Category Archives: Collaboration

Planning for Success with Digital Collaboration

Even before the availability of technology in the classroom, group projects have gotten a bad rap. Students worry that the work will not be shared equally or that other’s actions (or inaction) will impact their grade. Teachers likewise want to ensure that collaboration results in all students accessing the content.

The benefit of using technology to facilitate collaboration is that students’ actions can be easily quantified and qualified. Features like the Revision History within Google Apps will reveal each student’s contribution to an assignment in color-coded format. Posts on a discussion board or LMS platform also make a student’s level of participation apparent. However, what can teachers do to eliminate the need for this “got you” approach and instead be proactive about ensuring the success of digital collaboration?

Carefully and intentionally structuring courses and projects is one way that teachers can ensure students have meaningful digital collaborations, thereby satisfying ISTE Coaching Standard 3a, “Model effective…collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology-rich learning environments” (Iste.org, 2017).

The Argument for Collaboration

Though it may seem like planning for collaboration is more involved than traditional assignments, the benefits are overwhelming. Dr. Patty Shank makes the following argument for collaboration in the higher education classroom: “[S]ocial interaction can positively influence learning, motivation, and problem-solving, and can help learners gain needed support and overcome frustration” (n.d.). I put together the following infographic to highlight Shank’s rationale for incorporating collaborative learning.

Planning for Collaboration

One of my favorite sayings is ‘failing to plan results in planning to fail.’ The element of planning is vital to the success of collaboration. According to Shank, “It takes preparation and practice to design and implement good collaborative activities, and learners need preparation and practice to get the most from them” (n.d.). For guidance in what this planning might look like, I turned to an article written by Jan Engle, a coordinator of instruction development at Governors State University.

Build Collaboration into the Course

Engle suggests making your expectations regarding collaboration clear from the beginning.  In order to ensure that the responsibility for learning is shared by all students in a group, Engle makes participation in group work a grade requirement. Not adequately participating in group work results in an automatic single grade-level reduction (ie- A to B). Engle does this “because really bad group experiences and failure to participate in the online environment just decimate the sense of community we’ve worked so hard to develop up to that point” (n.d.).  

Initially Focus on Process over Product

Even adult learners may enter the classroom unprepared for successful collaboration. Instead of making assumptions about what students can or can’t accomplish as a group, Engle suggests explicitly teaching collaboration. Depending on the age group, this might involve giving students the language to disagree. When I taught English Language Learners, we used the Kate Kinsella framework to provide students with sentence frames. More advanced learners might just need guidance in developing group norms.

Engle (n.d.) asks her groups to collaboratively discuss and then respond to the following questions:

  • How are you going to divide the project so that each team member has a part?
  • Who is going to be responsible for each part?
  • How are you going to communicate during the project?
  • How will members submit their work to the group?
  • What is the deadline for the submissions of individual pieces?
  • Who is going to be responsible for putting the pieces together into one paper [or presentation]?
  • How are you going to handle final proofing?
  • What will you do it somebody does not do his or her part or does not meet deadlines?
  • How are you going to go about answering questions that group members might have about the project?

Scaffold Up to Larger Projects

Beginning the collaboration process with a low-stakes project is a great way to test out the group dynamics and work through conflict. Early in a course, Engle assigns a group project that is “relatively easy and fun in order to emphasize group processes” (n.d.). Once students have the concept down, Engle then moves on to larger collaborative projects. One example of an introductory collaborative activity is an information scavenger hunt designed to introduce students to the basic concepts of research. Engle chose this task because it was easy for students to divide the tasks, was not worth many points, and wouldn’t create much room for conflict since the answers were all either right or wrong.

Engle also suggests introducing smaller collaborative components ahead of time in order to scaffold up to the larger assessment. This might include sharing responses with a partner who is then required to report them out to the class. Or you might include Jigsaw learning where each group is responsible for reporting on a particular text or concept.

Multiple Modes of Monitoring

Peer Evaluation: While students are welcome to contact Engle at any point in time with concerns, they also have a say in their fellow teammates’ final grade. Collaborative project grades are based partly on end result and partly on peer evaluation. That peer evaluation is based on a rubric that all students review. I really appreciate the addition of a rubric component into the peer feedback process because it helps students to make quantitative evaluations and not judge based on personal chemistry or connection. An additional step that I would take is having students justify each line item response on the rubric.

Teacher Observation: Whether students are collaborating on a Google Slide, discussion board, or Wiki page, Engle requires students to give her access throughout the process. One mistake that many teachers make is being involved in the initial explanation of the assignment and then checking out until the final product is returned. By being involved every step of the way, you can head off potential inequities and disagreements. Even with this oversight, it is important to encourage a productive struggle before stepping in. Instead of simply solving the problem for students, consider how you might facilitate a resolution.

Self-Assessment: Though not mentioned by Engle as a monitoring strategy, I believe self-assessment to be a valuable tool in helping students ensure they are collaborating successfully. I have found that students are typically harder on themselves than peers (and sometimes even the teacher). Like peer evaluation, self-assessments can be based on a given rubric. In addition to the rubric reflection, I have also had success with asking students to explicitly share the contribution they made to their group on a particular day.

Conclusion

Just as it is essential to teach students rules and routines at the beginning of the school year, it is also essential to explicitly plan for and teach collaboration. The time investment made up front will pay off when learners are able to fairly and successfully participate in the online learning environment.

Sources:

Engle, J. How to Promote Collaborative Active Online Learning . Student Collaboration In The Online Classroom, 11-12. Retrieved from http://www.hartnell.edu/sites/default/files/u285/student-collaboration-in-the-online-classroom.pdf

Iste.org. (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches [Accessed 19 Jul. 2018].

Shank, P. Considering Collaboration. Student Collaboration In The Online Classroom, 12-13. Retrieved from http://www.hartnell.edu/sites/default/files/u285/student-collaboration-in-the-online-classroom.pdf

Individual Project Lesson: Modeling and Understanding Chemical Reactions in Middle School Science

This year, our middle school has taken part in an amazing opportunity to pilot a new, web-based science curriculum that incorporates digital simulations and hands-on learning experiences in an immersive learning environment. As a school, we are teaching the curriculum with as much fidelity as possible in order to be able to provide useful feedback to teachers around the district and to the curriculum developers.

In my Individual Project lesson, I stuck close to the original plan in our curriculum, with the exception of two technology additions: 1.) an online collaborative element using Nearpod and 2.) a feedback poll asking students to reflect on the modeling tools used throughout the unit.

The lesson is part of a unit about chemical reactions in which students experience chemical reactions in the context of a fictional town where people discover an unknown substance in their water, and through three different methods: 1.) an online simulation of a laboratory where students can choose chemicals from a stockroom to virtually mix together and then watch animated groups of atoms interact with each other, 2.) a traditional, hands-on chemical reaction demonstration in class and 3.) rearranging color tokens to represent groups of atoms in chemical reactions.

Wiggins and McTighe (2005) present six facets of understanding, in which students who understand 1.) can explain, 2.) can interpret, 3.) can apply, 4.) have perspective, 5.) can empathize and 6.) have self-knowledge.

The chemical reactions unit offers students plenty of opportunities to explain what they understand, but usually only with one partner or directly with the teacher in written form. Nearpod’s “Collaborate” feature allowed our students to explain chemical reactions to each other in a low-pressure, social format. The students were presented with a question and a virtual board on which to post their answers. This also allowed my students to practice responsible digital citizenship skills while posting something that would be made immediately visible to everyone in the class.

Screenshot from Nearpod.com‘s collaborate feature.

Two aspects of this collaborative activity proved to encourage student engagement and participation. First, students can see each other’s responses as they come in, and can see how I respond to those posts in real time. Peer responses offer a helpful scaffold for students who need help getting started. Secondly, students can give each other “likes” in the form of small heart icons under each post, which brings a fun and positive social aspect to the activity.

In order to provide students an opportunity to show metacognitive awareness, or self-knowledge, I asked them a survey question using Nearpod’s polling feature. I wondered out of the three forms of modeling and demonstrating chemical reactions, which activity helped students the most in understanding how chemical reactions work. I posed the question to two class groups and received surprisingly balanced results:

Nearpod poll for Group 1 (top) and Group 2 (bottom).

While Group 2 showed a preference for the online simulation as the most helpful activity, there was a solid balance between the three activities overall, which shows that our efforts to differentiate instruction modalities are not in vain. Students were receptive and aware of the pros and cons of the different activities they participated in.

In general, the fictional scenario of the town with polluted water keeps students engaged, but I think that making a connection to students’ own communities and even giving them a chance to test their own water or interact with water utility or water treatment officials would help students develop a broader perspective and to develop further empathy. If I could do this project again, I would focus on ways to use the fictional scenario presented in the unit as a springboard to engage students with own community around the topics of chemistry and water resources.


References

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005) Understanding by design: Expanded 2nd edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.

EDTC 6106 Module 5: Extending Tech PD Beyond Educators to Support Wider School Community

As I reflect on this quarter of my Masters in Digital Education Leadership, I feel I’ve truly come to question more behind the scenes operations of Professional Development in my district and become more inquisitive to answer questions not only for myself, but also for colleagues and our school community.  For my final blogpost this quarter, I again look at 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”

This quarter has led me to consider not only how I can contribute to creating more meaningful PD for educators, but has led me to question how to improve collaboration with our community as well.

How do we move beyond school-based PD to engage local stakeholders and increase on-going opportunities to explore tech tools as a school-wide community?

What can we do?

As mentioned in my previous post, admin can create a tech team within the school.  This team may begin with the educators who actively use tech, but then should also include other interested stakeholders such as volunteers, parents, and community members (could be from tutoring or after school programs).  This also involves assessing what software is being paid for by the district and which licenses are being funded through the school budget. By having the tech team assess which software is being used, by whom, and the frequency, they can help administration make budgeting decisions for the upcoming school year and reassess future tech needs, PD for teachers, and support for families.

Collaborating with Parents and Community

Once schools have a clear picture of which teachers are using specific educational programs, the time comes to invite parents and community members to learn about how they can further support their children.  Creating a collaborative partnership with other stakeholders who work with our children not only reinforces the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”, but it also provides multiple opportunities for discussion.

Recognising the importance of collaboration in my own building, after recently hosting an event for ELL parents on technology, our initial focus was sharing how to log in to free district resources as well as academic programs teachers are wanting students to use at home.  With 17 parents attending our first session, they all had questions. With three staff members available for translation, we provided each family with a laptop, pulled their children in to show their parents what they know, and provided handouts on how to access resources again from home.  None of these parents had accessed the free district resources before, nor did they know some could be translated into their primary language. Having parents practice logging in with staff support was critical. In addition, a member from an after school tutoring program (outside of district) also attended.  She was ecstatic to learn which reading programs were available online for our students to use after school and wanted to also learn which resources she could recommend to families in our district.

Understanding that teachers may only meet with parents once or twice a year, but many of our families receive outside services, there’s work to be done to increase our partnerships to support student learning.  Recently I attended a conference with parents where we questioned if the student’s lack of oral expression is due to comprehension or language acquisition, we had a team of six people all wanting to see this young girl succeed.  In attendance were her parents (non-English speaking, but literate in Spanish), her tutor from an after school program who works as a liaison with many of our Spanish speaking families, a bilingual assistant from our building, her classroom teacher and myself. I came prepared with resources in Spanish that the parents could use at home to reinforce the reading questions we ask at school as well as made sure they know how to have their children log in to a reading program when away from school.  I quickly became aware that I need to work on collaboration when both the tutor and our bilingual assistant asked for copies of the resources and log in information to share with our other Spanish speaking families.  After our meeting, they both expressed how much it helped watching me model how to log in and how to use questioning at home.  It was a great reminder that simply sending resources home is not enough.

One strategy that is gaining momentum with Tech PD is micro-credentialing.   As districts use badging to encourage educators to take on more personalized learning, this provides another opportunity to review what tech is being used, it’s relevance, and how to share it’s value with stakeholders. Micro-credentialing also works as evidence for evaluations, which many educators are striving to identify each year. This is where administrators can also remind staff about family engagement and support.

How to Engage Stakeholders

In Saomya Saxena’s post, How to Involve Various Educational Stakeholders in Education Improvement, she refers to a 2008 policy brief released by National Education Association (NEA).  These recommendations really rang true for me as reminders of what we need to do beyond staff collaboration and PD.

 What’s Next…

Looking ahead to next year, I see several ways that the partnerships in my school can be enhanced in order to better align how we are serving our students.  I feel fortunate to work in a community that truly values diversity and that we have so many bilingual support staff available to translate.  After looking at a software analysis this Spring and what tech support our ELL families expressed wanting to learn, I feel my building is moving forward to meet more of the recommendations listed above.

Resources

Saxena, S. (2014, January 29). How to Involve Various Educational Stakeholders in Education Improvement? Retrieved March 10, 2018, from http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/insights/894-how-to-involve-various-educational-stakeholders-in-education-improvement

Snyder, J. (2018, March 09). Software Asset Management Helps IT Pros Get the Most from Their Software Licenses. Retrieved March 11, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2018/03/software-asset-management-helps-it-pros-get-most-their-software-licenses

“3 Steps to Revamping K–12 Professional Development” (2017, December 01). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/12/3-steps-revamping-k-12-professional-development

Van Roekel, D. (2008). Parent, Family, Community Involvement in Education. NEA Education Policy and Practice Department. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/PB11_ParentInvolvement08.pdf

Administrators Role In Tech Integration

This quarter in my Masters in Digital Education program, I’ve truly begun to question decision making behind the scenes and how those decisions are both shared and acted upon by district staff.  Continuing to look to ISTE Standards around Professional Development and Program Evaluation, I further wanted to explore how administrators advocated for technology needs in their building and create opportunities for all staff to actively participate in Tech PD.

A recent study conducted by SAM Labs surveyed 250 teachers in the United States and concluded that 78% felt they lacked adequate training needed to meet the demands of technology in their classrooms effectively (Bolkan, 2017). Of those surveyed, 82% felt classroom technology helps prepare students for future careers.  However, only 37% surveyed claimed to learn how to use technology during their free time.  This means that 63% of the teachers surveyed rely on Professional Development opportunities and coaching to explore how to effectively implement new technology in their classroom.

Administration Retention

A study shared by The School Leaders Network, found that principal retention is a national concern.  Their 2014 survey found that 1 out of 4 administrators leave their schools each year (Cohen & Pearson, 2018).  In addition, 50% of new principals quit during their third year.  With these trends, it’s easy to see how teachers are left waiting for strong leadership, or someone to advocate for what their building needs.

Not wanting to get too much into why this is an issue, I would like to add that our nation’s largest district, in New York City, has taken action to better support administrators.  Starting in 2014, they created a program that makes leaders out of veteran principals who take a year leave from their building to serve as a coach for other new administrators in their district. Each coach provides 8 hours of support per new administrator each month. This strategy not only offers support to the new administrators but allows the veterans to experience what is happening in other buildings as well.  In their first year of the program, they were able to raise retention of third year administrators to 75% returning for the fourth year ((Cohen & Pearson, 2018).

Again, this scenario of coaching administrators, is not necessarily happening nationwide.  Therefore it is important to understand that many districts still have high turnover, or frequent shifting of administrators from one building to the next.  This creates barriers for teachers feeling supported with new curriculum, tech integration, and the sense that someone is advocating on their behalf.

What can administrators do to better support their staff’s needs?

Given the data from NYC, administrators who feel supported are more likely to remain on the job.  Districts need to provide professional development opportunities for administrators in order for them to become or remain effective leaders. Administrators need to understand how to empower their staff to take risks and explore new ways of thinking and teaching.  Eric Patnoudes, a former teacher and instructional technologist, states that districts must have a unified vision for technology use that is explicitly shared with administrators and educators.  In his post Professional Development Isn’t Just for Teachers, he raises three questions for administrators:

  1. Are teachers required to integrate technology during classroom observations/evaluations?
  2. When we say “paperless classroom”, what is the actual goal?
  3. How should a district define student engagement, and can it be observed?

(Patnoudes, 2016)

Now assuming districts are offering Tech PD to administrators, how can they further support their staff? Edtech Magazine shared 6 Strategies to Help Principals Become Technology Leaders. Although this article was published more than a decade ago, the data above indicates we need administrators to offer more Tech support to staff.

Six great tips towards a shared vision of tech integration:

  1. Establish the Team – principal identifies teachers who are pro-tech and creates a tech leadership team to serve the school
  2. Assess Facility’s Needs –  Create a needs assessment for the school to guide the direction of the tech leadership team for Professional Development (working on this through a needs assessment right now with Instructional Assistants in my building.)
  3. Model Tech Use and Practices Principals can use PD sessions to model technology use (the article recommends admin model effective tech use on a daily basis)
  4. Recognise Effective I.T. Use Reminder that technology use should enhance student learning and is simply a tool.  Tech integration needs to connect to the student learning outcomes and be seen as a way for students to express their understanding in a way that would not be possible without the tool.
  5. Encouraging Excellence Admin should encourage tech use and promote best practices through having teachers share lesson ideas or create a video of what they’re doing. Some schools offer other incentives for best practices as well.
  6. Provide Support and Training Admin need to ensure staff feel fully supported with tech changes being placed on them.  Training needs to be on-going and provide multiple opportunities for staff to feel technology is effectively working for them, not just adding to their work day.

Looking Ahead

Administrators have such an important role in the climate of the school. For staff to take chances and be motivated to try new technology, they need to feel supported by admin.  In turn, admin need to feel supported by their district.  The stakeholders, whose tax dollars often fund technology, need to be part of the vision of the future.  Most importantly decisions need to be made in the best interest of the the student learners, how will technology enhance/support their learning in a new way.

When districts support administrators with opportunities to learn from each other, they can in turn model technology use for their staff and share the district’s vision for tech integration.  If needs are not being met, it requires administrators to speak up and advocate for change, to seek out alternatives that may better suit their student population. Too often technology is introduced through an email or one day PD session.  As PD becomes more personalized, staff need to feel their administrators are approachable and available for further training and support.  We know technology is not leaving the classroom any time soon.  It’s time for districts to be transparent with their vision of technology and encourage more collaboration around effective integration and support.

Resources

Bolkan, J. (2017, October 26). Most Teachers Say Classroom Tech Helps Students, but Teachers Need More Training. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/10/26/most-teachers-say-classroom-tech-helps-students-but-teachers-need-more-training.aspx

Camera, L. (2017, December 20). Educators: We Need More From Education Technology … Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://www.usnews.com/news/education-news/articles/2017-12-20/educators-we-need-more-from-education-technology

Cohen, E. D., & Pearson, M. (2018, February 19). Heeding the voice of school experience. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://www.districtadministration.com/article/heeding-voice-school-experience

Morrison B. (2006, October 31). 6 Strategies to Help Principals Become Technology Leaders. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2006/10/6-strategies-help-principals-become-technology-leaders

Patnoudes, E. (2016, July 07). Professional Development Isn’t Just for Teachers. Retrieved January 14, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2016/07/professional-development-isn-t-just-teachers

Starr, L. (2009, September 23). The Administrator’s Role in Technology Integration. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech087.shtml

Social Media PD for a 21st Century Classroom

EDTC 6106 Module 3

Promoting Responsible Social Media Use

I remember 11 years ago getting a panicked phone call from a friend, asking for legal advice regarding something that happened while substitute teaching.  We both subbed in the same small district, and I was familiar with the schools, staff, etc.  She had been falsely accused of using the computer inappropriately in class and middle school students chose to fabricate a story as revenge for her sending two of their friends to the office the day before.  Due to my friend using the internet to check Facebook, which was against district policy, she was found guilty and sent home while a full investigation was underway (the accusations were a lot more severe, but she was cleared of those allegations).  Her experience led me to be a lot more cautious and aware of my actions and ended up taking her to law school.

The reason this memory comes to mind, connects with my quest to find out how districts can promote responsible social media use and support teachers with ongoing professional development. Recently I’ve been searching for guidelines and policies for staff regarding digital citizenship and social media use.  While continuing to look at  ISTE Coaching Standard 4b and best practices, I feel many PDs still fall short of supporting teacher growth and development as they focus on curriculum and student data rather than tools that support student growth and personalized learning for teachers.

Social Media Guidelines

Acceptable/responsible use policies for students using the district’s internet seems to be common place and easily found on school district websites.  However, the same policies do not seem to be publicly displayed for district employees.  For example, I can’t find anything for my district and only vaguely recall learning through word of mouth last year that Facebook was no longer blocked on school computers.  The lack of transparency in my own district may be linked to our lack of devices district-wide.  While searching other large districts where I’ve worked previously, there staff guidelines were easy to locate and help take away any question about what acceptable use looks like for teachers.

One resource I found helpful comes from New Zealand, Guideline on Ethical Use of Social Media. Looking at this resource from a PD option, I see the one page as a tool that’s user-friendly, allows collaborative discussion to occur, and serves as a starting point when discussing social media use with staff. The four categories they ask teachers to consider are their commitment to students, society, families, and the teaching profession.

How to Make Social Media Work For You

Once guidelines have been established around Social Media Use, it’s important to offer personalized learning for teachers around the app/program they are using to support students and families. This is where time to collaborate and ongoing PD are critical to successful implementation.

If school districts want to use social media and technology to promote collaboration and sharing of ideas, then time needs to be built in throughout the year for teachers to continue exploring, sharing, creating, and becoming independent users of these programs.

Referring back to my previous posts this winter on Motivational Factors and Barriers as well as The Role of Technology in PD, I continue to discover evidence of successful integration from schools/districts that offer ongoing PD at a central location that is led by educators who for in the district. In addition, teacher’s time is recognized somehow whether it be extra pay, badges, credits, clock hours, certification.  Similar to districts in previous posts, Carson City School District in Nevada, identified a need to support tech integration when they began to transition to a 1:1 district for grades 3-12.

How does this support personalised PD? Carson City School District allocate 4 hours on Wednesdays to optional PD at their Professional Development Center, referring to this time as Technology Café. I like their acronym CAFÉ, because it aligns with the best practices in Dr. Lisa Kolb’s Triple E Framework.

What does this look like? Teachers can choose how long they visit the Café, who they collaborate with, what lessons or resources they need, and seek advice from colleagues as well as tech specialists. Having a weekly common meeting place that provides snacks and caffeine as well as teacher driven PD, allows teachers to explore ideas or programs they may have considered yet not yet approached due to lack of how they align with district goals and policies.  Personally, when I read this, I was immediately filled with envy thinking about how awesome that would be! The district found this PD strategy effective with an average of 24 teachers attending each week when this article was published in 2015.

In Monica Fuglei’s post Social Media in Education: Benefits, Drawbacks and Things to Avoid, she breaks down why teachers should consider using social media professionally, not just personally.  We know that social media is not a fad likely to fade any time soon.  Students enter our rooms familiar with apps either they use personally, or they have seen in action. If teachers are not ready to use apps/networks such as Twitter or Edmodo yet with students, there is still so much to be gained by joining groups of professionals online to share resources, ideas, and network. 

Social Media Profiles and Communication

With so many educational apps being introduced all the time, it can be daunting for teachers to know where to begin and what is allowed in their district.  Each district has their own rules, but each district should also have tech specialist who are available to answer questions for educators.  When it comes to using social media to connect with others, there has been a heavy emphasis on professionalism, privacy settings, and district policies.  If a teacher is looking for another way to connect, online blogs offer a great way to share information with families and many now have private messaging options for parents and teachers.  I bring this up as an alternative to teachers friending parents/students on apps such as Facebook.  

Putting My Own Words Into Action

Presently, I’m using Seesaw with my students and love the way parents can see and comment on their child’s work, bonus is that they can do it in any language.  This helps show students that what they post is viewed by others and helps raise the bar for how they choose to submit posts.  In addition, I have moderation power, and choose to read each post/comment before approving to our class page. This year I’ve been learning with my students how Seesaw works, and I’ve been overall impressed with the thoughtful comments they leave on their peers work. As educators, we need to continuously look at how we can modernize our teaching to help prepare our students for future learning goals.  Using social media or apps for communication allows teachable moments in digital citizenship that can help our students as 21st century learners.

Without joining Seesaw Facebook groups, webinars, and following on Twitter or Instagram, I wouldn’t feel nearly as confident using the app, let alone modeling how it works for other teachers. Within my own building, my hope is that several of the teachers who’ve shown interest in Seesaw will actively use the program next year. I realise however, for this to work, we need time to collaborate, for them to see it in action with students, and more than a one time PD session. So how can I take this to the next level? Networking!  Using my social media contacts, I am confident I can ask for support on how other schools have introduced Seesaw in schools with similar demographics and limited devices. Through social media contacts outside of my district, I can learn from others and hopefully implement a PD session in August for a new PLC group next year that are interested in using digital portfolios to monitor student growth.

References

Morris, L. (2015, February 27). Turn tech PD into a casual trip to the CAFE with this new model. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from https://www.eschoolnews.com/2015/02/27/cafe-pd-model-531/

Davis, M. (2013, February 26). Social Media for Teachers: Guides, Resources, and Ideas. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/social-media-resources-educators-matt-davis

Fuglei, M. (2017, November 13). Dos and Don’ts for Using Social Media as a Teacher. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from https://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/leaders-link/educational-social-media-use/

Higgin, T. (2017, November 30). How to Craft Useful, Student-Centered Social Media Policies. Retrieved February 17, 2018, from https://www.commonsense.org/education/blog/how-to-craft-useful-student-centered-social-media-policies?utm_source=Edu_Newsletter_2018_02_13&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly

Knowledge construction in the technology-enhance science classroom with Nearpod

In today’s science classroom, students and teachers have access to more knowledge construction tools than ever before. How can teachers leverage tools to support science students in their process of knowledge construction? Nearpod is one tech tool that covers a lot of bases and is worth a shot for teachers in technology-enhanced classrooms who are looking to do more than the traditional slideshow.

Kim et al. (2007) make three assertions about how tools support knowledge construction (p. 1013-1015) that prove useful as a three-part guide to determine the usefulness of a technology tool, and, when used thoughtfully, a tool like Nearpod can do all three (See Fig. 1).Fig. 1 Kim et al.’s three assertions about technology tools.

Like a traditional slideshow, Nearpod allows teachers to present slides in a sequence. Unlike a traditional slideshow, Nearpod decentralizes the lesson by presenting “Live lessons” on the screen of each student device, allows teachers to add a wide range of multimedia slides including, video, audio and web content, and, perhaps most importantly, allows for student interaction and collaboration with activities such as open-ended questions, polls, quizzes, “draw it” slides and a new “collaborate” feature. When the teacher is ready to hand over the reins to students, “student-paced” lessons allow individuals or partner pairs to move through a lesson at their own speed.

Engagement is part of Kim et al.’s first assertion around supporting mindful investigation, and Nearpod lessons can engage students through multiple means of representation (See Fig. 2) and expression (See Fig. 3). The wide range of media types and means by which students can share their knowledge increases entry points for learners. Kim et al. argue that, students can make use of the tool in order to identify meaningful driving questions, explore resources and generate solutions (p. 1013). With Nearpod, teachers can cast a wider net of engagement and provide a wider variety of resources and tools with which students may construct and demonstrate their knowledge.

Fig. 2 Nearpod’s “Add Content” menu includes many options to engage learners (e.g., slides, 3D experiences, simulations, videos, virtual reality field trips and more). Screenshot from https://nearpod.com

 Fig. 3 Nearpod’s “Add Activity” menu includes a variety of ways for students to demonstrate their learning (e.g., open-ended questions, polls, quizzes, Draw Its, a new collaboration feature and more). Screenshot from https://nearpod.com

As with any classroom tool, part of the scaffolding is provided through the appropriate sequencing of tasks. One feature of Nearpod that enhances a teacher’s ability to support students with scaffolding allows teachers to add supporting media assets to each slide or activity, including images, video, PDFs or web content (See Fig. 4). In student-paced mode, this feature would allow students to review supporting media if they needed more guidance with a task, and then move on when they were ready.

Fig. 4 Teachers can supporting media to each slide or activity in Nearpod. Screenshot from https://nearpod.com

Teachers may choose to add metacognitive checks throughout the lesson, as open ended questions or polls. We can ask learners to support their claims with evidence, how they arrived at their claim, if they changed their minds during the process and why. With all of the new features Nearpod brings, the basic slideshow format still allows teachers a good amount of control and structure to build in checks like these so we don’t forget in the course of a lesson or unit.

Live, in-class collaboration is facilitated with Nearpod’s collaborate feature (See Fig. 5). Students can post text and images to a discussion board in response to a prompt. Teachers have the option to approve each post before it is published. Once each student’s contribution is posted to the board, classmates may support and promote each other’s ideas by “liking” them. A counter on the bottom of each post keeps track of likes. This is a quick and engaging way to field ideas from the class or brainstorm together to solve a problem.

Fig. 5 Teacher editing view of Nearpod’s collaborate feature. Screenshot from https://nearpod.com

All things considered, Nearpod is a technology tool that shows much promise toward supporting mindful investigation, scaffolding metacognition and facilitating collaboration. A concern I have is the time it would take for a teacher to create engaging Nearpod lessons on their own, despite its user-friendly interface. I would suggest that teachers new to Nearpod take a look around their extensive library of free and paid lessons that are already built, so that they might start by adapting existing lessons rather than starting from scratch.


Resources

Kim, M. C., Hannafin, M. J., & Bryan, L. A. (2007). Technology-enhanced inquiry tools in science education: An emerging pedagogical framework for classroom practice. Science Education, 1010-1030. doi:10.1002/sce

EDTC 6106: What Role Should Technology Play in Professional Development?

Starting a new course for my Masters in Digital Education Leadership program has me looking at Professional Development through the lense of ISTE Coaching Standard 4b. Having previously looked into how to increase participation in Tech PD, I’m now considering factors that promote best practices for designing and implementing PD based on clear evidence. This leads to my inquiry, how can districts design effective personalized professional development that incorporates educational technology?

For the past decade, my only teaching experience has been in my current district, which is large and spread out. Understanding that PD varies from district to district, I’ve really begun questioning what teachers find effective in other districts.  With that, how much technology and differentiation is offered to meet teachers where they are at in their careers?

Does my district offer PD? Yes!  Does my district offer a variety of PD online?  Not that I’m aware of. Most PD I find out about is presented onsite in person.  This poses a challenge when working in a large city famous for bad traffic and limited parking.  Reality is, most teachers only choose optional trainings that are either directly related to their curriculum, at their own school or neighbouring school, or conveniently located near their existing commute route. I will say, my district did offer online PD this past summer for the first time.

Understanding Professional Learning Environments in Washington State

This week I discovered that Washington state participated in a research project (TPL – in WA state) in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In collaboration with 91 schools from 31 districts, the Gates Foundation funded “a three-year project to support professional learning that would engage leaders in the work of developing effective processes and support structure to create a culture of collaboration that would positively impact teacher knowledge and skills to improve student learning”.

Digging deeper, I was able to find my district listed as one of the participants. Concluding remarks were:

“Schools have traditionally been very site-based, leading to many gaps and inconsistencies across schools; this makes the work of developing a learning system very challenging. Analyses showed that many structural elements are currently exist (albeit to various degrees) from which to build a strong learning system—however, the content and focus of work inside those structures needs strengthening and alignment. Furthermore, access to and participation in professional development has been inconsistent and inequitable. To develop gap-closing learning designs, we need to define baseline expectations for all schools and staff along with differentiated professional learning supports and guaranteed access.”

Do these remarks surprise me? No. Seeing evidence that my district is striving to change professional development and has created a tiered support system, similar to the way teachers have been asked to differentiate to meet student needs, instills hope that we are moving forward. Our union had bargained for more collaboration time, which did begin this school year.  Most of that is still site-based, but perhaps technology will come into play more in the future.

So what did the TPL three year study conclude?

  • Engaged leadership is critical and must extend beyond administration, shifting distribution to shared leadership
  • Using standards for teaching and learning in conjunction with researched best practices can effectively support planning and implementation of new structures
  • Districts who received more external funding and coaching showed greater gains in their perceived level of collaboration and content
  • School culture focusing on inclusiveness, and collaboration between all professionals  allow shifts in the district that better support student learning (eg. paraeducators, teachers, administrators and coaches all valued as equal collaborators)
  • Time is needed to build positive relationships, establish trust, and collective community with social norms in order to maintain effective PD experiences
  • Strong correlation between positive PD experiences over time and student achievement scores
  • Districts should understand the pressures teachers face associated with standardized assessment and support teachers with understanding how to examine student data to further drive student growth specific to their school population

Tech Integration Success

Curious how other large districts successfully implement PD that their teachers find useful, I came across the article Technology Starts with Professional Development and Training from EdTech Magazine that specifically talks about how large districts have found success with integrating technology within district-wide PD. For example, Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Louisiana have been using technology in the classrooms for over 30 years. With 64 schools and a relatively large district, they have learned the value of teacher training before rolling out new technology.  

So how has their district supported the needs in so many schools?  

  • The district built a training center where teachers can receive coaching or learn how to use new tech tools
  • They offer online summer courses that teachers can take at their convenience
  • They offer a variety of webinars, giving teachers freedom to pursue professional development relevant to their current position based on teacher input
  • They incentivize PD by offering “tech points” that teachers can apply to gain extra classroom technology
  • Technology integration is designed around student learning goals and a larger framework rather than just another tool

Similar to Calcasieu Parish Public Schools, the Rowan-Salisbury School System in North Carolina, has also found success with effectively offering professional development with tech integration.  Another large school district with limited funds, found they had to get creative in how they get on board with PD. They chose to assign a technology specialist to each school, dedicated to supporting staff through co-teaching, modeling, and offering teacher support with tech integration in the classroom.  They also emphasize the need to respect teachers time, level of expertise, and willingness to try.  With that being said, support must be available for teachers who may struggle and time available for reflection and coaching of new skills.  They value offering scheduled PD during the day and not expecting teachers to only learn during their own time. Presently they also use Twitter chats, accessible to all teachers in the district with scheduled times where teachers can collaborate online.

Another large district near Georgia had similar responses about supporting staff through adequate training.  They recognize that without dedicated staff available to train teachers with tech integration, teachers would not have the skills necessary to access their LMS and online trainings. They also have funded a tech specialist for each school to support staff needs. They expect teachers to be proficient with using their LMS in order to support student learning, an example of this is offering lessons online when weather prohibits students from attending school.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if districts truly value teacher retention and active participation in professional development, then personalized PD needs to be offered. Districts also need to design opportunities for teachers to be valued stakeholders and have input on the direction of PD.  Understanding the needs of each school, in addition to district trends can allow more personalized options to be offered online rather than always on-site. Although tech specialists on-site are beneficial, districts must provide adequate support and follow-up sessions to avoid overwhelming staff with one more thing to learn. Districts need to ensure tech integration supports student learning goals and offers multiple opportunities for successful implementation and training. Just like teachers are always being asked how they scaffold their instruction to meet the needs of all learners in the classroom, districts must do the same for educators.

References

Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA.

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction – Teaching and Learning. (2017, March 27). Partner Sharing. Retrieved January 21, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/PartnerSharing.aspx

Peterson T. (2016, June 22). Technology Starts with Professional Development and Training. Retrieved January 14, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2016/06/technology-starts-professional-development-and-training 

The Coach – Administrator Connection: Module 5

Connecting and Collaborating with Administrators as an Instructional Technology Coach

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

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

Some of the takeaways for me from this post are:

  • Align on a coaching model

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

  • Learn Together

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

  • Support Your Coaches Learning

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

  • Offer Leadership Guidance

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

  • Appreciate your Coaches

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

EDTC 6105 : Maintaining Balance While Teaching and Supporting Others

Anyone who’s ever worked in a school, knows that the school day for teachers does not end when the bell rings.  The question many then ask is, what are teachers still doing at school 2 hours after the bell, or why was there car parked there all day Saturday?  Looking at this week’s coaching standards for my Masters program (see below), led me to question how teacher’s find balance in their lives to avoid wearing too many hats or living the life of the spinster teacher of a hundred years ago who dedicated her entire life to the children and the community?

This school year has taken my career in a new direction, owed to pursuing my Masters in Digital Education Leadership. Teaching full-time and trying to find time to support others with tech integration has proven to be a challenge.  Staying at school late is not an option for me or my family. Working on weekends in the classroom would only be possible if my 5 year old came with me.  

So then, how can I effectively model tech integration for others with the responsibilities of a classroom teacher?

Through reflection, I kept getting drawn back to three main factors: common traits of teachers, resources, and understanding personal boundaries.  Our mentor text this quarter, Peer Coaching, frequently refers to relationships and resources. In hindsight, I wish I had thought about all of this in August, but as I prepare for Winter Break, it gives me time to rejuvenate and set new goals for the second half of the school year. I also need to remind myself, this time I am the student, learning how to better support colleagues.

Common Traits of Teachers

Having established that relationships are vital to a coaching partnership, has led me to think about teachers in general. What common traits can be found amongst teachers?  According to Teach.com, there are five common personality traits found amongst great teachers:

  • Empathy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Creativity
  • Dedication
  • Discipline

Focusing on understanding the common traits lends itself to generating enthusiasm for collaboration and recognising colleagues strengths.  Part of coaching is helping others recognise their strengths and how to use them to intentionally support student growth goals. In addition to recognising teacher strengths, it’s important to survey teachers to know how they might be interested in supporting colleagues.  For example, those teachers that are extremely creative, let them share some lessons that they’ve had great success with.  For the teacher’s who struggle with getting specific students engaged, seek out those who’ve had a positive connection with that student. Coaching is not just about supporting all staff, but also about how to manage a supportive collaborative environment.

Understanding Limitations with Resources

Resources is a broad term, yet extremely impactful with tech integration.  Resources can bring the best intentions to a halt.  As a classroom teacher, I am not fully aware of resources available or the politics about how they are distributed in the district. What I do know however, is that without support from administration, access to technology, and time to collaborate, my mentoring/coaching efforts are doomed to fail.  

Integrating any new curriculum or tool requires thoughtful planning in order to be sustainable.  As a classroom teacher, and not a coach, I struggle with time to ask and find answers to questions before trying to jump in and support my colleagues. This means that planning in isolation, even with the best intentions, is likely to end in frustration. In regards to technology, coaches and mentors must first consult administrators, tech specialists from the district, and possibly content coaches before simply supporting a teacher’s vision with digital tools. This again, requires time, which may turn some teachers away from implementation.

Juggling Multiple Roles

As mentioned before, teachers work well beyond the bell.  Emails abound offering or requesting teachers to be part of a PLC, lead after school tutoring, coach an after school activity for students, or participate in Professional Development. How can teacher mentors and coaches then find time to collaborate with others?

Teacher mentors and coaches can easily fall into a trap of taking on too much. Despite their enthusiasm and dedication, teachers can take on more than they can handle.  Pedro Diaz, the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute, offers some great advice in his post How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work. First, he identifies the common traps when asked to take on another task at work. Three common problems, which I know I’m guilty of: we want to please others, our lack of self-awareness, and we don’t think we have a choice.

Moreover, Diaz offers strategies on how to approach multiple responsibilities.  He emphasizes learning how to wait.  It’s okay to think about something without committing right away. While contemplating, ask yourself what specific role you’re being asked to support, will you need further training to complete the task, and does it fit into your schedule?

Next Steps

As I prepare for Winter Break, I want to be realistic, proactive, and fully engaged in what I’m doing.  In order to to achieve these personal goals, I’m looking at the school calendar for next term.  Along with teaching, I am responsible for state testing for 4 grade levels.  I want to continue mentoring colleagues with tech integration and encourage others who are showing interest.

Knowing that I will be asked to participate in other areas as well, or fill in, I’ve realised I need to give myself time to reflect before committing. Wanting to adhere to Diaz’s advice, I’ve created The Juggling Act criteria (see above). Before taking on anything else this year, it’s important to ask: what is the specific task, time commitment, skills required, and if anyone else is similarly qualified to complete the task.  Then before saying, yes, consider workload so that I don’t jeopardize my current commitments.

Resources

Diaz, P. (2017, June 8). How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://www.wmhi.com.au/mental-health/how-to-avoid-taking-on-too-much-work/

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

Hertz, M. B. (2011, November 14). Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/mentoring-coaching-tech-integration-mary-beth-hertz

Mormando, S. (2017, May 04). 5 Tips for Preparing Teachers for New Classroom Tech Tools. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/05/5-tips-preparing-teachers-new-classroom-tech-tools

EDTC 6105: Peer Coaching Without Overwhelming

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How can peer coaches support colleagues without overwhelming them?

This quarter, at SPU, we’re being asked to practice peer coaching, and of course, I’m beginning to realise how daunting of a task that can truly be. Approaching colleagues with good intentions is not enough to ensure a productive outcome.  We are all busy, new hurdles arise almost daily, and without an intentional plan and willingness from both parties, the energy begins to fizzle and gets lost like so many other inspiring ideas we’ve had along the way.

Working with a new colleague, I’ve recently pondered “How can I offer support without overwhelming them”? Below are 9 tips that I feel apply to novice coaches, like myself, who want to help others integrate technology to boost the learning of students.

Establish Trust

As I mentioned in a previous post, Establishing Trust Before Technology in the Classroom, establishing trust is critical, especially when both participants are new in their roles. This takes time!  So before jumping in and sharing your expertise… Make time to hear their story, respect their experiences, and understand their needs. Reaffirm your role is to help, not evaluate.

A colleague recently shared he doesn’t understand the role or value of coaches based on two experiences he’s had. Both broke the level of trust early on in the coaching relationship which has led him to see coaches as being inadequately trained or qualified to support his needs. His concerns led to questions he presented to me, such as who evaluates coaches, what standards are they held accountable for, and why would I want a stranger coming in and telling me what to do?

Make Time To Collaborate

My colleague’s last concern, segues into collaboration time.  I asked him if coaches met with him prior to observing and he answered, no.  They would observe then meet after.  This continued to create a barrier of trust.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve found this quarter, has to do with time to collaborate.  Granted I am not an actual coach with a flexible schedule, so trying to find time where two educators who work on different grade level teams is challenging.  Add to that the reality that most teachers have after school programs, conferences, planning, or professional development, and you are left with maybe 5 minutes in passing in the hallway. Both teachers need to be willing to collaborate and commit to scheduling time (or rescheduling if needed), but setting aside time to meet in person, or if needed via phone or technology.

Ask Supportive Questions

When colleagues collaborate, the time is valuable, and should be designed to support the needs of the coachee.  This is where intentional planning comes into play for the coach, through the means of asking supporting questions that help guide the coachee in a positive and productive direction. In Jessica Hagy’s article, 6 Leading Questions You Must Ask, she offers leaders tips on how to avoid just telling others what to do, but using questioning to guide their work and offer support when needed. Although these were designed for the business world, I feel they can be applied to meet the needs of educators also.

  1. How can I help?
  2. What problem are we solving? (What standards are we addressing, how are you differentiating, how do you see technology helping?)
  3. Who’s going to be there? (Who are your students?)
  4. Does this make sense?
  5. Can we break this down?
  6. Do you have what you need?

Create a Shared Vision

The questioning, lends itself to a shared vision between coach and coachee. This should also include administrative support. The purpose of tech integration needs to be centered around student production and accessibility, not just about using a new tool. This shared vision should also align to grade level standards and shared grade level of school goals.  By focusing on shared goals, some of the hard work is already being implemented, and helps to reduce stress of adding to the coachee’s workload.

Set a SMART Goal

Once this shared vision is established, it’s time to develop a SMART Goal.  This is an important step in again, supporting the coachee without overwhelming them.  The purpose of the SMART Goal remains specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based.  Keeping the focus on a specific standard helps drive collaboration and feedback.

Face Hurdles Together

Reality is, every plan will face hurdles.   Coaches need to be accessible and responsive when coachee’s ask for feedback. It is imperative for coachee’s to feel supported and there is someone on their side who can guide them through challenges.  The most important role of the coach during this phase is to simply listen and ask supportive questions.

Adjust Plan When Needed

When facing challenges, coachee’s also need to know they are still the one driving instruction and meeting their students needs.  Although coaches are there to offer support, when issues arise, it is the coachee that needs to be in control of modifying lessons. Although coaches may offer support, the decision making needs to come from the coachee and remain aligned to student outcomes. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, this is the time to revisit the SMART Goal.  Coaches should again use questioning to help the coachee talk through how things are going and how they can still successfully assess students.

Share Tech Integration with Others

Once coachees have successfully navigated tech integration, it’s time to encourage them to share with their colleagues.  To help facilitate a school culture around collaboration and tech integration, encourage staff collaborate and share with each other. This can be achieved through Professional Development or better yet, through Learning Walks where teachers have the opportunity to see technology in action.  Utilizing students can help reach out to more staff by allowing students to visit other classrooms and share what they are learning.  Sharing with others can help teachers feel less isolated and create opportunities for teachers to co-teach or model for their peers. I’ve seen this done particularly well when there are new units introduced at my school.  One teacher who might have more training becomes the expert and models the lesson for the entire grade level. The teachers take turns becoming experts for various lessons, so it evens out the workload in the end.

Expand PLN

Once coachee’s agree to continue with tech integration, the next step is to connect them with more like-minded people.  Encouraging coachee’s to expand their Personal Learning Network, fosters a collaborative team they can collaborate with rather than relying on just their coach.  This can be achieved through communicating with colleagues in the building, elsewhere in the district, state, or through social media. Social media is a great tool today for discussing and troubleshooting technology.  It creates opportunities to share successes, challenges, and ask for help and receive quick feedback from their PLN.

Concluding Thoughts…

These 9 tips are simply a guide on how to help colleagues avoid feeling overwhelmed.  However, one other critical element, is that coachee’s must be willing participants.  Without their buy-in, everything will be a struggle.

References

Conley, Laurie. “Overcoming Obstacles – The Digital Librarian.” The Digital Librarian, 2010, https://sites.google.com/site/thedigitallibrarian/

Hagy, Jessica. “6 Leading Questions You Must Ask.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 28 Sept. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/jessicahagy/2017/09/28/6-leading-questions-you-must-ask/#7d676d8b25e9.

Marcinek, Andrew. “Tech Integration and School Culture.” Edutopia, 20 May 2014, www.edutopia.org/blog/tech-integration-and-school-culture-andrew-marcinek