Tuesday, December 30, 2014

ISTE Coaching Academy Series - Course 5 Reflection

Time for another ISTE Coaching Academy Course Reflection!
I just finished working through the fifth course, entitled:"Coaching Skills for Lesson Improvement".  

See my previous notes & reflections at the following links: 

Course 1 Reflections 
Course 2 Reflections,
Course 3 Reflections
Course 4 Reflections

This course focused on the ISTE Standards for Coaches 2.a,b,c,d,f,g, which state:

Nets-C Standard:  Teaching, Learning, and Assessment
a. Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences addressing content standards and student technology standards
b. Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences using a variety of research-based, learner-centered instructional strategies and assessment tools to address the diverse needs and interests of all students
c. Coach teachers in and model engagement of students in local and global interdisciplinary units in which technology helps students assume professional roles,research real-world problems, collaborate with others, and produce products that are meaningful and useful to a wide audience
d. Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences emphasizing creativity, higher-order thinking skills and processes,and mental habits of mind (e.g., critical thinking, meta-cognition, and self-regulation)
f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences

g. Coach teachers in and model effective use of technology tools and resources to continuously assess student learning and technology literacy by applying a rich variety of formative and summative assessments aligned with content and student technology standards

While Course 4 focused on Lesson Design Skills that coaches need, this course focused on the Communication and Collaboration Skills that coaches need to develop in order to make the coaching successful.

Here are some key thoughts I wanted to share:

Effective Feedback must be:
  • timely - as soon after the event/process as possible
  • specific - lay out suggested action plans / changes
  • phrased appropriately - needs to come across as positive and encouraging (think sandwich method) so the receiver doesn't shut down and disregard what you have to say
  • asked for - nobody wants to listen to unsolicited advice

Learning Activity Checklist / Norm for Effective Learning
  • See excerpt from Les Foltos' book Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration here. Start on page 109 and read through page 118. I don't want to restate what is said in the chapter, but it's really good :)
  • Check out the Peer Coaching Training Resources here. This is quite expansive and talks through a lot of things in Courses 1-5, but it's a great resource to have if you are a coach or are interested in being a coach.
  • I spent a lot of time during this course thinking through the processes I go through as a coach at the beginning of the year (and some I can implement as we "launch" again for the second semester in a couple of weeks. Here are some of the documents I've been working on.
    • Coaching Cycle and Getting Started - The links within this document should be viewable to anyone with the link (let me know if there is one that is not). This is an organizational tool for myself (I think it would be overwhelming to show this to the teachers I work with, at least at the beginning). There are some items on the "Beginning of Year" section that I am going to revisit (or visit for the first time) this next semester, namely the coaching norms, tech proficiencies, effective learning norms, and measuring lesson effectiveness. (Make sure to zoom in so you can actually see the drawing... there are two halves to it :) ).

Review of Coaching Communication Skills:
  • Active Listening - Make sure to focus on the speaker, block out competing thoughts, lean forward and nod.
  • Paraphrasing - Use this to check for understanding and clarify what was heard by summarizing.
  • Clarifying Questions - Use this to lead to a clearer picture or understanding of the topic / idea and to gather information.
  • Probing Questions - Use these to provoke deeper thinking; make sure they are open ended and that you don't have an answer already in mind when phrasing the question.
I did a lot more reading and research on probing questions in this course, as it is an area I want to continue to grow in.

Here are some times when probing questions are useful (Source: Leading Governance)
  • Expanding the topic after a closed-ended question
  • Encouraging a fellow to expand their response
  • Encouraging a fellow to think through the experience
  • Getting to what is not being said
  • Helping to provide more detail
  • Focusing more closely on one element of an answer to an open-ended question.
Attributes of Probing Questions (Source: Coaches Guide to Probing Questions)
  • (see link for complete list)
  • Deepen and expand thinking
  • Keep learning at the center
  • Elicit a slow, reflective response
  • Are non-judgmental; neutral
  • Are not suggestive (not trying to elicit a specific response)
Sample Probing Questions - I searched online and gathered a bunch of question starters that can be used for probing questions. You can see what I've gathered here.

Some great articles that I found to share: (these are Diigo links so they might show my highlights)

Why integrate technology? https://diigo.com/076kyl
Technology in Schools https://diigo.com/076kyu
The secret to great coaching https://diigo.com/076l4q
ICT Peer Coaching Manual https://diigo.com/077369 (*Page 10 characteristics of an effective coach & teacher readiness to become a "coachee")

I am gathering notes from all the different articles, resources, and books I am reading on coaching and putting them together in different documents in a Google Drive folder.  It's not ready to share publicly at this point, but if you are interested, please let me know and I can share it directly with you.  I'm still adding a lot to it, but would love to share and collaborate as I bring together all the learning from so many different sources.

Until Course 6...

See all of my ISTE Coaching Academy Course Reflections here:
Course 1 Reflections 
Course 2 Reflections,
Course 3 Reflections
Course 4 Reflections

Course 5 Reflections

Course 6 Reflections

Monday, December 22, 2014

ISTE Coaching Academy Series - Course 4 Reflection

The  ISTE Coaching Academy  really has been so worth my time! 

I just finished working through the fourth course, entitled:"Coaching for Active, Engaging, Technology-Rich learning".  

See my previous notes & reflections at the following links: Course 1 ReflectionsCourse 2 Reflections, Course 3 Reflections

This course focused on the ISTE Standards for Coaches 2.a,b,c,d,f,g, which state:
  • a. Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences addressing content standards and student technology standards
  • b. Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences using a variety of research-based, learner-centered instructional strategies and assessment tools to address the diverse needs and interests of all students
  • c. Coach teachers in and model engagement of students in local and global interdisciplinary units in which technology helps students assume professional roles,research real-world problems, collaborate with others, and produce products that are meaningful and useful to a wide audience
  • d. Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences emphasizing creativity, higher-order thinking skills and processes,and mental habits of mind (e.g., critical thinking, meta-cognition, and self-regulation)
  • f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences
  • g. Coach teachers in and model effective use of technology tools and resources to continuously assess student learning and technology literacy by applying a rich variety of formative and summative assessments aligned with content and student technology standards
The focus of this course was on working through a structured and effective model for co-planning a lesson that enhances learning by integrating technology.  One of the biggest takeaways from this course was in re-developing my "Coaching Journal Template", which is the Google Doc that my fellows and I work through as we are going through each coaching cycle.  I was able to add some more prompts that will help us to focus on the content and skill objectives first, and then finding ways that technology can enhance those objectives.  There are prompts for our planning and discussion together as well as for my fellows to reflect and journal at the pre-brief, lesson implementation, and debrief stages.  While I know it's far from perfect (and especially since I haven't used it with any fellows yet, I'm sure it will need to be tweaked again), but I feel like it provides a good structure for our conversations and keeps us focused in the right areas.  I am definitely a structured person and value organization and logical flow.  However, I also understand the need for flexibility and a non-"cookie-cutter" approach to coaching.  I think the template I have put together is open-ended enough to allow for that flexibility while not compromising our focus and purpose of enhancing learning with technology (not simply supplanting a current practice with tech because it's tech).  If you are interested in seeing my template-in-progress, please let me know and I will share a view-only copy of the doc with you.

I am very lucky in the position that I hold in that I have a small group of teachers that have signed up to be coached and there are expectations laid out at the beginning of the application process.  Now that I have been a part of this program for a semester, I feel like I understand it so much better than I did back in August, and already have ideas for modifications for next year.  I am so blessed that this is a longer-term assignment and that I have three years to work with the staff.  Growth takes time, both in mindset shifting and in tangible technological skills & comfort level.

Lesson Improvement Process:

The rest of this course worked through several key facets of lesson improvement.  My reflection will focus on the parts that stuck out the most to me along with resources I found useful.

The overall process in planning for lesson improvement is as follows:
Design Learning Task (focus on scenarios & essential questions) --> 
Define Standards (both content & skill) --> 
Directions for Learning Activity --> 
Integrating Technology (with a purpose!) --> 
Assessment (including rubrics) --> 

Part of "Design Learning Task" is looking for ways to make the product "real" by including a scenario that will peak the students' interest and defining an audience that the product is aimed towards.  Another key consideration is in developing essential questions.  I have been highly impressed with my school's English departments' use of essential questions and themes in organizing their curriculum.  I remember reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" in 9th grade, with the focus being on reading the book and understanding the story.  Now, "To Kill a Mockingbird" is one text used in the Unit focused on "Honor, Empathy, and Justice".  Literature is brought into context and is tied in with relevant non-fiction text.  Oh, how I wish my high school English classes were like this!

Grant Wiggins' has an excellent article on Essential Questions that you can read here.  The course also linked to an article on creating essential questions here.  A few key highlights that stuck out to me:
  • Essential questions can be of many types.  Ones that are:
    • important questions that recur throughout one's life.  Help us to focus on the fact that education is really about learning how to learn.
    • key inquiries within a discipline. Ones that are "alive" in the field.
    • what is needed for learning core content.  Help students to make sense of complicated ideas.
  • Essential questions are not questions that are simply essential to the teacher who wants his/her students to know an important answer.  We must separate questions of this type from those which are "essential to anyone as a thinking person and inquiring student for making meaning of facts in this subject" (Wiggins, 2007).
  • When writing essential questions, consider... (summarized / modified from Wiggins' article linked above)
    • Does it cause genuine inquiry into big ideas or core content?
    • Does it provoke deep thought or lively discussion?
    • Does it lead to new understanding or even more questions?
    • Does it require students to consider alternatives and weigh evidence?
    • Does it require that students support their ideas and justify their answers?
    • Does it stimulate continual rethinking of the big ideas and assumptions from previous lessons?
    • Does it make connections to prior learning?
    • Does it make connections to personal experiences?
    • Does it create opportunities to transfer to other situations / subjects? 
While this article was very helpful in defining and stimulating thinking around essential questions, it still lacked much of what I have always struggled with: what do essential questions look like in a high school math class?  So, I did a little Google-ing and came across some resources.  These are going to be very useful in the unit development we are working through in our district currently.

Once the task is defined, it is time to "Define Standards (both content & skill)". This is not just the CCSS Standards, but also 21st century skills (see the Framework for 21st century learning and Resources for Educators) and the ISTE Technology Standards for Students.

I really focused on the 21st century skill portion of this section. I feel as though the CCSS are fairly easy to "align" with what we are teaching (because a lot of times it's done for us).  However, when we are considering instructional strategies and student products, we need to really think through the 21st century skills we want our students practicing and modeling during the task.  I added a portion to my Coaching Journal Template to identify a 21st century skills focus for each coaching cycle (which may be the same one throughout the semester).  For example, a teacher may want to really focus on student collaboration; thus, the activities and lessons we design will use that goal as a guide for instructing students in the task and selecting technology to support and enhance that goal. 

Once you have the task and the standards, it's time to develop clear and detailed "Directions for Learning Activity". We must consider what activities students need to participate in to address the task we posed at the beginning.  It is important to clearly explain the product / performance that students will create.  Then, we must outline the detailed directions students will follow in order to complete the task, including necessary scaffolding tools.

Thinking through a task in this much detail is where I think the coaching and collaboration are huge.  Two brains are better than one!  I may be able to think of something my fellow hadn't considered, or my fellow may bring something up I would have brushed off as not important.  The scaffolding is also of huge importance, especially in regards to differentiation.  Do all students need the same scaffolds?  How will you support your ELs but challenge your GATE students?  Without a structured time to think through this with a coach, these are the areas I think far too easily fall through the cracks in teacher lesson planning - at least it did a lot for me.

When we look at ways for "Integrating Technology", we want to use tools that allow students to communicate, collaborate, gather / organize information, analyze / synthesize information, and creatively share what they have learned.  These are nothing new, but like I mentioned before, I'm a organized / love-my-lists type of person.  Having these written down (and linked in my Coaching Journal Template) helps me to stay focused on the purpose and goals of integrating technology.  "Why do you want to use __________?" "Because I haven't used it yet and it seems fun and cool".  Um... Not so much.  What is the purpose of using the technology?  How is it enhancing learning?
"Assessment" refers to both the formative and summative assessments that allow us to measure student progress towards the learning objectives.  The course material stated that "Assessment strategies need to be continuous and ongoing rather than relying on an assessment that occurs after the project is completed."  This is huge!  I really feel like this is a mindset shift for so many teachers.  There is so much value in formative assessment, but only when it is actually used to drive and modify instruction.  What's the purpose of giving your students a quiz if they don't get the results for several days and it goes in the gradebook but doesn't change what happens in class?  What's the point of doing an opener/warm-up or exit ticket but never actually reading through it for student responses? Assessment must drive instruction.  It must be continuous (remember, it can be formal or informal) throughout the entire learning cycle.  Assessments take time, but they result in greater student learning and improved student understanding of the concepts.

This brings me back to my Masters' program when we read about Assessment OF learning vs. Assesssment FOR learning.  Yes, we have to, at some point, have an assessment OF student learning.  However, the assessments along the way should all be "for" learning - to help students understand what they do and don't "get", and to support them in growing towards mastering the learning objectives.

We read a great article called, "What are formative assessments and why should we use them" by Judith Dodge.  This quote really stood out to me:
When I work with teachers during staff development, they often tell me they don't have time to assess students along the way. They fear sacrificing coverage and insist they must move on quickly. Yet in the rush to cover more, students are actually learning less. Without time to reflect on and interact meaningfully with new information, students are unlikely to retain much of what is "covered" in their classrooms...On balance, the time they take from a lesson is well worth the information you gather and the retention students gain.
Rubrics were also emphasized as a tool to use for both formative and summative assessments.  Some benefits of rubrics are:
  • students know what is expected of them in language they can understand
  • students can see the specific skills they are expected to gain in their learning
  • students are able to do some self-assessment and reflecting on their learning
  • teachers are able to monitor student learning, especially over time
  • provides consistency in evaluating student work
Some sample rubrics I thought were helpful:  Oral Presentation, Math Problem Solving, Discussion.

**Rubistar Rubric Creator**  I heard of this several years ago but never used it... I would highly suggest checking it out if you use rubrics in your classes.

Lastly, we must list out our "Resources" - this may include curriculum resources such as the textbook, but also information resources (websites), a bibliography of all of the resources we used in designing the lesson / task as well as any copyright and attribution needed (gotta model good digital citizenship for our students!), and technology resources and instructions that students might need in order to use them.

Whew! With that, Course 4 is complete. While every course has been so valuable in my growth as a coach, this one definitely had the biggest tangible affect thus far in terms of really developing and structuring the coaching process through the modifications of my Coaching Journal Template. I am excited to begin using the process with my teachers. As I mentioned before, the more focused prompts and considerations that I've embedded throughout the journal will help us to think more deeply about what we are doing and make sure that we aren't just using technology as an add-on.

See all of my ISTE Coaching Academy Course Reflections here:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

EdTech Coaches ISTE Network: Amazing links & resources

I spent some time on the EdTech Coaches Network on ISTE.org and came across a plethora of great links and resources. 

 I could probably spend a few weeks sorting through all of these, so I'm organizing them here now in order to share with those interested (they are so great I didn't want to wait) and to make it easier for me to go back and read them in more detail later.

If you are an ISTE member and haven't joined any of the Professional Learning Networks, here's how to do so:

Log in --> Connect --> Professional Learning Networks --> Join network(s) of interest
Read, learn, share, and grow!

ISTE Coaching Academy Series - Course 3 Reflection

We're not talking about this Norms ;)
As I mentioned in previous posts (ISTE Course 1 Reflections; Course 2 Reflections), I am working through the ISTE Coaching Academy to continue in my professional growth.  

I just finished working through the third course, entitled:"Coaching with a Norm for Effective Learning", focused on the ISTE Standards for Coaches 6.a-c, which state:

NETS-C Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth
a. Engage in continual learning to deepen content and pedagogical knowledge in technology integration and current and emerging technologies necessary to effectively implement the NETS·S and NETS·T
b. Engage in continuous learning to deepen professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions in organizational change and leadership, project management, and adult learning to improve professional practice
c. Regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology-enhanced learning experiences

Traits of Effective Learning

We were asked to list out what skills & competencies our students need to be successful in college and their careers. These were the six I came up with:

  • Ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing
  • Ability to collaborate with their peers, including those at different levels of learning / understanding
  • Ability to creatively approach and solve problems
  • Ability to analyze, synthesize, and draw conclusions from all types of text, including writing, images, and videos.
  • Ability to use technology to communicate their understanding of the material
  • Ability to be flexible and learn new ways of approaching problems

In order to develop these skills, teachers must develop the following types of activities:

  • Activities that allow them to communicate with others in multiple mediums (orally, in writing)
  • Activities that give them the opportunity to share ideas as well as construct ideas with their peers
  • Activities that allow for multiple approaches to a problem, and celebrate diversity in approaches
  • Activities that require them to not just regurgitate information (provide a narrative), but actually analyze, make inferences, etc

What would you add to this list? Is there anything you would change or reword? Please comment.

Research and Reading

We were given several articles to read and dissect.  Here are my notes and some thoughts / analysis.

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School, an online book edited by Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (National Academy Press, 2000).
  • There are four attributes of learning environments we must continue to work on building:
    • Learner-centered schools and classrooms; provide students with "just manageable" difficulties - those that are challenging enough to engage them but not so difficult that they give up, discouraged.
    • Knowledge-centered classroom environment; attention given to what is taught, why it is taught, and what mastery looks like.
      • *Learning with understanding takes more time!! We must provide depth and assess student understanding. How true is this, and right with where Common Core is trying to guide us! Having students explore, discover, create, inquire... those will all take more time than a teacher standing up front delivering instruction to students. But, is "learning" really happening in that second situation? For some, yes... but for many, no. "Teaching" just happened... but "learning" did not.
      • *Engagement is not (and cannot be!) the primary index of successful teaching. Oh yes... it's easy to look for engaged and excited students who seem involved in the learning. But it can't just be about that. If the engagement and excitement leads to learning - that's what we are looking for.
    • Formative assessments are essential; purpose is to make students' thinking visible to both students and teachers
      • They must drive instruction! They must be an "indicator of where instruction or inquiry should focus"! There is no point in formatively assessing students, whether it be formally (i.e. quiz) or informally (i.e. conversation, observation), if there is no change in instruction based on the results. One of the purposes of formative assessment is to help teachers identify the problems that need remediation. You are wasting your time (and the students' time) if you don't look at it in a timely manner and then move in a direction based on the results.
      • They should give students opportunities to revise / improve their thinking; allow students to see their progress over time. I have always been a fan of retakes and redos... what I am struggling with is finding ways to bring the "one shot only" fans on board with giving students multiple opportunities to show their learning and their growth in learning.
    • Community-centered approach - work on building a community of learners and promote "intellectual camaraderie". We want students working together, helping one another, building on one another's knowledge, asking questions... we want them comfortable with asking questions rather than feeling like they always need the answer. This also means we need to make connections to their outside world - they had a chart that showed in a year's time, they only spend 14% of their time in school... how is what they are learning there connected to the rest of their lives?
  • Fixed vs. Growth mindset - what do your students think of what it means to be intelligent? Are they willing to risk making mistakes in class? Are they focused on their learning or just their performance?
  • “The romanticized view of technology is that its mere presence in schools will enhance student learning and achievement”... it does have great potential to enhance student achievement and teacher learning, but only if it is used appropriately! This ties in a lot with Course 2 - it's about the learning goals, not just about the cool tech. I have really been working on my phrasing and focus in terms of meeting learning goals when I meet with my teachers. There are two sides of the benefits of technology use. It can make things more efficient, which is what a lot of teachers are looking for. The only problem I've run into is that sometimes before it becomes more efficient, it is more work because there is a learning curve with any new technology. If teachers are just looking for efficiency, then we really aren't talking about enhancing the learning environment for students. Technology can also make things more effective. That's where I think we need to focus. How can teaching and learning be made more effective (in meeting the learning goals) with the use of technology? That is when student learning and achievement with be enhanced.
  • Some examples of what new technology provides opportunities for:
    • Extending the possibilities of the "old tech" - books, chalkboards, radio/tv
    • Creating interactive environments - students learn by doing, students can receive immediate feedback that leads to them refining their understanding and building new knowledge
    • Visualizing difficult concepts - for math, I always think of Desmos and Geogebra for this. I know for other subjects there are a ton more out there.
    • Access to unending information - research is so different than it was a decade ago!
    • Increased connections between schools & home - think of all the information we can put online for parents to access, whether it be curriculum, projects, grades, etc - all things that keep them more involved and engaged with their students' learning.

Investing in Technology: The Learning Return

  • Big Question: "How and under what circumstances does technology make a difference in student learning?"
  • Technology is a means, not an end... it's a tool for achieving learning goals, not a goal in itself
  • Technology can help transform education because it helps to redefine the roles of student and teacher. Teacher is coach and collaborator rather than dispenser of knowledge.
  • Key lessons learned in this research:
    • Technology is best used as one component in a broad-based reform effort
    • Teachers must be adequately trained to use technology
      • *Lack of training is a significant barrier to success!!
      • Teachers need familiarity with equipment, but they also need to see and practice how to use it to support learning.
      • Teachers need time to explore, reflect, collaborate, and engage in hands-on learning
      • "Experts suggest a 30/70 rule: Spend 30 percent of the technology budget on equipment and 70 percent on the supportive “human infrastructure.”  By contrast, most school districts spend less than 10 percent on training."
    • Teachers may need to change their beliefs about teaching and learning
      • Promotes student collaboration, inquiry, problem solving, interactive learning - NOT lecture, seat work, etc
      • **This transition requires a lot of time and effort!
      • "Research shows that  providing teachers with a vision of what’s possible — via opportunities to spend time in technology-rich classrooms and observe for themselves the impact on teaching and learning — can strongly bolster their motivation to take on the challenge themselves." We need to spend time visiting each other's classrooms, sharing ideas, and seeing different tools put into practice.
    • Technology should be integrated into the curricular and instructional framework
      • Not an add-on, but an everyday tool.

My Six Key Takeaways:
  • Focus on the classroom and learning. Rethink the roles of student and teacher. Teacher must be coach/collaborator, not the dispenser of knowledge.
  • Look beyond "were they engaged" and focus on "did the technology help us meet the learning objectives?" and "did the students deepen their understanding because of the technology?"
  • Use technology to continually gather formative assessment data that then drives instruction and changes the way you approach the next day in class!
  • Technology is not a magic bullet that is always going to enhance student learning/achievement - it all depends on how it is being used!
  • Technology is not a goal in itself, it's a tool to help us achieve and support our goals.
  • We must adequately train the teachers to use the technology. This is not just familiarity with equipment but also seeing how it can be used effectively and then practicing how it can be used effectively!

Effective Lesson Norms

  • This lesson brought up the idea of having the teachers we work with develop a common definition of effective lesson design, which they referred to as a "norm for effective learning". The official definition is: "An explicitly agreed upon description or definition of the characteristics of learning they want to see used in their classrooms"
  • I have not done this with my fellows but I thought it was a really good idea. It helps to get us on the same page in terms of instructional goals and really helps them to think critically about what type of teaching and learning they expect to see in their classes or they hope to see over time in their classes.
  • The four aspects of the Effective Learning Norm we explored in this lesson were:
    • Is it a standards based task? Does it help students to gain or improve specific knowledge or skills (content)? Does it help students gain or improve problem solving, critical thinking, communication, or collaboration?
    • Is it an engaging task? Is it hands-on? Does it involve students creating something? Does the topic encourage creativity? Are there ways to make the topic fun or fascinating?
    • Is it a problem-based task? Do students have to use logic and creative thinking? Can they relate this to a real-life aspect? Do they have to persuade or convince somebody?
    • Is this task enhanced by technology? Does technology help gives students access to information or points of view not available without the tech? Are students able to share ideas and collaborate with those not necessarily in the room?

Communication Skills (see similar/previous learning from my "Coaching Training Brain Dump" in the "Toolbox" section)

  • Communication skills to continue to improve as I grow as a coach:
    • Active Listening: Focus on my fellow, block out competing thoughts, lean forward/nod to show involvement
    • Paraphrasing: restate what was said, check for understanding, helps to indicate acceptance and encouragement
    • Clarifying Questions - helps lead to a clearer picture or understanding; used to gather information
    • Probing Questions: thought-provoking and encourage deeper thinking; open-ended
As I reflect on these communication skills, I can really see my growth in using some of these strategies. I can reflect on each of my meetings and see when there was time for paraphrasing, clarifying questions, and probing questions. I feel like I have grown in my confidence of asking probing questions, although that is still an area I want to focus on.

See all of my ISTE Coaching Academy Course Reflections here:
Course 1 Reflections 
Course 2 Reflections,
Course 3 Reflections
Course 4 Reflections

Course 5 Reflections

Course 6 Reflections

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What is a Coach?

In previous posts, I have described the role of a "coach" by using the analogy of when I coached JV Girls' Basketball at my previous school.  I saw a coach as someone who constantly encouraged the players towards improvement, modeled and guided skills that would help them be successful in the game, and pushed their players to strive for improvement and greatness (even when they didn't believe in themselves).


In my post from July (before I had even started this role), I wrote this:

Being a "coach" takes me back to my actual coaching days, when I was the girls JV basketball coach at my high school for 3 years.  My job as a coach was to work with and support my players in furthering their skills both as individuals and as a team... to take them from where they were and model for them, provide them opportunities for practice, and celebrate their successes as they improved and saw growth.  My players were all at different levels when they came to me, and it was important to meet each player at their level and build them from that point - not expect them to all start as high-caliber players, but knowing and believing that each of them could get to that point with hard work, dedication, and desire.  It was also about building a collaborative team environment, where my players trusted each other, pushed each other, encouraged one another, and wanted each other to be successful.  Good coaching was also about building relationships and trust - my players knowing that I asked a lot of them and always pushed them to be better, but that I was always 100% supportive of them and there for them in whatever ways they needed.

Now that I am knee deep into being a Digital Learning Coach, I still think those are roles I play.  I constantly encourage my teachers to improve and look at things differently and try new approaches... I model and guide them through learning skills that will help them be successful with integrating technology... I push them to strive for improvement and greatness, even if sometimes I'm pushing them out of their comfort zone (this last part definitely requires a relationship with deep trust built - I'm only to this point with a few of my teachers so far this year).


As I was working through my ISTE Coaching Academy tonight, I started exploring the Ed Tech Coaches Discussion Board on ISTE (highly recommend if you are an ISTE member - log in, click on "connect" and find the communities you want to participate in).

One of the threads led me to this article, titled "What is Differentiated Coaching" by Jane Kise. (Funny enough, I just ordered her book called Differentiated Coaching: A Framework for Helping Teachers Change, which just came in the mail 2 days ago. I'm excited to read it.)

The article described a coach as:

Coach: A vehicle for taking valuable people from where they are to where they wish to be

I had never thought of it that way.  I am working with very valuable people, and helping them journey from where they are to where they wish to be.  I like that. :)

How does this "new" description of a coach settle in your mind?  Have you heard of any other analogies for the role of a "Tech Coach" in terms of how "coach" is used in other contexts?  I'd love to hear in the comments...

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