Practical Communication Skills to Help Your Coaching Get Off The Ground

Communication is at the crux of our society. And while it is such an important part of our daily life we stop explicitly teaching it as our kids get older. Right now I have a baby and toddler at home and we spend a large part of our time teaching …

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The Roles and Responsibilities of Successful Coaching-Teacher Relationships

Coaching is a powerful practice schools can adopt in order to provide support for their staff and encourage continuous professional growth. Like the quote states above, school leaders should aim to create a learning community for teachers that are focused on trust, collaboration, and growth. Too often teachers chat in the halls but carry out their work in the silos of their classrooms. Coaches can help remedy this situation. They play an integral part because they can come alongside teachers and meet them where they are at. Just like we wouldn’t impose a one-size-fits-all curriculum for our students, we should recognize that our teachers have varying needs, skill levels, and interests. And while PD time may provide new ideas for teachers, coaching can help transfer that knowledge back into the classroom and put it to action (Wang, 2017, p. 23). Many people struggle to define coaching in an educational setting. That is largely due to the fact that coaching roles and responsibilities vary from school to school. There are peer coaches, instructional coaches, or coaches who work in a certain subject such as math or literacy. “…coaches’ functions are as varied as the students and teachers they serve.” Wolpert-Gawron, 2016 So what are the key roles and responsibilities coaches and teachers assume when working together? Let’s first start with coaches. Coaches can wear many hats….. instructor, facilitator, cheerleader, curriculum designer, analyst…..  And while the list can be quite extensive, I found some reoccurring ideas when researching. Coaching Roles: Facilitator One part of facilitating is planning and leading professional development for both large and small groups. However, the role of the facilitator can also be used in one-on-one sessions with teachers. One of the coach’s most important skills is the ability to guide the teacher through the coaching cycle and to ask meaningful questions that help a teacher reason, reflect, and refine their instructional practices.  Expert Coaches cannot be experts at every grade level’s standards and curriculum, but they should be skilled communicators who are experienced at lesson design, best practices, and tech integration and be able to interweave all of these components when helping teachers design curriculum and assessment (Mraz et al., 2016). Sometimes being an expert involves model teaching or observing a teacher to provide helpful feedback. In order to stay an expert, coaches must also be researchers and curators. They need dedicated time to learn new and innovative instructional practices so that they can then share with other interested staff members (Wolpert-Gawron, 2016). Collaborator Coaches come alongside teachers to help them “plan, implement, and evaluate activities” (Foltos). To take it a step farther, they could team teach the lesson. This can be a powerful practice so that the educator can see what strong teaching looks like. This usually involves pre-teaching meetings to discuss what the goal of the lesson is, and then again afterward to reflect on what occurred, how the collaborating teacher might adopt these ideas, and what kind of support the teacher might need moving forward (Foltos, 2013, p. 5). However, the coach needs to be wary of taking on the brunt of the work and encouraging learned helplessness. The goal of the coach should always be to help the teacher build capacity. Les Foltos (2013), said it best: “Ensuring that the learner is taking responsibility for learning is a key strategy coaches use to help their peers develop the capacity to improve their teaching practices. In other words, the coach’s role is to facilitate learning” (p. 15). Catalyst This could also be called change agent or empowerer. Coaches help “teachers reflect on and improve their practice by using question strategies and skills that assist colleagues to become effective instructional decision-makers.” (Foltos).  Heather Wolpert-Gawron (2017) comments that coaches have a powerful position of influence since they can establish partnerships based on trust and respect. Teachers usually feel more comfortable opening up to a coach or TOSA (teachers on special assignment) compared to their principal, and can see best practices modeled in ways teachers can relate to. Coaches can empower teachers to try new things and help the school embrace new pedagogies and practices, such as culturally responsive teaching. However, coaches are just one piece of the puzzle. Progress could not be accomplished without their partners, the teachers. Teachers also have specific roles and responsibilities in a successful coaching-teacher relationship. Roles for the teacher: Expert Teachers should be experienced with their grade-level standards and curriculum. Reflective Learner Teachers should be open-minded and willing to learn new things and grow. Having a growth mindset will enable them to tackle innovative practices and problem solve issues in their own classrooms. They understand that being a life-long learner is essential to meeting the diverse needs of their students and that collaboration with a coach can help them achieve their goals. Risk-taker Be okay with “failing forward” and trying new things. No one learned how to ride a bike overnight or was able to sit down at the piano and play Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on their first try. Teachers too need time to perfect their craft of teaching. Like it is for all of us – learning something new takes time. This can be uncomfortable for teachers to be so vulnerable with a coach and have their “failures” visible. That is why trust is essential in the coaching-teacher relationship and teachers need to be confident in the fact that the work they do with the coach is private. Coaches can come alongside the teacher, empathize, and be their cheerleader reminding them that we really only grow when we take risks, make mistakes, and are able to learn from them. Going back to the quote at the beginning, school leaders should try their best to create a learning community that encourages risk-taking and innovative practices. Teachers need to know their administrators have their backs before they try and branch out.  “Improving instruction is a long-term, iterative process” (Foltos, 2013, p. 12). And one that we should not try to undertake alone. Our diversity and range of experience can only make us stronger if we are willing to meet at the table, have open and honest conversations, and try new things.  Works Cited Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Corwin. Foltos, L. (2018). Coaching Roles. Peer-Ed, Mill Creek  Mraz,  M., Salas, S., Mercado, L., & Dikotla, M. (2016). Teaching Better, Together: Literacy Coaching as Collaborative Professional Development. English Teaching Forum, Vol. 54 n4, p24-31. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1123196 Wang, S. (2017). “Teacher Centered Coaching”: An Instructional Coaching Model. Mid-Western Educational Researcher, Vol. 29, (1). https://www.mwera.org/MWER/volumes/v29/issue1/V29n1-Wang-VOICES-FROM-THE-CLASSROOM.pdf Wolpert-Gawron, H. (2016, June). The Many Roles of an Instructional Coach. ASCD. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/jun16/vol73/num09/The-Many-Roles-of-an-Instructional-Coach.aspx

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Service-Learning IGNITE Talk

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

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

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A Roadmap for Choosing New Technology

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

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

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Shaking Up PD

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

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Culturally Responsive Classrooms: Where to Start

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

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Redesigning Math Courses for Distance Learning

Nearpod  Nearpod is an ingenious platform that allows teachers to create tech-infused lessons. I believe Nearpod can help teachers deliver quality instruction during distance learning that is also fun and engaging for students. You can find Nearpod online or by downloading the free app. There are synchronous and asynchronous options for teaching. On their website, Nearpod advertises: “Easily synchronize and control live lessons across all student devices. Seamlessly use your favorite web conferencing platform for distance learning settings.” However, there is also the option for asynchronous lessons that can be assigned to students so that they can access them anytime and anywhere. Perhaps you’ve also been trying to figure out how you can still differentiate to meet your diverse student needs? It would be easy to assign individual lessons to students after you have tailored the content to accommodate your student. Keep reading to learn more about this awesome tech tool.  What Makes Nearpod Stand Out in the Crowd  With Nearpod it is possible to find or create interactive lessons in minutes. In your lessons, you can embed videos, quizzes, polls, sways, Phet simulations, FlipGrid discussions, and mini slideshows (just to name a few!). There are various ways to keep students engaged during the lesson by allowing them to actively participate. For example, you can include interactive whiteboards for students to participate by drawing or showing their work. Or add virtual field trips to your lesson so that students can “experience” real-world examples and see places from around the world. You can also record your own voice over each slide or activity so that it feels like the presentation is happening right in your classroom. The audio recording tool is a great way to give students directions, encouragement, and support as they move through your asynchronous lesson. Another helpful feature is the ability to embed a website right onto a slide. That way students don’t have to go anywhere else to do their work. When you go to that slide in your lesson it will automatically load that webpage and students can interact with it just like they normally would online. Nearpod has great tools that you can use as formative assessments throughout your lesson, such as quizzes, polls, and the student draw tool. You can monitor student work on your teacher dashboard and give students timely feedback. If you choose to assess student’s learning by giving a quiz, they will be automatically graded for you and analytics provided. Creating Lessons  “Upload and tech-enhance your existing materials or customize over 7,500 pre-made, standards-aligned lessons for all K-12 subjects.” Nearpod.com When creating Nearpod lessons you can use your own Powerpoint, Google slides, or PDFs as the basis for your instruction. After uploading your files, customize your lesson by inserting videos, interactive polls, or quick quizzes to keep students engaged and assess understanding.  Another really cool feature for Google users is to use their new Google slide add-on feature. After installing this add-on in Chrome, you can use the Nearpod tools while working in your Google slide presentation. All of the changes will sync automatically with your Nearpod lesson. If you don’t feel like designing your own lesson, feel free to scan the thousands of premade lessons and edit it to fit your needs. Another bonus for teachers is assignments can be integrated with your Learning Management System whether you use Google classroom, Microsoft Teams, Schoology, or other various platforms.  Nearpod Activities  “Classroom communities stay connected with collaborative activities and formative assessments like virtual reality, polls, collaborate boards, and game-based quizzes delivered through one seamless learning experience.” Nearpod.com Nearpod has a range of activities designed to increase student engagement.  Collaborate: Students are prompted with a question and they can respond with text or pictures. It is a great way to conduct a live discussion or brainstorming session.  Time to Climb: A gamified quiz. Start by adding your own question and a picture if you’d like. Next, fill in the multiple-choice answers or use images (great for pre-readers). One bonus is their additional options for older math students, such as the use of exponents or square roots. Teachers can set questions on a timer or easily edit their work by dragging questions or multiple choice answers around to rearrange. I found it very user friendly. However, the biggest drawback is that it is only multiple-choice questions, instead of having a range of choices like true/false or extended response.  Bell Ringer Writing Prompts: Teachers can write a prompt and include an optional reference image or timer. You can allow students to submit text or audio recordings. I thought the audio recordings were really cool, especially for young students who have a hard time typing or for accessibility for other students who need additional support.  Polls: Survey your students and receive feedback instantly. You can display the results for your class, choosing to either show or hide student names for privacy. This would be a great way for students to self-assess and provide teachers with quick feedback on who they need to pull and re-teach. More resources: There are other resources available for teachers include engaging Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons or brain breaks. If you want to try out Nearpod with your students check out their youtube channel, sign up for a webinar training, or access their collection of free pre-recorded webinars to watch on your own time.   Redesigning Your Math Course with Nearpod We are all on a steep learning curve as we dive into distance learning. However, I think we’d all agree that traditional teaching methods are not as effective in a digital learning environment. Therefore, it is time to change it up! I watched this video from Edutopia on a highschool in Washington D.C. that had thrown out lecture-based teaching and replaced it with a self-paced, mastery-based approach to learning. I thought this flexibility would lend itself well to distance learning. Therefore, I started to brainstorm how Nearpod could be used to design an engaging, individualized digital learning environment for students that also allowed for student collaboration. Here’s my proposal: Online Instruction  Teachers design asynchronous Nearpod lessons they students can access and complete at their own pace. This seems like it would lend well to a distance learning environment since every family’s schedule is different.  Students participate in answering questions throughout the lesson with the “Draw it” tool. This is a great way for teachers to check for understanding and catch misconceptions quickly.  Since the lesson is not live, students can pause and rewatch parts as needed. When done, students will be required to complete a task to show mastery. Teachers can schedule “office hours” or collaboration time throughout the week for students to ask questions and work through questions together synchronously. Mastery-Based Grading Students progress to the next lesson when they demonstrate mastery. This part must be done independently by the students.   There are lots of fun tech tools that can be embedded in Nearpod lessons for students to show mastery. For example, teachers can use Nearpod’s own quiz feature or embed a Flip Grid discussion page for students to record videos explaining how they solved the problem. Or teachers can embed any website! For instance, check out Explain Everything. They have a digital whiteboard that allows students to demonstrate a problem and record audio. Or they could also complete a quick quiz on Quizlet or do an online Google form as an exit ticket.  Teachers can schedule one-on-one reteach sessions with students if needed and then students can try to demonstrate mastery again. This is possible because there are no live lectures-  the daily synchronous “classtime” becomes live sessions working with students. Critical Questions: Q: How do you effectively differentiate?  Perhaps teachers can create different Nearpod lessons for below, at level, and above grade level learners? However, this does seem like a large amount of work for teachers to create. Another option could be to let high students work through the “at level” lessons and then have an extension project for them to do. Q: Is there a cut off at some point so that you can move on to the next math chapter?  I recognize teachers may run into a problem with this mode of learning if students don’t participate or struggle with managing their self-paced lessons. One idea I had was to create a student pacing guide that students can refer to in order to gauge if they are doing a good job staying on top of their lessons (i.e. by the end of week two complete 4 lessons). Just like in a Gen. Ed. classroom, we will always have students that struggle with different concepts. I would encourage teachers to reteach concepts to students and allow them to repeat lessons until the end of the chapter. If they only completed 3 out of the 6 lessons, they would receive a grade for the standards covered and they would receive a “no mark” for the content they did not cover.  Q: How can we involve more collaboration for students?  I think we need more contact and community activities besides live office hours where students can ask questions and work through problems together. I love the idea of having an end of the chapter collaborative performance task where students have to use all the skills they’ve learned from the chapter to solve a real-world problem or authentic task. But at this point, I’m not sure what that looks like with social-distancing. I’d love to hear any ideas you may have.  Helping Staff Implement Nearpod I watched Nearpod’s webinar on “Implementing, Training and Supporting Teachers with NearPod”. They had some great suggestions for getting Nearpod off the ground at your school.  Start by modeling Nearpod for your staff during your professional development session. Then they can see the product through the lens of a student. This directly ties in with ISTE Coaching standard 4d: Model the use of instructional design principles with educators to create effective digital learning environments. Try and engage teachers the same way you want to engage students. Let them experience how fun it is to go on a virtual field trip or see how engaged learners are when using the“Draw it” tool. This will help teachers buy-in. Try and hook their attention at the beginning of the Nearpod lesson. Show a video or a funny meme. Ask “How do you feel today about this training?” and let teachers respond with the Draw It tool, Take a virtual field trip to the beach and talk about what you’re going to do for your summer vacation.  Use the Collaborate activity to pose an open-ended question or do a poll to ask staff if they are familiar with Nearpod.  Gage the direction of your training by getting live feedback from interactive activities. Use a poll in the middle of the training on which Nearpod activities they want training on since you don’t have time to cover them all. Could use Collaborate at the end to brainstorm ways teachers can use Nearpod in their classroom.  The objectives of your training should not just be to teach them about Nearpod, but also to motivate them to try using new technology. They are equally important!  Give teachers time to use Nearpod and begin to develop a lesson for math or their specific content area. Be available to help when needed or give feedback.  Create a Nearpod Planning Resource for teachers to use when creating a lesson.  Besides the webinar, Nearpod has other resources Digital Learning Coaches can use when introducing this tool to staff including a free Nearpod training lesson, facilitator guide, and audience checklist.  I’d love to hear about your experiences using Nearpod or your thoughts on individualized digital learning environments for students. Please comment below. Resources Basye, D. (2018, January 24). Personalized vs. Differentiated vs. Individualized Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/explore/Education-leadership/Personalized-vs.-differentiated-vs.-individualized-learning Edutopia. (2019, May 9). A Student-Centered Model of Blended Learning [Video]. YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrR-KIoggf4 Implementing, Training and Supporting Teachers with NearPod [Webinar]l Nearpod. Retrieved from: https://nearpod.com/blog/resources/#instructionalVideo ISTE…

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The Ultimate STEM Challenge

The Plan Last year my school decided to adopt the Code.org curriculum K-5 to help equip our students with basic coding skills. This year, our technology teacher has teamed up with classroom teachers to teach the plugged and unplugged lessons in this awesome and free curriculum. To support them in this endeavor as the digital learning coach on campus, I worked with staff to develop curriculum that incorporates more Computer Science (CS) skills. Therefore, I had the fun idea to plan and lead a school-wide STEM challenge that focused on coding. I thought it would provide support to staff as they learn more about CS themselves, and give the students a fun way to demonstrate what they are learning through Code.org. The STEM challenge reminds me of the traditional school-wide science fair, but the main differences would be that the projects would all happen at school and in teams. However, we’d showcase student projects at a school STEM night which we’d invite parents and community members to attend.  I have brainstormed different design challenges for the various age groups, but they are all themed around coding and “de-bugging” an algorithm. Here are the essential questions we will be focusing on throughout grades K-8: What do good problem solvers do when they get stuck? What are the fundamentals of computer programming? How are algorithms used in coding? How can you use computer programming to complete a task? Students will understand… We can learn from our failures (aka “fail forward”) Success requires perseverance We can use an algorithm to solve a problem or achieve a goal Students will know…      Basic coding skills Computer science vocabulary (algorithm, sequence, events, loops, conditionals, etc. based on grade level) The design process (Plan, Test, Reflect, Revise)       What it means to “de-bug” an algorithm Students will be able to…  Create an algorithm to solve a problem or achieve a goal Proofread and edit an algorithm to “de-bug” The project will be centered around several ISTE student standards in both the Digital Citizen section along with two Computational Thinker standards. Digital Citizens 2b: Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices. Computational Thinker: 5a. Students formulate problem definitions suited for technology-assisted methods such as data analysis, abstract models and algorithmic thinking in exploring and finding solutions. 5d. The student understands how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions. The Process We have yet to do the actual STEM Challenge at school, but here is a sample “De-Bugging” challenge the 2nd and 3rd graders will be given. The OZOBOT Maze Challenge: The students will be told that they are a renowned computer programmer and have been asked to complete a maze by programming an algorithm for their Ozobot robot to get from start to finish. They will be graded with a rubric that will assess the success and complexity of the algorithm. Also, a video of the child explaining the steps of the algorithm and how it works. Other pieces of evidence teachers will use to determine student understanding and growth: Student “Fail Forward” journal that documents the process of designing the algorithm and steps taken to “de-bug” Student self-reflection at the end of the project Student self-assessment on 4 C rubric that measures critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativeness. Class discussions If you’d like to see the day to day lessons for this challenge check them out here. And if you’ve never heard of Ozobots and would like to learn more, check out the following promo video from Ozobot. The Products Here are the following products from the various grade levels: Kindergarten and 1st Grade: Students will write a creative story and then program an algorithm to bring the story to life in Scratch Jr. 2nd and 3rd Grade: Students will design a maze and then write an algorithm for their Ozobot robot to be able to successfully complete it. 4th and 5th Grade: Students will create a Math review app for other students to use in review for a chapter test. Middle School: Students will use an inquiry design model where they will identify a problem they are interested in and then seek to solve it with an algorithm. Other Items to Note If you are interested in recreating a school-wide STEM challenge for your school here are some other items to consider. School Unity: Since the grade levels have different coding challenges, I knew we would have to be intentional in casting a shared vision for both teachers and students in order to unite the school in this school-wide STEM Challenge. Therefore, we will take several steps to ensure everyone is on board and feels confident and equipped. One bonus in using Code.org’s lessons as our curriculum K-5 is it gives us a common language when discussing coding and CS skills. Therefore, siblings in different grades or teachers can have a discussion about CS and be on the same page. The plan is to introduce the STEM Challenge to the staff at a PLC meeting ahead of time and ask for teachers to give input on their grade level’s challenge. They will be encouraged to change or tweak the lessons if needed since they are the experts when it comes to their students. Hopefully, this will increase staff buy in to the process and help them take ownership. Teachers will also be supported by the technology teacher, along with myself throughout the whole process. We can team-teach or model a lesson for them if they’d like. I have created a STEM ppt that teachers can refer to in class and save individual slides as background images to their various monitor screens around their classrooms. That way students will have a visual reminder of our essential questions and can start to transfer those questions to other academic areas such as ELA, Math, Science, etc. (for example, asking the question “What do good problem solvers do when they get stuck in math?”) This ppt will give teachers the same starting point and help provide a common foundation for STEM across the school campus. In addition, I hope to create a giant bulletin board in the school cafeteria and update it with different pictures of students working on their grade level’s STEM challenge. This will help unite the school because students will see what other grades are doing and hopefully will get them excited and curious. I also think students will feel empowered and will love seeing pictures of themselves working on their projects. Finally, we will celebrate our students’ growth at our school-wide STEM night. I believe this piece is essential in bringing our school together. Students will have the opportunity to present their projects to an authentic audience and share how they grew in their knowledge of coding. However, I would also love to give parents, siblings, and community members a chance to try out the various challenges after seeing student work. This would change the feel of the night because the role of the audience is not just looking and listening, but also about doing. I think by allowing them to tinker and play we can help cultivate more curiosity in STEM and provide a fun opportunity for students and parents to connect. How do we intentionally include digital citizenship? I think this is a very important question we must consider. This was one area that I think I could improve on in my lesson plans. I am hoping that the teachers can help brainstorm ways to have thoughtful conversations with their students on their responsibilities to “engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices.” (ISTE Standard 2b). One idea that was suggested was to have students co-author a list of digital citizenship reminders that they could refer to before using their devices. For example, “I will not share personal information when online” or “I will use kind words when pair-programming or collaborating with others either in person or online.” These goals can be personalized to each classroom since they will be doing different challenges and using various types of technology. Conclusion I am hoping that our STEM Challenge will become a beloved annual event at our school, with different themes each year. This year it was coding, specifically focused on de-bugging an algorithm, but what will next year bring? I believe these challenges will 1. support our teachers in trying out more STEM-related content in their classrooms, 2. expose our students to STEM and cultivate a curiosity to pursue STEM studies and careers. and 3. unite our school and showcase the cool things we are doing with the technology we have been given. These annual challenges will provide our students with the opportunity to tinker, design, collaborate, create, evaluate, and use critical thinking to achieve a goal. Resources Code.org. (n.d.). https://code.org/ Gabri Joy Studios. (n.d). Home [Facebook page]. FaceBook. Custom Artwork, 2019, from https://www.facebook.com/gabrijoystudios/ ISTE Standards for Students. (n.d.).  https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students Ozobot. (2015, March 31). Ozobot- It’s Your Move [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zm_H8HXWFZ4

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Launching Libraries Forward!

Washington State Teacher-Librarians are gathering together in Renton, Washington this summer for the annual Librarian Summit hosted by Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD). As co-organizer of the event, it was important to create a learning day that is relevant and invigorating, with many take-aways to start the year. It is also important to fulfill […]

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