The Coach – Administrator Connection

Connecting and Collaborating with Administrators as an Instructional Technology Coach

Putting two puzzle pieces together in collaboration
Principals and Coaches each have a piece of the puzzle

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

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

Some of the takeaways for me from this post are: Continue reading “The Coach – Administrator Connection”

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

Bridging the Gap: From Teachers to Technology Coaches

New Learning

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

My Questions

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

Advocating for Teachers and Change

Continue reading “Bridging the Gap: From Teachers to Technology Coaches”

Digital Readiness Project

The Digital Readiness of a Suburban Seattle Area Elementary School

I was able to interview my principal about the state of technology in our elementary school and more specifically how we are teaching digital citizenship. As a district we’ve had some training in regard to digital citizenship that was distributed to schools through teacher leaders. I led that training about two years ago. However, staff turnover, the adoption of new curriculum, plus school and district professional development in other areas have made it difficult to sustain, or even return to the progress that was initially made in our approach to digital citizenship after the first training. I see this interview with my administrator as a way to get us thinking about this need as a school. We can evaluate where we are currently and figure out the next steps moving forward in order to focus on the digital citizenship needs of our students. Here are the questions that I asked my administrator during the interview.

Digital Access

  1. Do all students in our school have equal access to technology? If so, how do we define equal access?
  • How does our school account for students who do not have access to technology at home?
  • Do staff and students use our BYOD network?

Digital Communication

2. Are students taught appropriate ways to communicate using technology?

  • Do you think that technology can allow for a deeper understanding in learning?
  • Have you seen any evidence of technology being used that way in classrooms?

Digital Literacy

3. Is teaching students to use different technology tools in the classroom something that is practiced in our school?

  • Is appropriate as well as inappropriate use taught and discussed?
  • Is technology use monitored in a similar way by teachers?

Digital Etiquette

Our district requires Staff and Students to follow an administrative procedure that makes up the responsible use procedure for technology in our district.

The RUP Covers: Rules, guidelines and personal recommendations for the acceptable use of technology within the district. Some topics covered include responsible use, digital citizenship, COPPA and terms and conditions of internet tools, responsible use by students staff and guests, network privacy, internet safety, use of social media personally and professionally, copyright and ownership of work as well as unacceptable use and preventative measures.

4. Are students and teachers aware of the administrative policy and the technology RUP that has been adopted by the school district?

5. What are some ways that teachers model appropriate use of technology?

  • Do they model appropriate use of social media? How so?

Digital Law

6. Do staff and students practice acceptable use of digital resources?

  • Do you think there are any issues with copyright violations or plagiarism?

Digital Security

7. Are students taught to protect their technology and their personal information when using technology?

The questions covered a broad range of topics. I’d like to focus in on a few and share some thoughts for what we can do moving forward. The answers to the first three questions show that there is a vast range in the amount of technology that students use in the classroom in our school as well as a range in how technology is used by teachers. After debriefing my interview with my administrator we decided that there are three areas of focus for our school going forward.

The first is improved digital access at school. Our school has a number of technology resources available. It is not a 1:1 school, however we do have a 3:1 ratio of students per device and our district is rolling out a BYOD network in order to allow students to use personal devices which will allow us to achieve closer to a 1:1 ratio in many classes. In order to improve access teachers need to be made aware of the capabilities of our network and the purpose of BYOD in improving access. Additionally my principal identified the need to develop a scope and sequence for technology instruction K-5 in our school. That way each classroom teacher and the librarian, who integrates technology instruction into her instruction across grade levels, would have some guidelines identifying what are the skills we are responsibly for teaching across grade levels to develop the digital literacy of students over their time in elementary school. We also discussed the idea of focusing on teaching appropriate use of social media in upper grades, or possibly incorporating social media into the classroom environment so students can understand the powerful way we can collaborate on a global scale through social media. This would also give students a firm foundation for using social media personally as they begin to create accounts, usually this seems to happen as early as upper elementary level for many students.

Another commitment our school will make to technology instruction is providing some guidelines for the entire staff on best practices for monitoring technology use in classrooms. This could be incorporated into the K-5 digital literacy scope and sequence as well as reviewed yearly to provide new staff members with a refresher on how to best monitor student use as well as how to incorporate technology into instruction. Additionally this would allow new staff members to connect with grade level partners who could support the integration of technology into instruction at the beginning of the year.

We also discussed the idea of our school leadership team developing a school wide presentation for teachers to show to students at the beginning of every school year that outlines the expectations for the use of technology during the school year. Creating this presentation would strengthen our commitment to instruction with technology across grade levels as well as help students to understand the appropriate use of technology at and away from school. I think that this presentation could even lead to further discussions around moral and ethical use which seems to be an area of need for many technology users, especially youth. Another idea we discussed was having our district technology leader provide some training at a PTA meeting each year to help parents understand how students may be using social media and some things that they can do to help guide their students to use social media responsibly.

These are the areas of focus for our school in regard to digital readiness and digital citizenship. From my discussions with my principal as well as my interaction with staff members as a technology teacher leader in my school these next steps seems to constitute a reasonable plan to support our staff and students in moving forward for the next 1-2 years. Then we would be able to consider and develop a more robust integration of digital citizenship into each classroom so that all students would leave our elementary school with a firm foundation in digital citizenship to help them to be engaged ethical technology users in the larger society.

Mission and Vision in Digital Education

Vision & Mission as a Digital Education Leader

As a digital education leader I will leverage technology for improved educational outcomes and a deeper understanding of content for both teachers and students. I will teach and advocate for the mindful use of technology. I will remind students and teachers of agency in relation to technology. I will remind staff and students that in our agency, we should consider disconnecting at times in order to develop our online as well as our offline selves, because both make up our whole self. Finally, I will remind students to consider broader moral and ethical concerns that are connected to their use of technology.

As a digital education leader, I am committed to being an accessible resource for other teachers and students. I will balance troubleshooting with instruction and professional development so that technology can be used in new ways to raise the standard of learning. I will be an available resource for teachers and someone who collaborates with them to strengthen instruction. My goal is to use technology to transform learning and I will encourage other educators to reflect on their practice to use technology to transform learning as well.

Another idea I would like to be mindful of is that I don’t oversimplify the use of technology. I recognize that using technology may not be intuitive for all educators and I will be a patient collaborator to help all staff to feel that they can use technology in a transformative way with their students, because incorporating technology into instruction will help educators to better connect with and motivate students. Teachers have much to consider, such as, desired outcomes, privacy, possible misuse and many other factors before adopting a new technology. Therefore, agency in consideration of technology is an important principle for my own integration of technology as well as in my mentorship of other teachers.

I want students to experience the transformative power of technology. I think that allowing open ended representation of final products, when possible, along with guided instruction in the use of technology will allow my students to redefine their learning and their production. Students are inundated with technology in their daily lives. Students need to understand the numerous way that they can leverage technology to augment their learning. Developing mindfulness plus moral and ethical thinking skills will cause students to pause before posting, copying and pasting or remixing ideas and putting them online. I want help students think critically about their use of technology. Using technology should be a choice not just an automatic action or a part of the background. I want students to be excited about using technology to extend their learning. I want them to creatively think of ways to incorporate technology into their learning. I will provide structure, understanding and time for reflection so that students realize the nuanced ways that technology affects their lives. I will also provide students with a grounding in what it means to be a digital citizen. As digital citizens students will use technology ethically and with increasing fluency for collaboration or communication locally as well as globally. (ISTE 5a-c).

Mindfulness and Distraction

As an educator who is teaching in a digital era, I see a need for students to raise the level of mindfulness and their awareness of distraction regarding their use of technology and social media in the classroom as well as outside of the classroom. Technology is pervasive. It is all too easy to be enveloped by the vastness of the internet. Therefore, mindfulness and distraction are concepts that should be taught to all students, starting at an early age, to help them prepare for and cope with what they experience in the online world. To me this is the groundwork that will lead to a more complete understanding of digital citizenship. It will begin to teach them about agency. It will allow students to better understand and connect with modeling and facilitating safe, healthy, legal and ethical uses of digital information and technologies (ISTE 5b).

Learning to Practice Agency, and Disconnecting

Using technology is a choice. We may feel pressure from society or from other factors to use technology increasingly because that is the general pattern around us, however, we still have human agency. With guidance from teachers and parents students can learn to resist the temptation to use technology at all times. Parents should be empowered to set limits on technology use for themselves as well as for their children. Agency plays a role in daily online decisions. Is posting this joke consistent with my moral and ethical values? Do I agree with the entirety of this article? Would my friend give me permission to post this picture? Did I give credit to this author or artist? Those are thoughts that should be in the forefront of our minds when we are choosing to post, blog, comment, repost or remix online media. Finally, there are moments in life where we have to unplug in order to be completely present. It is when we are disconnected, alone with our thoughts,in conversation with others, or sharing some activity with others that we will feel completely present. The following idea from Borgman resonates with me and I think that youth today should consider the message here as well and disconnect at times,

we have to give such occasions [times where we experience the nearness of divinity] a secure place and a regular time in our lives. Contemplation needs a cloister, a space where the splendor of the simple is secure from mindless distraction and busyness. (Borgman 2012, p. 9)

Borgman is saying that this won’t happen on it’s own, we need to make time to disconnect, in order to develop our whole selves. As Rheingold (2012) says, [sometimes one should] “throw some sand into the machinery that automatizes your attention.” (p. 50). Disconnecting relates back to mindfulness, being mindful requires reflection and metacognition. All of those practices will help lead to moral and ethical thinking.

Moral and Ethical Use of Technology

I will foster reflection and mindfulness and develop a sense of agency and encourage students to disconnect. Together those two concepts will surely help students develop into more well rounded citizens, however, moral and ethical use of technology is also necessary for learners in this digital age. Consider this quote from Carrie James in Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap:

The beliefs and values an individual holds–about honesty, respect, responsibility and what it means to be a good person–can provide an anchor, assuming these moral values are salient to his or her identity and are considered and invoked when a moral or an ethical situation arises. (James 2014, p. 120)

Accessibility, being always on, social media and constantly changing technologies provide a steady stream of ethical dilemmas that are always right at our fingertips noticed or not. Students would benefit from a moral anchor when experiencing a dilemma. Again James provides a framework for considering these dilemmas and provides a hope for how to begin to give young people the tools to navigating these murky waters.

On a practical level, thoughtful, ethically sensitive identities can be cultivated when dialogue about moral and ethical issues is a regular part of a young person’s life–when frequent support and incentives exist for grappling with and debating dilemmas in light of different moral beliefs, values, and interests. (James 2014, p. 113)

As educators we can make time to grapple with and debate these dilemmas. It is our job to help cultivate minds and to guide young people to consider differing beliefs. That has long been a focus, now we need to continue that work and extend it to technology and online lives. Ultimately I want my students to grow into genuinely ethical people in their online and offline lives.

Being genuinely ethical requires much soul-searching, conversing with informed peers, a willingness to admit that one has been wrong, and striving to do better the next time. These steps are far more difficult to execute than a simple delineation of what is ethical and what is not. (Davis & Gardner 2013, p. 172).

As a technology leader I am committed to starting this discussing with students and encouraging other educators to have similar discussions. We want what is best for our students understanding that media and technology is a part of their lives. Therefore, we must provide them with the necessary tools to develop the whole self in all areas of their lives, including their online lives. I look forward to a generation of mindful, deliberate moral and ethical young people.

Resources

Borgmann, A. “Contemplation in a Technological Era: Learning from Thomas Merton.” (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith) Volume 64, Number 1, March 2012. Page 9.

Davis, K., & Gardner, H. (2013). The App Generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy and imagination in a digital world. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

ISTE Standards for Coaches. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

James, C. (2014). Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Rheingold, H. (2012). Attention! Why and How to Control Your Mind’s Most Powerful Instrument. Net Smart (pp. 34-75). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Here we go!

This blog will be a tool I use to reflect on and put the ISTE coaching standards into practice as I move through the Digital Education Leadership M.Ed. program at Seattle Pacific University. Check back throughout the next 7 quarters as I add evidence and grow in my understanding of what it means to be an educator who uses technology effectively in the classroom as well as a more competent coach to help others use technology more effectively in their own classrooms. Here we go!