Communicating in a Virtual Space

For my EDTC 6105 course we are continuing to talk about communication, coaching and how communication plays a role in successful coaching. Over the last couple weeks we have been talking about how coaches can build trust, set goals and norms, push on instructional practices and build the capacity of educators and the role that communication plays. This has gotten me thinking about my own communication skills, what those look and sounds like and if they have changed since we’ve started working remotely. This has lead me to my driving question for this blog post:

Do communication skills need to change when coaching virtually versus face to face in order for coaches to be successful at establishing productive and respectful coaching relationships? What impact does meeting virtually have on a coaching relationship?

What are communication skills? 

There are many things that come to mind when I think of communication. As Foltos (2013) describes, communication can include many things from tone of voice to language choice or body and facial expressions (p. 83). The list can be quite long but it is important to consider how we communicate when working with others as effective communication leads to strong collaborative partnerships. When coaching, those that we are working with want to know that we believe in them and that we are there to support and build them up. So how we communicate both verbally and nonverbally has to match and support that. Some of the skills that I have found work the best when coaching are making sure that I am actively listening which includes questioning and paraphrasing what I have heard and also body language. 

This is something that I still am continually working on. Being an active listener is more than just paying attention to the speaker. It means not getting distracted while listening. As a coach it is my job to really hear what my colleague is saying, not just what I think they are saying. Elena Aguilar (2018) suggests that instead of active listening we should actually be listening with an expansive mind. I had never heard this phrase before but it made sense. If we are listening with an expansive mind then we are listening for those places where we can push on learning, build our partner up, being curious about what they are saying. We aren’t closed off but instead are open to hear and learn together. 

This is something that I find myself doing all the time, at work, at home, even when I’m out to dinner. To me this skill holds the key to building relationships. When I paraphrase it is more than just repeating what I just heard. It is taking what I heard and rephrasing it in a way to check for my own understanding, it gives the speaker time to correct anything that I may have misheard and also allows for the speaker to think about if that was really what they were trying to say. I have found that when I follow up a paraphrase with a question this helps push the conversation further and leads to deeper discussion and/or learning. As Foltos (2013) mentions, good paraphrasing and questioning should focus on the speaker not the listener so it is important to not use the pronoun I and instead use phrases like, “so you are saying …” or “you’re thinking that …” (p.85). 

This one is extremely important. As a coach I might be saying one thing with my words but if my body language doesn’t match then it can be harmful to the coaching relationship. Just like in any relationship my words and my actions need to be in sync. Therefore it is important that my body language communicates that I believe in them, that I’m listening, and that I am open to what they are saying. How am I communicating through body language, am I looking at them, is my posture tense, how is my tone of voice? All of these are important to think about when communicating. “You can build community simply by heightening your awareness of your body language and how you interpret the body language of others” (Aguilar, 2018). 

Communicating in a Virtual Space

So what does this mean for coaching and communicating virtually. While all of the things listed above are still true it can sometimes be harder to do in a virtual environment. Since the physical connection of being in the same place is gone it is important to pay attention to how we are communicating. It is important that we are aware of the message we are trying to send and keying into the language that we use in order to effectively communicate. Even more so in a virtual space we should have humility and empathy for those that we are working with. Therefore we need to be sure that our tone and body language comes through in a virtual space. It is important that those we are working with know that we are listening ao we need to do what we can to limit the distractions and use paraphrasing and questioning intentionally. Another idea that stands out during this time is also litening for those opportunities where we can highlight the successes that are happening all around us. Where are the places where we can call out something that someone has done and share those tips and successes with others. This takes actively listening for those moments and then being ready to share them out with others. Good communication also leads to positive collaboration which is also a skill to successful coaching. As a coach I need to be willing to be vulnerable myself, communicate my learning, be open, transparent, and use phrases that emphasize that “we” are doing this work together. 

Summary

So while I don’t believe communication needs to completely change while coaching remotely, I do believe it is even more important. Without the face to face connection it is important that others still feel connected to what is happening. As a coach it is even more important that I am paying attention to facial expressions, tone and word/language choice so that there is not a mismatch between what I’m saying and my body language. While working remotely it is important to keep the lines of communication open and to continue to let those I’m working with know that I am there to support them. It is on me to continue to reach out so that there is not a feeling of isolation. Share successes whenever possible and make sure that what I am communicating verbally matches my nonverbal communication. 

References 

Aguilar, E. (2018, October 26). How to Hone Your Interpersonal Skills. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/how-hone-your-interpersonal-skills

Berg, A. V. D. (2020, August 18). 4 Ways ICs Can Support Teachers and Students Virtually. https://blog.teachboost.com/4-ways-ics-can-support-teachers-and-students-virtually

Blogger, A. G. (2020, April 20). Three keys to instructional coaching in a virtual learning environment. ASCD Inservice. https://inservice.ascd.org/three-keys-to-instructional-coaching-in-a-virtual-learning-environment/

Coaching During COVID: 6 Key Takeaways from Jim Knight and Diane Lauer. (2020, April 10). KickUp. https://kickup.co/blog/coaching-during-covid-highlights-jim-knight

Coaching for Change: Effective Instructional Coaching | EL Education. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2020, from https://eleducation.org/resources/coaching-for-change-effective-instructional-coaching

DeCastro, M. (2020, August 13). How Communication Skills Coaching Will Prepare You to Lead in a Post-Coronavirus World. Business 2 Community. https://www.business2community.com/communications/how-communication-skills-coaching-will-prepare-you-to-lead-in-a-post-coronavirus-world-02335796

Ferlazzo, L. (2020, March 27). Instructional Coaching During the Coronavirus Crisis. Education Week – Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2020/03/instructional_coaching_during_the_coronavirus_crisis.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB

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

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

UWCEL. (2020, May 18). How Coaches are Improving Teaching in a Virtual Environment. http://blog.k-12leadership.org/instructional-leadership-in-action/how-coaches-are-supporting-teachers-right-now

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Learning to Navigate the Many Roles of a Peer Coach

It’s the fall of 2020 and this quarter for my EDTC 6105 course in the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University we are focusing on peer coaching. For this first blog post my focus is on ISTE Coaching standard 1 which is about being a change agent. The reason I am focusing on this standard and specifically indicators a and c are because of their focus on a coaching culture and how it connects with a shared vision and goals. As I began digging into these standards and reading the text for our course, Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration by Les Foltos (2013) I started thinking about all the different roles and hats that a coach wears. I started wondering about the use of each role, how many roles are there, and how do coaches know when to switch from one role to another. All of this led me to my driving question for this week’s blog post.


Driving Question

As a new coach how do I balance my use of the 4 different coaching roles and know when to move from one role to another? I know each role has a purpose and is important but there are times when one role may be more effective then another. How do coaches go about determining what role to take and when they might move between roles?


To get started I wanted to really look into what the different roles are that coaches take on. What I found is that there are a variety of roles and depending on who you ask they go by different names. While the list of roles can go on forever there were some roles that seemed to be common across the board. 

Facilitator – This role is all about leading through asking questions, supporting the learning while still pushing thinking. As a facilitator the coach is the one leading the learning and helping teachers to reflect on their practice. While the coach is asking questions the teacher is the one doing most of the thinking and reflecting. In this role the coach is there to act as a sounding board to the teacher in order to help improve practice. In her research article, “Teacher-centered Coaching: An Instructional Coaching Model” Sonia Wang (2017) provides examples of questions and statements that a coach might pose when taking a facilitator role. All of the questions or statements are phrased in a way that pushes the teacher to go deeper in their thinking. Questions such as “take me through your thinking process” or “What do you think allowed for this to happen?” all help the teacher to reflect on their practice.

Collaborator – This role is about being a partner and working together with the teacher. As a collaborator coaches and teachers are working together to brainstorm ideas, coplan lessons, reflect on and evaluate lessons. The coach should not be doing all the thinking and talking but instead there should be a balance of responsibility. This is a great role for working together to problem solve and plan activities. When in a collaborating role the coach should be asking things like, “why don’t we brainstorm around … “ or “let’s think of some pro’s and con’s for …” or simply “what if we …” all of these shared the thinking with the teacher.

Expert – This role has the coach doing most of the talking since they are taking on an expert role and sharing their experience. As an expert the coach positions themself to be the one sharing their knowledge and the teacher is there to learn from them. This does not mean that the teacher is a passive participant however. Through this role the coach is sharing their experience but also asking questions that check for understanding, similar to an instructor in a course.

Catalyst/Empowerer – This role is about reflection and improving practice while building teacher agency. When in the role of a catalyst the coach is working to improve instructional practice and helping teachers to become instructional decision makers within their classrooms and buildings. In order to do this a coach must empower the teacher to build their own professional identity, agency and voice. Wang (2017) shares that “ Therefore, I coined the term “empowerer” for the moments in the session where the teacher and I shared a thinking process where they identified their own growth and/or they saw the larger impact their instructional practice can and does have on their students and classroom (p. 30).


So how does a coach navigate and move amongst all of the roles listed above and the hundreds of other roles not mentioned? Part of this navigation starts with being clear around your goals as a coach and having a trusting relationship with the teacher that you are working with. If the coach has built a trusting respectful relationship with a shared vision and goal then they will be better equipped to shift from one role to another and flexibly. The ability to shift from one role to another is something that I think takes time but should also be natural. I think oftentimes coaches don’t even realize that they are shifting in between roles because it is just part of natural conversation. The shift or move should happen and be based around the needs of the teacher and what is going to push student and teacher learning further. Something else that I have come to recognize is the importance of framing everything around a third point such as data, standards, goals, student work. This helps keep the conversation focused on student learning and helps continue to build trusting relationships because it is not about the teacher personally but about the learning. I appreciated how Wang (2017) shared that they tracked the frequency with which they were assuming the different roles and that this gave them a better understanding of how often they were utilizing each one. I also think it showcased how easily it is to move from one to the other and how as coaches we subconsciously determine which role to take and when. Moving forward I plan on using the goals set between myself and my coaching partner to help determine which role to begin in. I then plan to let the conversation dictate the course and help determine the role to take and when.

After all of this what I have come to realize is that there is not a magical answer. It really is all about relationships, trust, and vision. If I continue to build relationships with my coaching partners then the movement between roles will come naturally as it will be built around our shared vision and the community we have created. While I still believe that each role has a purpose I think when to utilize it is up to the coach and where they are at in their relationship with the teacher. For me when I am just starting I don’t want to come in as the expert since I want the relationship to be a partnership. So for that purpose I tend to start with more of a facilitative or collaborative role. One in which I can support, ask questions and be a partner in the learning. As our relationship builds then I can begin to move into more of an expert role when appropriate or even that catalyst who can empower the teacher to be a change agent in their classroom and school community.

References

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

Foltos, L, 2018, Peer-Ed. Mill Creek, WA

Impact-Cycle.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://www.instructionalcoaching.com/downloads/pdfs/Impact-Cycle.pdf

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

LearningFocusedConversationsGuide.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://www.miravia.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/LearningFocusedConversationsGuide.pdf

McNamara, C. (n.d.). How to Know When to Facilitate, Train or Coach. 2. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://managementhelp.org/misc/roles-to-do.pdf 

Wang, S. (2017). Teacher Centered Coaching: An Instructional Coaching Model. Mid-Western Educational Researcher, 29(1), 20-39. https://www.mwera.org/MWER/volumes/v29/issue1/V29n1-Wang-VOICES-FROM-THE-CLASSROOM.pdf

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EDTC 6104 Community Engagement Project – Supporting Learning with Project-Based Learning and Nearpod

This summer as part of my EDTC 6104 course I have had the opportunity to learn more about ISTE Coaching Standard 3 and how it connects with my work as a coach and supporting educators and students. One of the elements of our course this summer has been to develop a professional learning opportunity that can hopefully be presented at a conference of our choosing. As I thought about this opportunity I really wanted my presentation to be relevant to the work that is happening in my district. I wanted to develop something that could hopefully be utilized with teachers that I work with and also presented at a conference for other educators to experience. So after some internal discussions with myself and some reflection I found that I kept wandering back to exploring Project-Based Learning (PBL) and the digital tool, Nearpod. 

I choose to present something on PBL and Nearpod for a couple reasons. One of the main reasons was that many of the secondary schools in my district have started thinking more about how to incorporate PBL into their instruction. Another determining factor was that our district just recently purchased Nearpod for all of our secondary teachers. Therefore I really wanted to focus my presentation on Project-Based Learning (PBL), Nearpod and Remote Learning. My goal for this presentation is to help give educators a better understanding of what PBL and Nearpod are and how the two things can work together in order to support student learning. 

As I started planning my presentation I knew right away that I wanted to be able to deliver the presentation utilizing Nearpod. This way participants would get to experience Nearpod from the student perspective and I would have the opportunity to explore it as a teacher so that I can be better prepared to answer questions. I also used this time to explore some of the resources that Nearpod has on their website for PD. I also revisited many of the PBL resources provided by PBLworks.org during a conference I attended this past June. One of the other resources that has been helpful for my preparation has been the book, Project Based Teaching: How to Create Rigorous and Engaging Learning Experiences by Suzie Boss and John Larmer. 

Right now my plan is to provide a 50 minute presentation at NCCE in the spring of 2021, if my proposal is accepted. I am also planning on offering a modified version of this presentation to educators in my district. Within my district the presentation will mainly focus on Nearpod and PBL and working with educators to design opportunities for incorporating those two things into their lessons. I also plan on working closely with some teachers in order to gather evidence of PBL and Nearpod use in the classroom including student artifacts. These would all be incorporated into my presentation for NCCE. 

This work and presentation directly relates to ISTE Coaching Standard 3 in the following ways.

  • 3a: Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies. 
    • I plan on starting the presentation by building in common language and understanding. That way everyone is starting from a fairly level playing field and thus may be more inclined to explore the resources and ask questions.
  • 3b:Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate and aligned to content standards. 
    • Participants will be asked to use their current curriculum and standards in order to think about what design elements of PBL can be incorporated and how the Nearpod features can support that. 
  • 3c: Partner with educators to evaluate the efficacy of digital learning content and tools to inform procurement decisions and adoption.
    • There will be time throughout the presentation for educators to engage in with the Nearpod platform in order to evaluate if it is the right tool for their classrooms and to get more comfortable with how to use the platform.
  • 3d: Personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning.
    • The design of the PD utilizes Nearpod so I will be able to model how to use it as the teachers and participants will be able to see the platform from the student perspective. This will allow for participants to account for places where students may get stuck or ask questions.

Below is a link to materials that I plan to use and reference during my presentation and a video overview of my presentation.

My hope is that this presentation will be something that can be added to in the future with more classroom examples of how educators are using PBL and Nearpod. I am happy with where it is at currently and can’t wait to share it with other educators in my district so that I can add their experience to the presentation.

References 

Boss, S., & Larmer, J. (2018). Project based teaching: How to create rigorous and engaging learning experiences. ASCD ; Buck Institute for Education.

Boss, S., Larmer, J., Mergendoller, J. R., & Buck Institute for Education. (2015). PBL for 21st century success: Teaching critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity. Buck Institute for Education.

Home-Based Learning Resources—Nearpod. (n.d.). Home-Based Learning Resources. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://sites.google.com/nearpod.com/coronavirus/educator-resources/nearpod

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2020, fromhttps://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

PBLWorks. (n.d.). PBLWorks. Retrieved July 17, 2020, from https://www.pblworks.org/

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Empowered to Explore and Keep Trying

For the last module of summer quarter I decided to focus on ISTE Coaching Standard 3a which reads; Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies. I wanted to focus on this standard because to me it sets the stage for all work as a coach. It is hard to be an effective coach if we have not built a trusting and caring relationship with those that we work with. Those that we coach need to feel supported and listened to in order to feel comfortable with exploring new instructional strategies. This was made even more clear this spring as everyone rushed to remote learning and many teachers had to adjust to teaching virtually and using new technology. So this lead me to my question for this module which is;

How can coaches support educators in building remote classroom environments that empower students to explore, experiment, and keep trying instead of giving up at the first sign of difficulty?

As I grappled with this question I began thinking about all of the things that I appreciated when I first began teaching. I began thinking about how my former coaches supported me and what helped empower me to try new things. As I dug into some articles and my own experiences four things began to stand out as being important for empowering both teachers and students.

Community, There needs to be a sense of community both between the coach and coachee and between teacher and student. We all need to feel like we are in this together and learning with and from each other. As Work (2014) says, “create a school-wide culture of tech integration and an openness to take risks.” If we can create this culture within our virtual and face-to-face classrooms it will instill a willingness to try new things, since it then just becomes the norm. From a coaches lens it is important for coaches to also create this culture with their coachee. It needs to feel like a team effort and that we are learning and growing together.

Failing forward, this is a big one. Just like we want our students to not give up when something goes wrong we also want the same for those we coach. It is important to encourage those that we work with to try things even if it doesn’t go right the first time and to celebrate those failings. We need to send the message that failing is OK and that it is the learning process that matters, not that we got it right the first time. As a coach it is my job to encourage and support especially when things go wrong. I’m not there to step in and fix it right away but I am there to ask questions, brainstorm solutions, and help get them back on track. “Reframe mistakes as learning opportunities that are a crucial element for later success, and demonstrate the same infallible belief in teachers’ ability to teach as they have in their students’ ability to learn. Innovation is a journey!” (Watson, 2015)

Reflection, this needs to be built into the process. As learners we should constantly be self-reflecting on our lessons. However it is also important to ask for and accept feedback from others. This could be feedback from peers, a coach, and from students. The key is to fully listen, take it in, and then use it to look for ways to improve. When we build reflection in as a daily practice then it becomes second nature when trying something new to stop and reflect if things go wrong, it’s now just part of the process. This can lead to higher levels of self-directed learning and can be modeled for students as well.

Exploration, time needs to be devoted to exploration of new resources and instructional strategies. We all need time to explore and play with something new without the fear of messing up in front of others. I’ve had many experiences when I was given time just to explore a new technology to see what it does. This freedom allowed me the space to try things for myself, troubleshoot, and reach out for support if needed. Building in the time to explore also helps educators feel more comfortable with using the technology in their classrooms. “Learning about technology through technology helps teachers step out of their comfort zones and feel a sense of achievement through each successful step and, even better, through their success in troubleshooting obstacles and showcasing their work.” (Passeport, 2016)

It’s important as we begin to plan for school this fall that we take time to build in these opportunities for teachers. We need to give them time to get comfortable with teaching remotely. This doesn’t mean pausing the school year but it does mean encouraging them, supporting them, laughing with them, and checking in on them. As a coach I am planning on spending my time this fall listening to the teachers that I work with. Asking them questions and supporting them in trying new things, reflecting on their learning, and taking risks. It is my hope that through this modeling and support it empowers teachers to do these same things for their students in the classroom. After all we all need a little grace and encouragement every now and then.

References

3 Ways to Empower Teachers and Transform Classrooms. (2016, June 13). Common Sense Education. https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/3-ways-to-empower-teachers-and-transform-classrooms

5 Tips to Help Teachers Who Struggle with Technology. (n.d.). Edutopia. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/help-teachers-struggling-with-technology-josh-work

5 ways to empower teachers to build a positive, innovative school culture. (2015, February 12). The Cornerstone For Teachers. https://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/5-ways-to-empower-teachers-to-build-a-positive-innovative-school-culture/

Administrators, Empower Your Teachers. (n.d.). Edutopia. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/administrators-empower-your-teachers

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Miller, A. (2015, May 11). Avoiding Learned Helplessness. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/avoiding-learned-helplessness-andrew-miller

rokham. (2018, March 28). 3 methods to overcome learned helplessness and boost optimism. Psychology Compass. https://psychologycompass.com/blog/overcoming-learned-helplessness/

Role reversal.pdf. (n.d.). Google Docs. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5W5P9bQJ6q0a2s3TFpaUU9scXc/view?usp=drive_open&usp=embed_facebook

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Supporting Equitable Learning Opportunities

So what does it mean to teach remotely and how do we make sure that we are providing opportunities that are culturally relevant and equitable? For this module I decided to focus on indicator 3b of the ISTE Collaborator Coaching Standard.

Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate and aligned to content standards.

As I read over this indicator I began to think about what it means to me and how as a coach I might work with educators around this. Some of the questions I was really curious to explore were;

How can coaches support educators in providing learning opportunities to students that are developmentally appropriate and engaging? How can educators make sure that students and families have the resources needed in order to fully participate and engage in virtual learning? What resources and supports are currently out there that can be used in a virtual setting to provide equitable learning opportunities?

Through my research I came across several different articles and resources that talked about different strategies for making distance learning equitable and engaging for students and families. One thing that stood out in all of the resources was the need for people to feel connected. No matter who we are students,  families, educators we all want to feel connected to what we’re doing in the classroom. So it’s important as a coach and an educator to work together to figure out how we can keep students and families feeling connected to learning and how we support that. Some ways that are suggested for keeping students and families connected is to check in regularly with students and families. We may need to think though about how we’re doing this. It can’t be the same ways that we did it when we were in person and in the classroom. We might have to take time to reach out individually one-on-one with each family call them, text them use other means besides just email to get in touch with families. We also don’t have to do this alone. It’s important to work together as a school community and partner up to work together with our student’s other teachers to maybe share the responsibility of reaching out to families. Maybe one week Teacher A reaches out and the next week it’s Teacher B that reaches out, or jump on a call together but we should always have that consistent weekly interaction with our students and our families.

Something else that stood out to me was how we assess the resources that we are providing students and families. We must make sure that we provide students and families resources that actually allow for students to fully participate and engage. That means we should be assessing and making sure that the tool we are suggesting can be used on a variety of platforms. It’s important to really look at the tool and decide if this is something that my student could use on a mobile device, can it be used offline or is it only able to be used on one particular platform. It’s important that the resources we are providing can be used in multiple different ways. If we want students to be able to engage, then we need to make sure that they can no matter what it is they’re engaging on, whether that’s on a phone or a laptop or a tablet or if Wi-Fi is unpredictable maybe they need paper packets. That might also mean that we as teachers or a district need to provide those materials either by mailing it to families or having it somewhere where families can come and pick it up during a set time.

Is also important as a coach that I support educators in thinking flexibly about their instruction. I need to be able to support those that I work with in delivering instructional lessons that are flexible in how students engage with them, how students showcase their understanding and even in the ways that educators deliver the content. Three things that Snelling (2020) mentions in her blog post, 7 ways to make remote learning accessible to all students are;

  1. There needs to be multiple means of representation. Students need to be given flexibility in how they consume the information. Lessons need to provide for opportunities for students to not just read a text, but also watch a video, listen to audio or even take a virtual tour. Older students could even be given the opportunity to decide how they want to consume the information and then can go out on their own to find it. 
  2. There should also be multiple means of engagement for students. We have all heard that too much screen time is bad for students and just because we are teaching remotely that doesn’t change. So we need to provide students with opportunities to engage with learning in ways that may not always rely heavily on technology. Choice boards are a great opportunity to provide this as it allows for students to decide how they want to engage. They could do something more hands on or they could simply do something using paper and pencil. The idea is to be flexible in order to support student needs. Snelling (2020) states that “Activities can be as simple as allowing students to use a parent’s cell phone to take pictures of shapes around the house and email them to the teacher.”
  3. There should be multiple means of action and expression. This provides an opportunity for educators to design activities for students that are open-ended and provided for creativity in how students express themselves. When activities are designed with this sort of flexibility and freedom it allows for students to take more ownership of their learning and to feel more invested. 

There are so many great resources out there right now that have strategies for engaging students remotely. However I was struck with how as a coach to support educators in doing this and also what tools were out there. This is when I came across two resources that for me are game changes.

The first resource that I came across is from Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization whose vision is for everyone no matter where they are in their learning journey, the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed in order to thrive. You can read more about Digital Promise and who they are here. Through their work Digital Promise has developed a free online tool called the Learner Variability Navigator, that allows the user to target specific factors and map them to strategies that can be used to create lessons. While the tool was designed for in person classroom instruction, many of the resources can be adapted for remote learning. I found the tool easy to use and appreciated how they provide steps for each process along the way. The factors they use represent 4 main buckets; the model (math or literacy), cognition, social emotional learning, and student background. I love that you can hover over one factor and see which other factors closely connect to it. You can then look closer at different factors in order to see strategies that support that chosen factor and get ideas for implementing it in your classroom. Check out the video below to take a tour of the Learning Variability Navigator.

(Digital Promise Global, 2019)

The other resource that I came across is from Common Sense Media and is a guide for supporting learning differences and special needs in the classroom. The guide is designed to provide recommended apps or media in order to support students. The guide is broken down into 6 categories; communication, social interaction, organization, reading & writing, math, and motor skills. Once the user clicks on the skill that they want to focus on they are directed to a page with a variety of apps and media that are categorized by difficulty level. Just like with any digital tool you will want to check the privacy policy and make sure that the app or tool meets your districts requirements before recommending it to parents. I just love that it is a place to start and gather ideas for resources that are out there that can support students. It is up to me as the educator to continue the research to make sure that it is the right fit for my student. You can check out Common Sense Media’s Learning Differences & Special Needs Guide here

In the end I think as a coach it comes down to making sure that I am fully listening to the needs of those that I work with and helping them feel connected just like we want students to feel connected. I can help by offering to be a thought partner as we plan for what remote learning will look like in the fall. I want to build relationships so that educators feel comfortable reaching out and requesting help when they need it. I plan on doing my part by communicating with educators and building up that connection, acknowledging their frustrations and supporting them so that they feel equipped to support their students and families.

Resources

Apps for Kids with Special Needs and Learning Disabilities | Common Sense Media. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/guide/special-needs

Conroy, A. (n.d.). 8 Strategies for Building Belonging With Students and Families Virtually. Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://www.panoramaed.com/blog/8-strategies-sense-of-belonging-virtually

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Kirkland, D. D. E. (n.d.). Centering Equity, Access, and Educational Justice. 7.

Learner Variability Navigator | Learner Variability Project. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://lvp.digitalpromiseglobal.org/

Remote Learning. (n.d.). Culturally Responsive Education Hub. Retrieved July 16, 2020, from https://crehub.org/remote-learning

Saylor, V. (2020, April 9). 7 Ways to Make Distance Learning More Equitable. Common Sense Education. https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/7-ways-to-make-distance-learning-more-equitable

Snelling, J. (2020, March 23). 7 ways to make remote learning accessible to all students | ISTE. https://www.iste.org/explore/learning-during-covid-19/7-ways-make-remote-learning-accessible-all-students

Stembridge, A. (2020). Culturally responsive education in the classroom: An equity framework for pedagogy. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Posted in Collaborator | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

6 Takeaways for Providing Virtual PD that is Personalized and Differentiated

For this first module in my EDTC 6104 course I am looking at ISTE Coaching standard 3, specifically indicator 4. The focus of this indicator is on how coaches can provide support to educators that is both personalized and differentiated in order to improve student learning. This indicator stood out to me because as a coach and educator I have had to find ways to provide support to fellow educators while living in a global pandemic. Not only have I had to provide support or professional development (PD) but I have also attended many PD opportunities all virtually. This has made me start to ask the following questions;

What are the best strategies for modeling personalization and differentiation when providing PD for educators? What are the best strategies to engage educators when providing PD virtually and still model what we hope to see in their classrooms? How can we build community and relationships and provide something that they can take back to their own classrooms?

As I began to research my questions and reflect on my own PD practices I came to realize that certain things are still needed whether the PD is in person or virtual. So here are my 6 takeaways for providing PD that is personalized and differentiated.

No matter the circumstance it is important to have clear objectives for any PD. Participants need to know what the PD is about and what they can expect to learn. Having clear objectives allows for participants to better engage in the learning because they have a clear understanding and vision of what they are going to learn about and how they are going to get there. This can lead to deeper discussions and more active participation from everyone involved.

As the facilitator it is always important to practice going through the PD before delivering it to participants. This allows for a smoother presentation and also allows the facilitator to make any needed adjustments. I often find that when I go through my presentations ahead of time as if I am delivering the PD, I am able to see where my timing might be off, places where topics or ideas jump around and places that might need additional information or even support during the presentation. I also find that I feel more confident in my presentation the more I practice ahead of time. However no matter how many times I’ve practiced there always seems to be something unexpected that happens, especially when dealing with technology which brings me to my next takeaway.

No matter how many times I may have practiced using the technology, something always seems to happen, so It is important to lean into these mishaps. As a facilitator the more I can model my own flexibility and adaptability during PD the more likely it will be for participants to be okay with these things happening in their own classrooms. Participants need to know that it is okay when these things happen and that they are most likely going to happen. It is how we react and respond that makes or breaks us. So modeling this resilience will help others develop their own resilience when it comes to using new tools and resources with their students.

Just like students need to know why they are learning something and how it is relevant, so to do participants. It is important for any professional learning experience to be relevant for the participants. Having concrete examples from a variety of disciplines will help participants see how the topic is relevant in their own classrooms and how they can apply the learning. Not only can these examples be provided by the facilitator but it is even better when participants are able to provide these examples for the group. So leave space in the discussion for participants to bring in their own experiences and ideas. Learning is a shared experience and thus we as participants need to be able to learn from each other.

Some of my best experiences participating in PD have been when the facilitator follows up with me afterward to see if I still have questions or how things are going implementing my learning. This may not always be feasible depending on the size of your group but if you can I recommend it. We are all missing that face to face connection and reaching out afterward is one way to start to build a connection. Try to make the follow-up personalized to each participant, if you had an exit survey use the information from that to ask follow-up questions of each participant. Not only does this keep the PD going but it can help establish relationships with participants and make the coaching even better. When participants feel like they were heard and listened to it often makes them feel more comfortable sharing their experiences. So yes it may take time but it will support a more collaborative and trusting coaching relationship in the end.

Participants will have more fun when they see the facilitator having fun. So be sure to relax and enjoy yourself. Let participants see you laugh and having fun, even when things may not go smoothly. This can help put participants at ease and also shows your vulnerability at the same time. Allow time at the end to celebrate the successes and for participants to ask questions. This should feel natural and be a positive experience. When we model the ability to have fun it sets us up for a more successful learning experience and can build trust with participants. This modeling also helps participants see this as something that they can do in their own classrooms and who doesn’t want to help create classrooms that are fun.

These are just some of the takeaways that I have come up with while providing and attending PD virtually during this pandemic. Through all of this I am continuing to learn, reflect  and grow in my own practice. I would love to hear your reflections or takeaways on providing professional development virtually in the comments below.

References

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Johnson, K. (2016, June 28). 5 Things Teachers Want from PD, and How Coaching and Collaboration Can Deliver Them—If Implementation Improves—EdSurge News. EdSurge. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-28-5-things-teachers-want-from-pd-and-how-coaching-and-collaboration-can-deliver-them-if-implementation-improves

Joseph, M. X. (2020, April 19). 3 Ways to Mentor from a Distance. https://techinnovation.live/2020/04/19/3-ways-to-mentor-from-a-distance/

Joseph, M. X. (2020, April 29). Strategies for Virtual Professional Development. TechLearningMagazine. https://www.techlearning.com/news/strategies-for-virtual-professional-development

O’Leary, W. (2017, February 23). 5 Best Practices for Personalized Professional Development. https://blog.edmentum.com/5-best-practices-personalized-professional-development

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Supporting Educators and Coaching While Working Remotely

Coaching is such hard work and has been made even more difficult while having to work from home. This is what has been running through my mind lately and stood out even more as I started thinking about my inquiry question for this blog post. The focus of this blog post started with looking at and digging deeper into the ISTE Coaching Standard: Learning Designer. This standard is focused around how coaches can support and model what it means to design authentic learning experiences for students using technology. My initial inquiry question was around what the best approaches are for supporting educators in designing authentic learning experiences and how do these approaches change when working with individual teachers, a PLC, and whole staff? However as I started to think more about this I kept coming back to how relational coaching is and how working remotely has made it more difficult to build and sustain that coaching relationship. So my inquiry question has shifted and now is centered around this wondering and thinking. 


What supports are there for coaches during remote and distance learning that can be utilized when working with educators, PLC’s, or larger groups in order to maintain and build supportive coaching relationships? 


I am familiar with resources from Elena Aguilar and resources used by the OSPI Best Mentor Academy and was curious about using them with remote or distance coaching work. So I decided to start by exploring those resources and seeing what adaptations, if any, need to be made for distance learning work.

Elena Aguilar – Coaching Lenses – Coaching Rubric

First, if you have not read any of Elena Aguilar’s books I highly recommend them. Her book, The Art of Coaching was one of the first books I read when I became a digital learning coach. It helped me think about what it means to be a coach and provides great resources and strategies for coaching others. As I started to look through the resources again I was reminded and encouraged by how well they fit in with coaching remotely. Two specific resources that stand out as being important in this work are Elena’s coaching lenses framework and the transformational coaching rubric. 

The Coaching Lenses – There are 7 lenses that Aguilar describes; adult learning, change management, inquiry, systems thinking, emotional intelligence, systemic oppression/equity, and compassion. She describes several assumptions for each lens and follows that up with questions that can be used by coaches in order to better understand the situation. The lenses are designed to be used both on their own and together when engaging in a coaching conversation.

Transformational Coaching Rubric – What I enjoy about this resource is how it allows me to reflect on my own coaching in order to become better. The rubric is divided into six sections and allows me to determine where I am at in each area based on a scale of beginning, emerging, developing, refining, and modeling. This is a great way to gather evidence of my coaching practice and allows for self reflection. My work as a coach is on a continuum, I am constantly working to improve and while I may have moments of backward movement the goal is always to improve.

Best Mentor Academy

The Best Mentor Academy is something that the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction sponsors. They provide free professional learning for educators in support of mentoring new teachers. I have attended these sessions a few different times and always find the work empowering. It has supported me in thinking about how I listen, the questions that I ask, and how I engage with those that I work with. Through this work I have been able to go into conversations with a clearer focus and ready to ask questions that continue the work and thinking. I have become more aware of the phrases that I chose to use when having a conversation and I have tried to focus more on invitational inquiry instead of closing the conversation or leading it by the words I use.

Three Stances for Leading Groups (Present, Collaborate, Facilitate)

Another resource that has impacted my work with groups has come from the book Leading Groups: Effective Strategies for Building Professional Community by Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman. One of the things that stands out to me from this resource is the idea of selecting the appropriate stance for engaging with a group. Each stance plays a different role and there are times throughout the work were coaches and leaders switch stances. Coaches just need to be clear with groups about the stance that they are in and why. This way group members have a better picture of the purpose of the group and the needed outcomes. 

Present: In this stance the coach is working with the group in order to teach and transform the group members. The group is outcome driven and everyone understands the criteria needed in order to achieve the outcomes. 

Collaborate: In this stance coaches and group members are working together in order to co-construct things. Coaches are a part of the group and therefore need to make sure they have a place at the table for collaboration. 

Facilitate: In this stance coaches are there to make things easier by facilitating discussion, answering questions in order to direct and facilitate the meeting. In this stance coaches take a neutral stance and are there to listen, observe, and facilitate as needed.

Something that I am left thinking about is just how all of these resources can be used remotely because in the end it comes down to the relationships that are being built with people. When having a conversation either in person or remotely it is important to truly listen to the other person in order to hear what they are saying and to understand their why. I need to make sure that I am questioning and paraphrasing their thinking in order to make sure what I hear is actually what they are trying to say and it helps them formulate their thinking. The best part is that all of this can be done remotely (zoom, google meet, even email). 

So then it comes down to thinking about who I am working with (individual, PLC, large group). The biggest difference is that when working with an individual teacher I am only having to listen and understand one person’s perspective. When working with a PLC or large group I need to be able to hear what the group is saying, acknowledge individual thoughts, while still focusing the work on the goals of the larger group. Doing this work means that I have to strategically and purposefully think about the structure of my coaching conversation as well as my use of the three stances for leading groups and the coach lens that I go into the work with. These are all things that I continue to think about when doing this work, even remotely.

References

Aguilar, E. (2013). The art of coaching: effective strategies for school transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Brand.

BEST Events & Trainings | OSPI. (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2020, from https://www.k12.wa.us/educator-support/beginning-educator-support-team/best-events-trainings

Coaching Tools. (n.d.). Bright Morning. Retrieved June 5, 2020, from https://brightmorningteam.com/coaching-tools/

Coaching-Lenses.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved June 5, 2020, from https://brightmorningteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Coaching-Lenses.pdf

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Lipton and Wellman—Leading Groups Effective Strategies for Building .pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved June 6, 2020, from https://www.nesacenter.org/uploaded/conferences/FLC/2009/spkr_handouts/WellmanLeadingGroups.pdf

Lipton, L., & Wellman, B. (n.d.). Leading Groups: Effective Strategies for Building Professional Community. 60.

Transformational-Coaching-Rubric.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved June 5, 2020, from https://brightmorningteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Transformational-Coaching-Rubric.pdf

Posted in Learning Designer | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Creativity and the Classroom

Creativity, that is really what this post is about. When I was reading through the ISTE Educator Standards I was immediately drawn to the Facilitator standard, specifically 6d which states; “model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.” Reading this standard made me think back to my own learning experience and my time as a teacher and I started to wonder where I had experienced creativity during the learning process. In my experience I think creativity is often something that is overlooked and not used as a means for assessing student understanding. So my question for this post really became about:


How might educators build a classroom community that highlights creativity as a way for students to communicate their thinking and ideas?


So How Might We Model and Nurture Creativity?

I think there are many ways that this can be done in the classroom. In order to best do this educators need to think about the structures and routines that are needed in the classroom to support this. For creativity to flourish students need to feel supported to express their ideas and thinking, they need to have a voice and choice in their learning. In the book, Sparking Student Creativity, Patti Drapeau talks about the importance of creativity in the classroom and even details a roadmap for integrating creativity into the classroom. Drapeau (2014) specifically talks about how creativity needs to become a habit, “Students will make it a habit to express their creativity in an environment where they feel encouraged to do so.” This left me wondering, how am I making creativity a habit for my teachers? How can I support teachers in making creativity a habit in their classrooms? What resources are out there that might support this. 

Along Came ThingLink

There are so many resources out there that support creativity. When I first started thinking about this my mind was all over the place thinking about things like; project based learning (PBL), Prezi, WeVideo, BookCreator and the list could go on and on.  But I really wanted to find something that was a little different. I wanted something that could be used for presentations, group work, assessments, allowed for various forms of media, I wanted something that gave students options. So I started checking out other resources and along came a resource called ThingLink. If you have not heard of ThingLink before, it is an online tool that allows the user to embed content into images and videos. There can be links to external web pages, audio recordings and even videos. I immediately started thinking that this could be a really cool way for students to demonstrate their learning around a particular topic. They could embed different methods of demonstrating knowledge (images, audio, video, text). Teachers can assign projects for students to work on and students can work both independently or in groups.

ThingLink, Creativity and Assessment

Playing around with ThingLink and looking at the examples that the website had really got me excited thinking about how this might be used in the classroom for assessment. I love the idea of giving students a different way of communicating their understanding. Instead of just another test or quiz, students could create something. With structures in place such as a rubric so that students know what they are being assessed on and how they are being assessed the door then opens up to allow for more creative ways of assessing. By using something like ThingLink students could use pictures or videos as their main background. They could then make connections using the various tags found in ThingLink. These connections could be from one core concept to another, demonstrations of their work, audio if them explaining their thinking, example problems that highlight the idea being assessed, and so much more. Students would be able to build upon their ideas and synthesize their thinking in a creative way. How exciting would it be to see what students come up with when given the chance.

Check out my own ThingLink example below. I spent time the other day creating my own and have barely scratched the surface of what I could have done. For my first one I think it turned out well and I am ready to see what my teachers and students can create with it. Let the creativity begin.

References

Bartis, A. (2014, April 11). Assessing With ThingLink. Getting Smart. https://www.gettingsmart.com/2014/04/assessing-thinglink/

Cropley, D., & Cropley, A. (2016). Promoting Creativity Through Assessment: A Formative Computer-Assisted Assessment Tool for Teachers. Educational Technology, 56(6), 17–24. JSTOR.

Drapeau, P. (n.d.). Intentional Creativity: Fostering Student Creativity from Potential to Performance. Retrieved May 17, 2020, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/115007/chapters/Intentional-Creativity@-Fostering-Student-Creativity-from-Potential-to-Performance.aspx

ISTE Standards for Educators | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators

Long, K. (2017, April 26). Five Ways to Bring Creativity Back to the Middle Grades—Education Week. Teacher. https://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2017/04/26/five-ways-to-bring-creativity-back-to.html

Miller, A. (2013, March 7). Yes, You Can Teach and Assess Creativity! Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/you-can-teach-assess-creativity-andrew-miller

Price-Mitchell, M. (2015, August 14). Cultivating Creativity in Standards-Based Classrooms. Edutopia. Retrieved May 23, 2020, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/cultivating-creativity-standards-based-classrooms-marilyn-price-mitchell

Spencer, J. (2016, March 6). We Need a Bigger Definition of Creativity. Retrieved May 23, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTCOExd0hDk

Posted in 2011 ISTE Coaching Standards, Learning Designer | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Thinking About Formative Assessment Differently

When I first started thinking about questions for the current module that I am in for school I was thinking about Genius Hour and how something like that might be incorporated authentically into a traditional classroom. I think my brain went there because I know from my own personal experience that oftentimes the excuses I hear when I suggest this are that there is no time, too many standards to cover, and students won’t be able to do it because they lack the prerequisite skills needed. So based on the ISTE Educators standards that my class is focusing on for this module, ISTE 5 and ISTE 7, I really thought my question was going to be centered around how to support teachers in doing things like PBL and Genius Hour within their classroom in authentic ways. While I still think this is a valuable question and one that I am still pondering, the more I dug into my research the more I found my focus shifting. I began to start leaning more towards the assessment part of ISTE 7 and specifically the formative assessment piece. So while I plan to continue to think about how to support teachers with PBL and Genius Hour, my main question for this module is centered on assessment.


What are the resources out there that support teachers in formatively assessing their students, specifically when it comes to students working on projects?


I began to gravitate toward this question because I started to think about what assessment means. Oftentimes when I think about assessment I think of something that happens at the end of a unit. Even with formative assessment I tend to think of it as something that happens maybe in the middle of a unit in order to gage where students are at in their understanding. However there is so much more to formative assessment. These assessments can take so many different forms. I was reminded that often what we need to assess within a project is the journey a student takes along the way.

Assessing the Journey

So how does someone assess the journey? While this may look different for everyone something that tends to be universally true is that we are always trying to assess understanding. So when I think about formatively assessing that during a project I start to think about different ways of engagement and questioning. This got me thinking about productivity, specifically for students. If I want to assess a student I need them to be able to tell me three things;

  • How they began: What were their initial thoughts, what first steps did they take, what question or goal are they hoping to answer? 
  • Where are they at: How is the project going so far, what steps have they taken, any adjustments to their project? 
  • Where to next: What are their next steps, have they needed to make changes or modifications, who else do they need to reach out to?

In order for students to be able to answer these questions, they need to have thought about them. Ideas that came to mind for supporting this are to have students document this process, either in a mind map, or Padlet, or something else. The idea would be that wherever students document this, it is shared with the teacher so that it can be used as a third point when the teacher meets with the student to assess how they are doing. This would just be one form of the assessment that teachers could take.

Other Ideas for Assessment

Something else that came to mind was how students can keep track of what they need to do and set due dates for themselves in order to monitor their own progress. I know this may not seem like it ties to assessment but let me explain. If students were to use some sort of project planning document this could also be shared with the teacher. Then the document could be used as yet another third point for conversations and would allow teachers to drill into particular aspects of a students project, for example if the student set a deadline for them self then the teacher could call that out asking the student if they were able to meet their deadline and any other questions related to it. Using a third point also takes the focus strictly off the student and the teacher. As a teacher it allows me to point to evidence that supports my thinking or question. It also gives the student something to point at and use when explaining their learning and where they are at in their project. This would allow teachers to assess skills such as goal setting, communication skills, problem solving, creativity, flexibility, productivity, and the list goes on.  So while the assessment might not be just assessing content knowledge it is assessing skills that students need in order to be successful. 

When I think about how all this might work together it excites me. I start to think about how it provides alternatives for how students might demonstrate their understanding, it allows for accommodation, feedback to students and teachers, and opportunities along the way for reflection.

Possible Resources for Assessing Productivity

Taskade – This is a project management app that can be used on multiple device types. It allows for collaboration with team task lists, notes, and even video chat. There is a chrome extension that allows for easier use of the tool. There are a variety of templates that can be used however when just starting out that might distract students for focusing on their project and take some getting use to. There is a free and a paid version, however in my experience the free version is all you might need. Something else that is nice is that users can invite people to their project and those that they invite do not have to sign up for Taskade in order to collaborate. Something to consider though is that navigating all of the different workspaces and templates can take getting use to. So users may want to consider building in time for exploration in order to get use to how the product works.

Trello – This is a project management app that is similar to Taskade and can be used on multiple device types. Users have a board that they use to organize their project. It is very similar to a cork board where notes, ideas, photos, etc can be pinned to the board and rearranged/organized as needed. Users can also invite others to their board which allows for collaboration. This way if students are working on a group project they can use Trello to organize their project plan, due dates, next steps, notes, etc.  There is a free and paid version of Trello. There does not seem to be a huge difference between the versions other than additional customization of boards and attachment size (10MB vs. 250MB). So depending on use the free version should work just fine. Trello seems to be a little easier to use as it has a more simplistic design and feel. There are templates that can be used and they are organized by topic which makes it easier for the user to determine which template might work the best. Inviting collaborators to the board is super easy however unlike taskade where others did not need an account to collaborate, in Trello they do. So that would be something to consider before signing up.

Workflowy – So in full transparency I have not fully checked out this resource yet. From my initial glances at it the app appears to be similar to the two above apps. Users can create a list, take notes, plan, or even outline a project. Everything is organized by bullets but users can zoom in on an individual bullet. Lists can be shared with others for collaboration which make it easy for students to collaborate and share ideas on a project. Like the other apps there is a free and a paid version. With the free version users can only create 250 bullets a month which depending on the size of the project might be plenty. When first signing up users are given the pro version for a week to use. I can see how that might be confusing once your week is up and you are limited to the number of bullets you can create, so helpful to know ahead of time. Similar to Taskade collaborators can be added without having to actually sign up for an account. This is nice as a student can share their list similar to how you share a google document, they create a shareable link that can then be emailed to anyone that they want to give access to.

All three of these resources seem like they could be good fits in the classroom. Since none of these apps were designed specifically for use with students, I plan on looking closer at each ones privacy policy before I actually use with students in the classroom.

Where to Next

I’m still working out how everything fits together and how to support teachers in providing opportunities for students to do more things like PBL and Genius Hour, but I feel like this may be a start. If we can at least begin to provide students with the opportunities to demonstrate their learning in different ways then we are taking a step in the right direction.

References

Posted in Data-Driven Decision-Maker, Learning Designer | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Ideas for Evaluating Digital Technology Resources and Sharing What You Learn With Others

For the second module in my course this quarter at school we are focusing on the ISTE Educator Standards 1 and 2. These standards focus on how teachers and educators can take the plethora of digital technology tools and resources that are constantly changing and being thrown at them and organize them in such a way that they can engage with them to understand which ones really meet their learning and teaching needs and which ones are best suited for which activities. These two ISTE Educator standards really help educators think about and focus on what learning goals they are trying to meet and how technology can support that and then thinking about how we can research the tools that we’re using and share that research with our fellow colleagues in order to learn and grow from and with each other. So when I started this module I really wanted to dig deeper into resources that were out there that would support educators in exploring different digital technology tools quickly and efficiently in order to determine whether or not their needs fit with what they were looking for and meet their learning goals. All of this thinking helped me to focus in on my question for this module.


During this time of social isolation and even afterward how can educators make the time to explore resources and model this exploration and evaluation for their colleagues so that we can all learn from each other?


I’m really curious about how educators can be sure to balance their time so that they’re not spending hours upon hours researching and evaluating resources but can efficiently do it. I think this will help them find balance so that they can continue to grow professionally in their learning and not become overwhelmed with so many different possibilities.

So Where to Begin?

In my search to answer my question for this module I came across two resources that helped guide my thinking and approach to how educators might efficiently look at different digital technology resources and evaluate them before using them with students and before sharing them with their colleagues.

The first resource was a blog post by Peter Grimm on Edmentum that talked about the different questions that educators should ask when looking at and evaluating resources. I agree with Grimm when he talks about how whether it is in a traditional classroom or an online classroom, educators still need to look at best practices and make sure that what they are doing supports best practices. Even when working in a digital space the same best practices still apply as would in a face to face classroom. I also appreciate that the post is not focused on making the learning fit the tool but instead making sure the tool fits with the learning. Whatever the resource is it should align with standards, engage students, support teachers, and help support classroom instruction. At the end of the post there was a link for more resources. One of those resources was an evaluation rubric that they had created that was very straightforward. The rubric allows educators to go through some different questions that they can ask themselves when looking at digital technology resources or tools. The rubric is divided into 4 different sections; content, administrative functionality, student engagement, and customization. Within each section there are between 4 to 6 questions that educators rank on a 1-3 scale. Depending on the type of resource that educators are looking at some questions may not fit and there is the ability to mark those with N/A. While I appreciate having something ready made for educators to use, I am wondering if there is a way to make it even more user friendly. One idea I have is to create a scorable form that could be quickly filled out when looking at a resource. Then the form could populate a spreadsheet that ranks the resource based on the total points or score it receives. Could even color code the resource based on the score with green being a great resource and red meaning that the educator should consider a different resource.

Another resource that I came across was an article from NEAtoday.org that talks about the quick steps teachers can take to evaluate any digital technology resource within seven minutes. The author, Jacqui Murray lists two steps for quickly evaluating edtech tools. The first step is to qualify the tool and they say it should only take 2 minutes. In order to go on to the next step the tool must pass three questions;

  1. Is the resource free or does it have a small fee?
  2. Will the resource work with my learning management system (LMS)?
  3. Is the resource easy to install and set up?

If the resource passes those questions then the author moves it onto the next step which is “playtime” and they say to only spend roughly 5 minutes here. For me this is one of the most important pieces to this evaluation, giving time for a teacher to play with the resource in order to determine its ease-of-use with students or with fellow educators. I also appreciated that they shared that not all programs that are a great choice will pass the checklist, so users need to weigh all things when making decisions.

So I’ve Evaluated a Resource Now What?

So now that an educator has evaluated a resource and determined if it is worth spending more time on, how do they share that learning? One idea that came to mind as I continued to explore was how educators could collaborate in order to share their findings with each other and continue to learn and grow from each other. One way that I thought educators might be able to do this is by using a digital resource called Wakelet. If you have never heard of Wakelet before, it is a digital curation platform. It is free to use and users can save links, social media posts, videos, images, and other types of documents. The platform also allows for collaboration. Users can share a link to their collection with other users who can then add additional resources to the collection.

Using Wakelet to share digital technology resources with colleagues

I would love to test out Wakelet with others. If you are interesting in adding to any of the collections I have started you can use the codes below. I will add additional codes as I create collections. Also I would love to check out and add to any collections that you start. You can share your codes in the comment section below.

  • FlipGrid: a42b521
  • Edpuzzle: 9e0e03a
  • Screencastify: fe48ab0

Continuing the Learning

While I am still thinking about the best ways for balancing time and efficiency when evaluating digital resources, I am happy with the progress I have made. I plan on continuing to add to my Wakelet collections and sharing them with my colleagues. While not complete I do plan on using the evaluation rubric from Edmentum to look at different resources. I also am going to continue to work on updating and completing a Google Form to make the scoring easier when evaluating different tools. I would love to hear if you have other ways that you evaluate and share digital resources. Also please feel free to add to my Wakelet collections and share any that you create. Let’s continue to learn and grow together in order to continue to engage and empower our students.

References

Posted in Change Agent, Collaborator, Connected Learner, Data-Driven Decision-Maker | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments