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What Challenges do EdTech Coaches Face?

As I was reflecting on my coaching practice, I thought about some of the points mentioned by Jill Jackson in her article “4 Steps to Your Successful Coaching Model“. Her advice definitely resonates with my experience in my first year of coaching. However, I do disagree somewhat with her second point: Know Your Content. While “Knowing your Content” definitely provides credibility, I think if we are to help teachers become more independent in the classroom, we cannot be seen as the only expert. I can actually vouch for having more credibility with teachers by being in classrooms working with students, rather than in my office researching and looking stuff up. Both are important and you need to make time for each, but in your first year I definitely think face-to-face interactions count for more than simply being an expert.

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Last year, my biggest fear was someone asking me something I had no idea about, and I realised that was silly. Of course I couldn’t know absolutely everything EdTech related! This year I’ve adopted more of a growth mindset approach when teachers ask for help. Occasionally I will, in their presence, say “I’m not sure, let me find out”, then Google the very question they are asking, so they can see how easy it is to find answers online. I’m open to letting them know that their question is a good one, and something I don’t know about yet, but that the answer is within easy reach (usually via a youtube ‘how to’ video). I remember one time doing this and the teacher abashedly saying, “Oh I guess I could have done that too”. Since I’ve modelled this basic approach, I’ve noticed a slight drop in requests for basic IT support (creating new folders in Google Drive; Uploading a Youtube video to Blogger etc.) However, only about 10% of the teachers I work with have taken initiative in finding the answers.

This video by Thought Leadership, demonstrates the importance of focusing coaching time on the ‘middle carriage’ to encourage movement towards the ‘front carriage’.

Thought Leadership from Annie Agnew on Vimeo.

Modelling a growth mindset for teachers is one way to help them feel comfortable with the unknown, and hopefully encourage them to be tech problem-solvers themselves. An example of this happened last week when one PreK teacher approached me and said she had been drafting her fourth email of the day to me asking for blogger support when she remembered me googling to find answers. She had been trying to remove ‘recommended videos’ from the youtube videos she embedded on her blog. She proudly told me that she found a youtube tutorial video and after watching it all the way through was able to solve the problem. She was another teacher who just last year was a self-proclaimed ‘tech phobe’ with no understanding of computers. I definitely wouldn’t advocate ‘Googling’ as a primary focus for coaching, but I do believe modelling a certain level of comfort with the unknown, will help promote a growth mindset in teachers. As the Brain Pickings article describes:

“A growth mindset…thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”

Throughout the Eduro coaching course, I attempted to differentiate between the 3 main coaching models: Cognitive, Instructional, and Peer Coaching. Considering my current coaching context I think the most effective approach so far has been a Cognitive Coaching model. My role as a coach is still fairly ‘new’ in the school, and just getting teachers comfortable using iPads in the classroom has been my main focus. For this reason, a model promoting “teacher autonomy, the ability to self-monitor, self-analyse, and self-evaluate” (ASCD Reflections on Cognitive Coaching), fits best for most teachers who are still in the so-called middle of the carriage.

A personal anecdote using Cognitive Coaching:

Mrs.Y and I had our second meeting this week and referring back to our original Google Doc meeting minutes was an effective way to start. Before meeting, I went over some of the topics we’d covered and also the action we’d agreed to take. We both realised many of the tasks are more long-term and so very little had happened since we last met. The one item that Mrs.Y was able to take initiative on was creating a google doc for iPad App revision. We have agreed that she will send this out to her team to complete at their next collaborative planning meeting, and then feed back to me.

We also revisited her plan for introducing the My Story app, and I asked again about what the process would look like for drafting their Public Spaces eBook. I helped her download Keri-Lee Beasley’s Design Secrets Revealed eBook, outlining the CARP Design Principles (I’ve described these on my COETAIL blog here). Mrs.Y was really excited about using these to guide her students as they designed the layouts for their ebooks. We also talked about creating a culture of independence in the classroom by allowing students to apply to be tech ‘experts’/helpers so they can help other students with certain apps. We discussed the possibility of building in some Digital Citizenship to align with the PYP PSHE outcomes and also their Unit of Inquiry on Public Spaces. There is a great video and lesson on Common Sense Media called My Online Neighbourhood that would be very relevant for her class, as they explore the Internet as another Public Space.

Throughout our coaching session I really tried to follow some of the Partnership Principles suggested in What Good Coaches Do. I maintained Equality with Mrs.Y, by allowing her to discuss some personal concerns that were happening within her class, and then we started by going back to the shared meeting minutes we created last week. I even clarified a few things we’d written and we both took turns going through the agenda items.

Next, I ensured Mrs.Y felt she had Choice in what we focused on. I started off by saying “I realise we had discussed a lot last week and I’m not sure how much either of us were able to action. Which item do you want to focus on today?”. From there, she led the the direction of the meeting and had the opportunity to raise concerns and ask pressing questions.

Voice is something I would like to develop further. While Mrs.Y and I have a trusting relationship, I do like the idea of extending further and including videoing a lesson as an option for review and further development. While I am comfortable posing questions to the teacher (following more of a cognitive coaching model), I am less comfortable when I’ve noticed something I don’t agree with, and being diplomatic about improving an area. I prefer to focus on positives, rather than negatives of a lesson, but I know there are constructive ways of approaching difficult topics. Having a video of a lesson would really help with this.

Finally I really focused on Reciprocity, telling Mrs.Y how much I appreciated these meetings to develop my own coaching and also to develop our working relationship. She immediately fed back that these meetings have already improved her understanding of the purpose of iPads and have her ‘buzzing’ with ideas for how she can purposefully integrate tech in the classroom. It’s also been helpful because she is team leader, and wants to streamline how tech is implemented across the grade level. She felt these conversations allowed her to flesh out some of her thinking and refine her understanding of how iPads can and should be used.

Choosing a coaching model that works is a bit like trying on different hats: it depends on the individual, and the context. There is definitely no one coaching model for all conditions, and sometimes what I think will be suitable just doesn’t work for that particular day. Above all, maintaining a growth mindset has helped me be patient as I cultivate a unique coaching model that works for both the teachers and me.

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Showcasing Learning through Blogging: UbD Course 1 Final Project

Week 6: Reflections

As one of four EdTech coaches at our medium-sized international school, I had the privilege of co-coordinating a two-day Tech Conference, featuring Jeff Utecht as our Keynote speaker. The research, planning and coordination of this event is what led me to join this COETAIL cohort and a lot of my tensions outlined in my various blog posts highlight my own attempts to shift the learning landscape of our school in my short time here.

Coming from Asia, where I previously taught at 1:1 schools, I was baffled at how traditional my new school was, especially with regards to the use of technology. The first 4 months I related quite a lot to Annie and Claires perspective on our roles as EdTech Coaches. Even after several smaller EdTech PD workshops I was still often referred to as “the Technology Teacher” and was told my role is to “teach technology” to students. Some of this is still the truth, as many students are unfamiliar with how to use iPads in a classroom setting, and re-framing their thinking and teaching them specific skills to use the device has been a large part of my role this year. The fact is, there is a mild fear surrounding the use of these devices, and hence students have very little practice with them. So I made it my goal that this EdTech Conference would be the beginning of the end of Technophobia in our learning environment.

The IT team and I were looking forward to re-shaping our school’s vision of technology. We’d even created a hashtag for our school, which did initially prompt several teachers to join Twitter.

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The title of our conference was Create Innovate Apply, and teachers were given time throughout the two days to meet in teams and reflect on a collaborative Google Presentation how they might ‘Apply’ their learning from the various workshops offered by Jeff and staff at our school.

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The final product was a multi-media reflective piece created using some of the suggested apps in the Tech Playground (a ‘dabble’ space set up with 10 iPads & creation apps):

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Four weeks later, it’s still too early to tell how much of a lasting impact those inspiring two days will have on teachers and their respective opinions about technology in the classroom. The reflective presentations by teachers showed renewed enthusiasm for taking risks with technology as well as many new ideas forming. Some teachers expressed a lack of practical application ideas, and wanted more time to ‘dabble’ in the Tech Playground. Overall, I sense that many teachers would have benefitted from more than just two days of new perspectives on 21st Century Learning (in fact, a COETAIL cohort might just be the answer!) Still, one of the most successful outcomes I experienced from those two days were the result of my 90-minute workshops on Blogging & ePortfolios in the PYP. I’ve decided to use this workshop as my UbD Final Project because I experienced first-hand the shift in teachers’ perspectives about blogs, just over the course of those 90 minutes. Both sessions began with fearful questions about consistency across grade-levels, parents comparing their students and fear of student work being ‘public’. After much discussion about the convenience of hosting students’ digital creations on one platform as well as creating a space that belonged to students (and empowered them to create and share) I saw the fears begin to slip away. The three weeks following the conference had me booked back-to-back with teachers wanting to introduce Easy Blogger Jr to their class and/or setting up blogs in their classroom. It was incredibly rewarding and further proof that teachers at our school were interested in showcasing learning and connecting with other classrooms, they just needed to see how it could be implemented in a purposeful way. I will know this project was successful if by the end of the school year (June 2015), all primary classrooms have at least a class blog, and if half of them have connected beyond our school community. This will create a strong starting point to kick-off even more global collaborative projects come September 2015.


 

Workshop: Showcasing Learning through Blogs & ePortfolios

My 90 minute workshop was broken down into two 45-min halves. The first 15 mins was an open discussion about blogging, what it meant, and allowing participants to voice their fears and concerns around privacy and sharing. I then defined blogging and went in depth about the 3 main kinds of blogs a teacher may have in his/her classroom:

  • Teacher’s Professional Blog
  • Shared Class Blog
  • Individual Student Blogs

I then discussed how blogging can enhance literacy and help promote a positive digital footprint. This was accomplished by referring to George Couros‘ post entitled 5 Reasons Your Students Should BlogI modified the five reasons to suit the audience and their students. I also made references back to a Sylvia Duckworth‘s Visual Notes Image on George Couros’ 8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classrooms, to link back to the point that blogging isn’t a separate task but rather a tool to support and promote 21st Century Skills.

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Screenshot of one of my Keynote Slides from my Workshop

The final 40 mins or so allowed teachers to play with the iPad app and set up their own Blogger Accounts for their class. The tutorial I provided (also below) allowed teachers to work on this independently, asking me for support when needed. This allowed me to walk around the room and address teacher questions. I also provided a PDF Handout with hyperlinks to examples of different kinds of blogs and some of the educators referenced throughout the Keynote Presentation.

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Related Videos to Support the Blogging Workshop

A tutorial I created for teachers to set up their Blogger Account:

Video Walk-Through of Easy Blogger Jr. (By the EasyAppCompany)

Demonstrating Literacy Links with Blogging in Grade 1:

A condensed version of my Blogging Keynote presentation to Teachers:


 

Teachers in Kindergarten through to Grade 5 have begun to set up their blogs in the four weeks since our edTech Conference. Several specialist teachers have asked to join class blogs so they can also contribute using the Easy Blogger Jr app. This is evident on Grade 1N Blog (the first exemplar blog created by Rebecca Navarro‘s class) where both the teachers and students post their learning.

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Below is a copy of my Final UbD Project. 

(Teacher self-assessment rubric below)

Teacher Self-Assessment Rubric: 

While I don’t plan to introduce the rubric this school year, I will bring it to my IT team and discuss possible ways to introduce it next year should admin agree for all classrooms to host blogs as part of the learning space. I’ve decided to use numbered ‘Phases’ rather than subjective criteria descriptors (Beginning, Developing, Consolidating etc.) that may pigeonhole teachers or cause them to feel inferior if they haven’t attained a specific standard. The Phase system allows teachers to moderate their progression and have ownership of their development as they explore blogs with their classes. Once the staff exhibit more confidence and greater understanding the rubric could be modified (with staff input) to accommodate different language to be assessed against. I envision these rubrics as something for teachers to have in their possession, rather than admin/coaches.

Device Blaming & App Shaming

“We banned Minecraft in our house because my child was addicted to it, so I don’t think it has a place in the classroom.”

“Kids already use iPads at home, why should they use it during school?”

“Where can I fit actual teaching in if all they’re doing is learning technology?”

Sound familiar? I must have conversations like this at least once a week. I’ll admit that 4 years ago, I wasn’t so clear myself on the role of technology in the classroom, especially when working in a 1:1 environment. But through my own dabbling and expanding my PLN, I was inspired and motivated to bring my classroom up to par with 21st Century Schools. So while I empathise with teachers, admin and parents who consider themselves digital immigrantsit is up to the individual to (as this Coetailer put it)  Grow Smart or Go Home (Coetail Blog).

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Image from: Technapex

Going Back to Basics

It’s hard to believe the article Shaping Tech for the Classroom, written nearly a decade ago, still rings true in many classrooms today. As I mentioned in my previous post, Back to the Future Syndrome, it’s frightening how far into the 21st Century we are, with many of the same initial resistance to shifting educational paradigms.

While researching this Tech Evolution image above (which I initially saw and retweeted on Twitter a few months ago), I came across a pertinent article that describes how educators can shift teaching today to meet the needs of learning for tomorrow. Sam Gliksman details how we need to adjust learning in the classroom to reflect the 8 Pillars of 21st Century Learning listed below. I’d like to consider looking at these 8 pillars through an EdTech lens, to better illustrate how tech as a tool can promote these outcomes in students of all ages:

1. Play: Problem-solving as a skill can only be learned through exploring and experimenting. Could giving students ‘dabble time’ on iPads, coding programs and offline tech (such as BlueBots, Raspberry Pi) promote this pillar while also addressing transdisciplinary skills?

2. Create: What will students be expected to create 5 years from now? 10 years from now? What will university and job applications look like? How could digital creativity transfer to analogue creativity?

3. Socialize: According to Mimi Ito  students are already socializing in digital spaces. They have ‘friendship-driven participation’ and ‘Geeking-Out participation’..what is our role in educating appropriate behaviours in these spaces? What opportunities for digital citizenship practice exist by embracing these changing social norms?

4. Discover: Teachers are no longer the experts. How can technology promote curiosity and drive students to take initiative and become experts themselves? How can we dissolve classroom walls so students become life-long learners?

5. Experience: Building on from the importance of discovery, what opportunities are there for students to gain experience in certain areas of learning through a variety of modes and using a variety of tools (analogue and digital)? How can experience foster Growth Mindsets?

6. Express: What are the different forms of literacy students are exposed to and how are we teaching them to ‘read’ these literacies? What opportunities are there for students to practice expressing different forms of literacy using different media?

7. Move: How can we merge outdoor learning with indoor learning? What role does mobile-technology play in bringing real-world experience to student’s learning?

8. Relate: What is most relevant to students now? Do skills like handwriting and long division play a significant role in children’s day to day life experience? What are they curious about and how can we support their understanding of technology, as something they encounter every day?

When I look at these 8 goals, I cannot envision a classroom without devices and apps to support each individual pillar. I see not just a change in the tools we use, but a full-on revolution in what education should look like in 21st Century Schools.

Device Blaming

Education has been evolving for centuries now, yet for some reason we are hung up on digital technology not fitting in with this ‘natural’ evolution and change. This Edudemic article details the different forms of technology teachers have had to adopt over time, and how each proved a necessary step to prepare students for the future. By continually resisting changes such as 1:1 mobile devices and virtual learning environments, how are we harming our students?

We’ve certainly come a long way but some things seem hauntingly similar to many years ago. For example, Thomas Edison said in 1925 that “books will soon be obsolete in schools. Scholars will soon be instructed through the eye.” I’m pretty sure this is exactly what people are saying these days about the iPad. (The Evolution of Classroom Technology, Edudemic)

Is the device (tool) to blame? Or our resistance to it? Are we ‘teaching technology’ or teaching skills? Why are we still having these discussions 15 years into the 21st Century?

Kevin Makice

Image Kevin Makice

App Shaming

One of my greatest challenges as an EdTech coach are those conversations (debates, at times) of certain apps used in the classroom. While there are a wide range of fabulous creation-based apps available, many teachers expect the app to ‘be the teacher’, leaving children alone with the iPad and expecting meaningful learning to result. While many creation apps can be self-taught by students, after the initial dabble and experimentation time, isn’t it up to the teachers to ensure it is used appropriately? Similarly, we wouldn’t just give students a stack of paper and a pair of scissors day after day and expect them to produce something in line with classroom outcomes. There is a time and place for creativity, exploration and a time and place for scaffolded instruction. Initially, the free inquiry might be exhilarating and productive. However, over time, plunking students in front of the same tools (or app) may not result in meaningful creations, thus causing the teacher to resort to the old argument that the app is a waste of time.

I also think many of the misconceptions of app-use in the classroom stems from a general lack of understanding for the Prosumer environment we are trying to cultivate.  Of course there are hundreds of apps whose general purpose is consumption. However, it is up to educators, coaches and admin to promote a culture of creating, where the majority of apps bring students through Blooms Taxonomy of Higher Order Thinking Skills. It’s been interesting to work with students who have iPads at home and, when provided one at school, watch them race to find the games and youtube videos. We need to differentiate iPad and app use in classrooms from iPad and app use at home. As educators we have the responsibility to set expectations for device-use; just as classroom social behaviours may differ from at-home behaviours, we should teach prosumer behaviours, even if it’s a consumer behaviour at home.

Mike Licht Schulkanab mit iPad, after Albert Anker

 

Image by Mike Licht

Moving towards 22nd Century Learning

The question shouldn’t be What’s right for right now? but rather What’s right for tomorrow? Many teachers and parents are stuck thinking that the way they learned is what’s best for their child today. However, if we’d learned the way our parents had (in my case, the 1950s and 1960s) how would any of us have been prepared for the digital age?

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Image: First Computer Wikipedia

I think we also forget that many of the students in our classrooms couldn’t fathom a world without iPhones, Skype and wifi. This entertaining clip from The Ellen DeGenres Show highlights just how foreign certain (familiar) objects are for young students of the 21st Century.

As most revolutions go, it’s the peaceful ones that truly promote lasting change. We can’t fight the resistance but we can model the potential. Ultimately it’s not about getting the world to love technology, but about having the world see how learning is enhanced through the use of technology. As Bob Dylan once sang, The times they are a changin’…and so must we.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7qQ6_RV4VQ[/youtube]