Category Archives: EDTC 6105

Sustaining Technology After PD

With new technology rolling into schools constantly it can be easy for a teacher to become overwhelmed. As coaches, I think we can help teachers become more comfortable using technology. According to Standard 1d from ISTE coaches “Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms”. Looking deeper into this substandard I wanted to know strategies to help teachers feel less overwhelmed with new technology innovations.

The Struggles

With districts and schools being different across the nation there are different struggles teachers can have when implementing technology regardless of the grade level. Brendon Hyndman, a Senior Lecturer and Course Director at Charles Sturt University wrote the article “Ten Reasons teachers can struggle to use technology in the classroom” to help give an insight to what might be happening with technology use in the classroom. In the article, Hyndman stated the following ten reasons

  1. Introduced technology is not always preferred
  2. Differing device capabilities and instructions
  3. It’s easy for students to be distracted
  4. Technology can affect lesson time and flow
  5. Teachers need more professional development
  6. Not everyone has technology at home
  7. Teachers need to protect students
  8. Not all teachers “believe” in using technology
  9. Lack of adequate support, infrastructure, or time
  10. Tensions between students and teachers

While these struggles might not apply to every teacher its good for coaches to know that these struggles are happening. With this information, coaches can focus on ways to help alleviate these issues.

How Can Coaches Help Teachers

To bring education into the digital age, we must give teachers the skills they need to adapt their classrooms. And teachers can’t do it alone – they need district and state leaders to invest in meaningful professional development opportunities that let them explore new teaching practices, but what does solid professional development look like? A NWEA article by Hugh Fournier lists the following seven things to consider in teacher professional development.

  1. Align professional development to instructional goals. Armed with a good understanding of student learning goals, Jean says, “Look for synergies between assessment data, curricula, and other instructional resources.” When good information goes into a development program, good results will follow.
  2. Identify learning outcomes. While a good number of objectives will suit all teachers, there are certain teams that will need different goals and outcomes – intervention specialists, as an example. Depending on the learning outcomes needed for each team or group of teachers, different professional development needs may apply.
  3. Review existing professional development options. Many school districts likely have access to existing professional development tools. Are they right for your current needs or goals? That’s the key question that needs to be asked and discussed before settling on the professional development program that will bring the success your school is looking for.
  4. Give the gift of time. Good teacher professional development does not happen in one sitting (with or without a clown nose). It’s necessary to carve out time for teachers to meet regularly, so it’s important to dedicate time and resources accordingly.
  5. Make professional learning relevant. When designing or selecting your teacher professional development program, be sure to make sure that it can be applied in the classroom right away. It should possess insights and strategies that align with what teachers are doing in their daily classroom work.
  6. Measure success with metrics. By building evaluation metrics into the professional development program, teachers and staff will be able to measure the effectiveness of the program. In this way, adjustments can be made to ensure the overall success of the program.
  7. Keep staff engaged. Teachers and administrators need to be engaged throughout the program – during the collaboration time as well as in the classroom.

Tips For When PD is Over

After professional develop concludes teachers might still feel overwhelmed with all of the information they just received. One of my classmates mentioned that she has heard time and time again from teachers about PD and coaching is that they want tips, tools, and strategies that they can implement immediately without a ton of extra work.

Tips, tools, and strategies should be easily accessible to teachers. Paper handouts, a bulletin board, or an online site should be available. At my own district, all technology information including tips and tools is located in our staff KIT (Knowledgebase for Integrating Technology). On this site, teachers can find technical information about curriculum, integration, troubleshooting, etc. If there is ever a need for further assistance our helpdesk is just an email or phone call away.

Conclusion

Although professional development is a strong way to initiate technology for teachers hopefully, we can implement some tips, tools, and strategies to make the job of teaching less stressful. By working to ensure that teachers aren’t overwhelmed with technology integration we can have successful use in the classroom.

 

Sources:

Fournier, Hugh. “7 Things to Consider in a #Teacher Professional Development Program | #Edchat #TeacherPD.” Teach. Learn. Grow., 11 July 2017, www.nwea.org/blog/2017/seven-things-consider-teacher-professional-development-program/.

Hyndman, Brendon. “Ten Reasons Teachers Can Struggle to Use Technology in the Classroom.” The Conversation, The Conversation, 24 Sept. 2018, theconversation.com/ten-reasons-teachers-can-struggle-to-use-technology-in-the-classroom-101114.

Iste.org. (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches [Accessed 7 Oct. 2018].

 

Initiating and Sustaining: Two-Part Approach to Successful PD

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

– INITIATING –

Needs-based PD

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

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

Constructivist PD

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

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

– SUSTAINING –

PD as a Cycle

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

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

Take and Go PD

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

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

Sources

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

Gonzalez, J. (2016). How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Your Teachers | Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/tech-training-for-teachers/

Iste.org. (2017). ISTE Standards For Coaches. [online] Available at: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].

Roland, J. (2015). Empowering teachers to implement technology-driven educational programs. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=569

The Coach – Administrator Connection: Module 5

Connecting and Collaborating with Administrators as an Instructional Technology Coach

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

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

Some of the takeaways for me from this post are:

  • Align on a coaching model

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

  • Learn Together

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

  • Support Your Coaches Learning

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

  • Offer Leadership Guidance

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

  • Appreciate your Coaches

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

A More Effective Online Peer Coach

As part of my studies with the Digital Education Leadership program at SPU, I recently engaged in and completed an exercise in peer coaching with a teacher.  I took into consideration that I now work at a startup, and the professional learning I would be working with her on would be all online and for a particular product. I gradually transitioned from the point of power and requests to a more to a collaborative partner, capable of leading and guiding inquiry. I practiced communication skills, including active listening and questioning strategies as my collaborating partner and I worked to rebuild our ECT program at Edmodo. Much of my work in this course centered around the study of Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Communication by Les Foltos

Beyond what we already learned and addressed how can I create a broader and more personal relationship when conducting online peer coaching?

As part of my reflection, I am considering how I can engage in peer coaching practices without ever having a traditional classroom to step into.  All the coaching is done online through Edmodo classroom and groups. On top of that, how do I evaluate and create metrics of success on the online coaching model? As I work in a business where I must demonstrate all efforts as value to the company.  So I must put forth a plan to revitalize the ECT program.

What is essential to the program to create trainers who we can trust? What support does my facilitator need from me to be more successful in the next cohort? 

Research by Shauna and Baker (2005) explains that One of the challenges resulting from the growing popularity of online education is how to efficiently evaluate online instruction.  Within their paper “Peer Coaching for Online Instruction: An Emerging Model for Faculty Development” where the central question isn’t whether this new approach to education is effective — the plethora of “no significant difference” studies mainly render that question moot — but what steps can be taken to not only ensure that individual courses are useful but provide the necessary guidance to promote faculty growth and development as they teach online.

Ensuring Quality of Online Instruction – Peer Coaching Cycle – “A team of experienced online instructors is currently adapting this peer coaching model for the online environment and has performed preliminary online peer coaching during this past academic year.”

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Within the protocol, the coach logs into Blackboard course site multiple times during a week. “We encourage the online peer coach to take particular notice of the virtual classroom environment and interpersonal communication dynamics.  Such facets include the design and layout of the blackboard web pages, the tone of the announcements and course materials, the level of learner-instructor engagement and learner-learner engagement in class discussions, the types of media used for presenting materials, the ease of navigation, the clarity of course instructions, and the instructor’s mastery of the course content and effectiveness at presenting it to the class.” As I look towards the future of our program, at Edmodo I see how important it is to figure out a way to evaluate the course as it is happening.  The program facilitator is an experienced teacher but teaching online with a cohort from 19 different countries is a whole different beast.  The kids that come to school every day are pushed from so many different sides to attend her class while these grown adults must see value and excitement every single time they log into the system.  It was tough to witness the attrition (the loss of customers or clients over time) because the end results are ECTs and these advocates are so valuable to the company.  As it sits thought it is just too long to keep hard-working teachers engaged, six weeks is a long time to stay concentrated on anything in this day and age especially when there isn’t any promise of compensation at the end.

How do I want to proceed with rebuilding the program?

Recently, I attended Advocamp an Advocate Marketing Strategy conference in San Francisco because that is a significant aspect of my job.  It was put on by a company called Influitive which is in the business of creating online hubs for other businesses to host advocate marketing campaigns and challenges.  It really allows you to gamify the system and reward your advocates with rewards and points.  The most valuable session I attended was by Deena Zenyk, from Influitive her session was titledUncover the hidden value of your advocacy program by learning to use the power of campaign-based planning.” She recently wrote a book about the Six Habits of Highly Effective Advocate Marketers and “Consider your last big purchase: What influenced your decision? A paid advertisement? A polished press release? A celebrity Twitter endorsement? A marketing email? A product webpage? Probably not. More than likely, you listened to someone you know and trust. An authentic voice with relevant experience is the most convincing proponent when we’re considering a new product or company. That is the power of an advocate.”  I think that this message although hard for some teachers to believe but sometimes we are a hard audience to sell to and we really only like to listen to people who have gone through what we have.  Sometimes I talk about my first couple years of teaching at an alternative high school like some people talk about serving in the military.  Now I know it is not comparable to what our military does for our country, but I genuinely do not feel like people at my work know what it is like for a teacher unless they have themselves have taught a couple of years.  That is just one reason why our ECT program brings so much value to our company because teachers only like to hear from other teachers when talking about a product.  But how do we create a course that is the right balance between getting enough experience with the product and short enough to keep everyone’s excitement and engagement?    So Deena Zenyk mentioned a system that CISCO put together years ago called VSEM, Vision, Strategy, Execution and Metric.  Moreover, I am going to put my program through this organization and see what comes out.  Here is what it looks like when diagramed.

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Is collaboration worth the investment? As you plot the next steps in your collaboration journey, it helps to understand the returns that are possible

The improved collaboration represents the best opportunity for business leaders to tap the full range of talents of their people, move with higher speed and flexibility, and compete to win over the next decade. But building a collaborative organization requires a transformative approach to culture, processes, and technology – along with an unwavering commitment from top to bottom. Leaders who encourage change on all three fronts will be rewarded with an energized organization that can adapt quickly to changing markets and deliver results.

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Resources:

Cisco Inc (Ed.). (2012). The Collaboration Imperative: Executive Strategies for Unlocking Your Organization’s True Potential – CISCO. Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://www.cisco.com/en/US/services/ps2961/ps2664/collaborative_imperative.pdf

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

Foltos, L. (2015). Principals boost coaching’s impact: school leaders’ support is critical to collaboration. Journal Of Staff Development36(1), 48-51,.

Shauna, T., Ph.D., & Baker, J. D., Ph.D. (2005). Peer Coaching for Online Instruction: An Emerging Model for Faculty Development. Retrieved December 1, 2017, from Http://warehouse.olc.edu/~cdelong/dl401/peercoaching.pdf,

Institute for Higher Education Policy. (2000). Quality on the line: Benchmarks for success in Internet-based distance education. Retrieved from http://www.ihep.org/sites/default/files/uploads/docs/pubs/qualityontheline.pd

 


The ISTE Coaching Identity (Module 5, ISTE-CS)

I feel pretty satisfied right now with the idea that peer coaching is an activity that someone might choose to engage in, and is a subset of the broader term “coaching” (for more information about different coaching approaches, see Borman and Feger, 2006; and Kurz, Reddy, and Glover, 2017). This fits into the ISTE Coach Standards as one way to engage in the coaching-related indicators. However, only a third of the ISTE-CS relate to the activity of coaching; the rest relate to modeling behavior or advocating for technology integration (I use these remaining two categories loosely). So:

If only a third of the indicators relate to actual coaching, what is this “thing” that we call the ISTE Coaching Standards? It’s not just about coaching, so what is it about?

What I see in the ISTE-CS are guidelines for an identity. Being an ISTE Coach, in its entirety, is more like a way of being than it is just choosing to engage in various activities. 

The ISTE Coaching Identity

The primary indicator that supports this idea is CS 6c:

Regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology enhanced learning experiences.”

This indicator defines an ISTE Coach’s purpose, which is to promote technology enhanced learning experiences, and directs the ISTE Coach to reflect on his or her practices and dispositions. It is the element of reflection that solidifies for me the idea that the ISTE-CS are working to achieve identity formation. Sfard and Prusak’s (2005) theory of identity states that identities are stories told about persons (yes, they are equating identities with stories), and additionally, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are particularly important. But in order to have an opportunity to create and tell stories about ourselves, we must reflect. So to me, CS 6c says, “Develop your identity and compare it against the prime directive ISTE Coaching.” In light of the rest of the indicators, CS 6c says something more elaborate: “Look at all the activities you’ve engaged in. Notice how by engaging in these activities you have created stories about yourself. Compare these stories to the ISTE Coaching Identity and evaluate how you want your stories to change or remain the same – i.e., continue shaping your identity against the ISTE Coaching Identity.”

Peer Coaching as an Activity, Not an Identity

While I’ve chosen to call peer coaching an activity and not an identity, you could certainly argue that one could develop a peer coaching identity. In fact, by Sfard and Prusak’s (2005) definition of identity, if you engage in peer coaching at all, there will likely be stories about you as a peer coach, and therefore you will then have a peer coaching identity. But because of the scope of activities which I think count as peer coaching (see my past blogs Peer vs. Peer Coach vs. Coach, Compatibility between peer coaching and the ISTE-CS, and Can one person both lead by example and work as a peer coach?), I think that the ISTE Coaching Standards describe an identity which can encompass the peer coaching activities, whereas the reverse is not true – a peer coaching identity can’t encompass all of the ISTE Coaching activities. Therefore, for the purposes of my blog, I choose to continue calling peer coaching an activity and the ISTE Coaching Standards guidelines for an identity.

But, Good Teaching First

Beyond the role of coaching, the ISTE-CS also ask you to be a role model of, and an advocate for, technology integration. However, one of the key ideas from Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration by Les Foltos (2013), which I think should overlay the ISTE-CS, is that good teaching comes first and then technology integration comes into play to support good teaching: “Technology integration is all about the interrelationship of pedagogy, content, and technology. And technology is the least important of the three elements in this equation” (p. 151). This idea isn’t abundantly clear to me in the ISTE-CS, but it is of the utmost importance.

My Mental Model

I can think of more than one way to diagram this, but the most straight forward way (maybe) is to just diagram the main activities that you engage in as an ISTE Coach, with the overlaid lens of “good teaching.”

One large circle labeled "ISTE Coach" with three smaller circles completely inside the larger circle. The three circles are titled "model," "advocate," and "coach." Completely within the circle labeled coach is another circle labeled "peer coach." The whole diagram is covered by a half-transparent blue square with faded edges. The square is labeled "good teaching lens."

Either this diagram is over simplified, or the words I’ve chosen aren’t quite right – I’m using the verbs “model” and “advocate” loosely – but it highlights the main thing I’ve been thinking about all quarter, which is how peer coaching fits in in the scheme of the ISTE-CS. I’ve said that it’s one way to engage in coaching, out of many possible ways. Another way to look at it, which is consistent with my diagram being a diagram of activities, is that it is a collection of a particular set of activities that a coach can do, among a wider set of possible coaching activities (for more information on coaching activities, see Borman and Feger, 2006; and Kurz, Reddy, and Glover, 2017).

I’m curious where I’d be right now if someone had just drawn this diagram for me at the start of the quarter. Would I have been able to quickly adopt the model? I think so. But is this even close to what other people would draw? I have no idea! I would love to know how you would diagram, or otherwise draw, your thinking regarding the ISTE-CS and the related peer coaching.

 


References

Borman, J., & Feger, S. (2006). Instructional coaching:
Key themes from the literature. Retrieved from https://www.brown.edu/academics/education-alliance/sites/brown.edu.academics.education-alliance/files/publications/TL_Coaching_Lit_Review.pdf

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

ISTE: International Society for Technology in Education. (2017). ISTE standards for coaches (2011). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

Kurz, A. Reddy, L. A., & Glover, T. A. (2017). A
multidisciplinary framework of instructional coaching. Theory Into Practice, 56(1), 66-77. http://doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2016.1260404

What is a peer coach facilitating? (Module 4, ISTE-CS: “coach teachers in…”)

I started this module by wondering about the art of asking good questions. Asking questions is a foundational element of peer coaching, and while I’m familiar with the idea of asking questions instead of telling, I was hoping to find a model for asking questions. The word model can be used to mean so many things. What I mean by “a model for asking questions” is a way to organize and understand questions and the activity of asking questions. Maybe I imagined ending with a set of categories for the kinds of questions I could ask, or a quality I could ascribe to “good” questions. But what I found, instead, was that I first needed to better articulate the goals of a peer coach – to have a better sense of what’s guiding me. My investigation question then became:

What is a peer coach trying to facilitate?

Asking questions. Changing questions.

I suppose I changed my focus because of the resource I was initially reading. In my search for a model, I found this document: Powerful Coaching Questions by Alain Cardon (2008) at Metasysteme Coaching: Coaching and Consulting Network. Cardon elaborates on many different types of questions (so this resource may be good for deciding on ways to categorize questions), and paints a pretty clear picture of what coaching looks like, to Metasysteme Coaching. I want to point out that Cardon is talking about coaching, and I don’t believe it is the same kind of coaching that we are investigating with peer coaching. Consequently, I don’t think you can just simply take what is written in Powerful Coaching Questions and apply it to peer coaching.

The parts of Cardon’s vision of coaching that don’t align with my understanding of peer coaching are what influenced the change in my investigation. Here’s some of what didn’t align.

First, in Cardon’s vision of coaching, a coachee comes to a coach when they are stuck:

“When clients bring important issues to a coach, they have already made a complete inventory of their personal or professional issue and of all possible options, to no avail. Clients have already tried working out their issues alone, and have not succeeded. Coaching clients generally consult coaches after having tried to solve their problems, meet their ambitions or deal with their issues. In spite of this, these clients feel stuck in a rut or up a dead end” (p. 2).

In response to this, the coach’s goal is to make the coachee to shift their perspective.

“A coaching approach is to question the client’s frame of reference. Coaching questions that are considered to be powerful are precisely those that jolt clients into reconsidering the way they define a problem, perceive an issue or envision an ambition” (p. 2). … “Strategic or powerful or coaching questions aim to surprise clients or put them ‘off balance’ in order to provoke the emergence of new perspectives on their problems, objectives, issues and ambitions” (p. 8).

This framing and approach to coaching is not in line with my ideas of peer coaching. But these things did make me ask:

  1. I don’t think teachers only seek out a peer coach when they are stuck. So when else do they seek out a peer coach?
  2. I don’t think a peer coach should approach an inviting teacher with the assumption that the teacher has a flawed perspective and needs to be “jolted” into a new perspective. So if the goal of a peer coach isn’t to throw the inviting teacher off balance, what is the goal of a peer coach? What is the coach trying to facilitate, exactly?
When to seek out a peer coach

The majority of my investigation focuses on 2, but for 1 I want to note that: While an inviting teacher may be stuck, you don’t only meet with a peer coaching partner when you’re stuck. But I was having trouble characterizing why else a teacher would seek out a peer coach. I brought this up to my classmates in my Learning Circle, and they helped remind me that the goal is continual growth and improvement. You don’t wait until you have a problem to try and improve. In fact, one of the reasons schools implement peer coaching is to bring teachers out of isolation and to increase teacher-collaboration. Peer coaching isn’t a last resort, it’s a source of inspiration. Therefore, one of the reasons you seek out a peer coach is to push you to improve things you haven’t even thought to improve yet.

What is the coach trying to facilitate?

Before talking about the coach’s goal during peer coaching, I feel like I should state that the overarching goal (for our context), as broadly as I can put it, is to improve education in the ways that we can – we want students to have great learning experiences.

But within that goal, what is a peer coach trying to get the inviting teacher to do? What is the coach trying to facilitate during the meeting itself? In my last blog or two, I talked about how a peer coach should approach the interaction in a goal-free way, with no hidden agenda. But when you get underneath that, past the idea that coaches should not be pushing an agenda, there is some sort of thing that the coach must be working towards. Cardon says that the coach is trying to facilitate a change in the inviting teacher’s perspective, but the way he developed that idea didn’t feel quite right. So what is it that the coach is trying to facilitate?

I think the first thing a coach might have to facilitate is narrowing in on the inviting teacher’s focus – what is it that the inviting teacher would like to work on? But after that, what is the coach trying to facilitate? I was stuck on this and needed some input from my classmates. We decided that once the inviting teacher finds a focus, the next thing to facilitate is simply reflection. (“Simply.”) As teachers, what do we do and why? What are our goals, assumptions, and beliefs? What do we want for our students? How can we make that happen?

That last question is not really reflection, and instead, forward thinking. So maybe I would add a third facilitation item: action – how can we make an action plan?

Conclusion

My current conclusion is that, through questioning, coaches are working to facilitate the teacher in finding a focus, reflecting, and creating an action plan. This does not really tell me a whole lot about what the questions actually are, but it’s an aim that I feel I can hang onto as I figure out what questions to ask.

If you have any ideas about what a peer coach is trying to facilitate, I would love to hear them.

Supporting Online Learning Environments to Optimize Collaboration

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As part of my recent exploration of peer coaching, I have recently examined what it means to peer coach reluctant learners and what the 21st-century feedback loop looks like when peer coaching.  Now we are turning our attention to something more specific and how we can use what we learned thus far to improve lessons.  And as the program and activities I am working with are all online and being taught to educated professional adults I am going to research and examine; How can an instructor or coach design an online learning environment to support group collaboration?  I am interested in looking at how to create the most creative and engaging learning environment online. Basically, if the most convenient PD will happen online and we don’t want to distribute training but coach teachers to keep learning how can we do that online without losing engagement and excitement.  

Andrew Marcinek, Director of Technology and EducatorU.org Co-founder, states in a recent Edutopia blog post “if your edtech professional development resembles a TED talk, you might want to reconsider the method of delivery. This is not to say that lecture is an ineffective means of delivering content, but edtech professional development (PD) should include time to explore. It should be hands-on, and groups or teams should have time to share their learning.” Furthermore, as I stated to my cohort members recently it was always difficult for me to mentally reconcile the contrasting approach to collaboration and delivery when it came to PD for teachers. I have countless memories of PD being delivered to my colleagues and me about something they wanted us to implement (i.e., blended learning, flipped classrooms, or PBL) but the PD itself was delivered in a traditional sit and get style lecture. This system felt like the Admins wanted the teachers to continually be creative and think on their feet when teaching students but when it came to the PD given to the teachers, they could not think of a better way of giving us the information.  When teachers have a chance to collaborate and tinker they can “walk away from this kind of PD ready to integrate what they’ve learned in the classroom. Also, administrators should model personal learning networks and leverage a wide range of social media for on-demand learning opportunities” (Edutopia, 2014).  I also think there is a certain protocol of PD that I will outline for optimization.  I took a deeper look at the way Information and Communication Technology (ICT) of Singapore explains meaningful learning design in five different dimensions.  These dimensions represent the ways I also believe that instructional technologist can up the ante when it comes to professional development for teachers in their districts or companies.  Keep in mind the following when creating and implementing PD. 

Learning by Doing

Doing and knowing are reciprocal and participation inevitably involves doing. In well-designed lessons, learning by doing should lead to knowledge creation in which students uncover the subject matter through their performances.

Engage Students’ Prior Knowledge

The more prior knowledge the students have on one topic, the easier it would be for students to relate the new knowledge of theory to their own experiences and learn better. There is a positive prior correlation between prior knowledge comprehensive ability. Students find it easier to retain knowledge when prior knowledge is built upon; building on their prior makes learning personal for the students.

Self-Directed Learning

Learning through participation drawing on acquired knowledge and creating new understanding happens all the time when one is involved in learning guided by self-direction.  I personally believe that self-directed learning like through MOOCs or course by correspondence is difficult.  The program that I am auditing through Edmodo is guided in parts but also self-directed as the professionals taking the course must delegate their time between their full-time jobs and their PD course we created for them.

Real World Connections

In order for learning to be meaningful learners need to be provided with opportunities to call upon what they know as a point of reference, use it as a basis for new knowledge to grow.  This will help students to see the relevance of learning. Real-world connections provide these opportunities.

Collaborative Learning

As Wang stated in ICT for Self-directed and Meaningful Learning 2010, “Technology is not a panacea. However, it has great potential to address some of the above challenges” (784).

Within ICT for Self-directed and Meaningful Learning, “Some design strategies must be applied to promote collaboration. A number of strategies work well in face-to-face classroom settings such as think-pair-share, jigsaw, or ro

Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 6.18.02 PM.pngle play. But they do not work at all in an online learning environment as they often need people to meet physically. Also, collaborative learning has a number of challenges,” (783) So we know some strategies that work for in-person dynamic group collaboration but when it comes to online grouping there are different strategies to get the members engaged and active.  I know that because our SPU Digital Educational Leadership cohort meets every week and we have assignments we are expected to have ready it makes me more professional accountable.  If our cohort did not meet in a routine calendared manner I am not sure I would get my work down and continue to push myself independently of the program.

The overall general design principle summarized from this study is: If teachers want to design online learning environments for the purpose of coordinating and monitoring the collaborative learning process they are advised to implement the dimensions of meaningful learning and collaboration.

Resources:

Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., & Gardner, M. (2017, January 05). Effective Teacher Professional Development. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/effective-teacher-professional-development-report

Marcinek, A. (2014, May 20). Tech Integration and School Culture. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/tech-integration-and-school-culture-andrew-marcinek

Tan, A. (2010). Wikis. In Chai, C.S., & Wang, Q. (Eds.), ICT for Self-directed and Meaningful Learning (pp. 783 – 795). Singapore: Pearson. http://international.slo.nl/bestanden/Ch37.pdf/

 


Can one person both lead by example and work as a peer coach?

In response to this sentence, which I wrote in my last blog post:

“If I imagine a person embodying all the things stated in the ISTE-CS, I imagine a person who is leading by example and actively advocating for the meaningful integration of technology and education; neither of these characteristics are in line with the goal of peer coaching,”

my classmate, James, asked me:

“Do you think one could both lead by example and work as a peer coach depending on the circumstances? I’d be interested to hear if that fits into the parameters you’ve developed through your other posts about experts versus peers versus peer coaches.”

My short answer to this is: Of course! I just don’t think you can engage in both of those activities at the exact same time.

I’ve been thinking that I would like to elaborate on my thinking about this, and this seems like a good opportunity to do so. Admittedly, I believe I’m thinking about all this in a very specific way, and I definitely don’t expect someone to organize their thinking in the same way that I have. But let’s see if I can put my thinking into words. 

My Long Answer

Let’s define two things: the activity you’re engaged in, and the “hat” you are wearing (or the role you’re embodying, or the identity you’re “activating”). What I want to do is define peer coaching as a set of activities, and an ISTE Coach as a hat. I think making this distinction can get a little hairy, but through writing the rest of this post I’ve convinced myself that I’m happy with this choice.

Why does it get hairy? Because, if I say that I’m wearing my ISTE Coaching hat, then that implies I’m probably engaging in a certain set of activities. But I’m still not thinking of ISTE Coaching as an activity, I’m choosing to think of it as a hat I can wear; a perspective I can come from; an identity I can activate. I think this way of thinking works because putting on a certain hat probably implies a certain set of activities, but the reverse isn’t true; engaging in an activity doesn’t necessarily imply that you are wearing a particular hat, and this is the crux. (Side note: Heck yes! This so jives with what I know from academic identity literature.)

When you begin the peer coaching activity, you should start off as perspective free. You don’t approach your coachee with an agenda on the back burner. Does that mean that every time you approach this person, you approach them in peer coaching mode? No, because it’s an activity you engage in, not a hat you wear, and you’re not always engaged in that activity when in the presence of that person. Does that mean that you can’t throw different hats on and off as needed during the activity? No. Personally, I think I should be allowed to throw on any hat that I see fit in the moment. But my hats are tentative, and I’m always ready to take them off or put on a new one. The goal is to take the hat off when it is no longer needed, or to switch your hat when a new hat is needed. You’re always checking back in to see if the hat you’re wearing feels like the right hat to wear. And the hat you choose to put on is always in response to your coachee’s needs. During peer coaching, a secondary activity you are engaged in is the activity of waiting to seeing which hat you need to put on, not planning out which hats you want to wear in advance, based on your own goals.

So can I wear my ISTE Coaching hat while peer coaching? Yes. Can I embody that hat while peer coaching? No – not based on what I think it means to embody a hat. Can I embody that hat sometimes, and peer coach at other times? Yes. Can I truly ever rid myself of all hats? No.

You and your coachee are not always engaged in the activity of peer coaching. Hence, you aren’t always restricted to the activities that are specific to peer coaching while you’re with that person. You can lead by example sometimes, and then switch gears to focus on a coachee and their specific needs at other times. I keep thinking of the phrase “you do you.” People expect you to do you when you’re doing your own thing. And assuming you don’t go around telling people that they’re wrong if they don’t copy you, you doing things in your own way won’t stop people from trusting that you support their choices. So I think, most definitely, you can lead by example and peer coach, I just don’t think you can do them simultaneously.

EDTC 6105: What Defines a 21st-Century Classroom?

Continuing in my Digital Education Leadership program, I’ve been asked to consider the role of three ISTE Coaching Standards and how they can be utilized to support others.

These standards led me to question what traits define a 21st-century classroom. How could I share these traits with others? If I walk into a classroom to observe a lesson, what evidence would I look for? Two images of classrooms came to mind, the past and the present.

Classroom Design

Thinking of a traditional classroom, the desks were in rows, the students worked independently at their seats, and the teacher typically remained in the front of the room. Mary Wade’s infographic (click to enlarge) shares what many classrooms resemble today. Immediately, her infographic reminded me of several classrooms in my building.  Students sit in table groups, have a common meeting place on the carpet/rug, comfortable seating options for independent reading, a semi-circle table for small groups, and utilizes wall space.

What stood out to me though was the fact many of the teachers would not describe themselves as tech savvy, innovative, or 21st-century teachers. If we want to support more tech integration in our schools that foster 21st-century learning, then we must first give teachers credit for the amazing things they already do. For example, a peer coach could photograph a teacher’s classroom then ask the teacher to use the above graphic to identify their own 21st-century practices.

Student Learning Opportunities

Once teachers understand conducive classroom configurations, the next step is to set goals for student learning. Defining 21st-century learning varies depending on the source.  In 2010, Elizabeth Rich asked eleven educational experts from around the country, “How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning?” and she received eleven different answers.  Reading various perspectives, a few important facts kept reappearing.  In particular, the need to teach history and literature from the past that can help shape students views on the current world they live in. A big shift from previous generations entails preparing students for multiple careers in their lifetime, not just becoming an expert in one field.  Therefore, both content and skills come into play and that is where technology can be a tool to help meet the needs of diverse learners. Perhaps one of the biggest shifts in learning has been to make student learning more personalized, global, and collaborative. 

A 21st-Century Teacher

What traits then define a 21st-century teacher? How do we guide teachers to see themselves as providing 21st-century learning? Tsisana Palmer’s post 15 Characteristics of a 21st Century Teacher  suggests a list of characteristics that can both elevate the teacher’s expertise as well as student learning.

Palmer gives great evidence to support these characteristics.  However, if there is one thing I’ve learned this quarter so far, it is to start small with goal setting. As a “coach-in-training”, my advice to teachers wanting to create a 21st-century classroom, is to first recognize what is already happening, then set SMART goals to gradually strive for the environment you desire. For example, this year my district adopted a new literacy curriculum.  Looking at the list above, collaboration is built-in to the curriculum.  Therefore, teachers can check that off their list and choose something else they’d like to focus on.  Perhaps they are studying erosion in Science and visit a local watershed.  What if they are able to then connect with another classroom in another region.  Teachers can collaborate online to provide students opportunities to share and compare their findings.

Coaching Support

So how can peer coaches support teachers in this process? First, identify what is already happening in the classroom and what the teacher feels is working well. Then question what shifts the teacher is hoping to make. Providing options that may exist in other classrooms in the building or nearby schools can provide observational opportunities and collaboration with someone not traditionally connected to the teacher. Coaches can provide suggestions based on the teachers questions, but should not simply hand over resources. In addition, remember to start small. The goal is not for teachers to demonstrate everything on the list, but to begin looking at how to implement 21st-century learning opportunities to enhance student learning.  Once teachers determine the characteristics they’d like to implement and feel supported, it’s time to collaborate on how to make it a reality.

References

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

Palmer, T. (2015, June 20). 15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher. Retrieved November 11, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/15-characteristics-21st-century-teacher

Rich, E. (2010, October 11). How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning? Retrieved November 11, 2017, from https://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01panel.h04.html

Wade, M. (2016, March 29). Visualizing 21st-Century Classroom Design. Retrieved November 11, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/visualizing-21st-century-classroom-design-mary-wade

Compatibility between peer coaching and the ISTE-CS (Module 3)

After thinking hard about what peer coaching is and isn’t, I decided that it was time to go back to the ISTE Coaching Standards (CS). I had a few things on my mind, but overall, I was wondering:

How can I incorporate the ISTE-CS into my new understanding of peer coaching? Is the kind of coach described in the ISTE-CS compatible with peer coaching?

Incompatibility Between the ISTE-CS and Peer Coaching

My first impression of the compatibility between the ISTE-CS and a peer coach is that they are not necessarily compatible, but I should definitely elaborate on what I mean. What I mean is, if I imagine a person embodying all the things stated in the ISTE-CS, I imagine a person who is leading by example and actively advocating for the meaningful integration of technology and education; neither of these characteristics are in line with the goal of peer coaching. They are by no means negative characteristics, they are just not characteristics of peer coaching.

I say this because I think “leading by example” is fairly synonymous with “leading as expert.” The idea of “leading by example” is to say “this example is one to follow and emulate,” and following in someone’s footsteps is a completely different picture than working as peers to discover the coachee’s path. When leading by example, the answers reside within the person leading, not within the person emulating; this is the opposite of peer coaching, where the answers reside within the coachee.

Additionally, ideally, a peer coach shouldn’t be pushing any sort of agenda, and I think “actively advocating for the meaningful integration of technology and education” is starting to cross that line. I want to reiterate that this advocacy is not bad, it’s just not the goal of peer coaching. Of course, as humans, we can’t eliminate all biases from our work as a peer coach, but we should be careful when actively advocating for something.

Making the ISTE-CS Compatible with Peer Coaching

All that said, I do think that the ISTE-CS can inform peer coaching. Since “asking questions” is a hallmark of peer coaching, I decided that I wanted to try and use the ISTE-CS to come up with questions that I could ask, as a peer coach. I tried to keep the technology focus a separate part of the questions, when I could, to reduce the advocacy angle. My goal was to look at the indicator and come up with one or more questions that could get at what the indicator was talking about.

After doing that, I decided I wanted to pull out as few words as possible from the indicator to summarize what the indicator was talking about; this is what is bolded at the start of every number. It was something I personally needed to do, for myself, to “see the landscape” of everything in the standards – or to see the document as a whole. There are a lot of similar words in the ISTE-CS, and I felt like I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. (Doing this actually gave me insight I didn’t have before. I half thought that some indicators repeated themselves in terms of the ideas being focused on, but really they don’t overlap all that much!)

Peer Coaching Questions Based on the ISTE-CS
  1. Visionary Leadership
    1. Vision: What is your vision of how technology could be incorporated into the instructional environment?
    2. Planning: What is your plan to reach your vision? How will you evaluate the success of implementation? Do you need to communicate with anyone about your plan?
    3. Support: What policies, programs, and funding exist to help you implement your plan? What procedures must you go through to implement? Does your plan align with the school’s or district’s technology plan and guidelines?
    4. Sustaining: What challenges might stop you from implementing or sustaining your plan?

  2. Teaching, learning, and assessments
    1. Standards: How does this technology-enhanced learning experience address content and technology standards?
    2. Diverse needs and interests: What research-based instructional strategies and assessment tools can address the diverse needs and interests of all of your students? What are the diverse needs of your students for assessment? For instruction? Are there technologies that can help you meet their diverse needs?
    3. Real-world problems: Are there local or global communities that your students could interact with during the learning experience? Is there a way they could assume a professional role and research real-world problems? Could they collaborate with anyone outside the classroom? Could they produce a meaningful and useful product?
    4. Creativity, higher-order thinking skills: How does the learning experience allow for creativity, higher-order thinking skills and processes, and developing mental habits of mind? Are there technologies that could help your students engage in these things during the learning experience?
    5. Differentiation: How can the learning experience be differentiated for students? Can technology be used to aid in differentiation?
    6. Research-based best practices: What does research say about best practices for ____?
    7. Formative and summative assessments: What kinds of formative and summative assessments do you use? Are there other kinds of assessments you could use that might help students convey their ideas in new ways? How can technology help create a rich variety of formative and summative assessments?
    8. Student achievement data: What kinds of student achievement data could be collected during the learning experience? Who will use it? How will it be interpreted? Who will it be communicated to, and how?

  3. Digital age learning environments
    1. Classroom management and collaborative learning: Does the learning activity create any challenges with classroom management? Is technology creating classroom management challenges? Does the learning activity incorporate collaborative learning? Is there a technology that could help with classroom management or collaborative learning?
    2. Maintain and manage tools: How do you manage digital tools for yourself? For your students? How can students manage their own digital tools?
    3. Online and blended learning: Is there any blended learning incorporated into the classroom? Could there be? Could digital tools increase student choice in the activity?
    4. Assistive technologies: What assistive technologies do you use? What assistive technologies would be helpful to your students? Can you incorporate any of these into your classroom?
    5. Troubleshooting: How do you troubleshoot problems (tech problems or otherwise)? How do your students troubleshoot? How can you teach troubleshooting skills? What do you need in your classroom to teach troubleshooting skills?
    6. Select and evaluate digital tools: What is your school or district’s technology infrastructure? How do you ensure that you select tools which are compatible with your school or districts’s technology infrastructure?
    7. Communicate locally and globally: What digital communication and collaboration tools do you use in your classroom to increase communication and collaboration between: you, students, parents, peers, and the community?

  4. Professional development and program evaluation
    1. Needs assessment: What technology-related professional learning do you feel like you would most benefit from?
    2. Professional learning programs: In response to (a), can you get this professional development through your school or district? Can we do anything to support your professional development?
    3. Evaluate results: What does research say about the results of specific professional learning programs?

  5. Digital citizenship
    1. Equitable access: What do students have equitable access to in your classroom? Where do you feel like equitable access could be improved? How can we improve equitable access? Can a technology help?
    2. Safe, healthy, legal, and ethical uses: Where are some opportunities in the curriculum to talk about safe, healthy, legal, or/and ethical uses of digital information and technologies?
    3. Diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness: Where are some opportunities to promote diversity, cultural understanding, and global awareness? Can a technology help promote those things?

  6. Content knowledge and professional growth
    1. Content and pedagogical knowledge: Is there a technology you would like to learn more about for classroom use? Maybe a technology you have never used before, or one that you would like to deepen your knowledge about?
    2. Organizational change and leadership: What are the dispositions of your leadership regarding technology in the classroom? What kind of change can you advocate for within your school or district? How can you advocate for that change?
    3. Reflect: What are some professional practices you have in place that you feel work really well? What are some things that you feel could run smoother? How do your beliefs and dispositions about technology affect your practice? How do the dispositions of your peers affect their practice?
Reflecting

The exercise of turning all the indicators into questions was quite valuable. It made me realize that this is something you can (probably) do with any set of standards, and I feel like it made the standards more manageable. Some of my questions were geared towards taking the first steps in the direction of the indicator, but I envision an iterative process where we use an indicator to come up with questions to pursue, and then come back to the indicator to come up with follow up questions.

For even more questions, there’s always questions like: “but what do we really mean by ‘troubleshooting’?” I find these to be enjoyable and enlightening rabbit holes of their own. I did not include these kinds of questions in my list above, but they are often the kinds of questions I pursue.