Category Archives: Visionary Leadership

A Reflection on Peer Coaching

The overarching definition of ISTE’s Visionary Leadership Coaches Standard is that
“Technology coaches inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment.” We’ve been working this quarter on the use of Peer Coaching as a methodology for that type of leadership and the coaching project I’ve been working on has brought a number of interesting issues up for me.

Shared Vision

I’ve been working with a group of three teachers who have taken over leadership of our Future Ready Teacher User Group. Approximately 20 teachers (who were part of the past two year’s Tech Cohorts) get together each month to share and learn together about current district tools and new ideas as well as being introduced to new tools. The past two years they’ve worked with me as the instructor and the focus has been on learning about the SAMR model (Puentedura 2006), skill building around available tools and developing a culture of trust and innovative thinking. My goal was to develop Human Capacity in our buildings around technology integration. I need more leaders at the building level who can serve in an unofficial coaching capacity and who can model tech enriched lessons and progressive thinking.

I came across an article called “How Coaches Can Maximize Student Learning” (Saphier, West 2010) that suggested that coaches should work with the strongest teachers first to build a “tacit farm team” for future coaches. In future years they could be matched with new teachers to become mentors or collaborative partners and would in turn help strengthen the skills and capacity of a a new group of teachers. The three teachers I’m working with are the heart of my farm team and it puts me in the role of having to step back and allow them to develop their own vision for the group.

The experience reinforced the idea for me that it is important that we share a vision, either as a district or a group and also have a plan for reaching that vision. As suggested in Foltos’ (2013) book Peer Coaching, we developed a written Peer Coaching plan to define our roles and set our goals for our group. The difficult part has been that we don’t yet have a clear vision for technology use as a district so some of the things we would have liked to do as part of our professional development for this group wouldn’t have been supported. The vision we were able to work toward was that we wanted more sharing, more collaboration and continued relevance to the daily use of technology in classrooms. I think we are beginning to do that.

Integration of Technology to Promote Transformational Change

This has been a more challenging aspect of working with this group. My instructors are models for their fellow teachers but they are not in an acknowledged coaching role with them. A lot of what they are doing is facilitating and coaching by example. The instructors and I have talked a lot about using the SAMR model to help move teachers move from using technology as simply a substitution for traditional pen and paper activities toward redefining teaching and learning with technology as a tool to make that possible. Even after three years with the first group we are still talking about it and very few teachers have tried anything terribly transformational with technology. It does take time but it feels like there are pieces missing that will move us forward with technology integration. In the same article referenced above (Saphier, West 2010) the authors define coaching in schools as a “strategic, systematic approach to improving student learning”. They go further to list these purposes and practices, which are meant for content areas, but I think have some interesting tie ins to our Users Group.

  • Coaches and teachers engage in public teaching in front of one another, with the expectation and practice of giving and receiving rigorous feedback aimed at student learning.
    • My instructors have been demonstrating new skills and leading discussions but what if they also taught a model lesson and/or we used some of release time funds they have access to get subs for people in the group to come in and watch them teach? Could I leverage them as model teachers as well as for the ability to facilitate the users group?
  • Staff members regularly consult and ask each other for help.
    • The instructors wanted to shift more of our meeting time to sharing and collaborating so each meeting has time dedicated to both. We are seeing more open sharing of ideas but I’d really like to see if we can leverage social media to allow people to share even outside the meetings and develop more of a collaborative online community.
  • Staff meet in regular groups to discuss how to improve instruction of specific concepts and skills related to student learning.
    • It’s not always easy to do this with technology because in many cases, it’s meant as a tool to support learning in other content areas, not as a stand alone topic. However, we could spend more time focusing on technology practices that we could measure things like engagement. Liz Kolb’s Triple E Framework might be a good tool to introduce to my instructors to see if we can use it to reframe some of our discussions with the larger group on how technology can be integrated and support their content areas.
  • Questions related to practice permeate adult discourse, and they are authentic questions centering on the most tenacious and ubiquitous issues of teaching and learning.
    • When I read this it dawned on me that we don’t ask enough questions in our User Group meetings. I ask questions of my coaches to help guide them to thinking about good practices for running the meetings and choosing topics but we aren’t translating that to discourse we could be having with the larger group about how technology is impacting their students, how they can measure the effectiveness of their tech integrated lessons or on how they can improve them. It might be time to bring that up with my instructors.

Coaching teachers is challenging but coaching coaches has made me have to stop and think about the approaches I take, the questions I ask and the other things I do to coach others and try to articulate those for my coaches. I have a ways to go but becoming more conscious of the skills I’m using successfully and the ones I need to work on will help me be able to help them as well.

 

References

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

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Iste.org. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Kolb, L. (2017). Triple E FrameworkTriple E Framework. Retrieved 15 December 2017, from http://www.tripleeframework.com/

SAMR. (2017). Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. Retrieved 15 December 2017, from http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html

Saphier, J., & West, L. (2010). How Coaches Can Maximize Student Learning. Phi Delta Kappan91(4), 46-50. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/003172171009100410

Adding Technology Capacity to Buildings Through Coaching

coaching terms wordle

Our district is considering adopting an Instructional Coaching Model in our elementary buildings next year to support our ELA adoption. I love the idea of having more support for teachers in the buildings in any capacity. These new coaches won’t specifically be in buildings to support technology but if we can mesh some training around ways technology can support reading, writing and language we can develop capacity in teachers and coaches to use those tools in other ways or for other purposes.

We can already leverage the technology capacity we’ve nurtured the last few years with our Future Ready Teacher cohort. There have been three groups of teachers who have spent a year of ongoing, hands on technology integration training and who have stepped up to become tech leaders in their buildings. Some of the new coaches may come from this pool of teachers and bring with them the expertise and skills they’ve acquired. In other buildings, we’ve developed the capacity for technology leadership that can help support new coaches if we consciously provide opportunities for them to work together.

The ISTE Standards for Coaches help lay out some of the essential areas of focus for Tech coaches. Coaches can be both just in time support and training resources for teachers but can also serve as a communication channel between teachers and administration and can help promote a bigger picture view of technology usage in the classroom. Many districts have successfully provided access and devices to staff and students but still struggle with getting the usage to move beyond substitution level. Coaches can bring perspective, experience and skills that busy teachers haven’t had time to acquire. They can be leaders in their buildings and help communicate a vision of a new way of thinking about instruction that is supported by technology.

It’s not easy to find amazing teachers who are strong in both their content areas and technology. I suspect we’ll find the strong content providers in our district and we’ll have to train them up to be strong tech leaders as well. The article,  How Districts Can Adopt a Tech Coaching Model (Kipp 2017) suggests that having a clear job description that spells out the expectations around technology and a systematic, ongoing training cycle can best support new coaches.

Most coaching models center around training and support for coaches as well as clear expectations for the coaching role. In Peer Coaching, Foltos (2013) suggests a written coaching plan that can help both teacher and coach stay focused on the learning targets and have clear norms and purposes for the coaching relationship. The Edutopia article, Instructional Coaching: Driving Meaningful Tech Integration (2015) highlights a high school that created a successful model using a BDA (Before, During, After) cycle. It’s easy to remember and clearly defines the working relationship around a lesson. The article does point out that successful coaching models depend on a flexible schedule for coaches so that they can move were they are needed and also have time for the informal conversations that help build solid relationships with teachers.

I like the idea of combining mentors and coaches in this model Mary Beth Hertz shares in Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration (Hertz 2011) to leverage expertise in the building and add to the tech coaches ability to meet people’s needs. If every teacher who received a cart of mobile devices also received a mentor who had used a cart in their classroom for a few years, I wonder how much faster we could be moving toward more creative uses of technology in our classrooms?

For myself, I want to see more technology coaches in action. Local conferences and users groups provide some opportunity for learning and sharing with other coaches. However, it would be interesting to set up chances to visit other districts or do a coach exchange for a day and swap places with someone to learn more about their system and they can learn about ours. More opportunities to work on coordinated projects, like EdCamps, with other districts would also benefit our teachers and new coaches by providing access to new ideas and new resources.

References

Bentley, K. (2017). How School Districts Can Adopt the Technology Coach ModelCenterdigitaled.com. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from http://www.centerdigitaled.com/blog/technology-coaches.html

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

Hertz, M. (2011). Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech IntegrationEdutopia. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/mentoring-coaching-tech-integration-mary-beth-hertz

Instructional Coaching: Driving Meaningful Tech Integration. (2015). Edutopia. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/practice/instructional-coaching-driving-meaningful-tech-integration

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Iste.org. Retrieved 11 December 2017, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

 

The Coach – Administrator Connection: Module 5

Connecting and Collaborating with Administrators as an Instructional Technology Coach

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

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

Some of the takeaways for me from this post are:

  • Align on a coaching model

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

  • Learn Together

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

  • Support Your Coaches Learning

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

  • Offer Leadership Guidance

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

  • Appreciate your Coaches

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

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

Resources

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

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

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

Is SAMR Enough? Module 4: Teacher Practice and Technology Integration

Introduction to Module 4

For my post this week in Module 4 of my fall class, in Educational Technology Leadership I decided to focus on the SAMR model for technology integration. My district uses SAMR as a way to gauge technology integration but I wanted to know if there was a way to use that model as I work with teachers so that it doesn’t feel like an extra layer to them. It seemed to fit in this module since my professor asked us to think about what skills, resources and processes will you use to help peers co-plan learning activities they want to improve? Again since our district is already committed to using SAMR I thought I could use my question to aid teachers in the district plan for technology integration. Basically I wanted to know how can the SAMR scale be used to help improve learning activities in a way that is manageable and beneficial for a classroom teacher? My goal in this investigation is to try to not add anything else to a teacher’s plate.

In my investigation I came across some other technology integration protocols that might be useful to a teacher or a technology coach, especially if a district didn’t have a protocol they were committed to using or if it wasn’t clearly implemented or understood. With the help of my professors I found the Triple E as well as TPACK. In my own searching I also came across a protocol called the Trudacot. In addition to SAMR I will spend some time reflecting on the Trudacot and using it to answer my question for the module. I didn’t feel that I had time in this post to get into Triple E or TPACK during this post.

Connection to ISTE Coaching Standards

This module seems to have an extremely clear connection to two of the ISTE Coaching standards we are focusing on throughout the quarter. First ISTE-C 1d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms. The second standard supported by this module is ISTE-C 2f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences. The reason why I think the connection is so clear in this module is that in using the technology integration protocols I have seen seems to guide teachers back to focusing on what is really good teaching. As coaches if we continue to remind teachers that the focus is on good teaching, I think that some of the concerns and discomfort with technology might actually be erased. Furthermore, as we continue to advocate for good teaching through using a reflective process like Trudacot or SAMR I think that collaborative higher-level thinking among teachers and coaches will continue to shape innovation and fuel the change process. I’m excited that my district has decided to use the SAMR model as a way to gauge technology integration and I hope that through this post I can figure out some ways to guide teachers as we think through the process together.

Three Resources to Consider: The SAMR Model, Trudacot and Peer Coaching

SAMR

There is a lot of information on the SAMR model available on the web. There are some very well known blogs that have taken up the SAMR model as a topic for their posts including Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything. She has even linked other SAMR resources from all across the spectrum of use to her page. So, there is abundant information available. Still I’m not sure that teachers fully understand the model (or that I do) and from what I’ve read during this module this is a common problem. One great thing about SAMR is its simplicity in comparison to some of the other protocols, it’s only four sections. However, maybe for that reason there seem to be some misunderstandings.

The SAMR Model by Dr. Ruben Puentedura
Image created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D.
http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/

As I look at SAMR as a part of my job, talking through it with other coaches and using the protocol my district has developed to measure technology integration I realized that don’t know if teachers are taking advantage of the SAMR protocol to leverage technology and improve student learning. As a coach I wonder how I can aid that change and what support I can offer to teachers in that process?

Even though it is short, I think SAMR can seem a bit complicated and foreign to teachers especially those who might be unfamiliar with the model in the first place. I think as a coach it is important to emphasize that often it is appropriate for teachers to stay in one area of the continuum, to ebb and flow depending on many factors, or to move up slowly during the course of a unit. Many of the resources I’ve read this module emphasize again that there are many great lessons that don’t have to incorporate technology (Swanson, 2014). In other words, focus on good instruction, not technology.

One great addition to the SAMR that I think would be very helpful to teachers is Kathy Schrock’s graphic and blog post that connects Bloom’s to SAMR. Teachers across the spectrum are more familiar with Bloom’s than SAMR so to me it makes sense to connect the two to help teachers see how as you move up the SAMR ladder the cognitive load increases, (Schrock, 2013). The language of Bloom’s is familiar to teachers. They feel confident working to improve a lesson to move students from knowledge toward evaluation, however going from substitution toward redefinition might feel foreign. As a coach I think I can help to bridge that gap by using the work Schrock has done by using Bloom’s to explain SAMR. Finally, in discussing higher level thinking it is possible that the discussion may lead to the integration of technology into a lesson or unit thereby moving the lesson or unit up the SAMR scale.  

 Digital Bloom’s Video

Trudacot

The next model I wanted to discuss is called Trudacot. Trudacot is a discussion protocol designed to facilitate deeper learning. Trudacot is short for Technology-Rich Unit Design And Classroom Observation Template. In his post introducing Trudacot Scott McLeod argues “while SAMR is useful as a concept, its use of four levels often puts teachers on the defensive because they feel labeled and judged when placed into a lower level” (McLeod, 2017). I think he is right because I got the feeling that teachers might have felt judged during our latest technology walk through. Some even asked about the effectiveness of the snapshot view that we got of classroom practice. Their feelings are valid, even though we have said it is not evaluative, it’s hard to feel that way when 2 adults enter your classroom and take notes as you teach or as your students work. One thing they may not know is that in our walkthroughs we are categorizing technology use on the SAMR scale we are collecting a longitudinal study of integration since it has been done in the district over a two year period.

Regardless, this reaction by teachers is what got me thinking about how we could support integration without overwhelming teachers. I think the key lies in a coach thoroughly understanding the protocols and questioning techniques needed to help teachers move to purposeful integration of technology because of high quality teaching and reflection throughout that process.

The Trudacot discussion protocol seems to aim to get teachers to consider instruction instead of focusing on the technology through a series of questions that are answered by the teacher. I would think that these questions could be easily used by a coach to help stimulate the lesson design process, but there are a lot of questions. In order to not overwhelm a teacher it would be necessary to either unpack the process together slowly or a coach could internalize the process and call upon it in a discussion with a teacher drawing from the questions and categories in Trudacot.

Peer Coaching

Les Foltos, in his book Peer Coaching (2013) is continually saying it doesn’t make sense to overwhelm teachers by giving them a number of different areas of focus to consider. That is making more sense to me as I learn more about these protocols. Part of the coaches job seems to be eliminating those choices through careful consideration and asking questions of the teacher to draw out what they would like to focus on. “Too often, teachers plan their lessons around technology instead of putting learning first, (Foltos, p. 136, 2013). As a coach, at times I feel I’m dealing with two extremes of the spectrum. There are teachers who are fully focused on technology, while others seem that they couldn’t care less about integrating it into their classroom instruction. Whether that comes from learned helplessness or just the overwhelming amount of work teachers are expected to do I’m not sure. As an instructional technology coach I think looking through the lens of instruction and higher level thinking is helpful. I wish I could help teachers to understand that the work we can do together should lead to higher quality instruction and deeper learning even if my title is instructional technology coach, it’s still all about the learning.

“The coach’s job is to bring the conversation back to pedagogy and learning objectives before talking about technology. It is at this point in the process when meaningful conversations about integrating technology occur, (Foltos, p. 151,  2013). Clearly coaches, teachers and students benefit when there is a clear understanding of a technology integration model or protocol but that isn’t the ultimate goal. As a coach if I can clearly understand the tool used by my district and even other protocols, I believe I can use that knowledge to help teachers improve instruction while at the same time integrating technology in more meaningful ways. It’s not about the tools, it’s about the teaching!

Resources

Common Sense Education. (2016, July 12). What is Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqgTBwElPzU&feature=youtu.be

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781483300252

Going Deeper with Learning Technology Integration — A 9-Question Protocol. (2017, October 5). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://frontandcentral.com/moving-to-digital/going-deeper-learning-technology-integration-using-9-question-protocol/

SAMR. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html

Swanson, P. (2014, December, 16). Rethinking SAMR – Teacher Paul. Retrieved November 30, 2017, from http://www.teacherpaul.org/2889

Trudacot. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://dangerouslyirrelevant.org/resources/trudacot

Turning SAMR into TECH: What models are good for. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from http://www.litandtech.com/2013/11/turning-samr-into-tech-what-models-are.html

Evaluating Tech Integration

Part of the ISTE coaching standard 1:Visionary Leadership states that coaches need to “inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment. “ There are a few parts of that statement that stuck out to me this week. First, in order to implement a shared vision we need to share the same language and vocabulary. Tech integration models can serve as a common way to talk to staff about the purpose and uses of technology in their classrooms. It can be valuable for an organization to have a common model, not only to assist in implementing technology but using one that is widely used by professionals in other districts can open up opportunities for local and global PLNs and access to resources that have been vetted by others.  

The other part that stuck out to me was the idea of “supporting transformational change”. I know what the vision in my head is but it’s not always easy to guide teachers who are new to integrating technology through the process that I’ve spent years learning and experimenting with. It would be easier if we had a tool that 1) was related to our tech model, 2) would make it easier for teachers and coaches to work with and that 3)  would be, in part, a self guided way of analyzing a lesson or project to determine the presence and transformative power of technology but also it’s appropriateness and impact on students.

My district has been using the SAMR model for the last few years because it was widely used and seemed fairly easy for teachers to access. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, “What is Redefinition?”, I don’t find the model as useful as I used to.  It’s possible that it’s a good starter model for teachers who are just being introduced to technology integration but as a global model I’ve seen as many definitions of what constitutes modification and redefinition as I’ve seen presenters give examples to teachers. Honestly, I don’t know that we’ll ever really be able to redefine teaching with technology until we redefine teaching. If you start with a teacher who is unwilling to think differently about their instruction the best you’ll get is substitution and augmentation. Add it to a willing teacher’s classroom and you’ll often get modification but the only teachers I’ve seen truly start to redefine their teaching and learning using technology are the ones who are willing to rethink “normal” and “traditional” and take the risk to change instructional practices and use technology to support that change.

In Peer Coaching, Les Foltos states (Foltos, 2013) that improving learning requires two things:

  1. Helping prospective Peer Coaches develop insight into the characteristics of learning that will prepare students with 21st century skills.
  2. Using these insights and research from the learning sciences to come to agreement on a norm for effective 21st century learning.

I’m a big picture person. If my vision is to start moving those willing teachers towards rethinking instructional practice, I need a model that includes thinking about instructional practice as well as technology and 21st century skills and, I need a formative assessment tool to help teachers, coaches and principals reflect on the learning tasks they are asking students to do and also decide how technology can help that task be transformative.

Here are some possibilities:

The Lesson Improvement Process

Foltos’ chapter on the Lesson Improvement Process includes the following areas of emphasis:

  1. Create a Task – Relevant, real-world tasks that hook the learner and stimulate interest and an essential question(s). The use of the Learning Activity Checklist can help teachers look at levels of engagement, problem based tasks.
  2. Define Standards – A lesson’s purpose should be aimed at teaching to standards but it’s important to keep the focus on a small number of standards, including the technology based ones.
  3. Learning Context – helping teachers understand the depth of learning needed to master the standard and how to scaffold the learning in order to achieve that depth of learning, including assessing the learning and understanding of the students.
  4. Student Directions – “a road map (for the student) to solve the task their teacher outlined”. Choice, engagement and clarity are important to this process.
  5. Reflection & Feedback – using collaborative communication to pre-assess whether the lesson has the potential to meet the purpose of the learning
  6. Assessment – both summative and formative assessments to track learning and provide ongoing feedback for both the teacher and the student.
  7. Resources & Information – The tools and sources of information that will be used in the lesson. This is one of the areas technology can be integrated.

I like this approach for helping teachers rethink a learning target. It puts the standards and the intended learning first before considering the technology tool. It does include a template for developing a lesson, although the intention is more for the teacher and the coach to work together on the lesson design. This does give the coach the opportunity to guide the discussion by asking questions or prodding thinking in the four areas of standards, engagement, problem based and technology. This is a good model for lesson planning and a coach using it as a tool would be able to help teachers integrate more technology into their lesson.

TRUDACOT (Technology-Rich Unit Design And Classroom Observation Template)

TRUDACOT is another tool that is meant to be a discussion protocol between teachers or with coaches to rethink lesson design that includes the integration of technology. I like the potential of this tool to give teachers entry points into redesigning a lesson. Version 2 gives teachers and coaches a way to formatively assess a lesson, either before it’s taught or as part of an observation and then use the questions to pick one or two areas to redesign. Not all of the sections are centered around technology so it does get at some of the rethinking of instructional strategies that I want to get at as well as the technology pieces. The downside is that it is fairly long, 9 sections with 3-4 questions. It would be easy for a teacher to feel overwhelmed at first if there were a lot of “nos” so it would be important to focus small and pick one area at first to make changes in and work on improvement over time. I think I’d start by having teachers use it as a way to evaluate and improve sample lessons from videos or other sources until they see how it could be used effectively.

Triple E framework

Kolb’s Triple E Framework is an interesting way to look at technology and provides both a model and a tool for reviewing a lesson and considering how technology is used as a tool. It doesn’t focus as strongly overall on lesson design or standards but as a tool to review how technology is used to support instruction it’s simple and easily understood. Level 1 is about Engaged Learning. She’s especially interested in not only how students engage with the technology but how they engage with each other to co-create learning.  She still gets at the issue of “redesigning” instructional practice in Level 2: Enhanced Learning although she uses the term “value added” and defines it as “when the tool is somehow aiding, assisting, or scaffolding learning in a way that could not easily be done with traditional methods.” In Level 3: Extended Learning the focus is on audience. I’ve always felt that truly redefined learning has to somehow include a wider audience than just the teacher so this resonates with me. I’m going to introduce this model to a group of teachers I work with and see what they think.  We’ll try using the rubrics she’s developed for lessons and for apps to practice looking at sample lessons through this lens. I’m interested to hear what my teachers think.

TPACK

I do like the TPACK model because it brings together technology, pedagogical practice and the content area being taught. It is the trifecta. My frustration with it is that it’s fairly complicated for teachers who are just getting started. There has been a lot of research done on using the TPACK model to evaluate technology integrated lessons and there are rubrics available that could be used with teachers but there would be a longer learning curve with this model than with some of the others. I want to do some more work with it involving some more experienced teachers to see how they might use it.

I haven’t truly found one model and tool that gets at everything I’m looking for but it may be possible to use multiples ones. In the long run, they are all asking for the same things. How can we effectively use technology as a tool to help create relevant, real world learning for students that can’t be done in any other way?

References

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin.

Koehler, M. (2017). TPACK.ORG. Tpack.org. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from http://tpack.org/

Kolb, L. (2017). Triple E Framework. Triple E Framework. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from http://www.tripleeframework.com/

McLeod, S., & Graber, J. trudacot v2 annotated. Google Docs. Retrieved 27 November 2017, from https://docs.google.com/document/d/147Pqvr32qwnPXUBmUM1r8p10unZ-pID_cgLjkGwwAus/edit

21st Century Skills to Connect Teachers and Coaches: Module 3

Module 3 of EDTC 6105 and my definition of the problem

For this week my program is focusing on 21st century learning. The topic alone brings a lot of questions forward, what is 21st century learning? Does it matter to teachers and students? How do you measure 21st century learning? My search for resources didn’t really narrow down my options much. Since we are focusing on peer coaching and thinking about how we define 21st century learning and how to use that definition in our coaching, I started to wonder, do teachers and coaches define 21st century learning in the same way? I think that often we do, but for a large portion of teachers maybe it isn’t even considered because of all the other worries and concerns that come with teaching in a classroom with nearly 30 unique individuals from different backgrounds and environments in the same room. Teachers are busy, they have a lot on their plates as I’ve said before on this blog, so I think 21st century learning might not be on the forefront for many teachers. I wonder how coaching can help teachers to move toward sharing the same definition technology coaches have of 21st century learning, and integrating that learning into their practice.

In framing my question it is important to note that teachers and coaches are in vastly different circumstances at least based on my limited experience as a coach. The pressure I feel as a coach is different than the constant pressure I felt as a teacher to bring my students to standard in a subject that they didn’t necessarily like or in an area of need that supported my growth goal. I want to share that struggle with teachers and offer support that will help them achieve those goals. However, coming from the realm of the classroom teacher and having been a teacher in a dual language classroom for the last 8 years gives me insight into what teachers experience. Based on my reading I have tried to think critically about some ways that teachers and coaches can work together to see growth in students while at the same time improving teaching practices in classrooms.

The Coaches Role

As a coach I feel like part of my job is knowing the latest research and knowing and being able to visualize ways that teachers can subtly change their practice in order to improve student learning. Many teachers do this same research and learning while teaching full time, but I have to acknowledge that in moving into a coaching role part of my responsibilities include knowing the current best practices in teaching pedagogy and specifically technology integration. It doesn’t necessarily mean I know any more than teachers, but it is still worth stating that part of my role includes researching how to help teachers move toward incorporating 21st century learning into their classrooms. As a coach, I have additional resources and time available that teachers do not always have. I can use that time to research how to support growth in teaching practices and instruction.

One other benefit from a coaches role is the exposure I have to different classrooms. As a classroom teacher I maybe got to see 2 or 3 different classrooms a year max, instead I had to learn what teachers were doing from reading, or listening to them describe their practice. Recently in my coaching role I was able to tour every classroom in 8 different elementary schools. That exposed me (although briefly) to a couple hundred teachers and their approach to teaching literacy, math or another subject and showed how they were integrating technology. That is many times the exposure I would have gotten to different classroom as a teacher and I’m not even considering the classrooms I have visited at other times this year as a co-teacher.

Not surprisingly because I’m an instructional technology coach, I think that technology might play a prominent role in allowing for better differentiation in the classroom and might lead us to improving our teaching in a way that lifts students to a higher level of achievement, including mastering 21st century skills. Foltos, (2013) makes the role of a coach clear when he writes that a “coaches job is to encourage innovation.” He goes on to add that, “without this kind of outside stimulus, drawing on prior learning may only succeed in supporting the status quo,” (Foltos, 2013). As a coach, I’m available to be the outside stimulus that can aid in integrating 21st century learning into the classroom.

Challenges for Teachers

It might sound easy so far, just organize a meeting with a coach and voilà, 21st century skills will arrive. I must acknowledge that integrating 21st century skills into your teaching will not be a quick and effortless process, change is usually difficult and often slow. As I reflected, I drafted a quick list of things that might qualify as constraints to a classroom teacher:

  • Lack of time
    • No formal collaboration time – or fragmented focus during that time
  • Curriculum
  • Evaluation
  • Standards
  • District or school policies
  • Lack of training

This is just a quick list I came up with while outlining this post, it isn’t intended to be exhaustive, but I’d love to hear of you have other constraints that might keep you from integrating 21st century skills into your teaching. Or, on the other hand, if any of the things listed actually drive you to integrate 21st century skills into your teaching.

What to Try

I think a great place to start is to “define the skills and competencies your students will need,” as Foltos, 2013, shares in Peer Coaching. Then match those competencies with school goals, and pick one skill to work on. Slowly add to those skills to change your practice. This is the work that coaches and teachers can do together to lead to more 21st century skills being taught in all classrooms. Another good resource is the 6 Essential Modern Teacher Skills and Why You Need Them from the Global Digital Citizenship Foundation. The author defines these skills as:

  1. Adaptability
  2. A desire to learn
  3. Confidence
  4. A knack for teamwork
  5. An empowering nature
  6. A global mindset

If you consult other sources you might see different skills. From what I have read there doesn’t seem to be consensus about what skills are definitely 21st century skills. P21.org seemed to focus much attention on critical thinking and how to teach it. Notably, incorporating PBL into undergraduate education courses led to more effective critical thinking skills as noted by Ventura, Lai & DiCerbo (2017). It also seems to be different if you are talking about teachers skills or students skills. I think both are important because to teach skills to our students, we need to possess those skills. Many of the skills listed above are facilitated through technology. Similarly, there is the graphic of 9 Fundamental Digital Skills for 21st Century Teachers from educatorstechnology.com 

9-fundamental-d_19217909_509343d7c3bf1adffcfc2e825791322c41d30799

I believe that in partnership with instructional technology coaches if they are available, or with the right mindset when using technology student learning will increase.

I would encourage teachers who are able to pick a skill they want to learn and email or call a coach to begin working on learning that new skill. Have a learning goal in mind, a project or a lesson where you integrate that skill or tool into your teaching. Try to think beyond that even to see how students could use the same tool to produce something that demonstrates their learning. Then continue to use those skills in a number of lessons or a unit. Another idea for how to work with a coach would be to offer personalized learning to students. Develop fluency in tools that lend themselves to this personalization. Finally, ask questions. Ask your coaches, ask your students maybe even ask of yourself. How can the work be improved, extended, modified to reach more students? That is how we empower students to be 21st century learners and it’s one of the ways we demonstrate that learning to our students. Here is a quote from The Global Digital Citizen Foundation that just might sum up how difficult and necessary it is to work to define 21st century learning and to incorporate it into our teaching. A final quote comes from 4 Common Misconceptions about Teachers We Must Rethink.

When writing lesson plans, you need to connect to curriculum, design essential questions, and create challenging projects. Students need something to strive for that will develop skills for living successful and happy lives. This isn’t a lesson that comes from any textbook, either; it has to come from the mind and heart of a passionate teacher.

Doing those difficult things will certainly lead to increased development of 21st century skills in teachers and students.

Resources

4 Common Misconceptions About Teachers We Must Rethink. (2017, September 10). Retrieved November 12, 2017, from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/4-misconceptions-about-teachers?utm_content=60114297&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

9 Fundamental Digital Skills for 21st Century Teachers. (2016, December 30). Retrieved November 12, 2017, from http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2016/12/9-fundamental-digital-skills-for-21st.html

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

Ventura, M., Lai, E., & DiCerbo, K. (2017). Skills for Today: What We Know about Teaching and Assessing Critical Thinking. Pearson. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/Skills_For_Today_Series-Pearson/White_Paper_-_P21_-_Skills_for_Today-What_We_Know_about_Teaching_and_Assessing_Critical_Thinking_v4_1.pdf

Watanabe-Crockett, L. (2017, February 24). 6 Essential Modern Teacher Skills and Why You Need Them. Retrieved November 12, 2017, from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/six-essential-modern-teacher-skills-need

21st Century Technology Hierarchy of Needs

It’s interesting…just like the ISTE tech standards over the years have shifted from very skill based standards to much more global digital learning standards, so have the discussions around teacher tech standards. Are we getting ahead of most teachers in that discussion though? Is the reason for that shift partly because we believe everyone has got the basic standards or that we just can’t wait for everyone to catch up and need to push the conversation forward?

ISTE Coaching Standard 1d says that coaches need to “implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms.” With the speed at which technology changes, this suggests that there will always be a need for people in districts that are the innovators and early adopters and I would suggest that those people need to be in three strategic areas in order for real change to happen. First, the district leadership from Superintendent to Principal need to be on board with the possibilities that technology brings. It would be most helpful if they embrace technology use to the point that they use and model it’s use with their staff and actively expect it from their teachers. Second, there have to be classroom teachers who are innovative and stretching the district and their tech departments to think differently, try new things and use technology in creative ways that pave the way for change. Finally, I would make the case that, if there isn’t strong leadership at the principal level, there is a role for Instructional Technology coaches (or whatever they are called in your district). Coaches whose whole focus is on learning and leading around “initiating and sustaining” technology innovation can be the keys to translating technology for the teachers and administrators that aren’t on the forefront of technology.

I’m a Digital Learning Specialist in my district. We changed our name this year to what, we hoped, better reflected the focus of our work. Our goal is to help students learn with digital tools. It’s about the learning first. Unfortunately, we are still seen most of the time as “the tech people” which translates to the problem solvers and fix it people. It’s not what I want to be doing. A few years ago, when our technology just didn’t seem to be working and teachers were frustrated and ready to give up, it struck me that what was going on was similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. I developed a digital version using some thinking that I found online and I regret not keeping track of the author.

My thinking was, and still is, that some teachers are functioning at the bottom of the pyramid in basic needs and safety/security. If things don’t work, they don’t have the time, energy or knowledge to problem solve their way out and they get stuck. Innovators will find a work around or figure out how to fix it. The folks functioning at basic and safety levels will never progress beyond that level until their tech works they way they want it to work and it works reliably.

Usability comes next and is essential. There are no two ways about it, there is a certain level of skill needed to tackle technology tasks. Some folks will need to be “trained” on each new piece of technology. Others will learn technology in a more conceptual way and will be able to adapt what they learn to other digital tools. The help button question mark  is the help button in almost any program you come across now and many other icons are becoming standard across website, like the stack of three or four horizontal lines that denote a menu of choices. These however are skills. In 2005 THE Journal ran an article about the the 20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have (Turner 2005) These were very skill based but I think many of them are still relevant. Downloading and installing software is becoming a thing of the past now that so many things are web based and our storage options are becoming more web based as well and you can exchange PDA knowledge with SmartPhone and you’ve got a lot of it covered.

Interestingly, they redid the survey in 2014 (Thompson 2014) and you can already see a shift away from just skills toward a change in attitude (willingness to learn), connection, collaboration, and communication. All important 21st Century Skills as defined by the P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning)

10 Skills Every Educator Should Have.

  1. Searching the web effectively
  2. Mastering Microsoft Office & Basic Word Processing
  3. Being Willing to Learn New Technology
  4. Connecting with Social Media
  5. Sharing and Collaborating via YouTube & Blogging
  6. Unlocking the Potential of Mobile Devices
  7. Reaching Out with Emails
  8. Making Your Point with Presentation Software
  9. Googling It
  10. Getting Ahead in the Cloud

These skills I believe are also a part of the upper parts of my Tech Hierarchy of Needs which come with Proficiency and allow for creativity. Until we give teachers the skills to become confident and successful with technology, some of them will have trouble reaching the newer Technology standards reflected in the ISTE Educator Standards which seem to assume that most teachers are already proficient tech users. The problem is, I don’t think that’s realistic to expect yet. It’s certainly a worthy goal and one many educators can reach but there are still teachers and students who will need help with the bottom half of the pyramid for awhile.

References

Turner, L. (2005). 20 Technology Skills Every Educator Should Have — THE Journal. [online] THE Journal. Available at: https://thejournal.com/articles/2005/06/01/20-technology-skills-every-educator-should-have.aspx [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

Thompson, G. (2017). 10 Tech Skills Every Educator Should Have — THE Journal. [online] THE Journal. Available at: https://thejournal.com/Articles/2014/01/22/10-Tech-Skills-Every-Educator-Should-Have.aspx?Page=4 [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

P21.org. (2017). Framework for 21st Century Learning – P21. [online] Available at: http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-framework [Accessed 13 Nov. 2017].

Not All Learners Want to Learn What You Have to Teach.

It’s an ongoing frustration many of us have. In spite of the amazing training opportunities we offer, online or in person, some people just don’t want to learn what we have to teach about integrating technology into their instruction. It’s not malicious, at least most of the time, but I’m beginning to believe that people only have so much capacity for change. It’s not that they wouldn’t do their best to learn and put into practice something new if they were told they had to but if it’s one of too many new things all at once, something has to give. For many teachers, the fact that technology is not a topic on the state tests keeps them from giving it much thought, although the same people will complain that the lack of keyboarding skills keeps our kids from really being evaluated on their thinking on those same tests.
Although it is a stereotype, I do hear a larger percentage of teachers over 50 tell me that they “don’t do technology”. There is some truth to the fact that that even though personal computing technology has been available to that age group for a good portion of their lives, not all of them were innovators or early adopters. Many of those folks may have become the early or late majority of adopters because of job requirements but their learning may have only been focused on the task they needed to do with technology and never really translated to their personal usage. The laggards would have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the tech age and only because Facetime is the only way they can see their grandkids regularly.

So I get it. In an article on Wild Apricot (Ibele 2011) called “Guide to Helping your Members Embrace Technology” they mention an AARP survey of retirees and what they want from their technology.

They want technology to:

  • be safe and easy to use;
  • adapt to their specific needs;
  • connect each other;
  • act as a tool not a tyrant;
  • be a force of good.

Isn’t that what we all want? I find that baby boomers are not the only age group that feels that way. I run across young teachers, fresh out of school who tell me that “they don’t do technology” and we have students in all of our classes who can snap chat with their eyes closed but will hesitate to use PowerPoint or video because “they don’t do technology” either. I worry about pigeon holing any generation as particularly more open to technology. I don’t believe in the idea of a digital native. I think that you will always have people from all generations that will fit into the curve. What we need to look at is how we can work with the late majority and laggards to bring them around to at least making the effort to use technology for our student’s sake.

I came across a post by Kerry Pinny (Pinny 2017) in which he is suggesting that we’ve been having the wrong conversations with people about technology. He mentions what many of us know, that technology is just a thing and it’s only useful if people use it but he reminds us that “If you do not consider the people in technology then you are doomed to failure.”

In the end, all the resources I looked at came down to the same thing…it’s about building relationships. We will only meet those reluctant learners when we get to know them. We need to find out what place technology could serve in their lives or their classrooms so our discussions are relevant. We need to know what their real fears are around technology use so we can help scaffold their experience or give them the support they need to give it a try. Building trust with them will allow us to have those conversations about how passionate we are about providing technology opportunities for our students, and how they can help us reach that goal, without it sounding insincere.

Pinny also suggests showing people real examples of how what technology can do and explaining the “why” to them. No one likes their time wasted. Making it relevant, easy to use and immediately applicable is important for busy teachers.

I clearly have been stuck in my office too much lately. My new goal for the rest of the year is to start getting to know more of the teachers that often close their doors and hope that technology will go away. It will take some time to build relationships but if I can leverage some of the tech leaders who are already in the buildings who already have relationships with those folks I think I can help create change, even for our most reluctant learners.

Resources

 

Bridging the Gap: From Teachers to Technology Coaches Module 1

New Learning

This week I am writing my first blog post for a new quarter, one where we will explore what it means to be a servant leader following the model of a peer coach. Through the quarter my classmates and I will use those two frameworks to investigate the integration of technology into instruction. This quarter is different than those before because previously I’ve been reflecting on my own classroom, my instruction, my students or at times my organization. In contrast, this quarter I will reflect on my work as a technology coach as I work in classrooms around my school district in a variety of lessons and subjects. It is a new experience for me just as being a technology coach is new.

My Questions

I shouldn’t be surprised then that I’m looking for clarity. I guess it is fitting that my question leads me in two different directions during this module. On one hand I am curious to find out how technology coaches play a role in implementing strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations in schools and classrooms? Secondly, I want to know how can a coach aid in the change process while maintaining (or establishing) a positive relationship?

Advocating for Teachers and Change

Those two things seem at odds for me both from my personal experience two months into the role of being a technology coach and from my experience as a classroom teacher. Through my daily practice and the communication I have with the technology department I’m starting to see how I might be able to initiate change and push for innovation in classrooms. Often in our weekly meetings with the technology department a manager has said something similar to this, we can solve a problem or recommend a product or service but it is up to the coaches to tell us what is really happening in the classroom and how teachers and student are affected by those changes. We are teachers, we work with teachers, so our insight should be supportive to limitations in the classroom environment and sensitive to the needs of teachers. In a way I guess we can as coaches can act as a bridge for the technology department and the teachers. I would like to think that our work allows for more proactive support as opposed to reactive support. Finally one last way to support innovation is by having a clear focus and goals.One way to have and maintain a clear focus is alignment in purpose and goals at all levels of an organization. I’ve read that support from an administrative or district level is extremely important for the success of the coaching program and the individual coaches. This support is reflected in the impact on teachers and students based on these resources. In Exploring Coaching for Powerful Technology Use in Education, Ehsanipour and Gomez Zaccarelli (2017) write,

As the Annenberg Institute for School Reform asserts, “[i]nstructional coaching is fundamentally about teachers, teacher leaders, school administrators, and central office leaders examining practice in reflective ways, with a strong focus on student learning and results as the ultimate barometer of improvement” (King et al., 2004, p. 3).

In order for that to happen, all parties would need to be on the same page, working toward the same goal and in support of the work of individual coaches. At a high level within an organization coaching would be understood and thought of as a method for improving teacher practice and student learning with a focus on results. I do wonder how those results and data would be collected and evaluated, but that would lead me to an entirely different exploration and post.

The ISTE for Coaches Visionary Leadership Standard a through d
Visionary Leadership ISTE Coaching Standard 1

Building Relationships

In my reading over the past two weeks I’ve read some articles and reports that begin to touch on the idea of initiating and sustaining innovation while maintaining relationships. I’ve read that it takes a lot of reflection.Trying to find information about how coaches aid in the change process but continue to establish and maintain positive relationships was challenging. At best I have speculations and loose connections from different sources. I think this is a question that I will continue to revisit as I gain experience as a technology coach and make inroads in a new district. In some respects being new might be seen as a benefit, I don’t know the majority of what was happening before now, and I bring new ideas from my previous experience because of those two things my suggestions might be seen as more acceptable than a coach who is already established in a district and has been for some time. At the same time I have to learn quickly what was done before, what didn’t work and why. There is a lot to catch up on.

Clarity?

One ideas has arisen consistently in my reading is the clarity of a coaches role. According to Elena Aguilar clarity is important. Coaches should know their roles, what it means, there should be a shared definition and the coaching role should “be discussed between coachees/mentees to ensure clarity” (Aguilar, 2017). I wonder when this comes up in a coaching relationship? Does it occur naturally at some time in meeting with a teacher or in passing like it has with me? My conversations about clarity have been informal and infrequent, once a teacher said something like, “I want to do this ______ in my classroom, is that something you can help with?” I said, “Sure!” because as I work to establish relationships putting in the time seems most important. Now I’m looking ahead and wondering when is there a shift, when do we move toward a more focused or intentional integration of technology? I’m curious about interactions like the ones described in Exploring Coaching for Powerful Technology Use in Education like this, “in a coaching relationship, teachers and coaches engage in a sustained professional dialogue aimed to improve teaching by developing instructional skills (Lofthouse, Leat, Towler, Hall, & Cummings, 2010)” (Ehsanipour & Gomez Zaccarelli, 2017). When do those begin to happen? It might coming but I’m not quite sure when. I think at this point building relationships and being generally helpful is a big part of my focus.

Conclusion

Working as a technology coach does have inherent value for teachers and students, but I don’t know if it is always easily seen. I think establishing relationships is key to finding value as a coach and providing a valuable service for teachers and students. Finally, I think those who are successful share this common trait – “These successful individuals and organizations know what their purpose is, and because they lead with their purpose, they are able to impact those around them and get their “clients” on board” (Ehsanipour & Gomez Zaccarelli, 2017). In my time as an elementary instructional technology coach I hope my purpose is clear. When purpose is clear and clearly communicated it allows for true visionary leadership.

As I end my first reflection of the quarter I’m still left with some additional questions from my reading and writing that weren’t necessarily related to my two questions above. I wanted to have some recorded to return to later in the quarter or further in the future.

More Unanswered Questions:

Here are some of the questions I’m continuing to think about going forward:

  • How can a peer coaching role clearly be communicated when working in multiple schools?
  • Coaches might assume the learning for teachers.
    • If that has happened, how can learned helplessness be limited or reversed?
  • How is risk taking rewarded or discouraged in my district or in the schools I work in?

I might be able to reflect on these questions in future posts, but in case I don’t I wanted to make sure I recorded them on my blog.

Resources

Aguilar, E. (2017). What’s the Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring? Retrieved October 16, 2017, from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/coaching_teachers/2017/07/whats_the_difference_between_c.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB

 

Ehsanipour, T., & Gomez Zaccarelli, F. (2017). Exploring Coaching for Powerful Technology Use in Education (pp. 1-18). Digital Promise. Retrieved from http://digitalpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Dynamic-Learning-Project-Paper-Final.pdf

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.spu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=nlebk&AN=1046240&site=ehost-live

PLNs: Throwing a Stone in the Water

I recently facilitated a short after school meeting between the health teachers at 4 different schools by Skype. I’d used Skype previously to hold a meeting for 3 individuals from different buildings to plan a training. My district is pretty geographically spread out so it’s a hassle to travel for short meetings. There were a couple of things I walked away from the health meeting thinking. First, how cool was that? I had groups of three or four teachers meeting in a room at each school. They did the same brainstorming and sharing process we would have done if we’d met but they did it in their own space and used www.answergarden.ch to record their thinking so we could all see it. The process didn’t really change but the tools contributed to a more efficient meeting. It also dawned on me how unusual it is for teachers in our district to talk to each other school to school like this. It’s been eye opening in many ways and some good decisions have been made about making our standards more consistent. Now the question is,  how can I encourage them to continue to talk and work together, even after our work is done this year?

The answer may lie in PLNs only on a smaller scale at first. Brianna Crowley’s article, 3 Steps for Building a Professional Learning Network, helped me think about the broader idea of PLNs.

Although technology is often the vehicle to build connections, a PLN is about relationships. To conceptualize a PLN, envision three layers like the ever-widening rings formed when a rock is dropped into still water. The smallest inner circle represents buddies and mentors; a middle ring holds niche passion groups; and the outer layer comprises professionals and rockstars. The smaller the ring, the closer that group is connected to you in your PLN. (Crowley 2014)

As with any group, the development of a PLN needs to be personal. Everyone has different interests and passions and they’ll only find a PLN useful if they are interested in what they learn through it. I do like the idea of starting with a platform that you are familiar with. It will be interesting to find out what teachers in the groups I’m already working on are using already. If they aren’t, it might be worth starting small and using a tool like Yammer. We already have it in the district. It’s easy to use and could be a good stepping stone. I also like her visual of the rings. It would be easy to help teachers pick one from each ring to start with and ask them to try it out for a month and then report back to the group about how their rings are expanding.

What I’m most interested in right now is the idea of creating a vital, passionate network of teachers across the buildings in our district. It would have to focus on learning. I wouldn’t want it to become a place for gripping or negativity. Montana state has a much more challenging geographic issue but their development of the Digital Professional Learning Network has brought educators together to learn with and from each other. They’ve helped people make connections by using tools such as webinars, video conferencing, online learning for teachers and from that have forged active online communities on Twitter.

We pride ourselves in our district on developing positive relationships and I think using tools like blogs, Skype and Yammer as well as our Kyte Learning videos and experimenting with webinars this year as a place for people to share and learn together would be a good place to get started. It would be amazing to have an active, engaged, collaborative PLN across our whole district. Even if we started with technology I think it would spread to other subjects if people saw the value in it.

Resources