Monday, December 8, 2014

ISTE Coaching Academy Series - Course 2 Reflection
As I mentioned in a previous post (ISTE Course 1 Reflections), I am working through the ISTE Coaching Academy to continue in my professional growth.  

I just finished working through the second course, entitled: "Coaching to Link Learning and Technology", which was focused on the ISTE Standards for Coaches 3.f-g, which state (emphasis mine):

Digital Age Learning Environmentsf. Collaborate with teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning and are compatible with the school technology infrastructure
g. Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers, and the larger community

I have described my role as a Digital Learning Coach to others by saying that "I work with teachers to help them effectively integrate technology to improve and deepen student learning".  This course phrases the role of an Ed Tech Coach (in general) as one who helps teachers integrate technology to enhance learning.  Different adjectives, but I think they all go hand in hand.  I want technology to be used as a tool in the following ways:

  • to improve student learning (using video such as screencasts or OfficeMix to allow students to access content at their own pace, using Desmos to help students visualize the math, using formative assessment tools that give immediate feedback such as InfuseLearning, Socrative, or Kahoot to help guide instruction in order to support student growth and understanding, using reflective tools such as Google Forms and Padlet to help students think about their learning and share with others, using collaborative Google Docs so the teacher can be a part of the entire learning process and step in for support and guidance along the way, not just when the final product is submitted) 
  • to deepen student learning (using Desmos to help students make connections among concepts - especially when they are building and play with it themselves, not just watching a teacher use it, using digital discussions via Haiku, VersoApp, or other tools to give students time and space to express their thinking and critically evaluate their peers' thoughts, using strategies such as Peer Instruction - supported with technology in the answering phase - in order to get students explaining concepts to their peers)
  • to enhance student learning (using collaborative Google Docs/Slides/Drawings to allow for better communication among teacher and peers, using collaborative features of Diigo & Thinklink to allow students to construct knowledge both individually and with their peers, discussion strategies such as EdCafes that allow students to take ownership of the content and their learning and delve into topics that interest them related to the concepts being studied, using outside-the-class collaboration opportunities such as blogging with other classes and Skyping in relevant guests)

A few key points that were made at the beginning of the course:

  • We must work to always link technology to the curricular goals of the teacher we work with.  We can't begin with the technology ("I want to use this cool tool") and find ways to use it ("squeezing it in just to say we used technology")... we must begin with the learning goal and find technology that supports that learning goal!  This has really made me think about ways to approach coaching meetings.  It is very easy to get caught up in the "I want to use this tool" bandwagon.  Now, I think there are times that you stumble across a tool and realize it would be a perfect fit for something you already wanted to do.  I think it's an important distinction to make - are we changing our learning goals because we want to use a certain technology tool, or are we taking the learning goals we already had and finding a way to enhance it even further because of the use of the tech tool?
  • Two of the biggest issues teachers face is figuring out the purpose and value of integrating technology and then figuring out which tech tools to use since it seems to be changing so quickly.  There are a lot of teachers that are satisfied with the way things are and don't want to consider changing.  I have found that sometimes teachers don't even see the value in having students use collaborative documents or create representations / models of their learning using digital tools.  Using technology generally takes more class time that simply standing up front delivering notes and direct instruction, so teachers might see it as a "waste of time".  These are all discussions that are not resolved in one sitting.  It's really a mindset / philosophy shift that takes time, seeing it in action, and seeing the results.  Some are quicker to jump on board than others.  I was working with a teacher today who was using Desmos, and spent an entire period having her students explore and predict with polynomial graphs.  Could she have stood up front and delivered the "rules" for polynomial end behavior & turns?  Sure.  However, how valuable is it for students to struggle, to try and predict, to play with the functions and see what happens?  It takes more time, but the learning is so much deeper... the learning is truly enhanced.
  • In terms of the "tech toolbelt"... it's forever changing.  If you try to keep up with it, your pants simply won't stay up.  The tech toolbelt is supposed to HELP & SUPPORT the teaching / learning going on in your class... not drag it down.  It's easy to get swept away with the new cool tool, and while there is value in exploring and trying things out (you never know what you'll find), there is a limit and I think it's okay to find the few tools that work for your learning goals and just get really really good at using them to improve / deepen / enhance student learning.  Then, you can throw in a new tool every once in a while as you find one that matches the learning goals you had.  It will overwhelm you AND your students if you keep trying new things.
I asked my friends on Facebook and Twitter to answer a very brief survey for me about their technology use.  Out of the 36 responses, all but one said "yes" they use technology in their classroom.  As I read through most of the responses below, almost all of them will fit into the category of improving, deepening, or enhancing student learning.  Some definitely don't.  I'd love to hear in the comments which ones you feel fit into each of the categories (including those that don't).

WHY I USE TECHNOLOGY (survey responses):
  • to enhance engagement
  • to promote error analysis
  • to build connections
  • relevant to students' world
  • easier to work with in terms of showing student work
  • to make math more visual
  • to develop conceptual understanding
  • to make things easier
  • to do things impossible without technology
  • to help students get college and career ready
  • to research; to find and evaluate sources
  • to connect with classrooms outside of our own (and our school)
  • to allow for interactive learning
  • to allow students to access material in a different way
  • to help reinforce skills
  • to give instant feedback
  • to make learning fun
  • to increase student involvement
  • to show them responsible ways to use technology
  • to make content delivery faster
  • to allow students to work independently
  • to provide for multisensory learning
  • to provide more resources
  • to allow students to collaborate and create
  • to allow opportunities for differentiation
  • to keep classes consistent

A lot of these responses align with reasons we were given in the course.  Some of my "favorite" ways that technology enhances learning are:
  • Giving students and teachers more opportunities for feedback, reflection, and revision - including feedback from those outside the classroom!
  • Building a local & global community of learners; share ideas and collaborate with remote groups
  • Giving students access to primary documents & points of view not accessible without technology
  • Differentiated learning for different student needs
  • Foster student discovery of a concept or allow them to construct their own understanding

We were given the link to this blog post, which journeys through three stages of integrating technology.  I thought it was an interesting thought process and helped me to evaluate both my own teaching journey and those who I am working with.

The first stage stated that helping teachers to integrate technology into their current lessons (not changing anything, just basically substituting technology) would make the difference.

The second stage stated that finding technology tools to engage students and activate their way of thinking and learning into their current lessons (but still keeping the curriculum the same) would make the difference.

The third stage stated that it truly wasn't ever about the technology, but rather about the learning.  What will make the difference is focusing on good teaching & reflecting on student learning.  When technology supports that (helps to improve, deepen, and / or enhance it), then use it.  If not, then don't.  Adding technology to poor teaching just results in "expensive poor teaching" (quote from Conor Bolton, referenced in the blog post).  We must focus on good teaching strategies first!  When technology can help improve, deepen, or enhance those good teaching strategies, then use it.  If not, don't use it!

I find that many teachers think the transformation will happen in stage 1 and stage 2.  Stage 3 is not even in their vision.   They do not have the foresight right now to even think about actually changing the way they have always done things, and are looking for ways simply to make their life easier or to use technology as a "hip 21st century add-on".   I don't think it's necessarily bad to begin at that "baby" stage because a lot of teachers need to get some level of comfort with technology before they are ready to jump all in.

I will admit that it is scary for most teachers to step away from what they are comfortable with and try something new.  In my own classroom, I tended to be the "experimenter"... I think every year I was trying new ideas, new ways to assess students, new ways to present content, new ways to structure class - but I am definitely not the norm.  For most, it's frightening.  It's easier to be in control and to know exactly what you are going to teach on exactly what day - and exactly how you are going to teach it.  

This section really made me think about one of my roles as a coach - I do need to challenge and push their thinking, since many don't have the vision for what could be... I need to stretch them out of their comfort zone (with 100% support right now) and open the doors for a journey that they don't know exists.  For some, it's a journey they outrightly don't want to go on - but with baby steps, we can hold their hand and start them on the journey, and before they know it, they will look back and see just how far they've come.

We were asked to review the ISTE Standards for Students & ISTE Standards for Teachers (these links include my highlights - one of the benefits of using Diigo annotations!) and these probing questions came to mind:

When considering student learning within the lesson:

  • are they constructing their own knowledge?
  • are they exploring ideas with models?
  • are they locating but then also synthesizing, evaluating, and using information from a variety of sources and mediums?
  • are they interacting, collaborating, and publishing with peers?
  • are they engaging with learners of different cultures?

When considering the teacher's role:

  • are you promoting student reflection using collaborative tools?
  • are you modeling collaborative knowledge construction?
  • are you developing learning experiences that allow students to become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress?

In conclusion...

We must begin with the learning goals.

A teacher says, "I wish I had a way to really know if my students were getting it or not" - BOOM! Digital Formative Assessment tools like Socrative, Infuse Learning, Kahoot, Poll Everywhere (the list is endless)

A teacher says, "I'd like to see my students collaborating more with each other and sharing their ideas" - BOOM! Collaborative Google Docs/Drawings/Slides, teaching them how to add comments and work on a live document

A teacher says, "I'd like my students to be able to easily gather and annotate the information they need for their research" - BOOM! Diigo works amazing - and all of their links and annotations can be shared automatically with the teacher to monitor progress!

Ok, we could go on forever here. Want to continue the conversation? Add a "learning goal" as a comment (no need to be content specific) and then describe how a tech tool could help improve, deepen, or enhance that learning goal. That's my challenge to you... will you take it?

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

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