Professional development should be an opportunity to observe, reflect on, and apply best practices in teaching. Educators should leave a PD session empowered, not deflated. So, how can we make professional development more inspiring and engaging?

To answer this, I began by taking a deeper look at a few of the common issues with professional development.  I also looked at ISTE coach standard four indicator “B” which states that coaches must, “Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment” (2016).  

After understanding some of the the issues and standards, I had a framework to begin unpacking my triggering question on this topic: What collaborative learning strategies help create effective professional development opportunities?

What’s the Problem?

Collaborative Learning Strategies for Professional Development

In exploring great teaching strategies I relied a bit on my own experiences and a lot on two excellent resources: The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies from the blog Cult of Pedagogy and PBS’s Teaching Strategies Resources menu. I sifted through these resources and choose ones that most closely addressed the issues outlined above.  I made an effort to limit the number of strategies that I shared to a few that I have tried personally, as a teacher or as a learner.  With that said, I highly recommend checking out these two sites and seeing what more they have to offer!

Resources

Bishop, D., Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R., & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State: Project Evaluation Report. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf

Gonzalez, J. (2015, October 15). The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/speaking-listening-techniques/

Moersch, C. (2011). Digital Age Best Practices: Teaching and Learning Refocused. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from http://digitalis.nwp.org/sites/default/files/files/94/Digital%20Age%20Best%20Practices.pdf

PBS Learning Media (n.d.). Teaching Strategies: Resources for Adult Educators. Retrieved February 9, 2017, from http://kcts9.pbslearningmedia.org/collection/ketae/