Like some of my colleagues in the Digital Education Leadership M.Ed. Program at Seattle Pacific University, this quarter has led me to think more broadly about professional development for teachers and specifically professional development through technology. Much of the learning this quarter has been new and valuable to me as a first year instructional technology coach. I’m understanding more about the limitations on professional learning. At the same time I am becoming more and more involved with school and district leadership teams through my position, which exposes me to district and building PD models. Also, I have had the chance to read about some really great professional development initiatives that are happening and have thought, what would it take to make that happen here in WA or in my region, or in my district? By no means have I figured out how to do that, but I still have a desire to work toward better, more engaging professional development that reflects best practices and teacher needs. Although my lens has been fairly focused on building level learning up until now, for this post I’m going to try to zoom out a bit and think about region wide PD. As the final post this quarter, I am still considering how technology coaches implement technology rich learning environments which is ISTE-C 4b. However, as instructional technology coaches work in concert with district and building administrators, I’m going to talk about how I think they might aid in that development once again. A quote from the Office of Educational Technology continues to guide my thinking about professional learning, “technology should not be separate from content area learning but used to transform and expand pre- and in-service learning as an integral part of teacher learning” (National Education Technology Plan 2017). As I frame my thinking about professional learning, I’m always considering that technology is an integral part of that plan.
I heard this week that the PEW Research Center identified a generational shift for those born after 1996. They are now known as the post-millennial generation while awaiting an official name, (Dimok, 2018). It is interesting that the movement of education mirrors life and society. Just as we have moved into a new name for the latest generation of young people in America, the United States in December, 2015, moved from No Child Left Behind to a new revitalization of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965, called Every Student Succeeds Act. From what I understand about ESSA so far, I see that there is a shift from accountability in NCLB to thinking about the child as a complete learner, and beginning to re-think the parameters used to measure schools and including growth as a valuable indicator of progress, (ESSA Implementation, 2018). I found this video helpful to get an overview of where the state of Washington is going during the rest of the 2017-2018 school year.
For this module, we started off with a guiding question. What role should administrators play in professional learning programs and how do we advocate for their involvement and adequate professional learning support for technology-based learning initiatives? I decided to ask a question that would allow me to reflect on my own experiences. I’m thinking about an entire school community and how a principal can shape that community. So I’m wondering; How can administrators work under district constraints and plan and advocate for PD that is best for their schools? What happens when administrators are involved in learning? This idea is related to what I have been investigating for some of this quarter and in previous quarters. I have been thinking about administrators,what a collaborative staff and school looks like and how an administrator can craft and support that environment. It is not directly related to technology professional development, but I am going to try to weave it into my post in a meaningful way. I do want to consider and keep in mind that I am not an administrator, however, I have been fortunate to work with some very dedicated and effective administrators and I would like to talk about some of what I have seen in their work.
This quarter we continue to investigate ISTE-C Standard 4b about how Educational Technology coaches can model principles of adult learning while demonstrating best practices in professional development. It makes sense that we are spending our entire quarter considering this standard because of the importance professional development could play in the role of a teacher. In much of the current professional development it appears that there is an unmet potential. It’s not really a surprise then that I’m finding my post this module is related to the last two posts I’ve written this quarter. It too has elements of choice for teachers along with variety in the offerings for professional development.
I started off this module asking about teachers as learners and trying to decide how professional development opportunities could be continue to be relevant after a session ends? I was wondering how Twitter chats, hashtags and online PLNs could play a role in helping teachers to continue learning and how learning through technology in that way might demonstrate digital age best practices. I’m not going to completely abandon that idea but in conducting research I’ve decided to include some best practices for professional development in the physical school environment as well because in my school district this constitutes the majority of professional learning opportunities. I also know that previously PLCs were a part of the district but they were required, much like in my past district so I wanted to revisit the practice of PLCs in a way that might appeal to teachers even if it wasn’t a requirement. My new question became how can individual buildings and the school district support PLCs and teachers as learners? As I asked this new question I also had to consider if PLCs can support digital age best practices, and I think they do as I’ll explain a bit later as I look at the Triple E framework through the lens of professional learning. The only thinking that might be missing from this post for me personally as a technology coach is maybe what role do I play in supporting this kind of learning in my schools? I don’t know if I will get to that specifically in this post or not, but if not it is something I will continue to think about. Continue reading “Connecting PLCs to Local and Global PLNs”
During this module in our class focusing on professional development and program evaluation we were asked to consider the role that adult learning principles play in the planning of educational technology professional development. I found that to be a fascinating question not only because I had never heard of the adult learning principles, but also because I had no idea what took place in the planning of educational technology professional development beyond defining the need based on a new computer adoption, a new digital curriculum adoption or an [insert technology implementation here] and planning professional development backward from there. Previously, as a teacher I participated in train the trainer type events during which I wasn’t given any guidelines around adult learning principles as I went to instruct my staff full of adult learners.
Professional Development for Teachers and My Question
This post marks the start of the winter quarter in my M.Ed. program in Digital Education Leadership. This quarter our class is Professional Development and Program Evaluation. It seems like it will be very timely for me to focus on professional development again as some of our district PD offerings are ramping up for the Spring and will continue again at the start of the next school year. This class is asking us to consider the ISTE Coaching Standard #4 indicator b – which asks coaches to design, develop and implement technology rich learning programs that promote adult learning and model digital age best practice (ISTE, 2011). For our first module in EDTC 6106 we were asked to consider the question:
How should we design professional development that utilizes educational technology?
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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
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:
A desire to learn
A knack for teamwork
An empowering nature
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
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.
This week I was thinking about developing professional relationships when in a new role. I wanted to reflect on that process and find out what was normal. At the same time I wanted to consider ISTE 1 d for coaches, how coaches advocate for change, that is the standard behind our module. So in my research for my M.Ed. in Digital Education Leadership Program at SPU, I decided to look for some sources outside of the world of education where coaching has been around and has been popular for some time. I will try to share best practices for building collegial relationships and some things that stood out to me in particular as useful from what I found in the business world and a connection between instructional technology coaching and literacy coaching.
Building Collegial Relationships
How do we build collegial relationships? I find myself wondering about that, probably in part because I am building collegial relationships across schools, in a new district all at the same time. It’s common practice for coaches to only go into classes after they have been invited, probably to avoid any feeling of evaluative practice being associated with them. So here I am waiting for an invitation. How do instructional technology coaches develop relationships across multiple school buildings? It is something that takes time as I’ve read multiple times in the book Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration (Foltos, 2013), and in other resources I’ve used for my past two blog posts. I came across an article at Mindtools about building great relationships at work. I don’t want to summarize the entire article here, but you can go and read it if you would like, but I do think much of it applies to new coaches and anyone who has many interpersonal interactions at work. Instead I want to talk about parts of the article that stood out to me as an instructional technology coach. The article does link Mindfulness to building great relationships at work. That seems to be a hot term lately in education, and for good reason. I wrote about mindfulness in my mission and vision as a digital education leader earlier in my program. Being mindful seems to draw us out of ourselves, that reflection leads us to think more about others and their needs and concerns, not just focusing on our own. It makes sense that practicing mindfulness in regard to your words and actions would lead to better work relationships. A couple other ideas stood out to me from this article, one was identifying your relationship needs along with focusing on your EI and listening actively and being positive (Mindtools, n.d.).
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.
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?