Category Archives: Professional Development

Web Accessibility: A Team Approach

Check out this dyslexic font.  I’m not dyslexic, but I love using this font because I do have a bit of hyperopia. Fortunately, thanks to the accessibility features in the course LMS I use, both my dyslexic students and I can opt to have our course information display in this font.

College instructors are often not aware that there are students with disabilities in their classrooms or digital learning spaces. Dyslexia, a range of specific reading disorders and the most prevalent learning disability in the country, affects as much as 20% of the population (Korbey, 2015). Yet like many disabilities, dyslexia is invisible. As a composition instructor, I ask students in my first-semester classes to begin our journey forward into writing by looking backward and authoring a literacy narrative. I have never given this assignment to a class in which at least one student did not use it to reveal and explore their experience with dyslexia. I have found the literacy narrative a powerful genre for initiating a first-semester writing experience that so many students approach with trepidation in such a way that those students find the course to be more inclusive, empowering, and transformative than they had expected as they gain the critical, literacy and writing technology skills they need to be successful in college and career. But that topic is for another post.

My point here is that many disabilities are unseen, and that even educators, who know that every individual has relative strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning, may not be aware of either the presence of disability among their students or of what barriers exist for those students. The need for faculty to be supported in developing inclusive, accessible learning experiences is amplified with the advent of ubiquitous digital learning tools such as LMS course shells. In fully digital learning environments, it can be harder to get to know students and their needs, and digital content may be inaccessible to students with, for example, visual, hearing, or movement impairments.

Web accessibility, a term sometimes shortened to accessibility, is an aspect of teaching in digital-age environments that “means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them” (Introduction, 2018). In an accessible digital learning experience, students can access all content and complete all activities without meeting barriers.

I believe that faculty want all of their students to succeed, but because they often receive limited “training” or simply receive requirements for accessibility compliance, they are not always equipped with the big-picture view of the issues and approaches that make inclusive educational design a joy rather than a burden. As a teacher and leader within the worlds of public higher education and public K-12 education, it is my role not only to know about adaptive and assistive technologies (ISTE Standard for Coaches 3d), and comply with accessibility laws (ISTE Standard for Coaches 5) that govern use of my institution’s existing educational infrastructure (ISTE Standard for Coaches 3f), but to make doing so a matter of mindset (ISTE Standard for Coaches 1) rather than just of compliance. This includes advocating for the time, training, and institutional approaches or processes that are needed for inclusive digital education and it includes creating vision for accessibility measures as tools that belong to the realm of teaching.

This post provides an overview of the laws governing web accessibility, two primary approaches to accessibility within higher education, and the different roles that faculty, staff/departments, and administrators can do to make digital college education accessible.

 

Mindset

Higher education has become more inclusive in terms of access over time with the passing of legislation and social movements that have increased college enrollment among veterans, women, minorities, and those who experience disabilities. In the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. also saw increased access through the development of the community college model, which seeks to bridge around half of today’s American undergraduate students to credentials, careers, and further education (Bailey, Smith Jaggars, & Jenkins, 2015). The work involved in designing educational options and programs that are effective for all types of students has moved more slowly.

Two approaches that are frequently used for re-envisioning education as inclusive of those with disabilities are Universal Design for Learning (UDL)  and web accessibility. UDL, which won’t be discussed here but that I’ve blogged about elsewhere, replaces the idea of accommodation and adaptation with the idea of design based on multiple neurological and physical access points, a design intended to make a learning experience universally engaging and effective for all learners. In turn, this principle overlaps with educational approaches such as Guided Pathways and High Impact Practices that seek to provide program completion, deep learning, and equity for socioeconomically and culturally diverse students. I mention this overlap to reinforce the idea of equitable access as a matter of mindset that reflects the way educators today are approaching instructional design in terms of inclusion for deep learning in a 21st century context.

The second approach typically used in addressing issues of equity for students with disabilities is web accessibility.

 

Accessibility at a glance

There are essentially two realms of accessibility: content accessibility and platform accessibility. Platform accessibility involves addressing problems with accessibility in the code base underlying the LMS system or other software that may prevent the software from integrating with students’ assistive devices. Platform accessibility also addresses the way an LMS system or software device is coded to provide, for example, appropriate color contrast that will allow visually impaired as well as other students to read with relative ease. While faculty usually cannot resolve platform accessibility problems themselves, they can report those problems.

The second area of accessibility, content accessibility involves, barriers for those with disabilities that occur in the materials that faculty produce or use within an LMS. Examples of such barriers could include:

  • Uncaptioned videos that cannot be experienced by the hearing impaired
  • PDF files that cannot be read by a screen reader for the visually impaired
  • Content that is not structured for a screen reader (for example, with content without frequent headings, with repeated blank spaces, or without alternative text for images and headings in tables)
  • Inconsistent navigation patterns and naming conventions for files

The challenges for faculty as they seek to provide accessible course content is the sheer number of barriers that can be created in digital learning environments, the average technology user’s (i.e. faculty member’s) lack of specific knowledge of all of the possible barriers, and sometimes a lack of tools, training and time for eliminating barriers. But content accessibility is the realm in which faculty can have agency, for example by using accessibility checklists and protocols as they create courses that are more thoughtfully universal in design. Some resources for these types of checklists are provided at the conclusion of this post.

It is also important to realize that because of the number of possible accessibility errors and the potential of technological tools for glitches, accessibility checking should be approached as an inter-institutional partnership in which different individuals and departments help provide multiple perspectives and means of review. Accessible digital education is a team endeavor.

 

The legal landscape

In the United States, web accessibility is governed by procurement laws, accessibility laws, and non-discrimination laws that variously govern public, private, and government sectors. The beginning points for developing an institutional policy for accessibility are

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative  provides links to helpful explanations and to the guides and standards that have been developed for each law on its policies page.

W3C has also developed a series of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) which are the standards or technical guidelines for accessible web content and web coding that many countries, including the U.S. and its higher education institutions, use to comply with their governments’ laws. The WCAG 2.0 standards were published in 2008, and WCAG 2.1  was just published in June 2018.

Many colleges and universities have developed their own shortened checklists for the WCAG standards. Two good places for faculty or departments to get an overview of WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 are

 

What faculty can do, departments, and institutions can do

Web accessibility requires such a breadth of specialized knowledge of specific disabilities and the available assistive technologies (AT) for them, of coding, and of the issues that may not be revealed through an automated checker, that it truly requires an ongoing collaborative institutional vision. However,

Faculty members can…

  • Consider and modify course structures with UDL principles and potential accessibility issues in mind. For example, teach using assistive technologies such as screen readers as a de-stigmatized, useful tool for all students (Seale, Georgeson, Mamas, & Swain, 2015). A screen reader can allow a student to review reading while working out at the gym as well as provide a visually impaired student access to the text.
  • Investigate the accessibility of software integrations before adopting them (Hamrick & Grabham, 2018)
  • Consider putting content directly into LMS pages rather than as linked files (Hamrick & Grabham, 2018)
  • Use accessibility check tools that are built into some content-creation software such as Microsoft’s Office tools and into some LMS systems. Third-party accessibility checkers also exist. LMS systems also have accessibility guidelines and community pages such as Canvas’ Accessibility with Canvas page 
  • Include on syllabi a list of software integrations that will be used in the course (Hamrick & Grabham, 2018)
  • Gather student feedback and bring that information to the attention of the institution (Hamrick & Grabham, 2018)

 

Departments and instructional technologists can…

  • Screen vendor software for accessibility (Hamrick & Grabham, 2018)
  • Educate faculty about the basic laws involved
  • Educate faculty about the basic principles of Universal Design
  • Determine the top few accessibility issues with the institution’s LMS or curricula and support faculty in addressing those issues(Hamrick & Grabham, 2018)
  • Develop lists of best practices, and checklists and tools (such as OCR conversion tools and Adobe Acrobat Pro) for faculty to do their own accessibility building and checking
  • Provide support such as screening syllabi and course shells, as well as providing consulting and partnership with compliance or educational technology officers

 

What institutions can do

If goals such as universal accessibility require collaboration across an institution, such collaboration tends to exist only when it is supported by an administration that has a vision for an institutional pathway for achieving such a goal.

Cifuentes, Janney, Guerra, & Weir, (2016) provide a process model that their institution, a  state higher education institution with a 6-person Office of Distance Education and Learning Technologies for its 12,000 student, 600 faculty member campus. The model involves three basic stages: it moves from, first, exploring needs, requirements and principles; to second, building infrastructure and related issues such as choosing software and training faculty; to third, evaluation and refinement. I think the visual display of this process is helpful not only for conceptualizing how to approach accessibility (or any other curricular goal) in a holistic way, but also for seeing which personnel might work on which stages of the process and for gaining a sense of the time involved.

 

A difficulty in developing accessible courses is the time involved, and this visualization helps place some of that time burden on the institutional planning and review processes rather than solely on the faculty or designers who design courses. Therefore, I think this model could be scaled to a smaller college with a smaller staff because it focuses on essential phases and the time, tasks, and types of personnel involved.

 

References:

Bailey, T.R., Smith Jaggars, S. & Jenkins, D. (2015). Redesigning America’s community colleges: A clearer path to student success. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Cifuentes, L., Janney, A., Guerra, L. & Weir, J. (2016). A working model for complying with accessibility guidelines for online learning. TechTrends, 60(6): 557-564.

Hamrick, L., & Grabham, B. (2018, August). It takes a campus: Creating accessible learning experiences for students in an LMS. Conference session presented at Colorado Learning and Teaching with Technology (COLTT) 2018 Conference, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO.

Introduction to web accessibility. (2018, March 24). Retrieved from World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Access Initiative website: https://www.w3.org/WAI/fundamentals/accessibility-intro/#context

Korbey, H. (2015, October 8). Why recognizing dyslexia in children at school can be difficult. Retrieved from KQED News website: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/41908/why-recognizing-dyslexia-in-children-at-school-can-be-difficult

Seale, J., Georgeson, J., Mamas, C., & Swain, J. (2015). Not the right kind of ‘digital capital? An examination of the complex relationship between disabled students, their technologies, and higher education institutions. Computers & Education, 82, 118-128. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131514002541?via%3Dihub

Toward a theory and practice of coaching higher ed faculty

Why re-imagine faculty professional learning?

Among the three 2017-2021 strategic priorities of Colorado- and Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit higher education association EDUCAUSE is “reimagined professional learning.” By replacing the term professional development with professional learning in its vocabulary, CEO John O’Brien (2018) indicates the extent to which EDUCAUSE and other higher education associations and collaboratives believe that for higher education institutions to thrive in a world characterized by “automation, cognitive computing, and digital transformation,” higher education faculty members, executives, and information technology (IT) administrators alike must cultivate the very digital age skill sets—“adaptability, creativity, empathy, problem solving and decision making”—that are characteristic of the digital age learning and of the teaching skills defined by ISTE.

Stating this equation in business management terms, O’Brien’s colleague Mike Meyer (2018) notes that community colleges in particular have failed to recognize that if the user experiences of students from specific populations will make or break the success of an institution, then the “purchase and partial integration of” new student pathway systems, tracking systems, and learning management systems into an old organizational infrastructure of divisions and committees, with IT (information technology) or ITC (information and communication technologies) remaining in a peripheral role, is a paradigm unable to support a viable future.

Reconceptualizing the central role that IT—which encompasses long-term strategic organizational approaches to developing digital learning environments; creating an administrative, teaching, and learning culture rich in digital creation, problem-solving, and collaboration abilities, and developing the information, data, media literacy, and ethical capacities that support that culture—involves, for one, a reconceptualization of how faculty professional learning intersects with the work of IT administrators and instructional designers in delivering an educational product that will serve a student population and sustain the educational market that population represents.

This post is about the quest for a professional learning model that a small rural community college can use to focus on how technology integration impacts faculty pedagogical capabilities. ISTE Standard for Coaches 2 calls for coaches to use technology in ways that model and coach faculty in best assessment, differentiation, and learning design practices. But the scope of this investigation has implications for how an institution-wide culture might grapple with its own quest to adapt to the current higher education landscape.

At the conclusion of this post, I’ll propose a model for a faculty-led professional development workshop series that uses assessment, differentiation, collaboration, coaching, communities of practice and their associated technologies to suggest how a faculty-led initiative could assist an institution in conceptualizing the sort of professional learning that might support cultivation of innovation and excellence in education.

To get there, I’ll explore the nature of coaching (a professional learning paradigm indebted to the fields of business and athletics) and the principles of adult learning (which apply to professional development for all higher education stakeholders), the collaborative- and action-based best practices for professional learning that are identical to the best practices used in higher ed classrooms and digital learning spaces, examine the implications of a validated construct of higher education teaching for professional learning, and review several professional learning models based on that construct, including a model developed by one of my institution’s sister colleges.

 

Andragogy and coaching fundamentals

Professional development is learning. In my conversations with higher ed stakeholders, I too have dropped the term professional development in favor of professional growth or professional learning. One reason I do this is to emphasize that higher education culture aimed at cultivating student learning should prioritize faculty development of the leadership, innovation, and teaching skills needed in digital age higher ed. A second is that I believe an institution’s approach to professional development should use the same principles of learning and teaching we say we expect instructors to enact. Professional development that results in professional learning, according to Zepeda (2015) should involve:

  1. active knowledge construction;
  2. collaborative learning;
  3. application in context, over time, with follow-up feedback that can be incorporated into continual learning; and
  4. differentiation.

The principles of andragogy further reinforce these well-established cognitivist and constructivist learning principles. Professional adult learners are self-directed and need to apply new knowledge immediately; as members of local and disciplinary professional learning communities, they need to collaborate in ways that allow each faculty member to co-learn, co-teach, contribute knowledge and benefit from collective knowledge; as those who are learning skills that were often not part of their graduate programs and may be determined by policymakers rather than by disciplinary best practices, thy need access to coaching, technical support, and follow-up as part of professional development projects and infrastructure; and they need access to differentiated learning that engages their particular disciplinary, technological, and pedagogical proficiencies and teaching assignments (Zepeda, 2015). Indeed, one key feature that distinguishes college instructors from K-12 teachers is their heterogeneity (Bachy, 2014). More on this below.

Institutions that seek to respond strategically to the changing higher education paradigms and markets of the 21st century need to overcome the obstacle for many of inspiring collective commitment among the highly diverse individuals who make up an institution (Gentle, 2014).

Characteristics of higher education institutions that are able to create such mutually committed, emotionally intelligent cultures include:

  • embracing collaboration between faculty and administration that promotes the sharing of best practices;
  • sufficient professional staff support for administrators and faculty in their primary roles (as in the current discussion of supporting faculty technological-pedagogical knowledge and practice);
  • a focus on student needs and expectations that also protects faculty from unrealistic demands;
  • and a balance between expecting accountability from staff and respecting and developing academic autonomy. (Gentle, 2014)

One of the keys to developing such an institutional characteristics is to establish a culture of feedback. Creating such a culture is much more stating a “open door policy,” providing places for various stakeholders on committees, or conducting annual faculty reviews based on models that may not include clear quantitative measures of technology-supported teaching competencies (Dana, Havens, Hochanadel, & Phillips, 2010).

What can make these practices effective and develop these characteristics are relationships based on coaching principles (Gentle, 2014). While these principles will be related to both faculty peer coaching models and to professional learning models below, coaching principles can also be adopted as consistent practices in the informal relationships that make up an organizational culture to keep the institutional focus on collaboration and growth.

If coaching allows facilitates the reflection and practice that allow faculty to grow in their application of specific disciplinary and technology-related 21st century teaching skills, and to approach challenges through problem-posing and problem-solving, coaching must be differentiated to address individual faculty members’ needs and also embedded in the real work of teaching (Zepeda, 2015). While much of the work of coaching involves positive conversations and questions that help a faculty member clarify and discern where she needs growth and respond strategically, coaching also involves modelling and progress monitoring. A higher education institution’s professional learning program or a single professional learning project can employ coaching effectively at the peer level as well as at the program level. Peer coaching as a form of professional development was introduced by Joyce and Showers (2002) in the 1970s. The hallmark of its effectiveness is not verbal feedback but rather the unexpected growth that happens through collaboration.

Zepeda (2015) compares peer coaching to “clinical” supervisory models, which also mirror constructivist learning approaches. In this cycle, an instructor is presented with a theory or technological pedagogical tool, observes and discusses modeling of the theory or tool in practice, creates and practices an application of the theory or tool, and receives feedback on that practice. Significantly, the model progresses to coaching, which involves more than observation and feedback, but for the faculty member to then step into the coaching role. Joyce and Showers (2002) found that including of the integral component of coaching led to 95% mastery and transfer by instructors. Indeed, this model parallels Wiggins and McTighe’s (2005) Understanding by Design model (also known as UbD or “backwards design”) for development of curricula or any other learning experiences, such as professional development. In this conceptual framework, learning (or “understanding”) results are first identified, then evidence of learning is established, flowed by development of instructional materials. A key concept in UbD is the nature of feedback; true feedback is formative and summative feedback defined through specific criteria that enables the learner to improve and meet goals (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).

 

Using TDPK to understand faculty diversity and provide differentiated coaching

A fundamental consideration for either peer or supervisory/program coaching of postsecondary faculty is the heterogeneity of faculty, not only in terms of individual faculty members’ existing competencies with technology in general, but with knowledge of teaching technologies and of pedagogy/andragogy (which may or may not have been a focus of their graduate study). In addition, the nature and types of knowledge in each discipline vary widely. Individual faculty epistemologies—their individual beliefs about the nature of knowledge and how it can be constructed—also affect their teaching practices.  The complex interaction between these different components of teaching has been studied over time through the development of a series of models for understanding what is involved in postsecondary teaching, and hence in faculty professional learning.

Bachy (2014) summarizes the development of this evolving model, provides validation for it, and begins to suggest how this model relates to constructivist faculty development approaches (such as UbD). She also suggests how this model can provide diagnostic assessments to differentiate professional learning opportunities for faculty.

Bachy’s (2014) model of teacher effectiveness, TPDK, includes the four dimensions of an “individual teacher’s discipline (D), personal epistemology (E), pedagogical knowledge (P), and knowledge of technology (T). Each of these dimensions, as well as their effects on one another, contributes to a unique profile of how a faculty member teachers in terms of disciplinary knowledge, beliefs about learning, knowledge of pedagogies, and knowledge of technologies for communication, learning, and disciplinary knowledge-construction. For example, “when a teacher feels competent in the technology associated with their discipline (TD dimension), it influences their educational choices… and, to a lesser extend (we observe a lower, significant, correlation), their epistemological choices” (Bachy, 2014, p. 33). Thus by identifying four validated aspects of teaching as well as six validated dimensions (such as TD) or relationships between those aspects, faculty members and their reviewers and coaches alike can define and conceptualize an instructor’s teaching strategies and define and conceptualize how to chart professional growth.

 

tdpk model
The TDPK model, showing four knowledge dimensions and the relationships between them. Retrieved from http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2014/Bachy.pdf
elationships between tdpk dimensions
Relationships between the TDPK dimensions each define a specific type of teaching knowledge. Retrieved from http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2014/Bachy.pdf

In addition to presenting the historical underpinnings of the TPDK model, Bachy presents the study that provided initial validation of the tool. The survey used in this study, along with the resulting profiles of individual faculty members’ educational strategies, can provide a diagnostic tool and a graphically represented profile that can help faculty members and their coaches plan and measure professional learning. I tried out the survey and used the same radar data charts used in the study to create my TDPK teaching profile. The value of the radar chart that is used to represent the profile is that it shows the influences that each teaching dimension may exert on the others and which of the four dimensions influence an instructor’s practices most. (For more explanation of the profiles and a comparison of the initial experimental profiles of four faculty members to qualitative descriptions of their teaching profiles, see Bachy’s article.)

 

faculty tdpk profile
Radar charts based on my completion of Bachy’s survey. To compare with four other faculty profiles and written descriptions of those faculty members, see Bachy’s article at http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2014/Bachy.pdf

Bachy’s presentation of the TPDK profile as a diagnostic and assessment tool for faculty coaching suggests a number of applications to guide effective professional development and coaching based on better understanding of instructors’ actual educational strategies. One valuable potential use of the TDPK profile in a small college with limited professional learning resources would be for trainers to develop training tracks (with tailored training focuses and materials) based on the most frequently occurring TDPK profiles at the institution. The survey and resulting profile could also be used for a training pre-assessment.

Another compelling aspect of the TPDK model is its affinity for constructivist views of teaching and learning, including its understanding of disciplinary knowledge as constructed by the “Communities of Practice” who make up disciplines, support of the trend toward student-centered learning that forms the basis for the “pedagogical knowledge” dimension of teacher, move teacher training beyond mere focus on tools and into application, and merge technology training with pedagogical training.

Thus TDPK provides a validated theoretical model upon which to build approaches to professional learning that use assessment, differentiation, learning by design, coaching, and communities of practice linked with technology. These are the principles that are established in professional development literature (Zepeda, 2015).

 

Models for faculty professional development integrating technology

Institutional support for faculty development of technological pedagogical knowledge should encompass three dimensions. First, faculty need immediate, navigable access to knowledge supports such as tutorials, videos and a repository of curricular approaches adopted by the institution. Second, faculty need defined, sustained pathways to development of TPCK knowledge, such as through trainings or articulated levels of development. Third, faculty need always-accessible support, such as coaching and troubleshooting. The institutions that form the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) have met these needs in a variety of ways. At Front Range Community College (FRCC), defined levels of technological pedagogical training can be earned, and result in pay increases. This model allows for both standardization and differentiation. For example while all teachers who teach online must take a 3 credit hour course in online teaching, professional development levels of certification can be earned from a menu of webinars and other options that can be customized by faculty. FRCC has provided the third dimension of a professional development program, ongoing support, through coaching. In 2010, FRCC began creation of an instructional coaching program embedded in its professional development approach. Although coaches were hired for each of the college’s campuses and its eLearning program, integral parts of the program included collaborative peer coaching through Reflective Practice Groups, workshops with follow-up, and networking (Patterson, 2013).

For the community college seeking to begin an embedded, centralized and sustainable approach faculty in effectively teaching with technology, a key consideration is moving beyond providing mere resources or mere conference-style, one-shot “training” focused on speakers (whether external or in-house), into practice-based learning similar to the “clinicals” approach developed by Joyce and Showers (2002).

peer coaching cycle
Joyce and Showers’ peer coaching model

Dysart and Weckerle (2015) propose a workshop model similar to one that I proposed at my institution that incorporates the principles of learning and professional learning that form a common thread through the literature reviewed in this post. Both proposals contain in seed form the three larger institutional professional development program dimensions of accessible resources, specific but differentiated training opportunities, and coaching with feedback, but on a small scale version. Both suggest that the TDPK (or TPACK, a prior conceptual iteration of TDPK) provides a way to differentiate professional learning for the broad diversity of faculty needs with regard to incorporating technology into discipline-specific pedagogy, and stress the importance of providing technological and pedagogical training to give content knowledge experts the self-efficacy they need to teach effectively and ultimately to become members of an innovative and collaborative institutional culture. Both incorporate the active learning principles, and the three research- and theory-based approaches of Learning by Design, Peer Coaching, and Communities of Practice.

dysart and weckerle model
Dysart and Weckerle’s (2015) professional development model. Retrieved from http://www.jite.org/documents/Vol14/JITEv14IIPp255-265Dysart2106.pdf

In Dysart and Weckerle’s (2015) model, a practice-based professional development opportunity would follow Joyce and Showers’ active learning-through-coaching loop in three phases: during training, during teaching, and beyond training. During training, faculty would create a situated lesson or unit incorporating new technology. During the teaching phase, faculty would be supported by peer coaching that here would involve resource-sharing as peer coaches begin the transition to becoming future trainers. After implementation, faculty with similar interests in terms of any dimension of technology, discipline, or pedagogy would continue to share understanding and a repertoire of ideas. In the model I proposed, this repertoire would be housed in a digital repository, and would be housed and extended through technology-based repositories (such as LMS-based curriculum banks of pedagogies developed by faculty at the institution) and through the development of personal learning networks (PLNs) through which faculty could develop and receive ongoing real-time support through shared networking via blogs, twitter accounts that would support the limited centralized instructional design support that is currently available.

While in the short term, higher education teaching can be complicated by the policy changes—or failure to change—that may produce growing points in which faculty may indeed feel hindered from connecting disciplinary best practices to institutional technology decisions; overwhelmed by a focus on student success that unwittingly makes unrealistic demands on instructors along with insufficient support for developing the related competencies, it is the faculty leaders themselves who possess balanced technology, pedagogical, epistemological and disciplinary knowledge who may be best equipped to find professional learning solutions that will enable higher education institutions to cultivate cultures of collaboration, innovation, and teaching and learning excellence.

 

References:

Bachy, S. (2014). TPDK, A new definition of the TPACK model for a university setting. European journal of open, distance, and e-learning, 17(2), 15-39. Retrieved from http://www.eurodl.org/materials/contrib/2014/Bachy.pdf

Dana, H., Havens, B., Hochanadel, C., & Phillips, J. (2010, November). An innovative approach to faculty coaching. Contemporary issues in education research, 3(11), 29-34. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1072680.pdf

Dysart, S., & Weckerle, C. (2015). Professional development in higher education: A model for meaningful technology integration. Journal of information technology education: Innovations in practice, 14, 255-265 Retrieved from http://www.jite.org/documents/Vol14/JITEv14IIPp255-265Dysart2106.pdf

Gentle, P., & Forman, D. (2014). Engaging leaders: The challenge of inspiring collective commitment in universities. New York, NY: Routledge.

Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (2002). Student achievement through staff development. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Meyer, M. (2018, May 7). How change has changed: The community college as an IT enterprise. Retrieved from the EDUCAUSE website at  https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/5/how-change-has-changed-the-community-college-as-an-it-enterprise

Obrien, J. (2018, May 7). The Future of EDUCAUSE, Part 3: Reimagined Professional Learning. Retrieved from the EDUCAUSE website at https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/5/the-future-of-educause-part-3-reimagined-professional-learning

Patterson, B. (2013). A model for instructional coaching at the community college. Innovation showcase, 8(12). Retrieved from the League for Innovation in the Community College website at https://www.league.org/innovation-showcase/model-instructional-coaching-community-college

Wiggins, G.P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Assoc. for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Zepeda, S.J. (2015). Job-embedded professional development: Support, collaboration, and learning in schools. New York, NY: Routledge.

Collaborative Professional Development as a Key to Sustainable Technology Integration

In a recent post, I explored the way faculty behavior—specifically in the form of modeling and collaboration in the classroom that enables students to co-construct knowledge—is a primary factor in connectivist learning. Here, I would like to address the subject of how an institution can help faculty cultivate that type of behavior and the pedagogical and technological skills to support such faculty behavior (specifically in terms of using the LMS required of all and videoconferencing system required of some faculty at my institution). Part of the answer is formal training, such as through online modules that address different aspects of using an LMS. Faculty can complete and return to such modules as they set up and manage course shells and synchronous class sessions. But faculty technology training also needs to become ongoing, discipline-specific, and innovation-oriented, and this can happen through collaboration more sustainably and effectively than through formal training (Future ready).

However, ISTE Standard for Educators 4, which addresses faculty collaboration as a key to improving instructional practices, particularly those involving technology, also raises the implicit administrative question of how faculty can have the time to do so.

At my college I have advocated for establishing a standing committee that would work toward developing a comprehensive framework for educational technology decision-making, including decision-making about professional development for faculty in pedagogical technology. Such professional development could include not only (1) formal training such as modules in the form of tutorials either purchased or created by the institution; but also (2) ongoing support to help teachers from diverse subject areas troubleshoot and adapt the LMS and synchronous platform to the particular learning conditions of those disciplines; and (3) trainings in which faculty would first develop technology-related solutions to instructional needs, then, after implementing their solutions, reconvene to refine and share their solutions which could then be permanently shared in a collection of curricular tools and resources that faculty could continue to develop and draw upon.

I began thinking about this third area of professional development, faculty collaboration in curricular development across the disciplines that meets an institution-wide curricular need, when reviewing literature in my discipline about addressing the needs of students (for example, resettled refugees) who enter open access institutions like mine and have literacy backgrounds that diverge considerably from the college-ready standard English speaking, reading, and writing skills that college instructors may assume students possess. In one such model, Hernandez, Thomas, and Schuemann (2012) described a campus-wide initiative at Miami Dade Community College to use corpus linguistics to analyze  the discrete language skills (e.g. the use of key grammatical features and interpersonal skills such as asking for clarification on assignments) students needed to be successful in general education classes. Faculty then collaborated through a series of workshops over a several-year period to transform the general education curriculum of the college into content-based instruction in the various disciplines that also supported learning English. The collaborative structure of this initiative could be applied in the development of institution-wide instruction that supports faculty (and thereby students) in learning and using the affordances of the technology platforms chosen by an institution’s administration.

The collaboration inherent in such a model would potentially empower faculty to not only work with required technologies, but to gain agency in developing curricula and, in so doing, to both employ the affordances of and overcome the limitations of required technologies. Potential drawbacks with this approach are the amount of time required for faculty and professional development planners alike, and the administrator and faculty “buy-in” needed to replace traditional approaches to institutional technology decisions and traditional course preparation with a willingness to re-design curricula.

Another collaborative approach that I have actually been able to help implement was an informal gathering of interested faculty who met once monthly over the course of a year to share pedagogical technological needs and solutions. This “Reflective Practice Group” met during the 2016-2017 school year in a classroom at my college and provided collaboration, idea sharing, and a deeper sense of support and community to the faculty who participated. Though it was appreciated by these faculty and the college’s administration, as an entirely ad hoc movement outside the normal faculty responsibilities and professional development structures of the college, it was difficult for faculty to devote time to the group following its initial year.

As I continue to dialogue with my administration about how to both sustainably support faculty in developing pedagogical agency in technology use and to build community among faculty (rather than perpetuating a “digital divide” among faculty who are more or less knowledgeable of technology use), I’ll be consulting literature from the interdisciplinary fields of digital education. One such source is Jaipal-Jamani, Figg, Gallagher, Scott, and Ciampa (2015), available at https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1077239.pdf.

This source describes a professional development initiative in which faculty developed pedagogical technology (TPACK) knowledge in a way analogous to the Miami Dade content-based English instruction initiative in that faculty members worked collaboratively to identify and address their own instructional needs, then develop an approach to professional development in which faculty themselves became professional development facilitators. Although this approach contains the drawback of requiring more time investment than faculty or administrators at my institution may be willing or able to give, the source looks like a useful conversation builder for ongoing discussion about technology-related professional development because it contains a practical framework for designing workshops, specifically addresses the TPACK knowledge that is becoming a felt need at my institution, and uses a qualitative research approach to evaluate how research and practice in the professional development of educators can be bridged.

 

References:

Future ready: Establishing a professional learning ecosystem. (2016, April 05). Vancouver Public Schools Office of Educational Technology. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/TMbeqn7NlyI

Hernandez, K., Thomas, M., & Schuemann, C. (2012). Navigating uncharted waters: An accelerated content-based English for academic purposes program. Teaching English in the two year college, 40(1), 44-56.

Jaipal-Jamani, K., Figg, C, Gallagher, T., Scott, R.M., & Ciampa, K. (2015). Collaborative professional development in higher education: Developing knowledge of technology enhanced teaching. The journal of effective teaching, 15(2), 30-44. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1077239.pdf

Regional Teacher Professional Learning and Technology – Module 5

Involving Many Stakeholders

Like some of my colleagues in the Digital Education Leadership M.Ed. Program at Seattle Pacific University, this quarter has led me to think more broadly about professional development for teachers and specifically professional development through technology. Much of the learning this quarter has been new and valuable to me as a first year instructional technology coach. I’m understanding more about the limitations on professional learning. At the same time I am becoming more and more involved with school and district leadership teams through my position, which exposes me to district and building PD models. Also, I have had the chance to read about some really great professional development initiatives that are happening and have thought, what would it take to make that happen here in WA or in my region, or in my district? By no means have I figured out how to do that, but I still have a desire to work toward better, more engaging professional development that reflects best practices and teacher needs. Although my lens has been fairly focused on building level learning up until now, for this post I’m going to try to zoom out a bit and think about region wide PD. As the final post this quarter, I am still considering how technology coaches implement technology rich learning environments which is ISTE-C 4b. However, as instructional technology coaches work in concert with district and building administrators, I’m going to talk about how I think they might aid in that development once again. A quote from the Office of Educational Technology continues to guide my thinking about professional learning, “technology should not be separate from content area learning but used to transform and expand pre- and in-service learning as an integral part of teacher learning” (National Education Technology Plan 2017). As I frame my thinking about professional learning, I’m always considering that technology is an integral part of that plan.

Learn spelled in scrabble tiles
Pieces of the puzzle

Regional Supports

The question I was asked to investigate this week originally was, what does the ideal technology rich professional learning program look like? I could have investigated that question alone because I’m still unsure of what the “ideal” program looks like even after reading about many great programs. Instead I chose to look at professional learning as a partnership. This quarter I’ve come across so many great partnerships, like those discussed in WA-TPL for example, and that makes me think that the ideal professional learning program would have to be developed in partnership with organizations that reach beyond one school, or school district. State partnerships certainly can help, but I’ve decided instead to focus on regional learning.  The same need is explained this way in the National Education Technology Plan, “broad, coordinated strategic planning requires a commitment from all parties involved to collaborate consistently across organizational boundaries.” Another resource that I found helps to explain how partnership with state, district and regional organizations might work to support professional learning. The authors of the study found that state policies and systems are important for the implementation of effective professional development. “But to ensure the quality of that professional development, it is equally critical to couple state efforts with professional associations and intermediary organizations that help extend the reach of state agencies, offer learning supports of many kinds, and provide a voice for local stakeholders and outside experts” (Chung Wei, Darling-Hammond, Jaquith, & Mindich 2010). Clearly there is a need for ESDs to be a part of professional learning.

Not Recreating the Wheel

In education we are usually great borrowing the work of others. Teachers are resourceful, they will find a way to get material especially lesson plans in the most efficient way. As designers of professional development couldn’t we be doing the same thing? In reading some of the national documents like the NETP or even WA-TPL it is clear that great learning is happening and needs of regions, states or other areas across the country may be similar. Often it seems that lack of resources prevents school districts from really developing a wide spectrum of professional learning that supports all staff. Educational service districts could play a role in alleviating the lack of variety and depth. I think that administrators could support teachers in seeking out additional professional learning and could even allocate time for that if they were familiar with resources that were available. I’ll expand more on these ideas in later paragraphs.

Vertical Disconnect

As a teacher, I’m not sure that my needs were considered for building level learning. I know that I didn’t feel district learning was always relevant to me and I often didn’t hear about professional learning that the ESD was offering. I often hear this complaint from teachers, whether it is voiced in such a direct way or not. Teachers feel like learning isn’t relevant to their needs. Perhaps we can prevent this from happening! As school districts are adopting a professional development plan for a curriculum, a standard, or technology, they could share that with their local ESD. I have a vision that the ESD becomes a virtual library of professional learning, which would allow it to pair districts together, and maybe even provide training to support the needs of more teachers, or extend that learning. Even a medium sized district like mine can’t possibly meet the needs of all of its teachers, a close ESD partnership makes sense. Systems should also be developed to gather a list of requests from teachers. Districts should encourage feedback – authentic feedback – from professional development. District level and building level feedback to let the district look for additional resources if needed. Those requests could shape building level learning, district level learning or regional learning. I may be advocating for something Vermont has been doing for nearly ten years, “the state is attempting to coordinate statewide professional development and allow districts to pool resources and share knowledge through state-supported Educational Services Agencies and intermediary organizations” (Chung Wei et al. 2010). If it has been working in Vermont, I wonder what might be keeping it from happening here?

Past Connections

Many ideas from my previous few posts definitely build to this one, and I would be remiss not to at least mention those themes. Some I mentioned previously are:

  • Administrators becoming instructional leaders
  • Educators turning to local and global PLCs
  • Staff input for professional learning

In addition to these ideas, administrators could be the missing link to provide relevant resources for their teachers. If administrators were really excited about professional learning, because of the impact it can have on their staff and students, connecting staff with additional professional learning opportunities and removing barriers to help get them there would make a lot of sense. I know when my administrator did that by allowing me to attend PD I was appreciative and it impacted my teaching. Maybe administrators would think about becoming experts on professional learning offered in their area if an ESD served as an organizational repository for that learning.

Administrator and Advocate

I don’t mean to say that administrators should know all there is to know about professional learning in their area. Instead, I hope that if they are able to partner with local institutions like ESDs, Universities, in addition to district leadership so that teacher learning could improve. If this were to happen states would prove to be a stronger network of educators because of the common learning and collaboration that would be happening. “A continuum of services should be considered and utilized, from site-based teacher leaders to ESD and state-level experts that can offer further support as needed” (Bishop, Lumpe, Henrickson & Crane 2016). Let’s follow the recommendation from WA-TPL to fully support professional learning in our schools. 

Building on Established Groups

Professional groups definitely are serving a need educators have to get connected and to learn about best practices of technology integration. I have written before about how  Twitter chats turn into a PLN because of the shared learning. Many local professional organizations are serving a similar role, like the Tech TOSA groups that meet in the Puget Sound area. In addition to these opportunities I think administrators and district leaders could partner with ESDs to provide even more focused professional learning for teachers. Maybe they could bring trainers into individual schools, maybe increased utilization of ESD resources would lead to more online trainings. A regional partnership seems like a great next step for school districts to collaborate and extend the learning for their staff since supporting it alone isn’t working. In addition WA-TPL advocates for continued bolstering of state-wide PD saying, “support systems should be scaled up statewide in order to build high quality professional learning” (Bishop et al. 2016). Hopefully this state level work is happening, while it is, I would advocate for strengthening regional systems to better support teachers all across the state.

Resources

Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA. Retrieved January 19, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf

Chung Wei, R., Darling-Hammond, L., Jaquith, A., & Mindich, D. (2010). Teacher Professional Learning in the United States: Case Studies of State Policies and Strategies (Summary Report). Stanford University. Retrieved from https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/pdf/2010phase3report.pdf

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update, Washington, D.C., 2017. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/

EDTC 6106 Module 5: Extending Tech PD Beyond Educators to Support Wider School Community

As I reflect on this quarter of my Masters in Digital Education Leadership, I feel I’ve truly come to question more behind the scenes operations of Professional Development in my district and become more inquisitive to answer questions not only for myself, but also for colleagues and our school community.  For my final blogpost this quarter, I again look at ISTE Coaching Standard 4b:

“Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment”

This quarter has led me to consider not only how I can contribute to creating more meaningful PD for educators, but has led me to question how to improve collaboration with our community as well.

How do we move beyond school-based PD to engage local stakeholders and increase on-going opportunities to explore tech tools as a school-wide community?

What can we do?

As mentioned in my previous post, admin can create a tech team within the school.  This team may begin with the educators who actively use tech, but then should also include other interested stakeholders such as volunteers, parents, and community members (could be from tutoring or after school programs).  This also involves assessing what software is being paid for by the district and which licenses are being funded through the school budget. By having the tech team assess which software is being used, by whom, and the frequency, they can help administration make budgeting decisions for the upcoming school year and reassess future tech needs, PD for teachers, and support for families.

Collaborating with Parents and Community

Once schools have a clear picture of which teachers are using specific educational programs, the time comes to invite parents and community members to learn about how they can further support their children.  Creating a collaborative partnership with other stakeholders who work with our children not only reinforces the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”, but it also provides multiple opportunities for discussion.

Recognising the importance of collaboration in my own building, after recently hosting an event for ELL parents on technology, our initial focus was sharing how to log in to free district resources as well as academic programs teachers are wanting students to use at home.  With 17 parents attending our first session, they all had questions. With three staff members available for translation, we provided each family with a laptop, pulled their children in to show their parents what they know, and provided handouts on how to access resources again from home.  None of these parents had accessed the free district resources before, nor did they know some could be translated into their primary language. Having parents practice logging in with staff support was critical. In addition, a member from an after school tutoring program (outside of district) also attended.  She was ecstatic to learn which reading programs were available online for our students to use after school and wanted to also learn which resources she could recommend to families in our district.

Understanding that teachers may only meet with parents once or twice a year, but many of our families receive outside services, there’s work to be done to increase our partnerships to support student learning.  Recently I attended a conference with parents where we questioned if the student’s lack of oral expression is due to comprehension or language acquisition, we had a team of six people all wanting to see this young girl succeed.  In attendance were her parents (non-English speaking, but literate in Spanish), her tutor from an after school program who works as a liaison with many of our Spanish speaking families, a bilingual assistant from our building, her classroom teacher and myself. I came prepared with resources in Spanish that the parents could use at home to reinforce the reading questions we ask at school as well as made sure they know how to have their children log in to a reading program when away from school.  I quickly became aware that I need to work on collaboration when both the tutor and our bilingual assistant asked for copies of the resources and log in information to share with our other Spanish speaking families.  After our meeting, they both expressed how much it helped watching me model how to log in and how to use questioning at home.  It was a great reminder that simply sending resources home is not enough.

One strategy that is gaining momentum with Tech PD is micro-credentialing.   As districts use badging to encourage educators to take on more personalized learning, this provides another opportunity to review what tech is being used, it’s relevance, and how to share it’s value with stakeholders. Micro-credentialing also works as evidence for evaluations, which many educators are striving to identify each year. This is where administrators can also remind staff about family engagement and support.

How to Engage Stakeholders

In Saomya Saxena’s post, How to Involve Various Educational Stakeholders in Education Improvement, she refers to a 2008 policy brief released by National Education Association (NEA).  These recommendations really rang true for me as reminders of what we need to do beyond staff collaboration and PD.

 What’s Next…

Looking ahead to next year, I see several ways that the partnerships in my school can be enhanced in order to better align how we are serving our students.  I feel fortunate to work in a community that truly values diversity and that we have so many bilingual support staff available to translate.  After looking at a software analysis this Spring and what tech support our ELL families expressed wanting to learn, I feel my building is moving forward to meet more of the recommendations listed above.

Resources

Saxena, S. (2014, January 29). How to Involve Various Educational Stakeholders in Education Improvement? Retrieved March 10, 2018, from http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/insights/894-how-to-involve-various-educational-stakeholders-in-education-improvement

Snyder, J. (2018, March 09). Software Asset Management Helps IT Pros Get the Most from Their Software Licenses. Retrieved March 11, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2018/03/software-asset-management-helps-it-pros-get-most-their-software-licenses

“3 Steps to Revamping K–12 Professional Development” (2017, December 01). Retrieved March 11, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/12/3-steps-revamping-k-12-professional-development

Van Roekel, D. (2008). Parent, Family, Community Involvement in Education. NEA Education Policy and Practice Department. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/PB11_ParentInvolvement08.pdf

Leveraging Technology to Change the Professional Development Landscape

My question related to ISTE Coaching standard 4b is “how do we provide technology rich professional learning programs” for teachers. Just as things have been slow to change in education, it’s been equally slow to change in professional development. We often still model traditional lecture style models that don’t embrace available technology tools or don’t utilize them in ways that mirror the blended, personalized, transformative learning environments that we want for our students.

In the conclusion of The National Educational Technology Plan there is a call for the following changes to Professional Development for Teachers:

  1. Provide pre-service and in-service educators with professional learning experiences powered by technology to increase their digital literacy and enable them to create compelling learning activities that improve learning and teaching, assessment, and instructional practices.
  2. Use technology to provide all learners with online access to effective teaching and better learning opportunities with options in places where they are not otherwise available.
  3. Develop a teaching force skilled in online and blended instruction.
  4. Develop a common set of technology competency expectations for university professors and candidates exiting teacher preparation programs for teaching in technologically enabled schools and post-secondary education institutions.

Each of these items require changing the structure of our Professional Development  toward, mastery and evidence based learning as well a providing teachers with the tools to personalize their learning and experience technology rich learning environments as a student. As the saying goes, “you teach the way you are taught”. We won’t develop new teachers who naturally think and teach differently until we produce a generation of students who had the chance to learn differently. The first step will be to shift the experiences our current teachers have in pre-service and inservice trainings so that they know what it looks and feels like to be part of a transformative, tech infused learning experience.

Transforming teaching practice is bigger than just including technology. There are certainly larger questions about pedagogy and what we can learn from the learning sciences research that will have a huge impact on teaching and learning in the future.  Jennifer Graff suggests in her paper Technology-Rich Innovative Learning Environments (Graff 2013) that there are three drivers that technology brings to the change process. First, it can open up opportunities to improve teaching and learning that weren’t available before. We don’t have to rely on just the experts in our districts for learning. Webinars, MOOCs and video conferencing and online learning can provide teachers with access to amazing experiences from experts in their fields. Secondly, adults without digital literacy skills will be at a disadvantage and she suggests will “suffer from a new digital divide” of adults who can function in a digital world and those that can’t. Finally, technology is an integral part of functioning and accessing “higher order competencies” that make it possible to be productive in today’s society.

She used ‘Morel’s Matrix” to evaluate technology in education based on the four stages (emerging, applying, integrating, and transforming) to look at a number of areas but the one that stuck out to me was the one on Professional Development. Transformational PD involves integration, innovation, self-management on the part of the learners and involves a personal vision and plan (Graff 2013).   

When you put that together with the recommendations of the National Technology Plan it seems like there are four main things that an Technology-Rich professional learning environment needs to have:

  1. Clarity of Professional Competencies and Expectations – It’s difficult to develop personal vision and plans as a teacher if the overall direction is not clear. If organizations can develop professional competencies, teachers (both pre-service and inservice) would be able to set achievable goals and work towards mastery. Once mastery is achieved, it would be easier to set more innovative goals with the confidence of having the skills and abilities to meet them.
  2. Teach skills the same way they’ll be used; integrated into content areas and using blended and personalized delivery methods. Teach to the ’why’ first. Model professional development that teaches content and best instructional practice with the inclusion of technology to support and enhance the learning so that teachers understand why it’s useful. If it’s something that they’ve experienced that makes a powerful difference in their learning they will be motivated to learn how to do it so they can offer the same experience to their students.
  3. Use technology to provide choice, learning flexibility (i.e. time, place, duration, learning styles) and access to quality learning opportunities.
  4. Make use of professional networks and learning communities to expand learning opportunities outside the classroom or school and to access innovative ideas and resources.

 

References

Conclusion – Office of Educational Technology. (2016). Office of Educational Technology. Retrieved 17 March 2018, from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/conclusion/

Groff, J. (2013). Technology-Rich Innovative Learning Environments. Oecd.org. Retrieved 17 March 2018, from http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/Technology-Rich%20Innovative%20Learning%20Environments%20by%20Jennifer%20Groff.pdf

 

Project Evaluation of Edmodo Certified Trainer Course (ECT) at Edmodo

Project Evaluation of Edmodo Certified Trainer Course (ECT) at Edmodo – 2017-2018

ECT SWOT Analysis.jpg

This project is being conducted by Autumn Ottenad, Community Growth Manager at Edmodo. I am trying to figure out if the new Edmodo Certified Trainer (ECT) program which I recently revamped taking it from six to four weeks is successful because Edmodo wants groundswell, massive growth for the betterment of the community.

Executive Summary

This evaluation is formative in nature, which means that this information I’ve gathered and which I now present is not intended to determine the overall worth of the program.  Instead, this data will allow me to make some recommendations and comment on perceptions surrounding the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the Edmodo Certified Trainer program at Edmodo.

Important points that will be reviewed in depth in this report:

  • Educators feel comfortable to “train-the-trainer” and present about Edmodo and know that there are staff and peers who support them there.
  • Educators becoming Edmodo Certified Trainers (ECTs) would like to have colleagues and figures to whom they can turn for conversation and advice in their profession. 
  • Educators have high confidence in their ability to succeed in the classroom with Edmodo.
  • Educators who become ECTs have a high opinion of their influence/participation in their community and professional learning network.
  • The Instructional Facilitators and mentors of the cohort have communicated to the cohort that high achievement it is crucial and they are striving to provide it.
  • When these educators become ECTs, they would like more information about how Edmodo functions as a product and company.

Recommended Next Steps

Thinking ahead to future cohorts the decision at hand becomes how do we strike a balance between quality and quantity of the ECTs who graduate from the course? We saw the same drop off after week two of the previous cohort with a number of the participants as we did in the in this current cohort.  Kate B., the instructional facilitator, began to speculate a few different options for the future cohorts. Suggested Option A. Keep the same design of four weeks, producing high caliber, but few ECTs. Suggested Option B. Redesign the course again and trim it down to two or three weeks to create more, but potentially not as high caliber ECTs. Trimming to three weeks is doable, but trimming down to two weeks total may be problematic.  “Other than having to encourage Bobby, one of the mentors, to keep up with the scoring (again, I’m so disappointed in his lack of engagement), this cohort went very smoothly, and I think that the participants enjoyed it. Lidia, the other mentor from Argentina, was wonderfully engaging and the more active the mentors were in the group, the more the participants engaged with us. It would be interesting to reach out to those who did not complete the cohort and ask them to complete a survey about their reasons for lack of completion. I’d be curious to read their responses.  I was very thoughtful in the design of this course, but I also recognize that folks need to be motivated and stay motivated to complete the work.” I did reach out to those who did not finish the course or dropped out early on. My responses from those who dropped out first were mostly that they did not have the time to invest in the class at this moment or that they do not hold the product knowledge at this time to complete the ECT program at the level that they would need to find the course fruitful. For those who it was a wrong time I will reach out again for the next cohort to see if that one is better, and I wonder if the Summer would be better because they will have more free time.  For the few who stated they did not have the right amount of product knowledge I sent them the link to join the Certified Learner course which is our base level of the community and it is a self-paced 12 module course. I think if they went through this course on their own time they would become sufficiently knowledgeable about the product to then become an ECT.

Overall the changes that were made to the ECT program were positive, proactive modifications in my perception but we have to be able to scale the number of graduates without compromising the content and quality of the program.  I come with the educator background, so my guidance is always swayed by the fact that we are asking these educators to represent the company in the world without much supervision after this process and Edmodo needs to trust that the ECTs will serve the product well to any audience.  But I can also see the need for groundswell and the incorporation of a large ground army for the product so that Edmodo can have as many people trained sufficiently on the product as possible.

Bringing Computational Thinking to Educators Professional Learning

As I begin to wrap up my studies in EDTC 6106 Educational Technology Leadership for the DEL program our last inquiry asked us to explore; what does the ideal technology-rich professional learning program look like? From there I began to contemplate Computational Thinking again which is a common thread throughout my studies in SPU’s DEL program.  As Google for Education defines it computational thinking (ct) is “is a problem-solving process that includes a number of characteristics, such as logically ordering and analyzing data and creating solutions using a series of ordered steps (or algorithms), and dispositions, such as the ability to confidently deal with complexity and open-ended problems. CT is essential to the development of computer applications, but it can also be used to support problem-solving across all disciplines, including math, science, and the humanities. Students who learn CT across the curriculum can begin to see a relationship between subjects as well as between school and life outside of the classroom.” Applying CT to professional learning is an easy leap to make, and therefore my question became; how do we challenge K-12 stakeholders to take on the role of problem solvers in designing solutions for the next generation? I want the responsibility of integrating technology into the educational curriculum to be a shared job between everyone who comes into contact with the students.  It cannot only fall on the shoulders of those who are tech coaches or district tech leads because they are spread so thin.  All stakeholders must take a problem-solving approach to the issue of tech integration. 

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Furthermore, in Jennifer Groff’s OECD report Technology-Rich Innovative Learning Environments she explains under the heading of opportunity that, “once thought of as just a part of resources‘, we‘ve come to see how technology can be so much more than that. It can play a key role and at times a leading role, in all elements of the teaching and learning environment. Technology can shape, and reshape, who is the learner and who is the teacher. It can open up knowledge and content that otherwise would be less accessible, through access to open educational resources for example. It obviously is part of resources‘, but it is clearly integral to the 3 organization‘ component insofar as it offers a critical mediating medium for those relationships of pedagogy and assessment inherent in an organization” (2013, pg. 3). Therefore, we establish the crucial element of technology into the classroom and Groff goes as far to say that it should play a key or leading role because of its transformative nature.  If it takes a village to raise a child why is the goal of tech integration into curriculum put on just a few shoulders?  Digital Promise says As we bridge the digital divide in schools and homes across the country, we also should build educator capacity to ask students to take part in new and transformational learning experiences with technology. This will require more than sharing tips in the faculty lounge or after-school professional development for educators.” I think stakeholders who should get into the solution game are teachers, district admin, students, parents, interested companies, and government think tanks. 

Demonstrating the Scale:

The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) illustrates how teachers can use technology to enhance learning for K-12 students. The TIM incorporates five interdependent characteristics of meaningful learning environments: active, collaborative, constructive, authentic, and goal-directed (Jonassen, Howland, Moore, & Marra, 2003). The TIM is an interactive rubric that shows the scale of integration from Entry level to the Transformation of a school to fully tech-integrated. The entry-level states that it is when “The teacher uses technology to deliver curriculum content to students.” Contrasting the transformation stage is when “The teacher cultivates a rich learning environment, where blending choice of technology tools with student-initiated investigations, discussions, compositions, or projects, across any content area, is promoted.”  If we know the problem and we have a rubric to compare our schools and districts against why then can’t we work towards a solution?

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 9.25.58 PM

The matrix is designed to assist schools and districts in evaluating the level of technology integration in classrooms and to provide teachers with models of how technology can be integrated throughout instruction in meaningful ways. While tech companies around the world are getting into the game of helping schools and districts out with tech integration. The Verizon Innovative Learning Schools directed by Digital Promise initiative for example “provides teachers and students in U.S. middle schools with always-available access to technology and empowers them to be content creators, adept problem-solvers, and responsible consumers of digital media and learning resources. We fully document the process so others can learn from the experiences of these schools.” 

Professional Learning Goals for Faculty now

  • Teachers should know how to leverage the device to increase student engagement, increase STEAM engagement/opportunities, increase tech proficiency (student/teacher)
  • Implement PBL model
  • Implement school-wide literacy strategies
  • Implement AVID strategies

Eventually, educators should know and be able to…

  • To utilize and demonstrate/model the use of schoolwide tech applications.
  • Identify additional tech applications that will enhance our practice and student learning.
  • Champion the integration of technology into student learning tasks.
  • Synthesize the school-wide initiatives into a comprehensive program.
  • Collaborate with other team members to develop schoolwide plans for improvement and accomplishment of goals.

So students feel empowered and be able to:

  • Create products and applications to demonstrate learning.
  • Lead learning around the use of technology.
  • Solve real-world challenges while demonstrating knowledge of content and skills that are required at each grade level.
  • Identify and explore careers that are applicable to STEAM topics/activities.

What are the next steps for developments of tech integration?

As we all know by now technology changes at a rapid pace. It is my idea is that if everyone involved takes a problem-solving approach to the issue and understands that they all share responsibility then the process can be a living process.  Continually updated lesson plans and videos added months and years from now will look completely different than they do at this moment. Districts and schools will be encouraged to use tech integration in professional learning and in the context of goal development and associated professional development planning. As we engage learners, technology needs to be woven throughout the curriculum so it becomes an integral part of the daily learning. Through regular classroom observation and targeted professional development activities, it is our hope that over time teachers will be able to effectively monitor their progress through a continuum of technology integration levels.

Resources:

Groff, J. (2013, February). TECHNOLOGY-RICH INNOVATIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/Technology-Rich%20Innovative%20Learning%20Environments%20by%20Jennifer%20Groff.pdf

Office of Educational Technology, Conclusion. (n.d.). Retrieved March 06, 2018, from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/conclusion/
Verizon Innovative Learning Schools. (n.d.). Retrieved March 06, 2018, from http://digitalpromise.org/initiative/verizon-innovative-learning-schools/

Best Practices in Professional Learning: Admin as Building Tech Leaders – Module 4

A New Generation

I heard this week that the PEW Research Center identified a generational shift for those born after 1996. They are now known as the post-millennial generation while awaiting an official name, (Dimok, 2018). It is interesting that the movement of education mirrors life and society. Just as we have moved into a new name for the latest generation of young people in America, the United States in December, 2015, moved from No Child Left Behind to a new revitalization of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965, called Every Student Succeeds Act. From what I understand about ESSA so far, I see that there is a shift from accountability in NCLB to thinking about the child as a complete learner, and beginning to re-think the parameters used to measure schools and including growth as a valuable indicator of progress, (ESSA Implementation, 2018). I found this video helpful to get an overview of where the state of Washington is going during the rest of the 2017-2018 school year.

For this module, we started off with a guiding question. What role should administrators play in professional learning programs and how do we advocate for their involvement and adequate professional learning support for technology-based learning initiatives? I decided to ask a question that would allow me to reflect on my own experiences. I’m thinking about an entire school community and how a principal can shape that community. So I’m wondering;


How can administrators work under district constraints and plan and advocate for PD that is best for their schools? What happens when administrators are involved in learning?
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  This idea is related to what I have been investigating for some of this quarter and in previous quarters. I have been thinking about administrators,what a collaborative staff and school looks like and how an administrator can craft and support that environment. It is not directly related to technology professional development, but I am going to try to weave it into my post in a meaningful way. I do want to consider and keep in mind that I am not an administrator, however, I have been fortunate to work with some very dedicated and effective administrators and I would like to talk about some of what I have seen in their work.

The Changing Role of Administrators

As I read about how an administrator supports their staff. I found some ideas that I had maybe been familiar with but hadn’t yet read about in literature. These ideas certainly relate to some of the work I have seen my past administrators engage in and they help me to see the shift that has happened since before 2008. The book Creation of a Professional Learning Community for School Leaders: Insights on the Change Process from the Lens of the School Leader, shares that previously administrators were managers. One administrator from New York put it this way:

Before, you ran your school, you carried your budget, you hardly ever saw anyone. Now, suddenly it’s different thinking, a different conversation. We are all learners. We are all to be involved in learning. It is not just about being an administrator, it’s about being instructional leaders, (Humada-Ludeke, 2013).

That quote captures the essential shift in my opinion and in my findings,

for administrators, “it’s about being instructional leaders,” (Humada-Ludeke, 2013).

Being an instructional leader must take a lot of hard work and focused planning. I know administrators have an insane amount of work to do with evaluations, student behavior, school management, parent and family relations, staff dynamics not to mention guiding the learning of an entire school. So know this is not a simple shift but I think it is probably one of the most important things an administrator can do well.

Another idea that I want to highlight is collaborative leadership. It reminds me of distributed leadership from my module 2 post. The Office of Educational Technology NETP Leadership section uses collaborative leadership to describe how leaders support learning, gather input from diverse stakeholders, communicate clear learning goals, and create a culture of trust and collaboration, (U.S. Department of Education, 2017). I have no doubt that collaborative leadership leads to an increase in buy-in which I will discuss again later in this post.

What Might an Engaged Administrator Do?

An engaged administrator keeps those tenets as a central part of their practice in a school. One of my previous administrators seemed to have this kind of laser focus. She knew that collaboration among staff was of the utmost importance. She kept coming back to a system that built collaboration, the grade level PLC. The leadership team remained focus on this goal of building a PLC that was focused on data in spite of the other mandates that came from the district level. That helped my team and our school to build a culture of collaboration. She also talked with us regularly about life which helped build a strong community among the staff.

Finally, one more way administrators can show they are engaged that is more directly related to my question and this module is to be a part of encouraging technology best practices through PD. I think an administrator could do some of this work on their own. Instead I think administrators can highlight and encourage staff members to share technology best practices that they are seeing in their time in classrooms. Another way to integrate technology into professional development is to learn to use a tool from staff members before demonstrating using it in PD or asking a staff member to demonstrate their work. My past principal was masterful in that way, she was always sharing best practices through technology by either learning herself or encouraging other teachers to demonstrate. Being closely involved with the PD happening in schools and best practices should lead administrators to engaging in best practices of technology integration.

Getting Started with Tech Integration in PD

So what might an administrator do if they don’t feel a strong urge to engage with technology? The first idea is to set up a team. In his article about helping administrators become technology leaders Morrison (2006), suggests an administrator establish a team of teachers from all grade levels interested in technology best practices and integration. I think having those teachers be a part of the building leadership team is a great way to ensure there is a voice advocating for technology in PD and instruction. Another way for administrators to get another perspective would be to stop by some PLC meetings. Administrators could spend PD planning time investigating the best practice of instruction with technology. As I found in my last post, about Local PLCs and Global PLNs, Twitter chats are a great way to participate in a discussion where you can learn a lot from educators locally and globally. Sometimes a little exploration goes a long way in fueling interest. If the focus is on the best professional development for your staff, planning and delivering the best professional development you are able, technology integration can naturally fit into that process.

Final Thoughts

Vancouver Public Schools has started to follow an interesting model of professional development and technology integration. They started with providing focused professional development for administrators. It might be something for other districts to consider to get all staff and buildings onto the same page. This model would allow administrators to use coaching support and would increase understanding of how instructional technology coaches can support them and their staff.

 

Building a community of learners is key in the classroom and it is also very important in a staff. To do that administrators really do need to be instructional leaders. However, just because they are instructional leaders doesn’t mean they can’t have help from others. There are supports they can put in place as I’ve described above that would help administrators advocate for their buildings through professional learning. In addition to the above ideas, I think Lewis (2015), offers great advice to administrators on how to engage and understand the needs of their teachers:

  • Offer teachers choice

Personalizing the learning gives teachers that choice and will likely increase buy-in.

  • Observe in order to differentiate

Decide what your staff needs to meet their needs. Once again meeting their individualized needs will lead to an increase in buy-in.

  • Be clear and transparent about why something can’t be done

Share the wider lense with staff when they suggest ideas that won’t work right now. Let teachers know where the district is going and where there suggestions would fit in. Also don’t forget about their suggestion. Keeping those ideas in some kind of shared document that staff can view just to keep the conversation going would let them know you are coming back to their ideas.

I think that as the culture in the school changes maybe looking out to other schools or groups of teachers around a school district for professional learning might be possible and become more common. Bishop, Lumpe, Henrikson & Crane (2016) indeed found that as one of the side effects of the transformation of professional learning in section 3.4. They also found a general positive perception of professional learning which would be a significant outcome in most buildings.

I’m still left wondering about some common questions that I wasn’t able to answer in this post.

      1. What is the best way to prepare new staff members for the team and collaborative culture? How can they be welcomed in a meaningful way?
      2. What does district wide implementation of professional development add or take away from this model?

To close, I should clarify that once again I’m an observer. I think I’ve worked with and seen effective principals and I’ve tried to share what I’ve noticed that they did. Also much of the literature I’ve come across supports a gradual shift. Ultimately an administrator has to work to make learning relevant for their staff and that is no small commitment. If they do I believe that they would notice a change in engagement, teaching and learning.

Resources

Bishop, D, Lumpe, A., Henrikson, R, & Crane, C. (2016). Transforming Professional Learning in Washington State – Project Evaluation Report. Seattle Pacific University: Seattle, WA. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/WA-TPL/pubdocs/2016-WA-TPL-Evaluation-Report.pdf

Dimock, M. (2018, March 1). Defining generations: Where Millennials end and post-Millennials begin. Retrieved March 5, 2018, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/03/01/defining-generations-where-millennials-end-and-post-millennials-begin/

Every Student Succeeds Act Implementation. (February 28, 2018). Retrieved March 5, 2018, from http://www.k12.wa.us/esea/essa/default.aspx

Humada-Ludeke, A. (2013). Creation of a Professional Learning Community for School Leaders: Insights on the Change Process from the Lens of the School Leader. Rotterdam, NETHERLANDS: Sense Publishers. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/spu/detail.action?docID=3034878

Lewis, V. (2015, October 25). Why Most Professional Development Stinks—and How You Can Make It Better – EdSurge News. Retrieved March 6, 2018, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-10-25-why-most-professional-development-stinks-and-how-you-can-make-it-better

Morrision, B. (2006, October 31). 6 Strategies to Help Principals Become Technology Leaders. Retrieved March 6, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2006/10/6-strategies-help-principals-become-technology-leaders  

Office of Educational Technology. (2016, April 26). Sustaining a Culture of Learning for Educators. Retrieved March 5, 2018, from https://medium.com/@OfficeofEdTech/sustaining-a-culture-of-learning-for-educators-93363c2ecbea

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update, Washington, D.C., 2017. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/netp/ 

Administrators Role In Tech Integration

This quarter in my Masters in Digital Education program, I’ve truly begun to question decision making behind the scenes and how those decisions are both shared and acted upon by district staff.  Continuing to look to ISTE Standards around Professional Development and Program Evaluation, I further wanted to explore how administrators advocated for technology needs in their building and create opportunities for all staff to actively participate in Tech PD.

A recent study conducted by SAM Labs surveyed 250 teachers in the United States and concluded that 78% felt they lacked adequate training needed to meet the demands of technology in their classrooms effectively (Bolkan, 2017). Of those surveyed, 82% felt classroom technology helps prepare students for future careers.  However, only 37% surveyed claimed to learn how to use technology during their free time.  This means that 63% of the teachers surveyed rely on Professional Development opportunities and coaching to explore how to effectively implement new technology in their classroom.

Administration Retention

A study shared by The School Leaders Network, found that principal retention is a national concern.  Their 2014 survey found that 1 out of 4 administrators leave their schools each year (Cohen & Pearson, 2018).  In addition, 50% of new principals quit during their third year.  With these trends, it’s easy to see how teachers are left waiting for strong leadership, or someone to advocate for what their building needs.

Not wanting to get too much into why this is an issue, I would like to add that our nation’s largest district, in New York City, has taken action to better support administrators.  Starting in 2014, they created a program that makes leaders out of veteran principals who take a year leave from their building to serve as a coach for other new administrators in their district. Each coach provides 8 hours of support per new administrator each month. This strategy not only offers support to the new administrators but allows the veterans to experience what is happening in other buildings as well.  In their first year of the program, they were able to raise retention of third year administrators to 75% returning for the fourth year ((Cohen & Pearson, 2018).

Again, this scenario of coaching administrators, is not necessarily happening nationwide.  Therefore it is important to understand that many districts still have high turnover, or frequent shifting of administrators from one building to the next.  This creates barriers for teachers feeling supported with new curriculum, tech integration, and the sense that someone is advocating on their behalf.

What can administrators do to better support their staff’s needs?

Given the data from NYC, administrators who feel supported are more likely to remain on the job.  Districts need to provide professional development opportunities for administrators in order for them to become or remain effective leaders. Administrators need to understand how to empower their staff to take risks and explore new ways of thinking and teaching.  Eric Patnoudes, a former teacher and instructional technologist, states that districts must have a unified vision for technology use that is explicitly shared with administrators and educators.  In his post Professional Development Isn’t Just for Teachers, he raises three questions for administrators:

  1. Are teachers required to integrate technology during classroom observations/evaluations?
  2. When we say “paperless classroom”, what is the actual goal?
  3. How should a district define student engagement, and can it be observed?

(Patnoudes, 2016)

Now assuming districts are offering Tech PD to administrators, how can they further support their staff? Edtech Magazine shared 6 Strategies to Help Principals Become Technology Leaders. Although this article was published more than a decade ago, the data above indicates we need administrators to offer more Tech support to staff.

Six great tips towards a shared vision of tech integration:

  1. Establish the Team – principal identifies teachers who are pro-tech and creates a tech leadership team to serve the school
  2. Assess Facility’s Needs –  Create a needs assessment for the school to guide the direction of the tech leadership team for Professional Development (working on this through a needs assessment right now with Instructional Assistants in my building.)
  3. Model Tech Use and Practices Principals can use PD sessions to model technology use (the article recommends admin model effective tech use on a daily basis)
  4. Recognise Effective I.T. Use Reminder that technology use should enhance student learning and is simply a tool.  Tech integration needs to connect to the student learning outcomes and be seen as a way for students to express their understanding in a way that would not be possible without the tool.
  5. Encouraging Excellence Admin should encourage tech use and promote best practices through having teachers share lesson ideas or create a video of what they’re doing. Some schools offer other incentives for best practices as well.
  6. Provide Support and Training Admin need to ensure staff feel fully supported with tech changes being placed on them.  Training needs to be on-going and provide multiple opportunities for staff to feel technology is effectively working for them, not just adding to their work day.

Looking Ahead

Administrators have such an important role in the climate of the school. For staff to take chances and be motivated to try new technology, they need to feel supported by admin.  In turn, admin need to feel supported by their district.  The stakeholders, whose tax dollars often fund technology, need to be part of the vision of the future.  Most importantly decisions need to be made in the best interest of the the student learners, how will technology enhance/support their learning in a new way.

When districts support administrators with opportunities to learn from each other, they can in turn model technology use for their staff and share the district’s vision for tech integration.  If needs are not being met, it requires administrators to speak up and advocate for change, to seek out alternatives that may better suit their student population. Too often technology is introduced through an email or one day PD session.  As PD becomes more personalized, staff need to feel their administrators are approachable and available for further training and support.  We know technology is not leaving the classroom any time soon.  It’s time for districts to be transparent with their vision of technology and encourage more collaboration around effective integration and support.

Resources

Bolkan, J. (2017, October 26). Most Teachers Say Classroom Tech Helps Students, but Teachers Need More Training. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/10/26/most-teachers-say-classroom-tech-helps-students-but-teachers-need-more-training.aspx

Camera, L. (2017, December 20). Educators: We Need More From Education Technology … Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://www.usnews.com/news/education-news/articles/2017-12-20/educators-we-need-more-from-education-technology

Cohen, E. D., & Pearson, M. (2018, February 19). Heeding the voice of school experience. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://www.districtadministration.com/article/heeding-voice-school-experience

Morrison B. (2006, October 31). 6 Strategies to Help Principals Become Technology Leaders. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2006/10/6-strategies-help-principals-become-technology-leaders

Patnoudes, E. (2016, July 07). Professional Development Isn’t Just for Teachers. Retrieved January 14, 2018, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2016/07/professional-development-isn-t-just-teachers

Starr, L. (2009, September 23). The Administrator’s Role in Technology Integration. Retrieved February 24, 2018, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech087.shtml