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:
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?
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.
This week in my studies with the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, I am continuing to explore ISTE Coaching Standards 1 and 2 by investigating what effective student learning looks like. Just as norms are an essential part of a peer coaching relationship, so too is a shared vision for what effective 21st-century education looks like. This shared vision creates a starting place for any collaborative work.
As Les states, “Communication and collaboration skills are vital to helping coaches build a relationship with peers, based on respect and trust, and assist peers to develop answers to the issues they face as they work to improve teaching and learning for their students. Effective coaches use these sets of skills and trust as a springboard to encourage their learning partners to take risks and adopt innovative teaching and learning practices. ”
As we begin thinking about the 21st-Century skills that teachers must interweave into their curriculum, I believe that one of the most important is communication. This communication piece led me to my question for this post. Precisely, how can we communicate to educators that quality professional development can come from your professional learning network? When I imagined this conversation with a potential person I am coaching I wondered if they might not appreciate a line like this. Perhaps this educator would not like that I used a “buzz” phrase like PLN or that I asked them to break out of their comfort zone. As it states in Designing Classroom Environments, “Teachers must be enabled and encouraged to establish a community of learners among themselves (Lave and Wegner, 1991). These communities can build a sense of comfort with questioning rather than knowing the answer and can develop a model of creating new ideas that build on the contributions of individual members. They can engender a sense of the excitement of learning that is then transferred to the classroom, conferring a sense of ownership of new ideas as they apply to theory and practice.” This is why I decided to take a deep dive into Stone & Heen’s book Thanks for the Feedback: the Science and art of Receiving Feedback Well.
Within the book the authors explain how giving and receiving feedback is a skill and even goes as far as to say it is an art form. I will admit that at times in my life when I have received critical feedback without any positive elements it was tough to recover and become motivated to work afterward. I had a couple of particularly harsh interactions with an AP Literature teacher in high school and with one of my bosses when I first became a teacher. It is just happenstance that these were both women whom I admired and obviously wanted positive reinforcement but instead received some feedback that led me down unproductive paths. As the authors wisely explain “we swim in an ocean of feedback. Each year in the United States alone, every schoolchild will be handed back as many 300 assignments, papers, and tests. Millions of kids will be assessed as they try out for a team or audition to be cast in a school play. Almost 2 million teenagers will receive SAT scores and face college verdicts think and thin” (pg 2). And as the end goal within this process is to always keep those teens or students in mind I want to look at specific element within the “Learning Design Matrix” (Learning Design Matrix.doc) “receive real-world feedback on their work from an audience or subject-matter expert from outside the school.” Then to take that feedback and “Reflect on, revise and improve their work while engaged in learning”. These two elements of receiving feedback, taking it, processing it, and then making productive changes is indeed a learned skill.
Applying this feedback loop to Adult learners who can then pass it along to our students of the future.
Stone and Heen go one to say, “it doesn’t matter how much authority or power a feedback giver has; the receivers are in control of what they do and don’t let in, how they make sense of what they’re hearing, and whether they choose to change” (pg. 4). Now that I have changed careers and moved into the EdTech sphere and received a new title that probably did not exist in the same capacity twenty years ago I can say the review process is essential. Keeping an open two-way communication between a whole team is a constant necessity, from morning stand-ups, sprint meetings, project managing, and weekly check-ins. It is important to give constructive feedback to peers on their work and receive feedback in the same manner. It must push the project forward, and if something you are excited about gets push to next quarter or next year, you have to think about the company as a whole. I say all this because as an educator I felt much more self-propelled. My day-to-day was consumed by what and how I wanted to proceed through the material. I was able to read the room, and I knew my students the best to gauge where to go next. Teachers are all very skilled project and program managers, and I wish they were perceived more so in the professional world. Needlesstosay I mean to explain this because when I entered my new world of EdTech the number of stakeholders in “my” projects grew. The ownership of plans and projects is shared and constantly refined as more minds are consulted. Therefore, I would state that for peer coaching, teaching, learning, and 21st-century skills this feedback loop is instrumental to teach. And as Stone and Heen wrap up their argument of the necessity for feedback they explain “Indeed, research on happiness identifies ongoing learning and growth as a core ingredient of satisfaction in life” (pg. 4). Meaning that humans crave the continual learning process, but the only way to get better at something is through practice. If we are trying to motivate students and teachers, we must make it clear that we are not trying to hurt anyone’s feelings or put anyone down. As peer coaches and teachers we see this all as practice to help encourage the user to gain experience and eventually become proficient at a particular skill.
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.
National Research Council. 2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/9853.
Surveying the Educational Leadership Landscape: A Digital Education Leadership Mission Statement
In 21st century culture, leadership is a word with, at best, ambiguous connotations. Our media, politics, workplaces, and interpersonal relationships are too often characterized by political pragmatism, economic opportunism, and the abuse of power and control, and these behaviors are too often intertwined with our assumptions about those who seem to lead. Yet we continue to look for leadership.
As a country that views education as a path to both national and individual wellbeing (Duncan, 2013), we often turn for leadership to the sphere of education. We look to school systems and classroom teachers to provide equal access to opportunity (Jones & Bridges, 2016) and we look to higher education leaders to create opportunities for all adults to attain a degree or credential (Bailey, Smith Jaggars, & Jenkins, 2015). Despite its high burnout rate, the field of education continues to attract the service of those who desire to see new generations grow up to be self-effective, ethical citizens who enjoy and share the fruits of their labors. This vision gets at a clearer view of leadership.
Leadership is essentially a form of giving. Leadership gives out of its own assets in order to create a common good, and also creates relationships that allow others, in turn, to give. Teachers become teachers because they recognize the leadership capacities of all learners. Leadership is also a form of creating. Leaders build intra- and interpersonal bridges. They draw together faculty and students, teachers and administrators, and stakeholders from both educational and other sectors. Leaders build not only personal and cultural bridges, but practical ones. They unite theory and practice, teaching and learning, quality and flexibility, society and individuality, and pedagogy and technology. Leadership, finally, is itself a process within the larger process of learning. Leadership belongs to the realm of application, transfer, new environments, and innovation—the realm of the end-goals of learning.
If these three points are true—that leadership involves giving, creating connections, and applying learning—it is worth suggesting that we allocate more initial and ongoing opportunities to develop the leadership capacities of students, teachers, and administrators alike. That notion is one of the themes this blog suggests. Another is the value of coming to terms with the digital age in which we find ourselves.
Digital education leadership
The pace of digital innovation that is a leading characteristic of 21st century culture is one that raises questions of who has power and control in designing and living within the digital systems that increasingly govern commerce, government, culture, and education. The advent of social media as a force that intersects all of these domains has resulted in the self-contradictory views many individuals hold of their lives—whether online, offline or in an increasingly blurred in-between— as “radically determined,” yet “radically free” (Ticona and Wellmon, 2015, p. 60). Online and blended or synchronous learning formats are changing our views of both K-12 and higher education, and of both teachers and learners. The pace of change exposes planning gaps in how educational institutions have engaged with matters of privacy and surveillance, intellectual property, ethical behavior, and matters of psychological, attentional, and physical wellbeing (Ribble and Miller, 2013). While instructional design and educational technology constitute lucrative new career fields, attitudes within education toward technology range from uncritical “boosterism” to nihilistic pessimism (Selwyn, 2016).
This culture-changing sea of new affordances and hindrances, both technological and human, is one in which leadership is more needed than ever, and also one in which new models of collaborative and flexible leadership are emerging. The impingement of new technologies for knowledge construction and transmission in every domain of educational administration and culture has also led to member networks of educators and administrators who have helped to re-articulate the leadership capacities that must now encompass digital capacities. In models of digital capability such as that developed by Jisc (2015), educational leadership has the opportunity to consider strategic planning, faculty development, management systems, student outcomes and institutional values anew and for larger ends as these play out in the ways technologies and curricula are adopted and assessed.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has developed technology standards that underlie the work of scholar-educators in defining the ethical, legal, curricular, and extra-curricular considerations that 21st century educators and policymakers must pioneer (Ribble and Miller, 2013). The educational and cultural affordances of technological innovations such as social media platforms, peer-to-peer media for knowledge and content construction, and a culture of open development and access create an exciting landscape for leadership development. These technological affordances also come with complications that can exacerbate existing problems—whether within society or within educational institutions—of equity, ethics, and wellbeing. ISTE’s coaching standard 5, Digital Citizenship, articulates some of the leadership values I seek to cultivate within this new/old landscape.
Educational leadership in this new/old landscape calls not only for ethical grounding in the ability to evaluate and use new and emerging technologies, but for cultivation of disciplinary knowledge and pedagogies. As a leader I seek to engage the following three areas of leadership through corresponding guiding principles.
The new/old ethical landscape
We live in a world in which technology can create new social and educational problems or magnify existing ones, such as distraction, cyberbullying, inequitable access to learning tools, and the devaluation of teaching. Adequate reckoning of the issues of privacy, property, and participation by teachers and learners alike is yet to be accomplished. New opportunities for the corporate influence of testing companies, for-profit online education providers, and entrepreneurs create both new opportunities for learning and for disenfranchising teachers and learners. While it is easy to see how surveillance and data analysis technologies can create an increasing educational culture of compliance, regulation, and accountability, it is also possible to see how technologies can promote democratic participation, faculty agency and innovation, and flexible and individualized learning opportunities for an increasingly diverse student population (Chapman, 2016). This is where, as an educator, I see that perhaps the foremost leadership contribution I can make in this new/old ethical landscape is to build trust, respect and equity in the learning communities I belong to, so that teacher and learner agency and innovation, rather than automatization and regulation, can be the hallmarks of educational technology. My first guiding principle as a technology coach involves engaging this new/old ethical landscape and ISTE Standard 5b.
Guiding Principle 1: Foster the development of ethical maturity to build learning cultures characterized by trust, truth, and respect.
The new/old pedagogical landscape
Although originally educated as an interpreter of literature, I, like many other English scholars have migrated into the field of rhetoric and composition, and from there to the world of the digital humanities. The scope of what is involved in the teaching of writing, as mapped out in the hypothetical construct developed by White, Elliot & Peckham (2015), reveals the holism and complexity that I love and still find daunting about teaching writing.
Studying with compositionist Joanne Addison and others in the field of writing studies has supported me in mining the pedagogical riches of those fields, from the 3000 year old western tradition of rhetoric and critical inquiry, to the capacities of Genre Studies, English for Specific Purposes, and Teaching for Transfer pedagogies to support and scaffold student learning in the real-world genres of their majors and career fields. My training in second language acquisition, my study of how open-access postsecondary institutions address the needs of multi-lingual writers, and my work as a curriculum developer, professor, and writing center coordinator have given me opportunity to engage the range of linguistic diversity that students bring to our shared learning spaces, and to give essential consideration to these learners’ even greater diversity of culture, preparation, age, and cognitive development, as I design courses.
I began coaching alongside teaching as a graduate teacher instructor and curriculum development mentor for a K-6 reading comprehension program. Today, as an English and humanities faculty member, one of my goals is to help teaching colleagues across the disciplines identify areas where both writing and/or technology creates obstacles or opportunities in their teaching and use Writing Across the Curriculum pedagogies and technology integration best practices to harness the power of writing and/or technology for content learning. As I enter deeper into the world of the digital humanities, I continue to develop disciplinary lenses through which the critical study of literature, ethics, and rhetoric can interrogate the use of digital technologies in education. I aspire to provide technology coaching that draws upon my experience with cross-curricular models for writing pedagogy and localized curriculum development to help both faculty and students gain equitable access to teaching and learning technologies. My second guiding principle addresses this new/old pedagogical landscape and ISTE Standard 5c.
Guiding Principle 2:Apply the disciplinary and critical capacities of the humanities and education sciences to cultivate the use of technology for teacher and learner agency and equity.
The new/old technological landscape
Leadership in this new landscape is not just the ability to adopt current and emerging technologies (be they cuneiform, alphabetic script, moveable type, or technological tools, platforms and services) to envision and teach to the job skills of the future. While the presence of technology in education is nothing new, and technology—the craft and creativity of shaping what we find in nature—is merely a defining aspect of what it means to be human, today’s technological landscape is undergoing a paradigm shift. Emerging technologies continue to create not only new modes of transmission, but new realms of knowledge, new ways of constructing knowledge, and new opportunities for empowering or hindering equitable participation in knowledge-making and sharing. As a technology coach, my role is not just to keep abreast of technological tools and affordances and use these to inform policymaking and help faculty develop curricula. My role is also to promote equitable access for faculty and students to best teaching and learning practices and to create collaborative learning cultures. My final guiding principle engages this new/old technological landscape and ISTE Standard 5a.
Guiding Principle 3: Communicate and apply knowledge of current and emerging digital capabilities resulting in the effective and equitable design and use of learning resources, curricula and systems.
Bailey, T.R., Smith Jaggars, S. & Jenkins, D. (2015). Redesigning America’s community colleges: A clearer path to student success. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Chapman, R. (2016). Diversity and inclusion in the learning enterprise: Implications for learning technologies. In N.J. Rishby and D.W. Surry (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of learning technology (pp. 287-300). Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
Jones, M., & Bridges, R. (2016) Equity, access, and the digital divide in learning technologies: Historical antecedents, current issues, and future trends. In N.J. Rishby and D.W. Surry (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of learning technology (pp. 327-47). Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
Ribble, M., & Miller, T.N. (2013). Educational leadership in an online world: Connecting students to technology responsibly, safely, and ethically. Journal of asynchronous learning networks, 17(1), 137-45.
Selwyn, N. (2016) The dystopian futures. In N.J. Rishby and D.W. Surry (Eds.), The Wiley handbook of learning technology (pp. 327-47). Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell.
Ticona, J., & Wellmon, C. (2015). Uneasy in digital Zion. The hedgehog review: 17(1), 58-71.
White, E.M., Elliot, N., & Peckham, I. (2015). Very like a whale: The assessment of writing programs. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press. p. 75.
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.
Trust and Support vs Judgement
Understanding of the Education System
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 .
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 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.
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.
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
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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
Encouraged by Jason Ohler’s article on Digital Citizenship, I set out to see how I could support my school to be more proactive rather than reactive to internet safety. Ohler made several points that resonated with me. His explanation of “character education” allowed me to reflect on my current school, previous school, personal education, and stories I’ve heard from friends. We can’t wait for our students to navigate the digital world and ask questions, we need to provide guidance to our students as well as their families. In a world that inundates us with media, we need to guide our students through intentional thought processes rather than let them develop their own moral compass over time. We need to create opportunities for digital education and invest in ethical inventory resources not just tech resources.
Immediately several questions came to mind about my own school district.
How does my district support teachers and students to be responsible digital citizens?
What training and education is provided for staff and parents?
What curriculum / resources are commonly used in the district and at what grade levels?
Who are the decision makers?
I first contacted someone from our district IT department who serves schools in my region. Then I reached out to my librarian, who is only at our school part time. I posed these four questions (see above). The responses were similar on each question. Our district is so large and digital devices vary greatly both in brand and quantity depending on the school. With 99 schools, we do not have a unified approach other than librarians infusing some Common Sense Media lessons into their library time. Some schools have been able to fund Technology Instructors in K-5 schools who teach Digital Citizenship, but it varies depending on the school. Our decision makers appear to be our school board, staff at the district level, and admin. In regards to technology and digital citizenship, it appears that our community, families, and students have little to no input. We do have links on our district website, but only in English.
My biggest challenge is finding online resources available in other languages. Common Sense Media has Spanish option, but how do schools such as mine support the other families in understanding internet usage and digital citizenship? We have ¼ of our families that need translation support. My quest led me to Michael Gorman’s blog, sharing 10 resources for teaching Digital Citizenship. Gorman provided great resources, with an abundance from Common Sense Media, yet most only appeared to be offered in English. I can only imagine showing a video to the families at my school and having to pause constantly to allow translation to be shared in 6 or more languages. There has to be something more efficient!
The one resource Gorman shared that truly came through for me was from Australia. Navigating a few quick clicks I discovered The Parent’s Guide to Online Safety. The Australian Government provides online safety for parents in 15 different languages. Although the guide provides contacts in Australia, the bulk of the information applies to strategies to support families with issues such as cyberbullying, sexting, inappropriate content, unwanted contact, social networking, and having children who spend too much time online. If resources exist like this in other languages in the US, I’ve had a hard time finding them. Which leads me to believe a lot of the families I serve would also struggle with finding this information.
Supporting Families in Digital Education
Technology is constantly changing, students catch on to trends, explore new websites and share apps way before we catch on. According to David Andrade’s article earlier this month, more than 75% of teens now own cell phones and more than 90% communicate online. These facts alone are reason to ensure parents are aware of support systems that exist, parental controls, ways to report abuse, etc. Take for example a story from Connecticut three years ago. A new social media app, YikYak, allowed users to post messages anonymously. Anyone active on the site within a mile and half radius could see the message. A high school in Westport, CT. became inundated with hateful speech, citing racist, Islamophobic, sexist, and homophobic comments. By the end of the first day, most of the students with access to cell phones had downloaded the app. The school staff were in shock. It is because of the unknown that we need to explicitly teach Digital Citizenship. We need to be able to educate parents on how to monitor what their children are doing and provide tools for them to have meaningful conversations at home.
With 6,000 ELL students, and nearly 14,000 students from non-English speaking homes, we should provide similar resources to Australia’s Online Safety Guide in the 8 languages we offer translation for. These should be on our website accessible for families, students, and staff. At present, schools in my district tend to approach most incidents on a case by case basis. A large percentage of our families do not have internet at home and many parents may be unaware what their children are exposed to. This does not prevent their children from being protected from cyber bullying, exposure to inappropriate content, or understanding the consequences of sharing on social media.
I want to continue advocating for our ELL families and in this particular case, that means helping develop resources that are shared in the top 8 languages. Having these resources available on our district website accessible for parents and staff is the first step. Sharing these resources with parents and staff will be the next step. How can we truly expect parents to model expected behaviour without giving clear expectations, support, and guidelines? With 55,000 students in our district, I think we can do better. As educators it’s time we model responsible internet use and promote digital education for families in addition to students.
Andrade, D. (2017, May 15). Teaching Students Digital Civility Goes Hand-in-Hand with Tech Rollouts. Retrieved May 22, 2017, from http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/05/teaching-students-digital-civility-goes-hand-hand-tech-rollouts
Ernst, A., & Harmoush, V. (2014, June 20). Teaching digital citizenship in a ‘yakking’ world. Retrieved May 22, 2017, from http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/america-tonight/articles/2014/6/20/teaching-digitalcitizenshipinaayyakkingaworld.html
Gorman, M. (2017, February 27). 10 Digital Citizenship Resources – Web in the Classroom Part 3. Retrieved May 22, 2017, from https://www.k12blueprint.com/blog/michael-gorman/10-digital-citizenship-resources-web-classroom-part-3
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Module 2 is about investigating ISTE Student Standard 4: Innovative Designer – “students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.” In response to Innovative Designer Indicator 4b, “students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks,” where digital tools are defined as “brainstorming tools, flow charts, drawing or mark-up tools, 2D or 3D design software, note-taking tools, project-management tools,” I asked the investigation question:
What project management tools are there?
My investigation question is fairly narrow, and my answer is even narrower…but I am so excited about it! At the suggestion of program director, Dr. Wicks, I looked into slack.com which is a communication management tool. It’s basically a place to create discussion channels (i.e., chat rooms) for group/project/team members. And these channels are only available through invite – the world doesn’t have access to them.
When it comes to group communication, I’m a huge fan of FB, and until Slack, nothing else has been able to compete. But as a student, I have observed that students tend to keep their FB activity fairly separate from their school activities, and some students don’t want to be on FB. In my experience, communication between peers often happens through texts, emails, comments within Google Docs, and LMSs like Blackboard and Canvas. Rather than go through what I think the disadvantages of these platforms are for group communication, I’ll jump right into…
What I love about Slack for online, group communication (from 5 days of playing with it):
Notifications and tagging – two communication features which I think are an absolute must if you want to foster a sense of community or “teamness” during online interactions. The notifications are super customizable, and I’ll just note that you can even tell Slack to notify you when a specific word or phrase is said! What?! Love it.
The apps – I’ll mention this right now because notifications are most effective, I think, when they come from an app. There are desktop and phone apps; I have both.
Threaded comments – if notifications and tagging are a first-tier must, threaded comments is a second-tier must. It’s just super necessary for discussion organization.
Edit your comments – in a school setting, when I find a typo in my post/comment and can’t edit it, it drives me bonkers.
/remind – you can set a reminder for yourself…OR someone else! Even more conveniently, with the click of a button you can also have Slack remind you about a specific message.
“Apps and integrations”– Not to be confused with the Slack apps themselves, there are tons of things that you can add to your Slack group, like polls (I recommend Polly), RSS feeds (I recommend RSS), dice rolling, and calendars.
Other convenient features: star messages, see all starred messages, see all things you were tagged in, private messages, multiple channels, and search discussions.
Slack is super easy learn and very intuitive – getting started is a breeze. There is a lot to explore and Slack just keeps surprising me with cool things!
Regarding any downsides or limitations (that I’ve seen within these 5 days):
I wish the apps and integrations had user ratings. I sent them /feedback about that from within Slack (super cool feature) and they quickly got back to me – they’re working on how to do that well.
Slack uses a non-trivial amount of computer memory in order to run (~375,000K for desktop app; ~475,000K in Chrome), but what can you do? So does running FB (~501,000K in Firefox).
There are free and paid versions of Slack. Limitations on the free version are: search limited to the 10,000 most recent messages, storage capacity limited to 5GB, only 10 apps or integrations, and voice and video calls limited to two people. For a list of differences based on version look here.
The limitations don’t deter me – they are what they are and something to keep in mind. If Slack were integrated into a 10 week college course, a class of 30 students could go past 10,000 messages if they’re very active. They’d have to average over 33 messages per student, per week. Regarding storage, 5gigs is quite a bit of space. That’s about 16 hours of some .mp4 video files I have, twice as much space as I have on my free Dropbox account, and way more space than the 100MB of storage that Google Sites gives you! 10 apps/integrations is quite a bit, and there are other ways to do free group voice/video calls.
Using/Moving Over to Slack
Getting a group of people to use a new communication product can be a little challenging. It’s another thing to log into and check, another program to download and run, another app to put on your phone. Another thing to learn. But to me it seems worth it. Among other groups that could benefit from Slack, I think it could be a great tool to help students manage project communication as they work on their innovative designs.
All quarter we have been exploring what make a successful coach. Sometimes this seemed like a really broad question. There are certainly a plethora of small aspects that can contribute to a successful coaching plan and relationship. I do know that there were some major ones that resonated with me.
Building a relationship. Relationships are so vital in many different situations. In coaching work, they serve as a beginning foundation that supports the weight of your collaboration, communication and future goals and results. Building a relationship involves respect, trust, common understanding and a willingness to learn, and even fail. The relationship should feel friendly, supported, personalized, flexible, private and manageable. As Les Foltos writes in our invaluable peer coaching resource this quarter “Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration,” “Successful coaches build capacity not dependence” (Foltos 2013). In other words a coach’s job is to facilitate learning. We are not there to “be the experts” or support learned helplessness. We are there to provide support and resources and pose probing questions that can help further the learning and exploration.
A Willing Peer. A successful coaching relationship involves two willing parties. Willingness to learn is at the forefront of success. A growth mindset is important for everyone involved. The coach, the peer and even admin should be involved in the coaching plan and the final goals and outcomes in mind. A good coach will create an environment that encourages (manageable) risk taking and assure their partner that it is okay to fail.
Communication Skills. In the past few months, I have become very aware of the communication skills that are most successful in a coaching relationship. Active listening helps promote a relationship. A coach needs to be intentional about removing any distractions from the environment. This has been eye opening for me. There were so many times I believed I was being an active listener, but when I actually learned what that looked like I can tell you most of the time I was not. Your mind should be clear. The conversation becomes priority. Your body language and facial expressions should reflect genuine interest and support. This is not a time for the coach to jump in and immediately insert their thoughts and solutions about the topic presented. As Foltos writes, “If you are really good at listening, you let the speaker finish and then pause and reflect briefly before speaking” (Foltos 2013). Other tools like paraphrasing, probing questions and clarifying questions have immensely improved my communication skills as a coach.
The Real Thing:
It was one thing to find a willing partner and collaboratively create a good coaching plan, but I found it was quite another to see that the plan was actually implemented. Going into it, my partner and I had laid out a basic schedule of days to meet and set some pretty simple norms that drove our meetings. Five trainings, four unheard of sporadic snow days, three days of conferences, and one family craft night later the reality began to look a lot different than the intended plan. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad to be exposed to a real life picture of flexibility and adjustment. I feel better prepared for the reality. However, our progress and timeline was greatly adjusted.
Our general goal was to help facilitate a healthy core within our kindergarten instruction while promoting first grade readiness for iReady testing the following year. This connected to an overall school goal of maintaining a minimum of 70% of all students at benchmark and at grade level. We chose to focus on implementing better formative assessment strategies to strengthen knowledge of student learning and understanding, while adjusting future instruction. We also chose to focus on specific activities that were already being done in the classroom by improving them with 21st century skills like collaborative work and creative opportunities.
We started by exploring the app Plickers. Together, we learned the ins and outs, created class accounts and prepared materials. Plickers looks a lot different when you use it with kindergarten. It is a lot more adapted and scaled down. A specific intro lesson is a must. Our plan was for my peer to observe me teach an introduction to Plickers lesson to a group of kindergarteners, and she would do the same with her class. We would follow that up with more real application of Plickers within existing learning activities. Scheduling became our biggest obstacle. Because we both hold classroom roles, the only opportune time for us to observe each other would be when we had opposite art blocks. She would come in and observe the lesson on a Thursday and then we would meet and plan for her to teach it the following Monday when I could observe her. We had this layout planned several times, but were thwarted by crazy weather and lack of time.
As I am writing this, our school district has gone into a premature winter break due to our fourth snow day. The biggest thought on my mind is “What comes next?” We intend to continue our coaching work when we return to school in January. Our next step will be observing and implementing an introduction to Plickers lesson. Then, we will look at activities and lessons already being taught where Plickers will naturally fit and benefit the kids and teacher. When that is completed, we will select a specific learning activity that is already being done in the classroom to assess using a Learning Activity Checklist, most likely focusing on just one area. We will modify that lesson and teach it with the improved changes. After the modified activity, we will reflect on the process and create a way to successfully measure student outcome. Phew! That seems like a lot left to do. However, I think once we finally get into a rhythm, that is hopefully not interrupted by anymore weather, the flow of our plan will start to feel natural.
Though we were faced will a real world display of obstacles, I feel very confident about what work was completed. The timeline certainly looks different now, but our goals and outcomes still remain the same. This experience definitely reiterated the importance of communication and flexibility to me. This quarter has really taken my knowledge to the next level. It felt good to take all of our knowledge and skills we have been gathering for the past year and start to apply them in a hands on real-life situation. I look forward to our work in the near future!
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration.
Many years ago, I worked in a school where student learning involved solving real-world problems. One example is when third graders interviewed city transportation officials as well as school district operations managers, parents, and staff to design a new parking lot and traffic pattern for the congested unsafe lot. They used math to design model […]
SPU’s M.Ed. in Digital Education Leadership is project-based. Students "play" with emerging technologies, building real-world products for their schools.