Brilliant video. I relate to every part of it.
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018
Day in and day out, dedicated teaches work tirelessly in individual classrooms ... More often than not their students represent a wide array of learning differences in terms of skills content knowledge, background experiences, interests, parental support, learning challenges, and self confidence. They come from a variety of cultures and consequently view and speak about the world differently .... Isolated in their classrooms, teachers often wonder, Did I use the best lesson strategy today to teach this standards? How would my colleague across the hall do it?Peer coaching seems to address the very same issues that I've been helping our coaches to address at ASB, in a model that I've called Coaching your Colleagues. Schools around the world are bombarded with the latest and greatest initiatives that promise to enhance learning and teaching. At the same time, teachers are facing new ways of evaluating their performance and the word "accountability" is one that is frequently heard.
In our PD 3.0 task force on R&D some years ago we looked at what new models of professional learning could look like. We felt that coaching was the way forward. As Robbins writes, "it fosters meaningful, personalized, professional growth opportunities for staff; increases the influence of exemplary teaching; and magnifies the collective propensity of schools to be able to provide responsive, high-quality learning experiences to ensure that every student succeeds".
Robbins' model is one where colleagues work together. In terms of Cognitive Coaching, most of these would not be classed as coaching, but instead as collaborating or consulting. However here is the list of what Robbins means by peer coaching. Colleagues:
- reflect upon and analyze teaching practices and their consequences
- develop and articulate curriculum
- create informal assessments to measure student learning
- implement new instructional strategies, including the integrated use of technology
- plan lessons collaboratively
- discuss student assessment data and plan for future learning experiences
- expand, refine and build new skills
- share ideas and resources
- teach one another
- conduct classroom research
- solve classroom problems or address workplace challenges
- examine and study student learning with the goal of improving professional practice to maximize student success.
Just like other forms of coaching, peer coaching has been seen to be effective in augmenting the availability of feedback to teachers, increasing their problem-solving capabilities, building capacity, planning instructional time, expanding the integration of technology, designing more challenging student work, and personalising professional learning. And just like other forms of coaching, trust has to be there at the start of the process. Robbins writes that a lack of trust is often the reason why coaching fails to change teacher practices. While many coaches have exceptional content knowledge, they are not taking the time to focus on building relationships and trust, and hence their impact is limited. In fact some teachers in these situations will remain skeptical of coaching and see it just as another form of teacher evaluation. She writes:
Peer Coaching activities change in form and structure as relationships among colleagues grow more trusting and comfortable .... if trust is just beginning to develop, staff members may initially prefer to work collegially ... Next as trust develops professional colleagues may draw from these prior learning experiences and create lessons together ... Finally teachers may form pairs or trios so that one teacher can teach the lesson they helped develop, while the others observe. Following the lesson, the teacher and observers may reflect and analyze what led to desirable student performance and what they might do differently.The Peer Coaching model, therefore is made up of two distinct parts:
- Collaborative work to increase the capacity of teachers to promote learning
- Formal coaching that includes a pre-conference, an observation and a post-conference.
I can't stress strongly enough how coaching needs to be totally separate from evaluation. Principals need to be absolutely clear about that - it is possible for a school principal to coach, but he or she needs to be crystal clear about which role they are in. And for coaching to be supported in a school, a principal needs to go further than just lip-service. He or she needs to be substituting for teachers so that they can coach their peers, coordinating schedules for coaching interactions, and sharing research about coaching.
At ASB we have seen our tech coaches as being leaders - and we have tried to distribute the leadership by ensuring that teachers don't take on too much - for example not being a team leader as well as a coach. Having coaches within the teams that they are already working in does remove the stigma of supervision and evaluation from the process, and contributes more to teams seeing themselves as communities of learners.
Friday, June 29, 2018
- What if wearables and augmented reality could help learners navigate extended learning opportunities by connecting with mentors and coaches wherever and whenever they were needed? For example students could use wearable devices to connect with educators when they need support, such as difficult homework assignments.
- What if educators could help address resource gaps by using augmented and virtual reality technologies to apply a digital layer atop unused community spaces? The proposal is that such spaces such as shopping centres and public buildings could be turned into high-quality learning experiences that all could access.
- What if students could practice key social-emotional and metacognitive skills in safe virtual environments, aided by digital depth technologies? Schools could use technologies to enable students to practice, develop and reflect on these skills in safe environments.
- What if digital depth technologies could be leveraged to create immersive narratives enabling education decision-makers to “walk in the shoes of others” in order to increase empathy for the students and families whom their decisions affect? Well designed immersive experiences may increase opportunities for empathy and perspective-building among administrators and policy makers, leading to more compassionate, equitable policies that can help support increasingly diverse student communities.
- What if augmented reality supported students in overlaying their perspectives on social justice issues atop their own neighbourhoods? Three-dimensional overlays of text, images, and video embellish neighbourhood places and people into a living history book that supports present-day social justice actions.
The conclusion of this report highlights that digital technologies do have the potential to create environments that respond to and support core social-emotional skills and cognitive and metacognitive capacities, to develop practices and behaviours such as empathy, perspective taking, critical thinking, and self-awareness that will support their personal, academic, and professional lives. However, for education to make full use of digital depth technologies, careful consideration should be paid to how wearables, AR, and VR are used. In particular consideration needs to be made of equitable access, and of teacher professional development including exposure, time, and training in order to develop an understanding of how best to employ these technologies, including how to assess how these technologies might support learning outcomes and assessments. Other issues that schools will face are those around privacy and ownership of data. Safety considerations are also important and teachers must ensure that these technologies are used in developmentally appropriate ways. There are already studies showing that exposing students to potentially violent or harmful situations using VR may be damaging to healthy brain development and can lead to anti-social behaviours. One of the downsides is that cyber-bullying and other forms of abuse could also take on new and more extreme forms.
A warning is also given to avoid using new technology in old ways such as "the creation of canned experiences that represent simply the next iteration of mass-marketed curriculum. Such powerful technologies can and should be utilized by educators to create responsive learning environments that optimize learning, not as a means of making education more efficient".
Are these new technologies a bridge or a barrier to learning? What do you think?
Sunday, June 3, 2018
Even though I will not be at ASB next year, I was delighted to get a copy of the summer read Peer Coaching by Pam Robbins. So far I've read the introduction and this post is a reflection on my reading so far.
Pam writes that teachers often operate in isolation. They feel uncertain and overwhelmed by all they have to do: the curriculum, assessment, grading, new initiatives and so on. Interestingly enough she writes that technology has increased this sense of isolation as we don't take our questions to our colleagues - we just Google them - and we often send a text or email instead of talking face-to-face. As a result we tend to converse less about our practice and our students.
I'm not familiar with the "peer coaching" model so was interested to read that it covers both collaborative work and formal coaching. When a school's culture is one of isolation, then teachers are often not comfortable sharing publicly about what they are doing. Collaboration offers a way of working together without the anxiety of classroom observation. If schools support coaching (and that includes making the time for it to happen), then colleagues can engage in pre-conference, a classroom observation of a lesson, and a post-conference focused on the teaching practices that enhance student learning. This sounds very similar to the cycle of planning and reflecting conversations in the Cognitive Coaching model.
Research shows that where teachers collaborate, academic achievement is four times more likely to improve than in schools where teachers work in isolation. In addition peer coaching promotes learning-focused cultures, teacher leadership, more understanding of the curriculum and the promotion of good practices across schools. In this model technology can enhance coaching, as you can video yourself teaching as well as observe videos of other teachers, leading to more questioning and gaining more insight into how to explain complex ideas to students.
As more and more teachers are using technology to flip their classroom, peer coaching is also a great tool to use to compare and contrast this practice with others. Tech tools such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook groups, Instagram, Skype and so on can also enable teachers to engage in dialogue about instructional practices and their impact on student learning.
The important thing about coaching is that it is non-evaluative. It's a really super way of differentiating professional learning, and it's job-embedded. In my own experience of coaching, I've experienced enriched interactions between my colleagues, and meaningful personalised professional growth for those who have engaged in it.
I'm excited to have a new goal for the month of July, in particular because I feel that writing a book will keep me current with new forms of professional learning for teachers, and it will be a great way of keeping connected with some of my excellent friends and colleagues in my PLN. I think it will be challenging for me to work from home - certainly it will be more isolated than working in a school. I'm moving away from my vibrant PLC and know I need to put a lot more effort into the network of educators I've built up around the world.
It's time to start a new chapter.
Sunday, May 27, 2018
During the week I was reading a BBC report about league tables and how these are unfair to schools in white working-class areas. It states that white working-class boys have the lowest rates of university entry of any group in the UK. Some time ago I was reading in the Guardian about Jaywick, a coastal town in Essex, being the most deprived English neighbourhood, and incidentally the first place in the UK to elect a UKIP MP (I'm sure there's a connection). The deprived areas of the UK are no longer inner-cities - they are the rural and coastal areas.
As students move from primary to secondary, the impact of deprivation grows. Less well-educated parents are less able to help with homework, and many are not supportive of schools, having had a negative experience with schools themselves. Gaps in vocabulary are also more obvious at a secondary level, and families are less interested in looking into options for university. The situation may get worse when Ofsted intervenes, school leaders lose their jobs and it becomes even harder to recruit teachers to these schools.
Now clearly, living in India, there is no comparison at all between levels of poverty in our inner-city slums and white working-class areas of the UK. But talking to some of our NGOs who work in these slum schools, perhaps there is something that can be learned. For example, there is no inevitable link between poverty and low achievement in school. It's much more to do with low aspirations and negative attitudes towards education. Perhaps in India there are actually more aspirations - there are a huge number of service jobs here and Indians themselves are very industrious, with people setting up small businesses on every pavement that serve their local community (shoe repair, sewing, tea making, snacks etc). Perhaps that's the secret - the community. As mentioned in a previous post I lived and worked in a mining community in Yorkshire for 6 years - and it really was a community in my first years there. There was a Working Men's Club where people could go to socialise, evening classes at the local school, a church that arranged social events, and so on. The local pit, where most of the men worked, was a community in its own right. In many parts of the "industrial heartland" of the UK this can no longer be said. Today many working-class families are living on low wages and with uncertain employment. They are suffering from debt and insecurity. Families are under pressure and the children have little hope of a better life. Even at the height of the miners' strike, you could feel the sense of community and purpose. My hunch is that sense is no longer there in these areas.
Obviously there is no quick fix - but there does need to be a solution if these areas are not to become even further deprived. The inner-cities have done it. What would it take to turn the rural and coastal areas around now? All I can think of is that education, and in particular giving students the skills they will need for their future, are vital if we are to move forward and give all children the ability to pursue their dreams.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
I've been thinking about news recently as a couple of days ago I was asked to develop a workshop on information literacy. There is so much "fake news" at the moment that I've been asking myself what it's important to teach students so that they become more critical about what they read. I've also been listening to the podcast Note to Self, which did a recent episode about bots, in particular on Twitter, which are insidious, being aimed to promote fake news and sow chaos.
I also read a great article this morning by Dr Alec Couros and Katia Hilderbrandt from the University of Regina about the critical literacies we should be developing in our students at a time when the boundaries between real and fake news seem blurred and uncertain. They point out that fake news is often generated using social media in order to increase web traffic and ad revenue, and also to discredit a public figure. For example there have been numerous stories about the role of the Russians in the recent US elections as well as the Brexit campaign. In fact today anyone can publish anything, real or fake, very easily, especially as we now have the ability to change people's facial images and voices on video to spread fake messages and trick people. How do we teach students to validate information in this new digital age?
A couple of days ago I was talking to our iCommons Coordinator at school about checklists for evaluating information. She talked about how she teaches students to use CRAPP (which she refers to as CAARP), but how useful are such tools when we are dealing with an avalanche of information, when fake news is becoming increasingly more sophisticated, where authorship and origin can be falsified, and where world leaders themselves are spreading the falsehoods online?
Dr Couros and Katia Hilderbrandt have 3 strategies for dealing with the deluge of fake news which I'm summarising below and thinking about how we can teach these to elementary school students:
- Develop and employ investigative techniques. They suggest knowing about and using sites such as Snopes that will help identify accuracy. I love their suggestion, which I've also used with students, about using Google reverse image search to check whether images have been altered. We do ask students to look critically at websites, but studies show that people are still hugely influenced by false elements of websites such as logos and domain names. In fact the best way to check is to look outside the site itself to see what other sites are linking to it. Finally it's important for students to understand what bias is. We are currently teaching this to our Grade 4 students, however for older students the site Checkology is great for helping students to identify what is news, opinion, entertainment, advertising, publicity and propaganda.
- Use rich examples. For many years we have taught our upper elementary students how fake websites can look real. We've used Dog Island and the Tree Octopus among others. Couros and Hilderbrandt write that it's also important we use fresh and authentic examples in class, for example things that students might encounter in the news.
- Nurture a critical disposition. Often students (and adults) believe everything they see, hear and read, so in schools we need more focus on approaches to learning such as critical thinking and questioning.
The article, which I really recommend you read, contains an interesting graphic about where popular media fits in a scale of fact to fabricated information. Even with reliable sources that do report facts and news, such as the BBC, New York Times, Time magazine, The Economist and so on, there are still biases, with some skewing more liberal and others more conservative. I was interested to see that CNN is seen as media that moves between a fair and an unfair interpretation of the news, being full of opinion, giving selective or incomplete stories and at times unfair persuasion. Other media such as the Daily Mail and Fox News and not simply skewed, but also often give unfair representations of the news and contain propaganda and misleading information (Fox also includes inaccurate and fabricated information).
So back to my dilemma. In searching for information about the progress of my son on the PCT I've come across many blog and vlog posts, as well as other stories about hikers who have gone missing from the trail. I've been trying to put all of these into perspective. For example, yes, someone was mauled to death by a mountain lion on a forest trail a few days ago, however it has only been the second fatal attack by a mountain lion in Washington state in the past 94 years. Really, cycling to work in London every day, was more risky for Joal.
If you want to know more about Joal and Jenny's walk on the PCT, you can follow their blog JWalking.
Photo credit: Personal photo of their first 100 miles of the hike.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Although it seemed that this initiative was likely to bring about a huge leap into the digital age, the reality was not so positive. Looking back, it's clear to see that what went wrong was that teachers were not well trained on how to use the tablets: in fact the school district had simply purchased a lot of expensive new technology without any clear plan for how to use it. I've written about this a lot before on this blog. Training teachers and giving them time to use the tools themselves is vital for success - the focus of the roll out has to be preparing teachers to use the new technology and supporting them through implementation.
There's a happy end to this story however. Two years ago, the district adopted the new ISTE Standards for Students where the focus has been on competencies for students to be successful in a digital world. ISTE's CEO Richard Culatta writes, "The standards provide a pathway to create global citizens who will live in a world where all their work, much of their civic engagement and a huge part of their personal experiences are going to happen in digital spaces."
So the secret to student success is teacher success! If teachers are not using technology successfully, how will they help students to be prepared for today's digital world? It's also worth considering the advice given in the infographic below. Successful teachers start with the WHY rather than just jumping onboard with the "latest and greatest" new tools, they embrace change and they share their learning with others. There are a huge amount of educators who will be happy to help and give advice if you reach out. Supporting teachers to be comfortable with using technology themselves is one effective way to help bridge the attainment gap.