Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Year of Coaching … Explained

I wanted to outline the basics of how I structure a year with my fellows.  This obviously gets tweaked a bit for each fellow, since coaching really is about personalized, individualized professional growth and development, but it will give you a general idea of my workflow.

Beginning of Year
  • Build Relationships.  Get to know your fellow.  Find out about them as people, be in their classroom to learn about them as teachers, ask about their goals for the fellowship (and work together to set pedagogy-first goals), learn their strengths.  This obviously doesn’t just happen at the beginning of the year, but you must start off that way.
  • Tech Proficiencies.  The beginning of the year is crazy, as teachers are setting up routines, students are shifting in and out of classes, and you are building trust.  Use this time to support the teachers in things that will save them time and headaches later… Do they know how to use Haiku (our LMS)?  Can they add content blocks of various types to help support the learning going on in their classroom?  Do they know how Google Drive works, what “the cloud” means, what a “collaborative document” includes?  Can they organize files and folders within Google Drive and create new documents, sheets, slides, or drawings?   There are some “foundational” tech tools that all teachers should be comfortable with, and you can start the year off laying some groundwork with things you know they’ll definitely need and use as you start the “real” coaching.

Throughout the Year
  • Coaching Cycle.  The basic coaching cycle is “Pre-Brief – Observe – Debrief”, and can take anything between 1-3 weeks.  It will flow differently with different teachers, and you must be willing and able to adjust accordingly. 

a.       During the pre-brief is when you ask “So what are you teaching in the next week?” and start brainstorming what lesson(s) to focus on.  As the teacher describes the purpose and goals of the lesson, and you probe to learn more about what the teacher wants the students doing / learning / producing, you can suggest different tool(s) that might help support that.  You can model for the fellow how the tool works and describe how it would improve / enhance the lesson.  Depending on the fellow, you may show them the tool and ask them to reflect on how they think it would impact the lesson.  As you collaborate together, you can reflect on different aspects of the lesson, what the expected outcomes are, and potential roadblocks that they may face during class (and how to overcome them live in class).  It’s also during this prebrief time that you will collaboratively decide what role the coach will play during the lesson – will it be a modeling or co-teaching lesson?  Or will it just be an observation / collaborative time?
b.      The observation is where the rubber hits the road.  At this point the fellow is equipped to follow through with whatever was planned, and the coach is there to support in whatever way necessary.  This is awesome for apprehensive teachers because you are not asking them to try something new (taking risks…) without the support of the coach.   It is also valuable because the coach is able to see how things go and begin thinking of questions to ask the fellow during the debrief time to aid in their reflection.
c.       The debrief can occur in several different ways.  I would try to do a quick 1-2 minute debrief with the fellow at the end of the class period, sometimes even holding my camera to the side to film it (for our reflective purposes only).  I would also ask the fellow to reflect with a few questions within the next day or two to prep for our next conversation.   Ideally, our next coaching meeting would occur within a couple of days, and we would be able to do a deeper debrief of the lesson and begin to think of next steps.   There are a lot of great questions you can ask during the debrief that will help the fellow to reflect and continue moving forward.

Reflect on Journey (Journal / Blog)
a.       I tried several different methods this year of having fellows reflect.  None of them worked quite perfectly, but I kept modifying trying to figure it out.  The biggest thing is if they don’t set aside specific time to get it done (like I used to do with blogging about my classroom every weekend), then it won’t happen.  For some teachers, it is hard to understand the value of the journaling and to get them past talking about the “what’s” and “how’s” and move towards the “why’s” and deeply reflect on the impact on teaching and learning.  
b.      A few things I tried this year: 1. Leaving a coaching meeting a few minutes early to give them time to do the reflection then.  Problem: as soon as I walked out the door they would start working on something else.  2. Sending out a weekly email on Fridays to ask them to reflect on the week. Problem: No personal communication, sometimes too far removed from what I wanted them to reflect on.
c.       What I’m trying for next year:  I want journaling to just become a natural process and a piece of the whole coaching cycle.  I am going to make a two-column interactive journal where I can reply to them once a week and it can be more of a conversation.  I will also be able to model for them what reflective journaling looks like rather than just “this is what I did”.  The first 10 minutes of our coaching meeting will be journaling time, where both of us will take time to reflect on specific things from the past week.  That way it’s not taking more time out of their week, it’s intentional, and it’s “just the way we do things”.  Because I’ll be in there and it’s before our meeting, there won’t be the issue of moving on to other tasks.  If there are fellows that decide they want those first ten minutes for something else, they are welcome to do the journaling before the meeting.  But, then it is their decision and in their hands, rather than another time suck I’m “handing” to them.  My goal is that as they consistently journal, they find value in the purposeful reflective process and it will have an impact on our work together.

Reflect on Growth
a.       Video Interviews: We try to have 2-3 video interviews with the fellows at the beginning, middle, and end of year.  These are only for us, posted on our shared Haiku page.  I think this is a valuable reflection tool besides the journaling because actually speaking it and then hearing yourself talk about your growth later will be such a clear picture of your journey.
b.      Tech Self-Assessment: 3-4 times throughout the year, we will have the fellows do a tech self-assessment.  The purpose of this is to track growth in a more quantitative way.  It is more focused around their comfort with using specific tech tools.  I’ve modified it throughout this year so the teachers rate themselves on a scale of 1-4 (1=I know the tool exists and its basic function, 2=I’ve worked with my coach using the tool, 3=I’ve worked with the tool by myself, 4=I feel fully comfortable using the tool to improve / enhance teaching and learning).  There’s no “golden number” because the self-assessment will grow throughout the year as we try new tools.  The goal is that each time we take it, we see growth.

End of Year

Set Goals & Reflect on Growth

a.       As we come upon the last month or so of coaching (which ends about 2-3 weeks before the school year does), I begin doing some formal goal-setting with my fellows.  This year, we started by filling out their “Tech Toolbelt”, which listed out the tools they used, how they used them, were they successful tools or not, and would they use them next year.  Next year, I’m planning on having them fill out their toolbelt as we go through the year so it won’t be such a large project at the end of the year.   After they fill out the toolbelt, we start talking about goals, focused on objectives / purposes supported by tools.  We do this over the course of a couple weeks to give time for the fellow to process and really think through what they want to focus on as they continue to grow.  The process of going through the tech toolbelt and setting goals is huge in reflecting on their growth throughout the year.

More Coaching Posts coming soon...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Five Most Important Things I’ve Learned from Being a Digital Learning Coach this Year

  1. Successful Coaching is Built upon Relationships First.  For a teacher to invite me to play a role in their professional practice is a huge step.  It’s scary opening the doors of your classroom and your mind to let someone else in.  Relationships and trust are huge.  I’m not an administrator, I’m not here to be judgmental – I am a collaborative colleague and a thinking partner.  I can’t go into a coaching relationship as the expert with ideas of how to “fix” things.  It’s about getting to know the teachers, finding out their strengths, setting goals, sharing ideas, and taking steps to help move them forward.  Sometimes this will mean pushing them beyond their comfort zone, but that is doable when there is a relationship and trust as the foundation.  I consider the teachers that I have worked with this year true friends and not just “fellows” that I’ve worked with. 
  2.  A “Tech Coach” is not an IT person.  Being a “Digital” Learning Coach, many teachers assume I am there to help with AERIES, Illuminate, and Haiku.  Maybe even tell them why their computer won’t turn on, their printer won’t work, or how to work their projector.  While I am fairly well-equipped to answer these questions, I would much rather work with teachers on tackling upcoming lessons, projects, or other ideas in the classroom and brainstorm ways to improve and enhance it – usually by using some form of technology tool.  I don’t think I communicated this very well at the beginning of last year, but so much was new I don’t think I even knew what to communicate!  I feel like it’s much clearer for me this year what my role is, which will help me to be able to better communicate it to the staff I work with.  If they understand what you are really there for, it will allow you to use your time more effectively and also (hopefully) open up more doors to reach more teachers when they see how you can help them.
  3. It can’t be “Tech tool First”, it must be Pedagogy First.  During Coaching Meetings, I always try to start with, “So what are you teaching in the next week or so?”  As we discuss the learning objectives, concepts, activities, or other plans, then we begin to talk about a possible technology tool that could support that.  That will usually mean I will have to support my fellow in learning the tech tool as we plan the lesson.  This embedded learning of tech tools makes it much more meaningful and reminds teachers that we must have a purpose for the tools we use.  They must be used because they support the learning objectives and not just because they sound cool.  If we start with, “I want to use ________ [insert tech tool here]”, that’s completely backwards.    Many teachers will have some ideas in mind of what they want to work on during the year, based on what they have heard or seen.  It’s important to start off with some basic tech proficiencies (making sure they know how to use Haiku with their students, how to do basic stuff with Google Drive, etc) so those don’t become barriers to the learning.  However, beyond that, it should all be tied directly to a learning outcome that is coming up.
  4. You must be able to step in and out of the three roles of coaching fluidly.  I learned about the “Cognitive Mode”, “Collaborative Mode”, and “Expert Mode” during my initial coaching training last September.  We were asked to go to an area of the room based upon where we thought we spent most of our coaching time.  The majority of people went to Cognitive, several went to Collaborative, and I believe one stood in Expert.  I stood in the middle.  First, I was still overwhelmed with all the learning that was being shoved down our throats and didn’t have time to process yet.  But secondly, I really believed (and still do) in the value of all three roles.  It depends on the fellow and the part of the coaching cycle you are in.  Cognitive mode is awesome for reflection and for guiding fellows through making sense of what they want to do, how they want to do it, how it went, and how to improve in the future.  Collaborative mode is perfect for sharing ideas, brainstorming plans, and figuring out the most effective way to implement a tool or strategy within the learning objectives.  Expert mode is important when sharing a new tool and explaining how and why it could be used in support of what is being planned.  Even within one coaching meeting, I will play all three roles based on our conversation and the situation.
  5. You must be in their classrooms, with their students – modeling, co-teaching, or observing/collaborating – often!  This is one area I feel I failed at in the first semester of coaching.  I was so focused on trying to figure things out, get things organized, support my teachers with the very beginning tech questions they had just coming in to the fellowship, that I wasn’t always in their classrooms just getting to know them as teachers.  They also must know the different purposes of me being in the classroom.  If it’s a specific lesson we planned together, I might model the lesson one period and they will teach it the next.  We might co-teach during the period.  Or, I simply might be in there as an observer and collaborator for us to reflect on later. There is one teacher I worked with that the first time I was in her classroom, I was asked to walk around to mark off homework. Ack!  Communicate with your fellows what your role is and why you are in there.  When I am in there just observing, it allows me to see the teacher in their element and brainstorm ideas for what could be done to help enhance the learning already going on.  There was an activity in one class where the students were “collaborating” on a chapter of reading, but were all writing on individual pieces of paper in four different squares and weren’t actually talking about anything.  I asked her, on the fly, if I could do something different with one group of four students.  She was open to it (again, it’s about the relationship), and so I set up a collaborative Google Doc between the four students and had them type in different colors so they could see what others were saying.  I showed them how to digitally comment on each other’s work as well.  Just by being able to see and share each other’s thinking facilitated the group actually talking to one another about what they were writing instead of just staring at their own paper.   Because of this experience, we ended up piloting collaborative Google Docs (even sent out via Doctopus!) for one entire class period over the next month, and by the second semester, she was ready to do it for all of her class periods.  She noticed more engagement, more writing, and a higher level of work since they were able to see what other people were contributing and add on to that.   My whole point of this story is that none of it would have happened if I wasn’t just in this fellow’s classroom on a normal day, while she was doing her normal thing, in order to learn more about her as a teacher and gather ideas for ways that technology tools could improve or enhance the teaching and learning in her classroom.

Why I haven’t blogged much this year…

I’ve struggled this year with blogging.  I’ve talked about it with several colleagues, and my thinking has been that it is more difficult to reflect on my practice in a public forum now that it is not about my classroom, but about my work with other teachers.   I have been trying to find a framework from which to blog from, and am really hoping to get back into it next year by sharing lessons and strategies that we implement and possibly having my fellows guest blog as they reflect on their practice.  Where I struggle is that I always strive to be authentic and reflective – discussing both my successes and my failures.  I don’t feel like it is appropriate to discuss others successes and failures.  It is my goal to find a happy medium, as I’ve learned so much from coaching and truly believe it is the most valuable form of professional development that a school or district could implement.
It’s gone through my mind – if I’m not blogging, does that mean I haven’t been reflecting this year?  

I consider myself a highly reflective educator.  I ask my fellows to be reflective and to journal on our process.  Why am I not doing the same? I feel like I have had to find other ways this year to reflect and grow since I haven’t written most of it down. Thankfully, I have had an amazing group of colleagues who are really open to sharing, learning, growing, and reflecting on our practice.   When I was in the classroom, I was on an island.  My only form of connection was through finding colleagues on Twitter and reflecting on the forum that this blog has become.  Now, I feel lucky and blessed that I have people I can connect with in person who understand my role and purpose as a Digital Learning Coach.  I’m not sure if any of my colleagues read my blog, but if so… thank you for being such amazing partners in collaboration as we work together to support teachers!

In conclusion, blogging is not the only form of reflection.  However, there is huge value in taking the time to actually write things down.  There is also tremendous benefits from going back and reading what you have written (which you can’t do if it’s just a conversation).  So, my goal is to begin to find ways to reflect and actually blog again as I go through this summer of sharing and learning at conferences and begin my second year as a Digital Learning Coach.  Please check in with me – hold me accountable – and challenge me and stretch me in this goal.

Headed to #ISTE2015!

I’m on my way to Philly for ISTE and I’m so excited for the chance to meet up with colleagues and learn from others.  I’ve got a pretty busy week planned, but purposely scheduled time for “down time” this year instead of just trying to go-go-go.  If you are there, I hope to get to meet up with you and collaborate. 

On Sunday, I’ll be at the TeachMeet all day.  I’ve never been to a TeachMeet, but I’ve been told it’s like a pre-planned EdCamp.  It also looks like there is a lot of time for informal collaboration, which I am excited about.

On Monday, I’ll be leading the session called “Create yourfirst TouchCast Today!” from 11am-12pm.  It’s a BYOD / PreRegister session that is completely full right now, but you can always try to stand in line and see if you get in!  It should be a fun albeit crazy session as there are 150 people in one room learning about the basics of making a TouchCast.

Monday afternoon I have my “WSQing your Way to #FlipclassSuccess” session from 4:15-5:15pm.  I presented this at CUE this year, but made a few tweaks and am excited to share again.  One of the things I love about this WSQing session is that it presents a mindset and a framework of things for teachers to consider in order to successfully flip their class.  The WSQ is a specific tool that helps to address the ideas in the framework, but there is so much room for flexibility, teacher modifications, and personalization of the idea.

On Tuesday, I have my “Flip Your Class From Start To Finish” workshop from 8:30-11:30am.  This is a paid workshop, and when I last checked there were just a few spots left.  The plan is to hit upon basically everything you need to start flipping your class (or learn more to find more success if you’ve just started).  We’ll discuss the shifts in a flipped class, mindset, WSQ, etc, but also spend some time on content creation, actually make a short screencast, and address the issue of what to do in class time.  I’m hoping to also discuss communication with parents and administrators, common hurdles, and a few other topics, depending on time.

On Wednesday, I will be a part of the panel for “Many Methods to FlipClass Success” with Ayelet Segal from TouchCast, Brian Jones, and Timonius Downing.  I’m very excited to share with these amazing educators the different ways we have shaped our classes to find success within the flipped learning model.

I have several sessions marked to attend, namely a few on Coaching Strategies and 1:1 tips / tricks / tools.  I’m trying to narrow my focus and not just attend a bunch of random sessions to fill my time, but really choose ones that I can reflect on to implement in my practice.

Will you be at ISTE? I hope to see you there! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Upcoming Webinar: WSQ (Whisk) Away to FlipClass Success

I hope you will join me at my upcoming webinar hosted by Learning Bird and EdWeb.Net
WSQ (Whisk) Away to FlipClass Success:
Designing an Effective Flipped Learning Environment
Presented by Crystal Kirch, Digital Learning Coach
Thursday, Jun. 11 at 5 p.m. Eastern Time
See more details and description here

Friday, March 27, 2015

CUE 2015 Notes & Reflections

I just got back from three awesome days at the Annual CUE Conference in Palm Springs.

Sessions I attended:

  • Applying Best Practices in 1:1 (Cheryl Morris, Andrew Thomasson, Sam Patterson)
    • Slide Deck (see for lots of student creation examples)
    • Students have a digital portfolio on Weebly
    • Autocrat can let students fill out a form and be emailed a document; teacher is still owner (still not sure how this is better/easier than Doctopus; need to explore)
    • Pixlr functions like photoshop (14.99/year for desktop version)
    • (leads to but it's private).  Students send an email and it becomes a blog post on the class blog = awesome!
    • Benefits of puppeting:
      • No Student Faces
      • It's not "them" so they aren't as afraid to make mistakes
    • Quotes:
      • Tech is an invitation to improve pedagogy
      • If you teach them to use it as a scantron device, then they will
      • We must model for teachers how to use the tech as a content creation tool
      • We want students to be critical creators of content.  That they know something and can do something with it.
  • 21st century note-taking (Adrian Lucero & David Allen, GGUSD)
    •  Slide Deck (see for lots of student examples)
    • Taking Notes is useless without review - must review within 24 hours
    • Template Gallery in Google Drive - find this one in the public gallery:
      • Digital Focused Note Template
    • Use UberConference Add-on to Google Docs for live chatting if GHangouts are blocked
    • Tip - fill in powerpoint notes for students already.  They just fill in the columns for questions and their notes.  This allows them to think about what they are talking about and not just rush to copy things down.
    • The questions on the left are not populated by the teacher.   Students can write down questions that are posed by the teacher during class, or ones they actually have
    • Follow-up / Review activities:
      • Add 3 HOT questions
      • Summaries
      • Review and Revise notes:
        • Bullet point / number ideas
        • highlight key terms and main ideas
        • delete anything that may appear extraneous
        • add details you may have missed (can research directly within the Google Doc)
        • identify areas of confusion and define new terms
      • Exchange main ideas via comment feature on google doc
      • Add images, symbols, articles, etc through research tab - also adds citation at bottom of screen!
      • Add hyperlinks to external sources (articles, videos, etc) within notes
    • Notes, Questions, and maybe Summaries are Day 1.  Steps 4-7 are not in order necessarily
      • 7 steps:
        1. Create template
        2. Pre-populate notes from ppt
        3. Students take notes
        4. Students do questions and summaries
        5. Review, organize, highlight
        6. Collaborate with a partner
        7. Synthesize new ideas from the outside
  • WSQing your Way to FlipClass Success (My Session)
    • See my resources at
    • This is the 2nd time I've presented this session, but the first to a non-"flipclass" audience (meaning not all attendees familiar with premises of flipped learning).  Overall, I think it went very well.  I'm giving this presentation again at ISTE this summer, so as always I have a few reflections on changes I'm going to make.
      • Video making:  The session was not focused on this, but taking 2-3 minutes to address it is important in making sure to knock out some common misconceptions
        • Include a 1 minute or so clip of one of my actual videos so people can see what they look like, how they include my face, etc
        • Talk a little more through my video making process; i.e. I pick one day each week to sit down and record them, how long does it take me, etc. 
      • Day in the class - get a 1-2 minute video of a day in my flipped class from previous blog posts
      • Student created problems/videos & blogging - Because I put this under the "review and assessment" part of my flipped classroom workflow, I didn't talk about it since I focused on the WSQ.  However, I need to bring this up when I talk about the WSQ chat discussion ideas because it's a huge part of my class
    • I gave about 4 opportunities throughout the session for attendees to turn and talk to the person next to them about their thoughts, and the volume in the room just exploded.  I was really happy with the level of engagement in the discussion.
    • Closing - need a closing slide with my contact info again, people to follow in different subject areas (it's on my resources page but I want it to be more front and center and make a point about #bettertogether and collaboration).
    • Reference to "living in beta" - we are always refining, reflecting, and adjusting to best meet our students' needs; we are always going back to "what's the best use of my face-to-face time with my students".  Make a point to share that I have my first three years of reflections on my blog, and for those starting out to go back and see what things were like when I was just starting back in 2011.
    • Slide Deck - I reworked it a little bit this time, but I'd like to continue to lessen the text on the slides.  However, I do feel the information is valuable and I know it enough that I'm not reading from it (except student quotes), but having the auditory and visual cues for the audience, especially with the "fire hose" amount of information I am providing during this particular session, is important.  Still need to consider what I want to do with this.
    • Kahoot! - It went over well but SO MANY sessions used it at CUE that I think it was a little overused - is there something else I can model in the session that would serve the same purpose?
  • Jennie Magiera Opening Keynote
    • We are NOT at CUE to get better at Google, or Twitter, or Selfies... We are here to get better at:
      • Differentiating Instruction
      • Supporting Teachers
      • Inspiring our Teachers
    • Compliance does not equal engagement
  • Media Mastery for Maximum Classroom Engagement (Jon Corippo)
    • Don't teach the technical and the academic at the same time.  For example, the first time you use a Venn Diagram, have students compare a Big Mac vs. a Double-Double rather than something academic
    • It takes repetitation for both the technical and the academic to be active
    • "If you're going to teacher them everything at the beginning before they can learn, it's going to be a long year"
    • Slideshare - you can look for shareable/resuable slides for presentations
    • "I'm giving you plenty of time, do a good job" is interpreted by students as "I don't have to start now".  All work will expand to meet the time allotted.
    • Create a "tech rehearsal" BEFORE the day it's due... then have them reflect and fix it.
  • Sway into the Mix (Delaine Johnson)
    • I just gave a JOT (Just One Thing) PD session on Office Mix this week, so I was glad to have a little more playing around time with it. 
    • I still need to play with Office Sway a little more... not enough time :(
  • SAMR SLAMR  (Stace Carter, Lainie Rowell, Julie Garcia)
    • Workshop Agenda and Slides 
    • This was a highly participatory workshop where we thought about ways to make certain activities "move up" the SAMR level.  Once of the biggest things that stood out to me was student COLLABORATION and then student SHARING/PUBLISHING (and receiving feedback from those outside their class)
  •  Redesigning Faculty Meetings (Bill Selak)
    • I was really hoping for some more ideas from the presenters, but this was basically a 15 minute presentation and 45 minute brainstorming in small groups.  I did have some takeaways though
    • A PD planning team gets together once a week to plan the faculty meeting for the next week (9 days in advance)
    • Location matters for your meetings!
    • #nomnom- bring your staff treats - jamba juice, chips & salsa, candy, etc.  Food brings people together!
    • Faculty Meeting Feedback - every single meeting.  Anonymous. 2 questions
      • Was this meeting a good use of your time?  Yes, Meh, No
      • Any Comments?
    • After conferences, the teachers who went have to share one sentence of what they learned.  Follow up with email with even more details and resources
      • *My fellows need to share at EVERY faculty meeting
    • Idea - 10 minutes general announcements.  Then, discussion groups where teachers read and article and talk about it; record takeaways on Padlet or TodaysMeet
    • Idea - Agenda is on GDocs so teachers can add questions and concerns before the meeting so admin can prep to answer them ahead of time.
    • Idea - GForm "What technology would you like to know about?" or "How can I support you in your growth?".  Teachers come back in a month and show what they've done since that time.
  • Formative Assessment Tools
    •  Quick Guide/ Handout of Formative Assessment Tools 
    • Formative assessment is anything that informs the student and the teacher.  It monitors student progress, informs instruction, and promotes equity (the students that are quiet have the chance for their learning to be seen/heard)
    • Tools I hadn't used yet: Geddit (but it's going away...) GoFormative (loving it), ExitTicket (head of but hadn't played with yet), MasterConnect.
    • I am doing a similar session at FlipCon this year, so it was nice to see how this format worked.  She went through 14 tools in an hour and it didn't seem rushed.  She stated the basics of the tools, went over the pros and cons, and then did a quick sample of the audience being students.

    New Tools / Websites / Resources I came across (through conversation or Twitter #cue15)

    There were several sessions per time slot I wanted to attend, so here are some notes and the resources from ones I wasn't at in person but had some great stuff to share.

    • - a new(er) digital formative assessment tool that allows you to include text, videos, images, 
      • Students don't have to create accounts, they will enter their name
      • Results come up live as they are typing or drawing.
      • If students want to see their results, they need to sign up for an account.
      • Students do not need to be added to a class to view an assessment - you can have it accessible with a link or a "quick code"
    • - Fountain Valley High School's site about their Instructional Rounds Program
    • Implementation Plan for 1:1 devices - look at bottom for CUE Presentation Slides
    • Ed Tech Teacher Leadership
      • Started a Technology Teacher Leader (TTL) program - one teacher at each site
    • Fair Use
    • Genius Bar - Resources
      • We have been doing this with our student tech team.
      • Slide 12 - "mid-year lull"
      • Student application sample (want to rethink this for next year)
    • Google Tips: Google Like a Boss 
      • I need to remember to use the filetype more often!
    • Docs to Blogs Resources
      • Great tips on getting started using blogging (Kidblog)

    Sunday, March 8, 2015

    Recent Thoughts on Reflection, Changes, Collaboration, and Coaching

    This is the first time I've written a post and let it sit in my draft folder for a week before posting it.  Every time I read through it again, it still describes how I feel... so I guess it's time to hit "publish"!  It's quite long, so I've divided it into four sections even though it all originally flowed together in one "brain dump" post.

    Reflections on leaving the classroom

    The more removed I am from the classroom, the more frustrated I become with the lack of ability to continually modify, change, and improve my practice as a classroom teacher.  If I wasn't happy with something in the past, I could do something about it the next day, the next week, the next unit, or make notes for the next year.  As it stands now, my work as a classroom teacher is frozen in time, with only wishes of what I could go back and change.  I can't recreate the culture, environment, expectations, and structure that I developed in my class, especially over the last 3 years since flipping, in another teacher's classroom.  I can share strategies and ideas, and we can build lessons together, but it's just not the same.

    I want to see how the lessons and ideas we (me & my fellows) are building together fit into the bigger picture of the flipped learning environment I designed over the last 3 years.  How would my classroom change?  How would the WSQ structure be impacted (or would it)? What parts of my curriculum (SSS packets and videos) would I need to recreate and redesign to suit a more Common Core-ish way of learning?

    I'm leaving all of my curriculum and videos up ( and, but I think they can easily be used in a way that focuses too much on direct instruction and drill/kill and less on the conceptual understanding, problem solving, application, exploration / discovery / inquiry, etc.  That stuff isn't in the packets - and without those activities, students are missing great opportunities to struggle, make sense of problems, make connections, etc.  Over the last 2 years, I began to build more of those activities into my curriculum... but there's just still so much that is lacking and I'm learning more every day new ideas I would want to integrate.  I would have liked to build in some performance tasks - but was always fighting two things: the amount of content to prepare them for AP Calc and the low level of skills that was brought in forcing me to review most of Algebra 2 before moving on. (I'm actually appalled sitting in the Alg 2 and Pre-Cal classes at my new school and noticing just how watered-down our curriculum really was).

    Knowing that I was on a journey of continually refining and changing my practice to improve student learning reminds me that it's okay things weren't perfect in the past.   It's just hard not being able to actually go and make the changes that I want to make.

    Changes I wish I could make in the past... but can't

    Part of my frustration with wanting to go back and change things is now working in a 1-to-1 laptop school.  There is so much more I would do and change with constant access to the devices.  Just a few ideas of things I've worked on with my fellows this year that I would definitely use in my classroom (with more access to technology, of course).
    • Google Drawings / Docs / Forms (drag and drop is awesome on Drawings!) 
    • Padlet - sharing ideas about concepts, summaries on learning, and work created on Desmos
    • Thinglink - adding descriptions, links, and videos to images of different functions, graphs, etc in order to share understanding
    • Socrative / Kahoot (can do on phones, but I didn't learn about Socrative until now)
    • Student Blogging / Creation (could do more with laptops in class rather than waiting until they got home)
    • DESMOS (that should be listed first! So much more modeling, exploration, discovery, creation)
    • Geogebra (utilizing these in exploration much more)
    • TodaysMeet as a way to constantly answer questions and have conversation during class
    • Peardeck for use during WSQ chats or in-class "mini-lectures" or inquiry activities to engage and focus students
    • Diigo for peer review of blog posts as well as for annotating articles / websites on math connections or real life applications.
    • In Class "Blended Learning" stations for students to work through complex topics asynchronously but with my "in person" help present.
    Other "non-tech required" changes I would make based on some of my learning and observations
    • Using Educanon or similar tool (Zaption, EdPuzzle) to add interactivity to the videos instead of "secret questions" at the end of the video.
    • More card sorts and card chains as part of WSQ chats instead of relying on Peer Instruction as often (variety is nice... so is giving students the chance to get out of their seats and interact)
    • Find or design a performance task for each unit
    • Use more 3-Act math tasks, visual patterns, would you rather?, estimation 180, etc activities - especially in my Algebra 1 class, but also find opportunities to use them in pre-calculus.
    • Find DOK Level 2-3-4 problems for each unit.  Focus on those type of problems for WSQ chats and practice problems - the videos can cover the DOK Level 1-2.
    The value of Collaboration and opening the doors of the classroom

    One thought I must keep in mind, however... Would I be coming to all these new realizations if I never left the classroom?  Has broadening my worldview and constantly collaborating / sharing ideas with other teachers led to these new discoveries?  It may not be the only answer, but I definitely think it's a major player in this game.  Collaboration is key in teacher growth, and although I'm the "coach" and the teachers are my "fellows", it's definitely a two-way street.  I have gleaned so much from my time with each of my fellows so far this year (and we still have several months left!)

    In addition, simply being in other teachers' classrooms every week, whether it be observing, co-teaching, or modeling, really opens up your eyes to different strategies and approaches that would work well in your classroom.  Sometimes this even means seeing something taught in the way that you taught it and realizing it may not be the most effective way.  Or, seeing how different teachers react in different situations and realizing there are better ways to handle things than you did.  I have the privilege to have the time to constantly be "a part" of other teacher's classrooms, and they have welcomed me in as a collaborative partner, being open and willing to suggestions or crazy ideas of ways we could enhance the learning environment.  One of my favorite things is when one of my fellows brings up a question or idea and we can just brainstorm solutions or strategies for implementing it effectively. 

    Why I love Coaching

    While this post started off fairly negative, I want to be sure it's clear how much I absolutely love my job.  I love working with teachers, collaborating, sharing ideas, helping them brainstorm lesson ideas, supporting them with the technology needed to enhance the lesson, and deeply & thoughtfully reflecting before and after the lessons with them.   Coaching is such a powerful model of professional development.  I really wish I would have been coached, especially over the last 3 years.  Having somebody to run ideas by, co-plan lessons with, get constructive feedback from - that is gold.  Even though I feel like I've grown 500% simply by growing my PLN through blogging and Twitter, I think with coaching it would have more than doubled that growth.

    So, while I'm frustrated that I can't go make changes in my personal classroom, I have been given the opportunity to learn and grow as an educator through being a coach.  What's most important is student learning, and although my growth is not impacting "my" 200 students that I would have had this year, I know it is impacting my fellows' 1500+ students because of the growth and learning the collaboration and coaching has on my fellows' process of teaching and learning.

    My role has changed.  I can't look back with regrets - I can only continue to move forward and have an impact on the students I am privileged to encounter through my fellows.  And, I am reminded again that no matter how long you've been teaching, or how "well put together" you think your curriculum is, the moment you decide you don't need to make any changes is the moment you should no longer be in education.  If I was completely satisfied with the way I left my own classroom (in terms of teaching and learning), that's a red flag that something is definitely wrong.  I'm so grateful for the chance to continue to grow, learn, and change!

    Sunday, March 1, 2015

    OCMC Learning and Reflection

    I had the privilege of attending the Orange County Mathematics Council 2015 Symposium last Monday, and it was an evening full of great learning.  My only disappointment was that this was the first of these events I had attended - I really wish I would have known about them while I was in the classroom!

    The Symposium is an evening with a keynote and 2 breakout sessions.  Here are a few of my thoughts and reflections:

    Keynote: Chris Shore
    You can see his slide deck linked here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

    • The only way our students will get better is if we get better.
    • The 4 1/2 principles of quality math instruction, which include:
      • Standards - focus on limited number of topics
      • Concepts - teach students to understand, not mimic
      • Substance - higher order thinking
      • Accountability - hold all students accountable for knowledge and performance
      • Rapport - reach before teach
    • The real 21st century skills: "Teach students to THINK and COMMUNICATE their thinking"
      • In the 20th century, we taught students to obtain and retain.  This is no longer important, since the information can be obtained from basically anywhere. 
    • Chris talked about many groups of ideas that have been referred to as 21st century skills, including:
      • 6 Shifts (Engage NY)
        • Focus, Coherence, Fluency, Deep Understanding, Application, Dual Intensity
        • The last four used to be referred to as "rigor', now they are separated
        • Dual intensity refers to focusing on both skills/practice AND application/understanding with dual intensity
      • 4 C's (EdLeader 21)
        • Communication, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity
        • These should redefine learning and school
        • 60% of dialogue in class should be student to student
      • 4 Claims (SmarterBalanced / PARCC)
        • Concepts & Procedures, Critical Thinking, Communicate Reasoning, Construct Model
      • 8 Mathematical Practices (CCSS) 
        • Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
        • Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
        • Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
        • Model with mathematics
        • Use appropriate tools strategically.
        • Attend to precision.
        • Look for and make use of structure.
        • Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning
        • The 8 Practices are for the students, not the teachers
        • These 8 Practices are the content standards!
        • Resources for teaching the 8 mathematical practices

    • As we looked at all of these, they all came back to students being able to THINK and COMMUNICATE their thinking.
    • What is a Problem?
      • An exercise is something that you know how to do and have the ability to do
      • A crisis is something you don't know how to do and don't have the ability to do
      • A problem is something that you don't know how to do but have the ability to do so... this is where we want our students working!
    • We must have dual objectives in our teaching.  30% of teaching should be notes-oriented (what they should know) and 70% should be task-oriented (what they should do).  Every day we should have both pieces.
      • Yes, we still need some "drill and kill".  But that's 30%.
    • Tasks are problems that are used to teach both content and practices.
    • There are a lot of great quotes on his slide deck from "The New Classroom"
      • In a nutshell, the CCSS expect that, instead of knowing the answer, students must now be able to create the answer, make claims and produce evidence from text to support their claims.
      • Instead of working mathematics problems, students must be able to apply mathematics concepts to real-world situations and write about their thinking in moving to a solution.
      • This change requires a different style of instruction than what many have come to call “sit and get.” 
      • That means that, in most cases, teachers will have to encourage much more student work and student discourse and engage in far less teacher talk.
     Cat Nolan - Give your students purpose to conquer Common Core
    •  She doesn't have quizzes and tests, she has "games" and "practices".  Remember, not all practices are fun, you will sweat and be sore, but it will prepare you for the game
    • Making ONE problem connect with the kids is better than 40 practice problems
    • We aren't here to be managers are homework.  We are there to teach life skills, critical thinking skills, and concepts. 
    • Strategies for "common core-izing" traditional problems
      • Explain your thinking
      • Easy number type question?  Let's use that to solve this.
      • Turn into a statement and analyze
      • Turn into a story
      • Error analysis - where did they go wrong?  Why was it wrong?  How would you do it correctly?

    Nanette Johnson - Fostering Perseverance with Interesting Math Problems
    • We did a few different math problems (see slides for other examples), but the one below is my favorite.  Think about the level of thinking required to complete the problem below vs. doing 40 factoring problems!

    Other great resources I came across:

    Sunday, February 8, 2015

    Random Group Generator + Doctopus = Collaborative Group-Making Gold!

    I have been using Doctopus with several of my fellows and other teachers at my site all year as an effective way to push out documents to students.  Google Classroom was not open at the beginning of the year at my district, so I worked to become a "Doctopus Expert".  I put together this step-by-step guide and then a more simplified "visual guide" (personalized for one of my fellows).

    With Classroom now open, I am still sticking with Doctopus for several reasons:

    • File Organization - I love that the files are organized in student folders but also assignment folders
    • Teacher Access and Control at all stages - Teacher has access to the document from the time it is pushed out, not from when the student begins working on it
    • Goobric - Easy to navigate between assignments, and now you can leave voice comments!
    • Data and Statistics in terms of word count, student revisions, comments, etc, and... 
    • The ability to push out documents to collaborative groups, not just to individual students.

    My one complaint with Doctopus group-making is there is not a way to select how many groups you want or how many students you want in each group.  Then, I was listening to an ISTE Webinar Archive today and the presenter linked to a Random Group Generator [see the original template here].  I decided to check it out... and I think it may just be a pretty awesome discovery!

    I added on to the original Random Group Generator document using two formulas:

    Used to join together "Group 1. ___" with the group number assigned by the generator.  The "1. " portion refers to the class period the student is in.

    Used to get the group numbers for the students in the correct roster order, as the number generator puts them in order by group number, not alphabetical.

    The goal is that you can copy-paste (paste values only) the last column straight into your Doctopus "Group" column and you will be able to easily create groups of all sizes!

    You can view and make a copy of my 6-period Random Group Generator with formulas here.

    Please let me know if you catch any errors or mistakes as I have just put this together and will be trialing it out this week.

    Thursday, February 5, 2015

    Reflections on Coaching - Take 5 (Back after a long break)

    It's been a crazy start to the year and I got out of the habit of blogging about coaching for a while, but (hopefully) I'm back!

    I have seen some amazing ideas, lessons, and growth among the teachers I am working with in the last several weeks and that is very exciting.   It ranges from learning how to use Google Docs and Slides to create presentation material for students to helping teachers launch and begin using Doctopus to push out assignments to students... and everything in between!

    Two key "learnings" from the last several weeks:

    - "Explore - Flip - Apply" is a great technique.  I've known that, but now I'm really experiencing it.  I am trying to encourage discovery and inquiry in the math classes as much as possible (where it fits), and using this technique really allows for that student concept development and exploration time as well as providing them with the follow-up support they need.  For example, students can explore properties of logarithmic graphs compared to exponential graphs, how the graph changes based on the base, and what different numbers put into the equation do the graph.  They can use Desmos as a tool for some of this as well as their prior knowledge of function transformations.  They explore and come to conclusions as they notice patterns and discuss with their classmates.  That night, they have some graphs to try on their own.  The teacher can make a short video explaining one or two the graphs in a more straightforward way to solidify the conclusions most of the class came to by the end of the period.  Then, they can come back the next day and apply that knowledge further.

    - There are so many different ways to have students collaborate, and chunking a lesson really really really makes a difference.  I've even suggested having a timer that goes off every 5-7 minutes to remind the teacher to "shut up and let the kids talk".   We've done very structured collaboration like having A/B partners where each time one partner has the role of talking, to having A/B partners where they are both talking and working together, to having pods of 3 where the students turn and talk with their partners.  Those are all in the "think-pair-share" model, but it's really a great place to start.  We have tried having collaboration time before the teacher explains a problem, after the teacher explains a problem, or after a problem with a focus on a new/similar problem.  We are learning different levels of scaffolding, modeling, and support that different levels of students need.

    Coaching Documents and Reflections:

    I'm really glad I put all the work in over break to update my different coaching documents.  While I am still tweaking and playing with them, they lay a great foundation.  One of the documents is a very detailed lesson planning guide with probing questions.  I've found that it is a great tool more for me as the coach, not necessarily to have my fellows work through.  As I continue to grow, most of the prompts will become second nature to me and I'll be able to go through the process seamlessly.  However, while I'm still learning, it is really valuable to have such a structured guide to go through.

    One of my colleagues showed me a Pre-Brief and De-Brief reflection form on a Google Form and I'm thinking that may be better to have my fellows submit via a consistent form rather than always trying to find the right place in the journal.  I need to figure it out and put something together, but I think that is a good direction to head.  This means we would just have one document with our meeting notes, I would have the lesson plan document that is mainly for me, and then all of their reflections would be submitted to a Google Form.  I could even make one Google Form where the first page has them select what type of reflection it is (pre-brief, de-brief, etc) and then it goes to a certain page of questions based on that answer.  Hmm... gotta think through it.

    I also want to find a better way for the fellows to keep track of the different things they have accomplished throughout the year.  I created a "Tech Tools Inventory" for them to add to, but another one of my colleagues showed a Portfolio-type thing he created on our Haiku LMS where for each lesson they would create a content block with text, images, etc to share what they did.  It really looked well put together and something they could be proud of at the end of the year.  At this point, I don't think I'll do it this year because it's just one more thing and too many changes is not good.  However, I want to seriously consider doing something like that for next year.  I like all the structure I've put in place through Google Drive, but I want to find a way to seamlessly incorporate Haiku as well.

    Effective Learning Norms - I had some great collaboration with another DLC about effective learning norms and how they can be tied in with the Continuum of Self-Reflection from the book Building Teachers' Capacity for Success.  I need to study more to wrap my head around all of it but I am very excited for the potential.  One of the hard things about this position is that all of our "students" don't move forward at a similar pace.  There are different levels throughout the year.  There are basic tech proficiencies, such as learning Haiku, Google Drive, specific tools, etc.  Then, there is the level where we are using the tools in our classroom to enhance/improve teaching and learning.  Lastly, there is the level where we aren't necessarily focused on tech integration (the teacher is self-sufficient in terms of tech), but on bigger ideas of improving teaching and learning through the lens of effective learning norms.  Even within those three levels, there is a wide variation among stages throughout those levels.  And... with regards to certain things they may be more ahead than with others.  I'm not sure how much sense that makes as I am still really trying to understand, but it's an area of focus for me.


    I'm so grateful for the ability to share and collaborate with colleagues, including all of you :).  As I continue to grow in my self-reflection, I hope to continue to grow in my capacity as a coach to truly empower, encourage, support, and inspire all the teachers I work with to continually work on enhancing and improving the teaching and learning going on in their classrooms... with or without technology :)  Although, I think technology really does help!
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