Is SAMR Enough? 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

21st Century Skills to Connect Teachers and Coaches

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

Collegial Relationships and Instructional Coaching

Introduction to Module 2 and My Question

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.).

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Screencasting in the Classroom: Using Video for School Based PD with Staff and Students

Community Engagement Project

For the final project in EDTC 6104 – Digital Learning Environments I’m reflecting on my Community Engagement Project. Using screencasting in the classroom for instruction with students or PD with staff members. I attempted to identify a learning need for a community of educators and design a workshop and presentation to distribute the content through a presentation at a local conference. I initially had a difficult time thinking of an area where I was comfortable and capable of providing PD or exposure to a specific topic for a group of K-12 educators. Eventually I settled on the topic of screencasting. I decided to apply to present this project at a local technology conference, NCCE. When I was thinking about the length I knew it would be between 30 and 60 minutes based on the topic and what I had to say luckily the conference application helped, since there was a choice for a 50 minute spot or a 2 hour spot. I went for 50 minutes.

Engaged and Active Learning

A focus of our class was active and engaged learning in a digital environment. It was a challenge to incorporate into PD especially since I am used to sit-and-get style of PD. I have done a lot of thinking and reflecting on how to adapt and update PD to a more engaging style, but putting it into practice has proved to be difficult. One way I’ve attempted to engage learners is to provide freedom, and that is a great draw of video, you make videos that fit the purpose according what is needed in your class or by your staff. I hope participants will be engaged because they are able to apply this learning to their individual classrooms and plan videos for their students or staff. Another idea was to incorporate flipped learning content into the session. I decided that trying to get participants to record their own screencast before coming to the PD would hopefully help spark an interest and facilitate buy-in from participants. I also decided to try to gather the recorded videos together along with a description to create a library of screencast and video resources that would hopefully benefit teachers for use in their classrooms or job. To get participants involved in the session I attempted to have them script and record a screencast toward the end of our time. In planning for this, I have some concerns because I’ve heard conference wifi can be unreliable at times and video of course requires more bandwidth.

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Troubleshooting for All

Introduction to ISTE 3E and 3G

This week for my M.Ed. Digital Education Leadership program blog post at Seattle Pacific University. I’m reflecting on a different part of the ISTE coaching standard #3. For this module we are considering indicators E and G of Standard 3. Initially those two indicators and topics seemed unrelated but I think they really do overlap more than I first thought. Initially in considering the role students and teachers play in troubleshooting technology versus collaborating locally and globally with students, parents, peers and the larger community I decided to focus on troubleshooting. However, I think the two may be more connected than I originally considered. The question that chose to investigate was related to my school district. I wanted to know what tools or resources they had in place for teachers and students who need to troubleshoot technology so that they feel empowered to troubleshoot on their own. I also want to consider what technology coaches can do in order to encourage teachers to troubleshoot on their own. 

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Collaboration Across Districts in Technology Selection

Collaboration Across Districts in Technology Selection

ISTE Standard 3 for Coaches

This week for my reflection on ISTE Coaching Standard 3 we were using this question to frame our investigation: How do we evaluate, select, and manage digital tools and resources for teachers and students that meet accessibility guidelines and fit within our institution’s technology infrastructure? I decided to focus on part of that question with my own investigative question. I asked: What is an effective process to evaluate, manage and select digital tools that solicits feedback and buy-in from teachers and administrators? This week I didn’t choose to focus on accessibility guidelines because when I read the standard it wasn’t something that initially stood out to me. Over the two weeks I’ve seen what my colleagues are going to investigate and I think I will come back to accessibility in another post, hopefully in the near future. Also I know that one project I will be working on this year is working to help make sure all websites of my new district are ADA compliant. That will be new learning for me and I’m excited to put what I learn into thoughts in a future post.

This week I decided to focus on the structure of technology adoption and approval of apps, software, websites, add ons and other forms of instructional technology that affect teachers and students. I’ve only worked in one district so I have limited experience, but it sounds like in talking with colleagues and some informal surveys my previous district was ahead of many others in their processes for approval of technology use. The one thing I always thought about was that the process you were supposed to follow and the website to check for approval was difficult to get to and not known by everyone. That is part of the reason that I wanted to write about this topic. So that led me to insert the idea of buy-in into my question. I was not really shocked to learn that “nationwide 51% of teachers select up to half of the education technology they use” (Johnson, 2016). I was never sure was our district technology portion of the website under advertised or if teachers just weren’t interested in whether or not the district supported a tool and if it was ethical to use with students. Is it something that they saw as important? Additionally, how many administrators were asking teachers about the technology tools they used with students and whether or not they were approved by the district, protected student privacy, made an impact on student learning? Those are some questions that are still lingering for me even as I try to record my leaning around this standard and topic. Continue reading “Collaboration Across Districts in Technology Selection”

Blended Learning in PD

This quarter we will consider how to best create and support digital learning environments through the lens of a technology coach. In module 1 we are focusing on performance indicators a & c under ISTE Standard 3 for Coaches. Those two indicators ask how collaboration and classroom management can be used effectively to maximize the use of digital tools and resources in technology-rich learning environments by teachers and students, (ISTE, 2011). Indicator 3c asks coaches to “coach teachers in and model the use of blended learning, digital content and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators,” (ISTE, 2011). The part that stands out to me most as I transition into my new role is indicator 3c. I decided to continue my investigation into best practices in professional development, work that I started in my final post last quarter that can be read here. In that post I talked broadly about professional development (PD) and about how it could be improved to best serve teachers who integrate  technology into teaching. Here I will continue that work by focusing on how technology coaches can support teachers to through the PD.  Today my question deals specifically with blended learning, and asks how it can be incorporated into professional development for teachers so that they can begin to use it in their classroom. 

My reading notes are below:

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Teachers Who Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Ethical Use – Can We Try Different?

The Standard

ISTE for Teachers Standard 4 states that “teachers understand local and global societal issues and responsibilities in an evolving digital culture and exhibit legal and ethical behavior in their professional practices” (ISTE 2008). To me that seemed like quite a charge. It’s a huge responsibility for teachers, but it is one that is essential in the 21st century. Initially I was planning on investigating how primary teachers demonstrate to their students that they are ethical users of technology and I wondered how that positively impacted students? When I started researching and thinking about how teachers could be empowered to be responsible and ethical users of technology, I began to realize the vast quest that this standard entails. Like many of our modules in the Digital Education Leadership Program at Seattle Pacific University, I think that is the point of our assignment and our research. We are working toward a M.Ed. but we are also embodying the charge of the school of education at SPU, part of the mission is “to equip educators for service and leadership in schools and communities by developing their professional competence and character, to make a positive impact on learning.” I think that part of the reason we are focusing on standards that are very broad is to prepare us for conversations we will have with teachers and other stakeholders in the future as we become technology leaders in our schools and districts.

A picture of lemons reminding us to try different.

Maybe we can’t just try harder, maybe we need to try something different?

Continue reading “Teachers Who Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Ethical Use – Can We Try Different?”

Collaboration with Parents, Student Motivation, and Success

Collaboration and Success

This week we were looking at the ISTE Standard for Teachers, #3 and specifically it seems to deal with parent communication or collaboration with parents, peers or the community. So based on my interpretation of the standards and conversations we had in our class that led me to two related questions. How does collaboration with parents, peers, or community members support student success and innovation? How can asynchronous collaboration or communication be used to increase parent, peer, or community involvement in the classroom as an aid to student success? Those two questions are obviously big questions, with complicated answers, but I think it is something teachers are constantly considering. As teachers we have limited time with students. Taking into account the different subjects, changing classes in middle through high school, state testing, other required assessments, daily interruptions to the regular schedule, not to mention absences, appointments and behavior challenges and the giant chunk of time we think we have is whittled away like a piece of stone for a sculpture. Without vision and laser focus it turns into nothing more than chunks of rock on the floor, signs of a missed opportunity. I know I have had years like that as an elementary teacher. I reflect on my year with a particular class or my work with a specific student and ask, where did the time go? It is difficult to measure what I have accomplished and I can be left thinking about missed opportunities.

In that respect partnering with parents and other members of the community to aid student success is particularly interesting to me for a couple reasons. First, if partnering with a member of the community or a parent does in fact provide additional motivation to students then it would likely lead to increased student success during the school year. I would likely see results in the classroom. There have been rare instances where I’ve felt like this has worked, or almost worked. One instance was this year. I introduced a student to a series of books and he started reading them like crazy. He went from reading fiction reluctantly to being a ravenous reader. He read nearly 30 short chapter books in just a few months or so. I was excited and I thought I had clearly communicated that excitement with his parents. However, I didn’t know that at home his parents were saying that the books he was reading were too easy for him. They were concerned that he needed to be reading more difficult books. Instead of partnering we ended up battling about appropriate level of reading for this student. Honestly, I just wanted him to be interested in reading so I didn’t push the issue too much, and he is still finding books that interest him. He is just reading more slowly as he tackles more complex texts. This week I’ve been reflecting on that story and I can’t help thinking that it was a missed opportunity. It might be that because parents in my class were not more familiar with the reading curriculum, this particular parent didn’t understand that there is complex work to do in a text in spite of the level of that text.

The second reason partnering with parents or other community members is so interesting and intriguing is that it provides a path for students to continue their learning outside of the classroom and beyond the school year. Robby Desmond writes in his blog post about some exciting possibilities that could come from partnering with parents. His perspective is that of an online reading tutor, but I think that his enthusiastic approach to involving parents should at least cause us to reflect on our own involvement of parents and community members. He suggests that exposing parents to the goals of lessons and a curriculum then parents will become a part of the learning process (Desmond, 2013).

An added benefit of involving parents and authentic learning is shared by actual students in the video about Expeditionary Learning (EL) at King Middle School. The school is unique of course, embarking on a 4 month investigation that is supported by teachers of different disciplines allows for deeper learning. Students are designers, creators and problem solvers. Through this project they use many of the categories of skills for deeper learning (Kabaker, 2015). It is hard to say whether it is because the EL approach to learning in general or specifically because of the parent integration at the end of the project but two of the students who are highlighted in the video reflected on their presentations in a way that seems to show that they positively affected performance. “This is live, you’re showing what you’re learning to other people, which kind of gives you something more back I think.” said Emma Schwartz. “You have to be clear and concise. Giving presentations is so important because it really arms you with skills that you will need later in life” shared Liva Pierce (EL Education, 2013).

Portland Maine Problem Solvers from EL Education on Vimeo.

At King Middle School, an EL Mentor School, teachers have swapped traditional curriculum for an unusually comprehensive science curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving, with a little help from some robots.

Do I think that it is possible (or even helpful) for parents to know absolutely everything that is happening in my classroom? I don’t think many parents want that. I’m not even sure how to provide that kind of access based on my current teaching. I feel torn between providing more information to parents to extend the learning like Desmond suggests and reluctant because parent involvement is never universal.

Ultimately I think in order to provide some kind of consistent communication that is beneficial to parents, teachers and students it needs to be a school wide implementation. I find that my communication is usually lacking often because of a lack of time. Maybe I haven’t given it enough of a try to see the way it can transform learning. In her article Linda Flanagan provides some ideas that really resonate with me as an elementary teacher. She says, “To make outreach more attractive to teachers, schools need to make communication central to the teachers’ work, not just an add-on to their growing list of responsibilities. In practice, that means making time during the school day for teachers to contact parents, Kraft says (Flanagan, 2015). That would help. In the meantime I have seen some beneficial aids to communication in recent years, Flanagan mentions text message based communication in her article and I think that Remind.com is a tool that is doing a great job of connecting parents and teachers through text messages. To me parent communication is one of those measures that is tricky to quantify. I know it positively impacts students but I’m still left searching for the best way to reach parents in a meaningful way while focusing on all of the other responsibilities we have as teachers.

Resources:

Desmond, R. (2013, March 12). Asynchronous Teaching, Helping Parents, and the Connected Teacher [Blog]. Retrieved from http://rossier.usc.edu/95468/

EL Education. (2013). Portland Maine Problem Solvers [News Video]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/68323188

Flanagan, L. (2015, November 17). What Can Be Done to Improve Parent-Teacher Communication? [Blog]. Retrieved from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/11/17/what-can-be-done-to-improve-parent-teacher-communication/

Kabaker, J. (2015, February 11). Supporting Deeper Learning in the Classroom. Retrieved from http://digitalpromise.org/2015/02/11/supporting-deeper-learning-in-the-classroom/

 

Deeper Learning and Formative Assessment

Deeper Learning for All

This module asks how a teacher can best design and develop digital age learning experiences and assessments from ISTE Standards for Teachers #2. I am becoming more and more passionate about the idea of making learning relevant for students through the use of digital tools. I’ve always had a desire to make learning relevant for students, (Why do I teach right?), but in my exploration of technology integration over the past 5 years or so and more acutely since I started my M.Ed. in Digital Education Leadership I’ve felt an urgency to make learning relevant through the use of technology.

Everyday I see the negative effects of students who are not totally engaged in learning. No matter how much I think that the learning matters to them, and in spite of my desire to communicate the authentic connection that many standards in fact do have to students lives, still they are unable to fully connect to their learning. I am convinced that technology can empower teachers to help students make authentic connections with their learning. Additionally, I am convinced that through careful planning, intentional integration, a refusal to settle and a focused desire to make learning meaningful teachers can make changes to the learning environment that will positively impact their students. I’ve seen too many videos and read too many articles related to personalized learning, challenge based learning, design thinking and project based learning to think that these approaches do not positively impact students. So today and during this module my desire was to find out how can I go about beginning the process of transforming my classroom or at the very least one subject into a more powerful and more authentic learning environment for students.

Continue reading “Deeper Learning and Formative Assessment”