Monday, July 28, 2014

Building trust

Trust and rapport were discussed during the 3 days of the cognitive coaching course that I did over the summer, and now returning to Mumbai I am picking up again in The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar and the chapter I read today is also about trust.   Aguilar refers to building trust as an ongoing process that can take many months.  When you start coaching it's important to gain trust in order to have the coachee become excited about the relationship and what coaching can offer.  It's interesting to note that distrust is not actually an absence of trust, but involves more active negative expectations - distrust can be part of a school culture and even historic negative experiences can contribute to a distrusting institutional memory.

Although coaching books and courses often offer a framework and tools for coaching, what is really essential is emotional intelligence (a book I'm about to start this week is Daniel Goleman's Working with Emotional Intelligence).  In her book, Aguilar outlines 10 steps to building trust:

  1. Plan and prepare:  as a coach you will be more confident when you are well prepared and the coachee will be looking for indicators of the competence, credibility, integrity and character of the coach in order to develop the relationship.
  2. Be cautious about gathering background information:  what you hear before you start coaching can influence your feelings about the coachee and it is essential that you go into the first meeting with as many positive feelings as possible.  Aguilar argues against gathering information in advance as the coachee is the expert on what s/he wants to work on and may be feeling vulnerable.  If you have as little information as possible beforehand, this will prompt you to be more completely focused on the coachee and to be authentically curious about where s/he wants to develop.
  3. Establish and maintain confidentiality:  it's good to discuss this during the first meeting or even beforehand in an email.  While administrators may need to know who the coach is working with and what topics and tasks are being worked on, information shared by the coach should be non-evaluatory.
  4. Listen deeply and with acceptance: to truly understand where the coachee is coming from and where s/he wants to improve.  In the cognitive coaching course active listening involved us paraphrasing what the coachee said to check our own understanding and to let the coachee know that s/he has been heard.
  5. Ask questions:  with the aim of shifting perspective, deepening learning, changing actions and transforming practice.  Clarifying questions are often an invitation for coachees to go deeper into their thinking and can promote powerful reflections.
  6. Connect:  rapport was another area we worked on during the coaching course.  Being able to connect is vital.
  7. Validate:  uncover a coachee's strengths and validate what they do.  Echoing what you have seen and heard shows you are listening carefully and recognizing both the triumphs and struggles the coachee is experiencing - the metaphor given by Aguilar here is a good one.  A coach holds up a mirror to teachers to help them see their strengths reflecting back.  The eventual aim of coaching is to have the client hold up the mirror himself.
  8. Be open about what you do:  make sure there is not a hidden agenda.
  9. Ask for permission to coach:  the coachee should be in control of the process.
  10. Keep commitments - so be careful not to take on too many requests for help.
Are you a coach?  Do you agree with this list?  What would you leave out and what would you add?

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Trust Matters!

One thing we talked about at length in the cognitive coaching course that I took at the start of the summer holidays was trust.  Over and above the fact that trust is absolutely essential in any coaching relationship, we talked about how trust is important throughout a school and that it is everyone's job to develop a climate of trust.  Trust is important in the relationship of us as professionals with parents, in the relationship between teachers and the principal, in the relations teachers have with each other and in the relations teachers have with students.  What I found interesting however is that different sorts of trust are important in each of these relationships.

There are 3 different types of trust in schools:
  • organic trust - which was defined as felt value
  • contractual trust
  • relational trust - what our expectations are of others, and what responsibility we have to others.  Relational trust is founded on our beliefs and our observation of others' behavior.
While I feel there are positive relations built on trust in my current school, I used to work in a place where this was not the case and where fear, mistrust and suspicion were rife.  Even though relations between teachers and students and their families were positive, a lack of trust among the faculty still damages learning for children.  How do we go about judging trustworthiness in schools?   Bill and Ochan Powell discussed how this has 4 main aspects:
  • mutual respect - which can be evidenced by genuine listening
  • competence - the capacity to make learning successful for students
  • personal regard - going beyond our contractual responsibilities
  • integrity - walking the talk
Now here is the interesting thing:  Bill and Ochan explained the importance of a leader giving a window into who s/he is in order for trust to develop, but in addition talked about how we look for different things in a leader when deciding whether he or she is trustworthy (competence, consistency and integrity) than when we decide on the trustworthiness of our teaching colleagues.  When asked about trust among teachers, competency was actually seen as being the least important!  Perhaps this is because many teachers work in isolation, so the competence of a colleague in a different grade or subject has little bearing on their own regard for that colleague?

As far as teachers are concerned, studies by Tschannen-Moran have indicated there are 5 facets of trust that are important to teachers.  In order of importance these are:
  1. Benevolence: caring, goodwill, positive interactions, supporting teachers, expressing appreciation for effort, being fair and guarding confidential information
  2. Honesty: integrity, telling the truth, keeping promises, honoring agreements, being authentic, accepting responsibility, avoiding manipulation, being real
  3. Openness:  communicating openly, sharing information, delegating, shared decision making, sharing power
  4. Reliability:  consistency, being dependable, showing commitment, being dedicated and diligent
  5. Competence:  setting an example, problem solving, conflict resolution, working hard, setting standards, being flexible, handling difficult situations

A school that values trust will be one that is most likely to function as a professional learning community.  In such a school, the school culture will be one that fosters cooperation, collaboration and caring.  

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Creatical Thinking

The word "creatical" is a new one for me.  I read it today in an article written by Jason Ohler:

A blend of critical and creative thinking in a single integrated approach to problem finding and solving that emphasizes students' ability to not only think critical about other people's ideas, but also to produce new, creative ideas of their own.
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Design Thinking meets TPACK

I've been thinking about the part our new tech integration coaches will play next year in converting traditional classroom activities into high tech lesson plans.  In my last post I focused on the importance of starting with the pedagogy to make sure that it's the learning and not the technology that becomes the objective of the lessons.  The PYP is used as a curriculum framework in ASB's elementary school and  at the heart of the PYP is teachers planning collaboratively to design learning engagements for their students.  In a recent article in Learning and Leading with Technology Mark Hofer writes that "perhaps the most fundamental and persistent obstacle to effective tech integration is the complexity of knowledge it requires … it's not enough to simply find and learn how to use an interesting tool or resource.  [Teachers] must also determine the right fit between the tool, the curriculum, and the learning activity.  This kind of integrated knowledge is called technological, pedagogical and content knowledge (TPACK)"

I've been thinking about TPACK and the collaborative design of curriculum as evidenced in the PYP, and I'm wondering about how we can use TPACK to redesign some of the units of inquiry for next year.  Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler, who developed the TPACK framework, refer to teachers developing their knowledge of all aspects of the TPACK model through "learning by design".  They describe how "teachers can collaboratively design a solution to an instructional challenge then put the solution to the test in the classroom, reflecting on and modifying it based on their experience".  While this sounds similar to the iterating and prototyping parts of design thinking, it also fits well into the planning of PYP units, where reflecting back on the student learning is an important part of the process.

In addition, teachers will need to develop their technological knowledge.  Our new tech integration coaches can help them as they learn how to use new technologies that can be used in the redesigned units of inquiry.  One important thing that I discovered this year is how important it is to create using the same tools that our students use.  During the last year I was able to do an Applied Storytelling course through ASB's Online Academy, which resulted in me making a short video to tell a story of my own.  This definitely gave me a lot of insight into what students go through as they write a script and search for the most appropriate media to combine into a multimedia presentation.  Teachers who try this out themselves first, will certainly come to have more understanding of how to pace the students' projects as well as how to troubleshoot any problems they may encounter, and at the same time will be developing what is often the weakest of the three areas of TPACK knowledge.   As we design some training for our new tech integration coaches, it seems to me that a knowledge of the TPACK framework is definitely going to be useful.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ICT in the PYP and the ISTE Standards for Coaches

Way back in 2010 I was lucky enough to participate in curriculum writing for the IBO which resulted in a document entitled The Role of ICT in the PYP.  At that time we identified 6 main areas where we felt IT could be used to enhance the PYP:
  • Investigating
  • Organizing information
  • Communicating
  • Collaborating
  • Creating
  • Becoming responsible digital citizens
As I'm looking forward to starting work with our new tech integration coaches in the upcoming school year,  I've been considering these areas alongside the ISTE standards for coaches.  Clearly the job of a tech coach goes way beyond just integrating technology - which could even involve doing the same things as before but just using a computer.  Often this approach will lead to a focus on using technology to find, record and regurgitate facts.  Going beyond technology as a substitute involves using it to go beyond the facts to create new knowledge, and for our new tech coaches the place where they will need to start is with the pedagogy.

Looking at the ISTE standards for coaching, it is clear that the focus is definitely on teaching and learning.  At the recent ISTE conference I attended many sessions on coaching, but several of these involved the sharing of tech tools.  Years ago at a different school I tried this approach too.  I ran various sessions such as Techie Breakies and after school sessions, but reflecting on these now many of these were "just in case" sessions.  I did introduce new tools such as Blogger and Twitter, and I hoped that teachers would use these both for their own professional growth and also that they would make a connection with what students could do in class, but thinking back I feel that I didn't really help teachers to connect these new technologies with the goals that they already had for student learning.  Five years on, I'm hoping our new tech coaches will take a different approach.

One great session that I did attend at ISTE was by Les Foltos who wrote about coaching in a recent volume of ISTE's Learning and Leading with Technology magazine.  Les writes:
Effective coaches seek a purposeful and immediate link between the goals of an activity and the new technology .... coaches can help teachers first define the tasks they want students to perform, such as communication and collaboration and then use that as the starting point for identifying and using the tech tools that best meet those requirements.
So let's have a look at the areas defined by the ICT in the PYP document, alongside the ISTE coaching standards and see how the two can mesh.  Les Foltos asks several questions that can help us when looking at the PYP's inquiry cycle:

Investigate:  Do students need to gather information to draw conclusions and create knowledge?  Possible tools that tech coaches may like to share could be online survey tools such as Google Forms.

Organize:  Could the task be designed so as to require students to organize, analyze and synthesize the information they have gathered?  Possible tools for this could include wikis, websites such as Google Sites, and various social bookmarking and annotating tools.

Communicate:  Could the activity be designed so as to encourage students to communicate with peers, to gather ideas or suggestions for solutions?  There are teachers around the world who may be designing similar projects and who may welcome the chance to have their students discuss this together.

Collaborate:  Could the task  be designed in order that students can collaborate with others (locally or globally) to solve real-world problems or to get feedback on their solutions?  In this case Skyping with an outside expert could be something suggested by our tech coaches.

Create:  Can summative assessments be designed so that students are able to present their understanding in creative ways and to share their ideas with authentic audiences?  Tech coaches may be able to help teachers and their students to record videos and to create digital stories that can be published and shared with a wider audience.

What is clear to me from reading Les Foltos's article is that tech coaches need to focus on using technology for the tasks that teachers are already familiar with (gathering information, collaborating, presenting their ideas and so on).  What is also becoming clear is that helping teachers to design technology rich activities for students could be at the heart of this role.  My next blog post will consider design thinking and how this fits in with the TPACK model.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A new age of personal empowerment

Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez were visitors to ASB on a number of occasions last year, running Maker sessions with parents and students.  I was interested to read his recent article about the Maker Movement in the May edition of Learning and Leading with Technology.  Gary and Sylvia write about how the rise of civilization was defined by the progress of technology, and claim that the availability of affordable constructive technology and the ability to share online has led to what they describe as a new age of personal empowerment.  New tools such as 3D printers and wearable technology are giving students the power to become inventors - and it's easy to find and share instructions and ideas online.

Makers construct knowledge, and in the classroom making encourages children to learn by doing.  Being able to overcome the problems they encounter on the way helps them develop the confidence to become competent problem solvers.  When I first started teaching back in the 1980s, all the students in my high schools were exposed to subjects such as woodwork, metalwork, cooking and needlework, as well as subjects such as art, music and drama.  At that time in the UK schools were known as "comprehensive" schools, the days of sorting students out into academic or vocational tracks had ended with the abolition of the 11+.  The woodwork and metalwork rooms contained power tools, which students became quite competent in using.  Gary and Sylvia argue that these skills need to come back into schools - but this time into the classrooms as opposed to specialist "fablabs".  They point to the failure of computer labs that students traditionally visited once a week, and instead advocate for every classroom to be a maker-space with materials that encourage students to learn by doing and so produce "adults who are capable of understanding and mastering their increasingly technological world",

From working first hand with Gary, it's clear that he believes that children are competent, even though he claims many schools do not.  He argues that a student who has the ability to Google anything has a different sense of himself or herself as a learner:  one where learning is an active and personal process.  I tend to agree with Gary, that this could be a new age of personal empowerment, but of course working against that possibility is the experience that many students have these days, in standardized and standards-based schools, which work against individuality, creativity and innovation.

This brings me back again to personalized learning:  the recognition that students learn differently and have diverse needs.  Last year I did an online course about personalized learning with Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey where the focus was on students being responsible for their own learning.  Other consultants I've worked with over the past year such as Suzie Boss and Bernajean Porter have constantly stressed the need for student voice and choice.  Personalized learning, therefore, gives students a voice in what they learn, how they learn and how they show their understanding.   Technology can play an important part in this:  delivering instruction, giving immediate feedback and allowing students to show their learning using numerous forms of media.

One of the things we talked about in an R&D meeting last year was what if education was not EC-12 but EC-Life?  Empowering students through personalized learning can be one way of giving students the skills they will need for lifelong learning.  Other things we talked about was rethinking physical schools and school groupings based on age.  If we truly empower students then students could be "done with school" (though obviously not with learning) at any age not just at 18, and for those who are wanting this, we could provide other opportunities such as internships, for those students who feel they need a different experience.  

Do you think we are in a new age of personal empowerment?  How are you empowering your students?  Drop me a comment, I'd love to hear.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Flipped Classroom -v- Flipped Learning

In preparation for my upcoming IB workshop on flipping the classroom, I've been reading everything I can about the benefits of the flip on student learning.  One of the best arguments in favor of making the flip has been an article that appeared in the May edition of ISTE's magazine Learning and Leading with Technology by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams.  I'm summarizing parts of this article here as I think it will provide a useful starting point for our workshop participants.

To start with Bergmann and Sams argue that the flipped classroom is not simply a new fad - teachers have always assigned reading to be done at home, followed by class periods discussing and developing the understanding of the ideas in the reading.  The flipped classroom using video or podcasts is simply an extension of this, so that the media is used as a pre-teaching tool that learners can build on in class (in other words teachers are using an old method but with a new tool that allows them to quickly create and distribute video content in a way that was not possible 10 years ago).

Bergmann and Sams argue that it is not the flipped classroom itself that is the goal, but that this is simply the path that leads to more powerful teaching and learning, which they refer to as flipped learning.  The flipped classroom is one way of getting teachers to flip learning as it moves direct instruction out of the "group learning space" (classroom) into the "individual learning space" (through teacher created videos that students can view individually).  This allows the group space to be "transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter."   Basically flipped learning means that class time is spent on richer and more meaningful learning experiences since direct instruction to a whole group is not the best use of class time, considering the variety of student learning styles.  With the flip, the classroom focus is more on learning (and less on teaching).

Bergmann and Sams write that introducing flipped learning is a first step that teachers can take towards a learning-centred classroom, that the flipped classroom is in fact a "gateway to flipped learning".  Flipping the classroom by itself doesn't change anything - a lecture in class or a lecture watched at home is still a lecture - therefore the goal of flipped learning for teachers is not simply to create and use video but to plan what is the best use of face to face class time once the direct instruction is moved to the individual space.  They argue there are 3 main elements:
  • Relationships:  students who have positive relationships with teachers do better on standardized tests and get better grades.  A better use of time than preparing for standardized tests can be spent connecting meaningfully with students instead, becoming mentors and coaches of students instead of simply being the content experts.  Part of this involves seeing each learner as an individual who needs specific nurturing and guidance.
  • Content:  In the flipped learning model students have the time to explore the things they are curious about when learning the key concepts and content that all students should know.  Flipped learning can allow students to inquire deeper into the content.  Many teachers spend a lot of time helping students to remember and understand, while less time has traditionally been spent on the higher order thinking skills of applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating.  Flipped learning can allow more class time to be spent on the higher levels of Blooms's Taxonomy.
  • Curiosity:  Flipped learning can enable students to take their learning further and explore their passions.  Once the lower order thinking skills have been shifted to the individual, then flipped learning gives educators the flexibility to provide time for students to explore their own interests (genius hour, golden time, curiosity projects, 20% time etc.).  Project-based learning can fit well at this point too.
The article also provides insight into how the ISTE standards support flipped learning.  At ASB all teachers have set personal goals based on the NETS-T Standard 2.  Specifically Standard 2 supports the flipped learning model in the following ways:
Standard 2C:  Customize and personalize learning activities to address students' diverse learning styles, working strategies and abilities using digital tools and resources.
Standard 2D:  Provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards and use resulting data to inform teaching and learning.

My work with the flipped classroom and flipped learning models over the past few months have given me new insight into how to personalize learning and have more student-centred classrooms.  Do you have experience of using the flipped classroom model?  I'd love to hear how are you using class time to flip learning.

Read the full article in Learning and Leading with Technology.

Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams have written a book, published by ISTE, entitled Flipped Learning:  Gateway to Student Engagement which can be pre-ordered here.

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