Utilizing Digital Licenses to Engage Learners in Using Seesaw – A Community Engagement Project

For the final project of my EDTC 6104 course this summer, my cohort members and I were tasked with developing and submitting a conference session proposal for a professional learning opportunity. Within this professional learning opportunity, we needed to identify how this training connected to ISTE Coaching Standard 3. As I reflected on the indicators…

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Service-Learning IGNITE Talk

Combatting Apathy With Empathy: A Focus on Technology and Service-Learning

Two years ago I sat down with the fourth-grade teachers at our school to co-write a persuasive writing unit for ELA. We wanted to use project-based learning (PBL) to gi…

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Culturally Responsive Teaching in Digital Learning Environments: Recognizing Implicit Bias, Addressing Equity Gaps, and Fostering Trusting Relationships

Inquiry Question: How can coaches support educators in recognizing their implicit bias, addressing equity gaps, and fostering trusting relationships, to deliver culturally responsive teaching in digital learning environments? While educators plan and prepare for learning in the fall, many of whom already know or are anticipating that this learning will happen virtually, there are many…

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A Roadmap for Choosing New Technology

A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away…. wait, wrong story. 

A long long time ago in a classroom far far away there were students dreaming of one to one devices and teachers advocating for interactive whiteboards and student-adaptive te…

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Shaking Up PD

Redesigning your professional development to be effective, meaningful, and powerful. What is the problem with PD?  Imagine plopping down into a seat at 3:30 pm. You look up at the clock and pray that this professional development session goes by quickly. You pull a snack out of your bag or perhaps you begin to sip your second cup of coffee as your brain shifts to thinking about the stack of papers you have to grade and the lesson you need to finish preparing for tomorrow. Your principal emailed details about today’s training, but it didn’t spark your interest and you’re not sure how it will relate to your teaching.  Ever been there? Surveys show that very few teachers (29%) are highly satisfied with current professional development offerings (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014). A study was done by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2014) also revealed that a large majority of teachers do not believe “that professional development is helping them prepare for the changing nature of their jobs, including using technology and digital learning tools, analyzing student data to differentiate instruction, and implementing the Common Core State Standards and other standards” (p. 3). And unfortunately, many teachers surveyed shared that they viewed professional development (PD) more as a compliance exercise than a learning activity- and one over which they had limited, if any, choice (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014, p. 10). What do teachers want? Relevant – teachers want PD that is personalized to their needs and classroom Interactive – teachers want to be able to participate and do “hands-on” learning activities  Teacher-Led – teachers want to learn from their peers Sustained Over Time – teachers want time to put what they learned into practice over the course of a semester or a school year  Professional – teachers want to be treated like adults, rather than children Possible Solutions: 1. Individualized PD Carla Meyrink, founder and director of The Community of Learning in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, bravely moved her teachers to an individualized professional development approach back in 2016. Through past PD experiences, the leadership team had learned that teachers wanted to be in charge of their own learning – choosing when to learn and what to learn. Meyrink (2016) shared, “We constantly tried to model good teaching techniques for our educators, but we were failing miserably when it came to individualizing. How could we ask our teachers to differentiate and meet the needs of their students, if we couldn’t find a way to do it for them?” So they set off determined to develop individualized PD for their staff. Soon they realized that it would be helpful to have a framework for teachers to use when setting their own learning paths.  The Framework for Individualized Professional Development:  Setting Learning Targets  First, they shared with the teachers the leadership’s desired learning outcomes for all staff (i.e. I can check for understanding and use the information to improve my teaching and individualize instruction). At the first PD session of the year, the staff brainstormed smaller objectives for each large learning target. It was a great way to discuss different ways a teacher could be meeting that large learning target in their classroom. From that discussion, a self-evaluation was created that listed the large learning targets with smaller objectives underneath and asked teachers to self assess themselves with B (beginning), D (developing), or S (secure) on each of the targets (see picture below). Courses in Google Classroom  After teachers had evaluated themselves, they chose two areas they’d like to focus on. The leadership team took that information and started to design mini-courses for each of the targets teachers wanted to do. They posted the course work in Google Classroom. However, they also wanted to empower teachers during PD so at the beginning of each Friday session, a different teacher presented on one of their strengths from their self-evaluation. After the teacher presentation, teachers choose a course to take from Google Classroom, and either worked independently or collaboratively. At the end of the PD time, teachers were asked to reflect on their growth and add it to a portfolio.  Portfolio Documentation  To help facilitate reflection, teachers were asked to provide documentation for those learning targets they identified they were “secure” in. They could choose to do a digital or paper portfolio and collected samples of: pictures of students working lesson plans videos of their teaching feedback from their coordinators quotes from students examples of student work Benefits:  Depending on their preference, teachers could work independently at their own pace or collaboratively. This PD format also showcased different teachers and their areas of expertise, removing the top-down approach to professional development. Individualized PD allowed teachers from different grades and subject areas to connect. Cross-curricular projects were being developed as teachers learned from each other.  Teachers could pursue a goal that matched their interests, ability level, and classroom needs. That way leadership could support new teachers as they developed their craft, while also challenging veteran teachers.  Teachers were more engaged as they had a say in what they learned and could do “hands-on” self-paced work.  It was easier to incorporate small group book studies around professional books that interested teachers. This form of PD could work for large school districts since Google Classroom courses can be easily shared with large groups of people.  Teacher portfolios are a good way to assess if the PD was successful  Concerns:  The amount of time it would take for school leadership to design courses for each of the learning objectives, especially if the topics changed yearly.   Another concern I have about this PD format is time. The Community of Learning met every Friday from 12:30-2:30 pm, but a lot of schools do not have a dedicated time each week for PD. What if your school only has PD one whole day every couple of months?  2. Inquiry-Based PD  Wouldn’t it be awesome if teachers could pursue their own interests and questions during professional development time? That is exactly what Inquiry-Based PD does. After doing Individualized PD with her staff for a handful of years, Carla Meyrink wanted to try another approach.  In 2020 The Community of Learning had two growth goals for the year: student engagement and differentiation. However, the teachers’ interests varied within those two topics and the school’s leadership team wanted to give teachers choice (Meyrink, 2020). Therefore, they decided to try out an Inquiry-Based PD system. “Teachers would have the opportunity to focus on their own inquiry by coming up with questions that interest them, researching ideas and strategies, trying them out in their classes, reflecting on the effectiveness, and beginning the cycle over again” (Meyrink, 2020). They also thought it would be good for teachers to experience inquiry-based learning first hand since they wanted teachers to use it in their classrooms.  Step 1: Teacher Survey They began by sending out a survey at the beginning of December 2019 asking teachers to let them know their needs and interests in the areas of engagement or differentiation. The leadership team then gathered their answers and grouped their ideas into 8 categories (4 on engagement and 4 on differentiation). They then gathered books, podcasts, blog posts, webinars, articles, videos, etc. for each category that teachers could use when researching their inquiry question.  Step 2: Give Teachers Choice  For the first PD session in 2020 they set up 8 tables. On each table they placed the resources they found for that category. They took the time to print quotes, graphics, and QR codes to help spark interest and get teachers quick access to more information. Teachers then browsed and chose an area they would like to study and formed a team with other people with similar interests. Step 3: Driving Questions  During the 2nd PD session, they introduced the teachers to the idea of inquiry. In small groups they decided on a question to pursue.  Step 4: Start the Inquiry Cycle  Do research about their question(s). Decide on a plan of action to try out in their classroom. Reflect on how it went. Tweak and make changes if necessary. Begin the whole cycle over again with a new question. Step 5: Research and Discussion  Three sessions in a row were dedicated to research time. Teachers kept adding their findings to the group Wakelet page that helped curate artifacts and then they discussed what they discovered. Teachers then devised their own action plans.  Step 6: Experimentation and Reflection Teachers put their action plans to work and reflected on whether or not they had been successful. If they weren’t successful they would tweak things or drop it and try something else. As a group, they shared their experiences, supported one another, and learned together.  Benefits: Teacher-directed learning. PD is personalized for each individual teacher giving them voice and choice in their learning. Promotes curiosity, critical thinking, and inquiry. Gives teachers a dedicated time for research and discussion on bettering their craft. Reflection time is built-in and an important part of the process.  A great way to focus on district or leadership’s goals, but also allows teachers to choose topics that are interesting, relevant, and applicable to their classes and also match where they are in regards to their own professional learning journey. The inquiry-based model allows teachers to work collaboratively and learn from each other. Concerns: Once again, you need built-in work time regularly for teachers to work together. If you do not have weekly PD sessions, how could you still use this inquiry-based model but not lose momentum between the meetings?  Another concern is that teachers come up with a plan to try in their classroom but never follow through. There needs to be accountability built into the inquiry-based format. Perhaps this would be a great place for coaches to come alongside teachers one-on-one and support them during implementation and help teachers reflect on how it went.  3. EdCamp PD A third way you can shake up your PD sessions is by trying out an EdCamp. Edcamps are free informal professional development sessions that are focused on learning from other teachers. There are no predetermined topics or presenters, no sage on the stage. Just a group of educators sharing experiences and ideas (Meyrink, 2016). Teachers come the morning of and offer suggestions on topics they would like to discuss. This is usually done by attendees writing questions or topics on sticky notes and posting them on a blank schedule. Teachers then choose which sessions they would like to attend. I love this model because it empowers teachers to be the learners and experts, and places significance on collaboration and being a community. Benefits:   Individualized PD for teachers  A great way for teachers to collaborate with other educators outside of their building or district Free “unconference” model makes it more accessible for people to attend  Conclusion Well, I hope these ideas have started turning the gears in your brain. Research clearly shows that there is a disconnect between what school leadership intends for PD and what teachers actually experience. PD can be more powerful if we can personalize it for individual teachers and provide them relevant, interactive, peer-led training, and the opportunity to reflect on their craft. I’d love to hear about your favorite PD experiences. What was the format and what made it a meaningful experience for you? Check out my Wakelet on new ideas for professional development. Wakelet is a collaborative curation tool that allows you to save pdfs, websites, videos, tweets, FlipGrid videos, etc.  Resources Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (2014, December). Teachers Know Best: Teachers’ Views on Professional Development. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5W5P9bQJ6q0SUlzb19fX0lpaXM/view Edcamp Foundation. (2018, December 2). Edcamp: Empowering Educators Worldwide [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=31&v=rgIqaduELP0&feature=emb_logo Meyrink, C. (2016, August 8). Common Professional Development Challenges. The Teaching Experiment. http://teachingexperiment.com/2016/08/2017/ Meyrink, C. (2020, February 15). How To Set Up Inquiry-Based Professional Development For Teachers. The Teaching Experiment. http://teachingexperiment.com/2020/02/how-to-set-up-inquiry-based-professional-development-for-teachers/ Meyrink, C. (2016, April 10). EdCamp For Professional Development. The Teaching Experiment. http://teachingexperiment.com/2016/04/1900edcamp/ Meyrink, C. (2016, August 15). Individualized…

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Let’s Get Personal: Personalizing Professional Development in Remote, Blended, & In-person Learning Environments

Inquiry Question: How can coaches personalize professional development for educators in remote, blended, and in-person learning environments, to support them in the effective use of technology?  With many districts and schools announcing that they will be moving to full remote learning or a hybrid model for the fall, I am thinking about how educators will…

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Culturally Responsive Teaching With Social Emotional Learning

This summer I will be focusing on the 3rd Standard of the ISTE Coaching standard sets. This standard is a large one! Coaching relationships, partnering with educators in digital learning content and evaluating, and also personalizing and modeling coaching is all part of this standard focused on collaboration. Here is the full standard: ISTE Coaching Standard 3 Collaborator I chose to start off by researching more about cultural relevance. My school has been completing targeted professional development to help work on the climate and culture of our district. Much of this training is surrounding social emotional learning (SEL). I have greatly enjoyed learning more about the neuroscience behind why SEL is important, along with learning more strategies that I am eager to try out this upcoming year. One piece that I would love to prioritize with my SEL teaching is the huge amount of overlap between social emotional learning and culturally responsive teaching and learning. Due to this, I chose to focus my research and learning on this guiding question:  How is culturally responsive teaching and learning linked with social emotional learning, and what can educators do to focus on this connection to begin the school year? I chose this question because with the school closures at the end of the year, educators worldwide have become more and more aware of all of the potential traumas that students will be coming back to school having experienced. Whether it be civil rights related, health related, or food-insecurity related, our students will be in need of focused SEL instruction. However, the more research I did on this topic, the more I came to understand that we cannot be fully engaging our students in that instruction if we are not also paying attention to culturally responsive teaching.  The first article that I spent time delving into was titled “Making SEL Culturally Competent”. Authors Seider and Graves speak to the importance of students not only learning about strategies such as growth mindset to help increase resilience, but also to gain critical consciousness as a way to demonstrate higher levels of resiliency in historically marginalized youth. They go on to offer a framework focused on “the Three I’s”; interpersonal, institutional, and internalized in nature. The last two aspects of culturally responsive teaching highlighted in this article are to “Look for real-world change” and “challenge injustices”.  The Three I’s: In a 9th grade classroom, students learn about the differences between interpersonal, institutional, and internalized “isms” (for example, teaching about microaggressions) and then they collaborate to identify forms of potential oppression in their schools/neighborhoods/communities. Look For Real World Change: By having students connect their learning to actual injustices that are being faced, they can have a sense of social justice and come to learn that they have the power to make real change. For example, a class learning about colonization in the Americas extended their learning to current day by writing letters about their thoughts on Puerto Rico and their relationship with the US.  Challenge Injustice: Students learn about injustices and the power that they have to be able to address and fix injustices. A class of high schoolers worked together to challenge outdated policies in their student handbook that they felt were not fair. They brainstormed, they put together new proposals, and they worked through potential implementation issues.  While having students understand the great potential for resiliency and determination when shifting your mindset to one focused on growth, it is still vital for students to also understand critical consciousness.   So what should we do now? Early Childhood:  Increase the diversity of books that you have in your classroom. We Need Diverse Books is a fantastic resource for educators (and parents) to learn more about adding diverse books into schools. You can find some great articles from them here. Also, here is an amazing instagram account @diversereads created by a teacher who posts some amazing book ideas for all ages Increase the amount of opportunities students can “see themselves” in your classroom. Whether this is by increasing the diversity of music you play, the languages in which you welcome the class, or the types of designs or posters you have in your room. The key is to have student be able to relate to your class There is a great article from edutopia titled “Culturally Responsive Teaching in Early Childhood Education” that has some awesome ideas! K-12: Become aware of cultural differences in greeting and interaction, teach these differences along with acknowledging the merit and correctness of them, along with ones that are are considered appropriate in your classroom Survey students/families on their traditions and educate yourself about those traditions Dr. Anne Snyder and Claire Cook speak to the importance of not only teaching one social skill or strategy as the only “correct” method while working through SEL instruction. They bring up the idea that educators often model a strong handshake and eye contact as the correct way to say hello or greet someone. While this is a great way to greet some students, other students may have cultural differences that this method contradicts. Read more about their thinking in their article, “Culturally Responsive Social and Emotional Learning”. Intermediate:  Teach students that questioning policies that seem to not include, or put-down, certain groups of students is alright. Make sure to create a safe place for students to do this Encourage students to search for things to empower them and demonstrate their power to create positive change Allow for time and space for students to share about themselves in class (culture projects, family presentations, etc.) What do you do in your classrooms to encourage students to gain critical consciousness? What culturally responsive teaching and learning have you witnessed or tried? I would love to hear in the comments! References Armstrong, A. (2020, June 25). Culturally Responsive Teaching in Early Childhood Education. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/culturally-responsive-teaching-early-childhood-education B, C. (2019, November 16). The 2020 Ultimate List of Diverse Children’s Books. Here Wee Read. http://hereweeread.com/2019/11/the-2020-ultimate-list-of-diverse-childrens-books.html ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (2020). ISTE. https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches Seider, S. (2020, January 9). Making SEL Culturally Competent. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/making-sel-culturally-competent Snyder, A., & Cook, C. (2018, November 9). Culturally Responsive Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). Medium. https://medium.com/inspired-ideas-prek-12/culturally-responsive-social-and-emotional-learning-be7fb6e3d58d

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Effectively Fostering Learning-Focused Relationships in Remote Learning & Blended Learning Environments

Inquiry Question: How can coaches effectively foster learning-focused relationships with educators and support them in best practices for instruction, especially in remote learning or blended learning environments? As I explored my inquiry question for module 1, I focused my investigation on the first indicator from ISTE Coaching Standard 3. 3a. Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships…

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Culturally Responsive Classrooms: Where to Start

As people have taken to the streets lately to demand equality, I have watched, reflected, and dialogued with loved ones asking the question, “How am I advocating for equity in my own spheres of influence?” Educators are in such a special a…

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Digitizing Your Favorite Lesson

I hear from educators all the time that they cannot find the time to practice using all the new technology tools available, let alone collaborate around ways to utilize these tools in the learning environments they support. As educators, we are masters at making the most out of  ‘our 24’, but for time and sometimes … Continue reading Digitizing Your Favorite Lesson

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