Tuesday, December 16, 2014

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

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