Category Archives: EDTC6103

Module 5: Designing Meaningful PD for Teachers – What’s Out There?

Designing Meaningful PD for Teachers – What’s Out There? by James Bettis

From my interpretation of the standards,  ISTE 5 is about how teachers model lifelong learning and engage in learning to benefit their school or community through the use of digital tools. I wanted  to find what districts might do to craft the best PD that they can for teachers who are at all different levels of comfort and proficiency with technology. Additionally if districts develop a successful model for tech PD I think that would give teachers some of the tools they need to lead in their individual schools. When I write about technology I’m referring to technology for professional daily use as well as integrating technology into the learning environment. The reason I want to focus on both professional use and technology integration is because I’ve noticed that the questions I field in my current position deal with both use and instructional integration and I think that a varied approach will serve the most teachers.

First, it is important to acknowledge that there are different levels of learners, and from there I think that districts need to build in means for teachers a varying levels to receive quality professional development. I also think it is important for districts to help buildings to organize their own technology PD in innovative ways. I have a few ideas about what has worked for my building, or some teachers in my building but overall I’m hoping to suggest an approach that might work to help teachers receive high quality and meaningful PD to aid technology integration.

Through the years I’ve attended a number of professional development classes taught by different instructors. From those experiences I’ve tried to distill down what makes for a fulfilling experience in a tech PD. I’ll admit that I’m somewhat confused. Thinking back I know I have been to some great sessions and some that felt less than great. I know that often the learning just has to makes sense for the learner, still I think there has to be some kind of formula or guideline. What makes it click? One experience I’ll highlight worked for me. I went a training on Vodcasting, which is recording a short video for students to use. I’ve always been drawn to video so I had a particular interest in the topic. It was a great combination of something that felt relevant to me and something I could foresee helping my students. In that sense, I think it fit the perfect time scenario. Also it was just beyond my realm of comfort. In order to do the homework required of the class, I had to learn to use iMovie, which I don’t find intuitive at all. That class pushed me, but today 7 years later, I find that I’m still using some skills from that class in my classroom to create math videos. That seems like a relatively successful PD and it doesn’t even fit all of the guidelines that I read about this week. So I can imagine that if PD opportunities were redesigned with best practices in mind to serve the most teachers possible with sustained focus, many more would be meaningful for more teachers.

As a side note, one of my colleagues in the DEL program posted a great overview of what she has been doing in her district, and it is a wonderful meaningful approach for teachers. I would like to link it later with her permission.

Based on my reading I have some good ideas about what could be meaningful for teacher going forward but I wonder how we are affected by past PD experiences? Changing perceptions will take time. No doubt providing a meaningful set of professional development classes for teachers is a struggle districts will continue to have. I hope that through new ideas and strategies all professional development will become more meaningful for more teachers rather than just a signature to say that you have attended, because you had to pick a class, or you had to be there for some other reason. I’m excited that part of my new position will be providing PD regarding technology, I’m excited to learn more about the process and to attempt to provide meaningful and engaging PD.

The ideas below are some of the things that I think might lead to a meaningful transformation in professional development. Of course this is really just scratching the surface in terms of resources that are available. However, I thought I would include them because I found them to be innovative or essential or both and I think they could help to further differentiate the PD that is offered.

Interesting approaches to PD that I came across in my reading:

  • Leveraging Twitter as a district to host chats, showcase work and provide a space PLC just like Twitter is great at doing within district (Raths, 2015)
  • Allowing microcredentials as a way to demonstrate competency (Raths, 2015)
    • If you want to learn more about microcredentials, I came across them when writing a post on ISTE 2 where I learned about Deeper Learning
  • Establishing and maintaining a district repository of tools, videos, screencasts and other resources related to technology PD
  • Establishing a strong team of technology coaches to journey with and guide teachers
  • Provide enough PD for sustained learning (50 hours!) (Crawford, 2014)

To me these are just some of the ways to start changing the PD model from within a school district. Ideally it would be great to see a state get involved in this process to encourage districts to begin to change the way we do PD. I’m excited to have a chance to do this in my district and to support teachers as they continue their journey to meaningful technology integration. If you would like to read more in depth about any of the ideas I’ve presented here, I found a great resource from EdSurge that is cited below. It really seems to be a an amazing guide to how some districts are retooling professional development.

Reflection

This quarter I feel that I have grown quite a lot in my understanding of the ISTE standards for teachers. From the start I had a hard time shifting my focus from students to teachers. At the start I don’t feel that I understood the standards for teacher well. Now through our investigation and blog posts this quarter I feel that I have a much better understanding of these standards and I understand how the connect and link to the student standards. Knowing my own predisposition for rigidity and how I resort to the standard practice I think that my growth in ISTE #1 is the most significant. I also feel that it is an area where I can continue to grow as long as I push my own thinking and remind myself of the myriad of ways there are to learn and to demonstrate learning. Another area for growth for me is in regard to ISTE Standard 5 and Coaching Standard 2. As a technology coach I feel much more prepared to lead other teachers as they strive to use technology in a meaningful way with students, to facilitate assessing students in a formative way and to connect with other teachers across the globe. Through the investigations I have completed during this last quarter and from reading the investigations my colleagues have posted, I feel infinitely more prepared to respond to the needs of teachers. I can’t wait to draw upon the resources and tools I have come across in this course as I assist teacher with the integration of technology into their classes.

Resources

20 Tips for Creating a Professional Learning Network – Getting Smart by Miriam Clifford. (2013, January 17). Retrieved June 4, 2017, from http://www.gettingsmart.com/2013/01/20-tips-for-creating-a-professional-learning-network/

A Blueprint for Personalized Professional Development by Teachers, for Teachers – EdSurge News. (2014, October 22). Retrieved June 5, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2014-10-22-a-blueprint-for-personalized-professional-development-by-teachers-for-teachers

A Guide To Crafting The Perfect Next Gen PD Model – EdSurge News. (2015, February 14). Retrieved June 6, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-02-14-a-guide-to-crafting-the-perfect-next-gen-pd-model

A Guide to Proficiency-Based Professional Development – EdSurge News. (2015, February 22). Retrieved June 7, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-02-22-a-guide-to-proficiency-based-professional-development

Crawford, A. (2014, December 5). A Farewell to Pointless PD – EdSurge News. Retrieved June 7, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2014-12-05-opinion-a-farewell-to-pointless-pd

From Pre-Fab to Personalized: How Districts Are Retooling Professional Development – EdSurge Guides. (2015, January 22). Retrieved June 5, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/research/guides/from-pre-fab-to-personalized-how-districts-are-retooling-professional-development

Patterson, M. (2016, April 54). Tips for Transforming Educational Technology through Professional Development and Training [Text]. Retrieved June 4, 2017, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2016/04/tips-transforming-educational-technology-through-professional-development-and

Raths, D., & 02/04/15. (n.d.). 5 Tech Tools That Help Personalize PD -. Retrieved June 7, 2017, from https://thejournal.com/articles/2015/02/04/5-tech-tools-that-help-personalize-pd.aspx

Surfing the Wave: Keeping Abreast of the Digital Ed Field in ISTE 5

Riding the Wave This week’s question for EDTC 6103 was pretty straightforward. Given ISTE standard 5, I wanted to focus in on indicator C, which called for teachers to “evaluate and reflect on current research and professional practice on a regular basis to make effective use of existing and emerging digital tools and resources in … Continue reading "Surfing the Wave: Keeping Abreast of the Digital Ed Field in ISTE 5"

EDTC 6103 Module 5 – Professional Growth and Leadership

Engaging in Professional Growth and Leadership

Being an ELL teacher can feel isolating at times. I can’t count the times I’ve been excited about PD days only to look through available workshops and feel none of them really apply to my needs or objectives. We are a minority group of educators.  Our students come from diverse backgrounds, with the majority in the United States attending urban high poverty schools. As specialists, it’s rare to have more than one ELL teacher per building.  So how can we collaborate?

For our final blogpost this quarter, we’ve been asked to reflect on ISTE Teaching Standard #5.  The timing for this seems in sync with end of year reflections at school as well as multiple articles that are advocating for schools to revamp their delivery of professional development.  Looking closely at ISTE Standard 5a, this prompted me to question “How can teachers actively participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning?

With technology rapidly changing the way we teach, it’s no surprise that it’s also changing the way we communicate professionally. Take for example, Miriam Clifford’s post “20 Tips for Creating a Professional Learning Network”. Clifford highlights the advantages of joining PLNs (Professional Learning Networks).  The post written in 2013, shares great examples on how to join and use technology to our advantage as tool to connect and share with others.  Prior to starting this Masters Program at SPU, I would have felt lost in the jargon used in this article and simply moved on to other resources that seemed more relevant or consistent with what I experience in my district.

With these changes however, a PLN can now also refer to Personalized Learning Networks.  Moving beyond localized collaboration in my building and district, Personalized Learning Networks prompt me to expand globally.  Beginning to look more into PLNs, I began to question, how has my understanding of professional development and collaboration changed in the past 5 years?

Five years ago, I’d say 90% of the PD I attended took place in a library, possibly with a video to watch, and time for round table discussions. Lots of poster making, sharing out, but all contributors were physically present in the room.  Then 4 years ago I participated in my first MOOC.  I remember the excitement of connecting with ELL teachers in other states and countries.  We would email responses back and forth. Presently at the building level, we still remain primarily in the library. At the district level, it’s hard to get together in person due to the sheer size of our district, distance people have to commute, method of transportation, varying school hours, and personal lives. Our district has thousands of talented educators, yet I feel limited in my knowledge of how any of them successfully integrate technology in the classroom.

Personalizing Professional Development

This year has been transformational for me in numerous ways.  I cannot overlook the power of networking and global connections.  I had considered blogging before, but didn’t know where or how to start.  This program has helped to take a leap with blogging, using Google HangOut and Twitter.  Reading Mike Patterson’s post “Tips for Transforming Educational Technology through Professional Development and Training” , I realised the problem of inadequate training and understanding is preventing amazing collaboration from occurring in my district.  He sites that 60% of teachers surveyed feel inadequate about implementing technology in the classroom.  Reading this statistic reinforces my realization that my district needs to model how to use technology and this can begin with how they deliver professional development. We need to move beyond the library and offer basic training in how to implement so many of the great strategies in Clifford’s post: Meetups, practice using online communities, tools already available through the district as well as tools popular with experts in our district.

This led to me questioning, how much input do teachers have in the delivery and content of professional development in my district?  After posing this question to several other educators in my building, the general consensus is “not much”.  So how can we change this?  Desiree Alexander recommends surveying staff with a needs assessment, similar to how we evaluate the needs of our students.  In her post, “From Blah to Aha!  Your Guide for Personalizing Professional Development”, Alexander discusses how personalized PDs can showcase educators strengths and interests.

How can schools offer personalized PD? Through technology there are so many options now available for delivery.  For example, MOOCs, webinars, Google HangOuts, creating online videos that teachers can interact with at various times, using folders like Google Drive to store PD resources.  With free online tools, I’m hopeful that my district will begin to offer a range of PD formats in future.  The slides below are examples of how personalized PD can begin with a simple survey.

Finding Learning Communities

Local Communities are perhaps the easiest to define.  It’s the grade level team, content, extra-curricular, region, or even district.  Local communities traditionally met in-person.  So how do we move beyond local and expand our community network globally?  

As I reflect on my global community partners, I’ve used Edmodo, Twitter, Facebook, Schoology, Google+, Podcasts, and joined memberships for online publications. As the only ELL teacher in my region teaching a specific curriculum, it can be daunting at times.  However, with my expanded community of educators, I feel like part of a Tribe with common goals, one of which is support student learning with access to technology.  Every week I feel I have something to contribute to my colleagues, whether it’s something I’ve witnessed first hand in the classroom, or I’ve accessed through social media or video.  Learning online helps reduce my stress and previous notions that I don’t have time for professional development.

Personal Impact from Educational Technology

Now instead of only listening to music while walking my dog, I also listen to EdTech podcasts. When I couldn’t bring an expert to my classroom, we used Google HangOut to allow my students to meet with him virtually, motivated by my new found confidence gained from this year. I find myself scrolling through my Twitter feed in the evening looking for inspirational classroom ideas. I have a new found confidence in promoting alternatives to learning, even if they’re not acted upon at this time.  I know there are great things happening out there and feel like I’m beginning to tap into a new way to both educate and learn. Perhaps the best part of this journey is that I no longer feel alone.  

Resources:

Alexander, D. (2017, May 19). ​From Blah to Aha! Your Guide for Personalizing Professional Development – EdSurge News. Retrieved May 28, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-05-19-from-blah-to-aha-your-guide-for-personalizing-professional-development

Clifford, M. (2013). 20 tips for creating a professional learning network. Retrieved fromhttp://gettingsmart.com/2013/01/20-tips-for-creating-a-professional-learning-network/

Currie, B. (2015, September 24). What New Teachers Need to Know About PD. Retrieved May 28, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/new-teachers-need-to-know-pd-brad-currie

EdTech K-12 Magazine. (2016, April 26). Tips for Transforming Educational Technology through Professional Development and Training. Retrieved from http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2016/04/tips-transforming-educational-technology-through-professional-development-and

Zakhareuski, A. (2016, August 22). 10 Modern Ways to Use Technology in ESL Instruction. Retrieved May 28, 2017, from http://busyteacher.org/13732-using-technology-esl-instruction-10-modern-ways.html

ISTE 4: Teachers Who Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Ethical Use – Can We Try Different?

The Standard

ISTE for Teachers Standard 4 states that “teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices” (ISTE 2008). To me that seemed like quite a charge. It’s a huge responsibility for teachers, but it is one that is essential in the 21st century. Initially I was planning on investigating how primary teachers demonstrate to their students that they are ethical users of technology and I wondered how that positively impacted students? When I started researching and thinking about how teachers could be empowered to be responsible and ethical users of technology, I began to realize the vast quest that this standard entails. Like many of our modules in the Digital Education Leadership Program at Seattle Pacific University, I think that is the point of our assignment and our research. We are working toward a M.Ed. but we are also embodying the charge of the school of education at SPU, part of the mission is “to equip educators for service and leadership in schools and communities by developing their professional competence and character, to make a positive impact on learning.” I think that part of the reason we are focusing on standards that are very broad is to prepare us for conversations we will have with teachers and other stakeholders in the future as we become technology leaders in our schools and districts.

Try Different

Maybe we can’t just try harder, maybe we need to try something different?

Technology PD and Teachers

Recently I found myself in a PD for Code.org this week and while listening to the presentation and participating in the PD, I was thinking about the ethical use of technology by teachers and how it relates to how we teach digital citizenship to our students. I had a realization and thought that made sense to me. I don’t think that districts can expect teachers to be examples of ethical users of technology unless they are willing to invest in some kind of PD to encourage teachers to be aware of the lapses, blind spots and disconnects in the ethical use of technology. As users of technology, and teachers we are all over the place in our use and struggle to grasp content in any technology PD. Therefore, I think that slowing down and building in a focus on ethical use to every PD would aid in the process of teachers demonstrating this ethical use to students in the classroom. Are there standards that explain how to demonstrate ethical use in an elementary school? What does this instruction look like in primary versus intermediate grades? I mostly found resources for teaching digital citizenship to students, as expected. There is definitely room for improvement there in my own classroom as well as in my school. Using an LMS as a safe environment that mimics social media is one strategy (Hertz, M.B., 2011). Engaging videos like Follow the Digital Trail with Pause & Think are great for primary students. I guess in my research I came to realize that while teaching digital citizenship is necessary, I struggled to find how we can encourage and empower all teachers to teach it. They have to know that it matters! I think certain groups in every school could help to transmit that message with some slight modifications to common practice.

The Current System, Slightly Modified

Teachers who are motivated and fluent users of technology can be examples for students. It seems that most districts, based on my experience, as well as the experience of colleagues I’ve talked to in this program, expect librarians to be the main instructors responsible with informing students about the expectations for digital citizenship. Therefore, librarians would be the ones who receive PD related to digital citizenship from technology coaches or coordinators. In my building we have a technology team but most of the professional development is actually done by the administrator or the coaches and leadership team members. What if districts invested in these teams and encouraged them to demonstrate ethical use of technology to the rest of the staff? I imagine that doing so might help it to trickle down to students. In my building this seems like it would be a good start. Or, could a technology team at a building level provide the necessary PD yearly to encourage ethical use from teachers? I think it is possible but it would take a district level commitment that I have yet to see or hear about from others. Additionally I think that districts could continue to empower a larger number of students to be ethical users of technology by offering optional technology classes taught by a district level technology employee or a motivated teacher in order to focus on ethical use and integration of technology into learning.

This week I’m also reflecting on my own use of technology. What is my use like at school and at home? How are the two related? Where can I improve to be a better example? What are the primary reasons that I even use technology? I’ll continue to think about those questions and make it a goal to build in new habits when I identify a lapse or blind spot.

My notes from readings:

Other Questions and Conclusion

Is video PD a reliable way to help teachers remain current on ethical use of technology? Thinking about my role as a technology leader in my school I realize that my example in the ethical use of technology matters. I also think that administrators can influence a teacher’s ethical use of technology by becoming an example and referring to ethical use. Teachers are definitely busy, it is a challenge to fit in anything extra, but building in new habits can be a good investment for our own ethical use and examples for students. I think that teams in each school building could start off by being the example for how to do this to the general classroom teachers. Again, as I have said in past posts, I’m really just scratching the surface for ISTE 4. 

A Promising Resource

One resource that I came across really seemed say a lot that resonated with what I know and have learned about technology through my own use and through PD was about preparing teachers for technology integration. I don’t know that it is entirely relevant to this post on ethical use and how teacher promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility, but it is a resource I will likely return to later. The article by Jacobson, Clifford and Friesen makes me excited to see how new teachers will be trained to integrate technology into their teaching, and perhaps with an increased focus in the university, these new teachers will be prime examples of digital citizenship for their students. However, in the meantime this paragraph might fit where we are currently at, and hopefully it motivates reluctant adopters to give it a try:

“Learning and teaching with technology is hard, it can be overwhelming, and the field is always changing. The way in which preservice teachers reacted to the ICT Program of Studies and building web pages is much like the reaction of many class room teachers and faculty members when they grapple with how to integrate technology and the curriculum. It is also the way that experienced technology users venture into an area that is unfamiliar to them. Because the field is changing so quickly, everyone is in some sense a beginner. And everyone has exactly the same starting place where they are, at the moment. While where you are will change with experience and the acquisition of skills and knowledge, there will always be new skills, new knowledge, and new starting places for us all (Jacobson, Clifford, & Friesen, 2002).

I think this is an attitude we should all strive to have in our approach to technology, ethical use and the integration of technology into our classrooms.

Resources:

Follow the Digital Trail. (n.d.). [Clip]. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/videos/follow-the-digital-trail

Hertz, M. B. (2011, October 12). Teaching digital citizenship in the elementary classroom [Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/digital-citizenship-mary-beth-hertz

Jacobson, M., Clifford, P., & Friesen, S. (2002). Preparing teachers for technology integration: Creating a culture of inquiry in the context of use. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 2(3). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/volume-2/issue-3-02/current-practice/preparing-teachers-for-technology-integration-creating-a-culture-of-inquiry-in-the-context-of-use/

Ohler, J. (2012). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital edge. Education Digest, 77(8), 14–17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=f5h&AN=83515505&site=ehost-live

Ribble, M., & Northern Miller, T. (2013). Educational leadership in an online world: Connecting students to technology responsibly, safely, and ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 137–145. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1011379.pdf

Seattle Pacific University School of Education. (2017). Retrieved from http://spu.edu/academics/school-of-education/about/four-commitments/conceptual-framework

Simsek, E., & Simsek, A. (2013). New literacies for digital citizenship. Contemporary Education Technology, 4(2), 126–137. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED542213.pdf

Venosdale, K. (2012). Try Different [Digital Print]. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/bcXwrr 

Digital Citizenship and the New Digital Divide: ISTE Teacher Standard 4 Indicator B

The Digital Divide The concept of the “digital divide” has been around ever since digital technology has been used in classrooms. Initially, the term applied to students who had access to digital devices and the internet at school and at home versus those who did not. Today, however, that term has come to mean something … Continue reading "Digital Citizenship and the New Digital Divide: ISTE Teacher Standard 4 Indicator B"

EDTC 6103 – How do we promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility?

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This week we were asked to look at ISTE Teaching Standard 4, “Teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices.  

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.

Finding Resources

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.

Reflection

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.

Resources

  • 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
  • Ohler, J. (2012). Digital citizenship means character education for the digital age. Education Digest. 77(8). pp. 14-17. Digital Citizenship Means Character Education for the Digital Age

Can We Get on the Same (Web) Page? ISTE Standard 3 and Coordinating Digital Age Media and Formats

Direction or Freedom? Finding balance between freedom and direction can be difficult for a teacher and it can be even more daunting for an administrator – especially where technology is concerned.  I remember one of the first technology committees I ever served on. It was the late 1990’s (I’m old) and I was teaching middle … Continue reading "Can We Get on the Same (Web) Page? ISTE Standard 3 and Coordinating Digital Age Media and Formats"

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

Collaboration and Success

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

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

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

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

Portland Maine Problem Solvers from EL Education on Vimeo.

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

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

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

Resources:

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

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

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

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

 

EDTC 6103 Module 3: Modeling Digital Age Work and Learning

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

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

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

Barriers

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

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

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Getting To Know The Community

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

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

Tech Tools to Connect with Parents

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

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

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

Non-Tech Strategies

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

Next Steps

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

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

Resources

Space to Learn: ISTE Teacher Standard #2 & the “Technology-Enriched Learning Environment”

Being a teacher and an historian, I enjoy old photographs of schools, students, and classrooms.  I think most people are fascinated by photographs of people doing their job years ago.  Of course, one of the things that drew me to the study of history was the idea of trying to imagine what life was like … Continue reading "Space to Learn: ISTE Teacher Standard #2 & the “Technology-Enriched Learning Environment”"