Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back to the Future

In my first year at ASB I was part of a critical friends group.  One of the activities we did was a future protocol where we looked into the future and talked about what it would look like in the best case scenario.  The protocol also gave an insight into what it would take to be successful.  In this protocol the various members of the group projected into the future and described what it looked like. The interesting thing was that they had to talk in the present tense in order to describe what "is". From that future position, we also had to look back and describe how it looked when we started moving towards that point.  At that point we had to talk in the past tense and to think about the issues, culture, conversations and so on at the starting point.  Looking back from the "projected present" we had to discuss how we moved from the starting point to the projected present.  At this point we could discuss how, when, who and so on.

In the book Technology Together, Renata Phelps and Anne Graham use a similar protocol when considering an IT vision.  They write about the importance of discussing what education might look like in the future because this sort of visioning process helps people to embrace change and to play a productive role in moving forwards towards the vision that they prefer.  In the Technology Together protocol there are 3 different kinds of futures:

  • Possible futures - by thinking creatively and imaginatively people can consider various future scenarios - both positive and negative.
  • Probable futures - this involves thinking logically and thinking about the connection between the current situation and the envisaged futures
  • Preferred futures - involve a choice between the alternative futures
Both these protocols when used with teachers can lead to valuable discussions and eventually a shared vision for change and ideas of how to make the change happen.

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Perceived Usefulness

As our tech coaches embark upon goal setting with their teachers,  one of the most important things I think they are going to be dealing with is the perceived usefulness of technology.  We've all heard the teacher who has been teaching the same way for many years and yet resists change because s/he claims to have excellent exam results.  Whether a teacher will want to change her/his use of technology will depend on a variety of things:
  • Feelings, attitudes and beliefs of what can be done
  • Motivation of why this should be done
  • Strategies of how to do it
In our cognitive coaching course this summer we learned about efficacy.  Bill and Ochan Powell defined this as the ability to embrace problems as opportunities because you know you have the capacity to solve problems and take action to bring about change.  Renata Phelps and Anne Graham refer to this as self-efficacy, which is not so much about the technological skills that you have but about your personal judgement of these skills.

Motivation is also important.  In some schools the motivation will be external because of the requirements of the curriculum or the school.  Intrinsic motivation is of course more powerful, as teachers want to change because they know it is important for students to use technology or because they see that technology engages and motivates students.  One of the things I've noticed as I've been setting goals with teachers is that they are keen to talk about uses of technology and apps that are useful tools for them in their own professional lives, for example assessment apps (personal perceived usefulness) and the usefulness of technology in the classroom (pedagogical perceived usefulness).  Phelps and Graham also write about the importance of motivation in goal setting:  "In order to assist teachers to take control of their own learning they need to be supported to realize that the first step is to personally take on some goals."

I think it's important for teachers to develop their skills as problems solvers, as when you are using technology problems will invariably arise.  According to Phelps and Graham, being able to solve such problems takes time, experience, patience and perseverance - and this in turn requires the right attitude and the ability to apply the most appropriate strategies.  Confidence will come, but only when teachers are prepared to have a go and then experience success.  

I think perceived usefulness is one topic that will come up again and again as we set goals with our teachers so it is important to support them to problem solve and to realize through their successes that they can bring about change.

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Flipped Learning: is it revolutionary or transformational?

When my younger brother was in school in England in the 1960s he was taught to read using the ITA alphabet (see image).  This alphabet was devised by Sir James Pitman, the grandson of Sir Isaac Pitman who invented Pitman's shorthand, as a way of teaching children to read more easily using phonics.  After children had learned to read using the ITA (initial teaching alphabet), they would then move on to learn standard English spelling.

After the 1960s, the pendulum of educational learning theory swung away from teaching phonics, and ITA fell into decline. Another factor that caused this was that it was noticed that many children were not able to easily transfer their early ITA reading skills to standard English, and that they were confused at having to learn two alphabets.  The ITA, for me, is a good example of an educational movement that was revolutionary, yet made no lasting transformation on learning.

Another example I can think of is middle schools.  When I attended school in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s there was basically a two-tier education system:  primary up to the age of 11, followed by secondary - the secondary school you went to was determined by your score on an exam that all children in the UK sat called the 11+.  In the late 1960s views about this two-tier system changed, following the Plowden Report of 1967 which advocated a three-tier system of primary, middle and high schools.  In the 1970s local educational authorities, in line with the new thinking, set about establishing middle schools.  Interestingly there was no common agreement between local authorities about which age of children should be in a middle school - from one part of the country to another it varied so that some middle schools were for children aged 8 - 12, some were for children aged 9 - 13 and some for children aged 10 - 13.  By 1980 thousands of middle schools existed across the UK. When I left school in the late 1970s I'd never even heard of middle schools, but by the time I became a teacher in the early 1980s middle schools were everywhere.  As a secondary teacher we had our children for just 3 - 4 years until they left school at 16.  By the late 1980s, however, when I left the UK to teach overseas, the pendulum was swinging again.  A national curriculum was due to be brought in, and the number of middle schools declined.  In the UK today there are less than 200 middle schools, and the ones that remain are designated as primary or secondary.  Another huge revolution that failed to produce any lasting transformation.

So how about flipped learning?  I was interested to see that Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams tackle this question in their new Flipped Learning book.  They write that the difference between revolutions and transformations are that revolutions happen from the outside in and from the top down - which certainly seems true when I consider the failure of ITA and middle schools in the UK. Transformational change, they write, is different in that it happens from the inside, and that it happens virally as ideas spread from one person to another, who share their learning and become change agents.  In transformational change, change happens from the bottom up.

Examples such as ITA and middle schools were definitely top-down revolutions and seem to have had very little input from teachers.  Teachers often see these changes in the form of bandwagons that they are forced to jump onto for a short time and then find they have to jump off again.  Is flipped learning different?  It does seem that it has started with teachers and it has spread around the world as many different teachers adopt this model in order to "reclaim" the face to face time with their students in class, to focus on supporting students to learn, instead of simply using this time to teach.  I suppose only time will tell, but for me it does seem that the classes where flipped learning is going on are certainly the ones that are making transformational change.

Tech Integration Coaches - our second meeting

The first few weeks of school have flown by and already we have had our second all school Tech Integration Coaches meeting.  This meeting was much more concerned with the "nuts and bolts":  the whats and the hows.  We talked about PD opportunities for coaches (in fact we are hoping we can share our experiences at the ISTE Conference next summer).  As we are hosting the 3rd Google Summit in India in November, and as this is also timely for India's first Google Teacher Academy, we talked about some of the benefits that this can bring us for increasing our own knowledge about technology.  Other things we mentioned that can be good sources of PD were webinars, books and online resources.

At the end of our first meeting our coaches still had several questions:  What do we do?  How do we start?  How often should we meet with the teachers we are coaching?  For what we do we revisited ASB's Tech Integration Standards for Coaches, which was based on the ISTE Standards for Coaches.  We had a discussion in pairs about where we were individually on this rubric - were we approaching, meeting or exceeding these standards?

Based on where we felt were areas of growth we then set our goals as coaches for our own learning. We wanted to give teachers a model as to how they could approach goal setting with their teachers, so we modeled a 10 minutes planning conversation, based on the cognitive coaching model:
  • Clarify goals
  • Specify success indicators
  • Anticipate approaches
  • Establish personal learning
  • Reflect on the coaching process
We asked our coaches to discuss what they had observed and then it was then time for the coaches to sit in pairs to practice the planning conversation with each other, as they discussed their goals for the year as Tech Integration Coaches.

As the meeting ended we considered our next steps.  By division we will meet individually with our tech coaches to ensure that they are empowered to take the next step - that of coaching the teachers in their divisions.  We will be discussing them starting to set up meetings, the planning conversation around goals, how they can give input as teachers plan our their units and how they can start conversations about the artifacts that can be added into this year's Tech Audit.

Once again I felt that the meeting had flown by way too fast, but I was also very pleased at how much could be covered during the 10 minute planning conversations.  Next week our coaches start their individual meetings with their teachers.  I'm interested to see how these meetings go, so I have suggested that if the coaches want me to come along to observe them and give feedback about their coaching skills that I will be happy to do that.

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Changing Spaces

Last weekend I was in Singapore co-leading an IB Continuum workshop on flipped learning.  Since returning to school I've been thinking about the implications that flipped learning has on learning spaces.  If the whole idea behind flipping the classroom is to make it more student centred, then clearly the teacher is "off the stage" which means s/he doesn't need to be positioned at the front of the room presenting content.  I'm lucky in my job because I get to go into every single teacher's learning space and all of them are very different.  At ASB we talk about learning spaces because there are no classrooms as such as there are no real doors or walls.  Spaces are divided up by moveable furniture and glass or sliding panels.  This week, as I went to talk to our upper elementary students about the responsible use of technology, I took a look around to see if there were classrooms that still had a feeling of a "front", and I found that many of them did not.  There were often a number of different spaces that could be used for whole class teaching, for example an easel, a flipchart, a whiteboard, a TV and in some classes a rug on the floor that all the students could sit on.  There were groups of desks and some desks by themselves.  There were the regular chairs on wheels, some chairs not on wheels, some Hokki stools and some soft seating such as cushions and beanbags.  In a couple of classes I went into there were also "cave spaces" which children could sit alone.

This week I also dipped into the book Flipped Learning:  Gateway to Student Engagement by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams.  There is a section there on optimized learning spaces too.  They argue that while technology has changed (from the blackboard to a projector, screen or IWB) the basic teacher centredness of classrooms didn't change - in fact these new tools often just emphasized the role of the teacher as presenting content and the students as passively absorbing it.  However, of course when teachers are no longer presenting content in class to all the students at the same time, as with the flipped learning model, then teachers can consider how they want to change their spaces.

Bergmann and Sams suggest several ways that the traditional classroom spaces can be changed:
  1. Flipped learning is collaborative - so furniture needs to be arranged in ways that encourage collaboration
  2. In flipped learning, some students may be working individually, so they need a place where they can avoid distractions.  (On the face of it this request seems to be completely opposed to point number 1 above so teachers will need to think about how to create this space in a collaborative classroom)
  3. The focus should be on the students, so move/get rid of the teacher's desk from the front of the class.  In flipped learning the teacher can be anywhere in the class.
Are you a teacher who has flipped your classroom?  How has this impacted the way the physical space in your classroom is used?

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Friday, August 22, 2014

-v- (versus)

When I lived in England I would often see the term -v- used to describe sporting events, for example football or cricket matches which generally meant "against" as in England -v- Holland or England -v- India.  I realize I've been using it on my blog, and yet many readers, not from England, might wonder what this term means since versus is often written as vs. in other parts of the world.  I've also come to realize that I'm not often using it to mean "against" but more often to mean "compared with" to recognize that there are different opinions or ways of looking at things.  Today I thought I'd look back at all these posts to see what things I've compared over the years.

Average -v- Extraordinary
One shot PD -v- Ongoing PD
Student -v- Teacher -v- Relationship Centred Coaching
Constructionism -v- Instructionism
Interaction -v- Participation, Standardization -v- Innovation
Self-esteem -v- Self-control Part 1 and Part 2
Action Research -v- Action Learning
Homeostasis -v- Tipping Points
Capability -v- Competency
Flipped Classroom -v- Flipped Learning
Feedback -v- Feedforward Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Learning the new -v- Giving up the old
Economic carrots -v- jumping through the window of opportunity
Going fast -v- Going far
Genius -v- Scenius
Approaches to learning:  integrated -v- interdisciplinary
Scientist -v- artist
Standardization -v- Personalization
Being reflective -v- Living in the now
Knowledge:  product -v- process
Thinkers -v- Test Takers
Doing what you love:  concern -v- control
Caring:  empathy -v- sympathy
Aptitude -v- Ability
Bragging -v- Branding
Creativity -v- Rubrics
Research -v- Inquiry
Rapid prototyping -v- TMI
Science -v- the Scientific Method
Disruption -v- Innovation
Good -v- Growth
Dependence -v- Independence
Character -v- Personality
School -v- Work
Directed -v- Self-directed: Building a Maker Mindset
Thinking:  the past -v- the present
Open -v- Closed questions:  the importance of the first word
Pseudo-problems -v- Real things
School house -v- Real world
Computer Science -v- NETS
Achievement -v- Development
A career -v- to career
BYOD:  diversity -v- monoculture
Collecting the dots -v- connecting the dots
Using technology -v- integrating technology
Teaching students how to use technology -v- teaching students how to use technology to learn
BYOD2 - a consumption tool -v- a production tool
IWB -v- Apple TV:  which is best for 21st century learners
Differentiated -v- Personalized
Knowledge -v- Wisdom
Highly effective -v- effective
Free range -v- House arrest
Coming home -v- moving on
Child -v- adult learners
Coaching:  independence -v- dependence
Learning differently:  standardized teaching -v- customized learning
Sport -v- needlework
Deciding to learn:  big dreams -v- small dreams
Competency -v- change
Engaged -v- entertained
Connected learners:  engagement -v- outcomes
Isolation -v- connection
Fear -v- passion
Good behaviour -v- good values
Rewards -v- Relationships
Transparent teaching:  the risks -v- the rewards
Flying -v- going with the flow
Learning from -v- learning with
Content -v- meaning:  disrupting our thinking
Cultivators -v- hunter-gatherers
Coaching -v- evaluating
Bridge -v- Barrier
Questions -v- answers
Leading -v- coaching
International teacher -v- global educator
Growth -v- change
Knowledge of the parts -v- wisdom of the whole
Technology -v- Nature:  what are we missing out on?
Experience -v- Quality
Reformation -v- Transformation
Homework -v- Learning
Tech Savvy Leaders -v- Lead Learners
Meetings -v- #edchat
Dissent -v- The Echo Chamber
I - They - We:  Multiple Perspectives -v- Group Think
Freedom -v- Privacy
Gathering, Processing, Applying:  Inquiry -v- Fact Finding
Covering -v- Discovering
What you know -v- what you can do
Concepts -v- Topics
Students -v- Learners
Working -v- Learning
Ignorance -v- Apathy
The Learner Profile:  Risk Taking -v- Courage
Assessment -v- Motivation
Assessment OF learning -v- Assessment FOR learning
Learning outcomes -v- Differentiation
IB -v- AP
Teaching with Attitude

When I started this blog post I had no idea at all that I was going to search through my blog and find over 100 -v- posts over the past 4-5 years.  I'm thinking that this shows something about myself and my thinking.  I'm thinking also that I need to sort and categorize these a little more than a simple reverse chronological list.  I'm thinking I might be able to take this further and maybe even put them all together into an e-book about different ways of thinking about things.  I thinking about how I can connect this to the IB Learner Profile (maybe open minded?  balanced?).  Let's see.  I'm now contemplating the possibilities.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thinking about thinking, learning about learning

The book Technology Together - Whole School Professional Development for Capability and Confidence refers to the metacognitive approach to technology learning, one that guides teachers to articulate their own learning goals and encouraging them to be self-directed in identifying what they need to learn and how they go about it.  Today I'm planning for our second meeting with our new technology integration coaches, which will take place tomorrow, and I'm thinking about the conversations we will have around their learning goal.

We often refer to the zone of proximal development when talking about the place where children learn. It's the same with adults too:  it is when we encounter difficulties that learning occurs.  The Technology Together approach is interesting for me when considering what we need to tell our new coaches about their role - and how important it is to have them move away from making learning easy.  They need to understand that it's the difficulties and challenges that their teachers will face that will be the real places where learning will occur.

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Action Research -v- Action Learning

I've participated in action research before, but was new to the term action learning.  Action research aims to produce change/improvement (action) and new understanding (research) and has been defined as "a form of collective, self-reflective inquiry undertaken by participants to improve their own social or educational practices, their understanding of these practices and the situations in which these practices are carried out".  Action learning is similar but doesn't rely on making an original contribution to knowledge, which is implied by the creation of new understanding in the term research.

Both action research and action learning are collaborative, with teachers working together on projects to set goals, make decisions and judge the success or otherwise of the project.  Often the projects involve inquiry cycles (planning, acting, observing and reflecting).

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Homeostasis -v- tipping points

We are constantly hearing that schools are basically the same as they were 100 years ago, even though the skills that students leaving school need for work are different.  The word to describe a system that maintains a stable, constant condition in the face of changing circumstances is homeostasis.  This is something that as a technology teacher I fought against for years.  In many schools traditions have developed for using technology and teachers have become comfortable with this level of usage.  Although learning is a part of most school cultures, the rate of change is still often very slow.

But sometimes you come to a tipping point that makes a huge difference in a school leading to a significant transformation in values, attitudes, beliefs and practices within a school, and the whole system shifts to something different.  I heard last week that the tipping point for ASB was about 8 years ago with a new superintendent, a new strategic plan and vision, and with superstructing.  Before this I heard that ASB was not a particularly good school.  Now, this year, we have had over 40 students transfer from other schools in Mumbai to us - and 2 of these students were seniors, in their last year of school who realized how much value even one year at ASB can add.  In addition we have had families relocate from other parts of India in order to send their students to ASB.  In parent meetings last week I heard that we promise that students will grow more at ASB than at any other school - that is quite a promise.  It made me reflect again on how grateful I am to work in such a school, that has already tipped over the tipping point!

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Not watching - but interacting

I love sharing new tools and this week at the Flipping Classrooms workshop I was running I was suggested 2 new tools by Jon Bergmann of Flipped Learning, who Skyped in to talk with our participants.  Typically people think about the flipped classroom model as a system where teachers make videos for students to watch at home, so that they have mastered the content before they come to the lesson.  The time at home is spent on the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (remembering and understanding) and the time in school is spent working on the more higher-order thinking skills with the teacher's assistance.  One of the things that Jon talked about in his call to us was moving away from the idea of watching videos and moving towards the idea of interacting with them.

He shared 2 tools for interacting with videos that I had never heard of before and now I want to share these with you too.  The workshop participants found Zaption to be especially useful.



Monday, August 18, 2014

Taking recruitment virtual

Ten years ago, when I wanted a new job in an international school, I signed up with a recruiting company and attended a job fair.  I found the experience to be expensive, time consuming and not particularly positive in terms of my self-esteem as a teacher, and although I ended up accepting a great job in an excellent international school, I decided I wouldn't go that route again.  The next time I started to look for a new job I took a different approach and contacted schools directly.  Email contact eventually let to interviews on skype and job offers.  While I was happier with the process, I ended up at a school I'd never really heard of, and even though I did as much research as possible on the school website, it was still a terrible mistake.  Moving on from there, I found the job I have now on Twitter.  It seems crazy to say this, but my first contact with the school was in response to a tweet from them.  This time around I had better  and more personal information, I skyped with teachers who worked there and met face to face with someone who had worked at the school several years previously.  I also visited the school six months before moving to India as the school flew me out to ASB Un-Plugged.  I was determined never to make a mistake in choosing a school again and happy that my new school matched my philosophy of education and my values.

This past weekend I've been co-leading an IB Continuum workshop in Singapore with someone I first came into contact with on Twitter, which made me reflect on how social media has opened many others doors to me too.   One of our workshop guests who skyped in was also someone I had first contacted through Twitter.   All in all, a huge number of opportunities to give and receive PD has opened up through social media, including training to be an online workshop leader and a school visitor.

Last week I was involved in a discussion at school about the possibility of starting a virtual job fair.  We already know that good international teachers are very "picky" about where they want to go and who they want to work with.  We also know that a personal recommendation from a leading educator in a good school is worth much more than any number of open testimonials, references and glossy websites.  We discussed the possibilities of starting with a small group of hand picked schools and their teachers, and opening up a virtual job fair very early in the recruitment process (certainly before all the face to face ones start).  We thought that our teachers who have decided to move on would welcome a head start in the process with good schools that have been personally recommended because of their mission, technology and approach to 21st century learning, and we thought these schools would also welcome an early look at our teachers, and those from other top schools who also want to get involved, to get in early before the craziness of the job fairs kick in.  Ultimately our goal would be that good teachers and good schools wouldn't need to waste time and money on traveling to job fairs, but that they could go through the whole process online and cost free.

I dipped into a book called The 2020 Workplace today.  It's a book about how innovative companies attract, develop and keep tomorrow's employees today.  I was reading about how huge numbers of companies (but not really schools yet) use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as a tool for recruitment. Social recruiting is a practice that leverages social and professional networks both online and offline, from both a candidate's perspective and the hiring side, to connect to, communicate with, engage, inform and attract future talent.  Reading this made me realize that we are on the right track.

I think that a virtual job fair could be really attractive for teachers who are proactively seeking new schools and for schools who want to easily reach a global teaching talent pool as efficiently and effectively as possible.  The ball is going to start rolling soon.  Let's see where it ends up.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Capability -v- Competency

Before I became an international teacher I worked for Elsevier, a biomedical publishing company.  During this time I received IT training that was probably typical of the type of tech training that was popular:  it was very directive and comprised of teaching me certain skills in a certain order.  Today I'm co-leading a flipped classroom IB continuum workshop and thinking how far our knowledge of adult learning has changed.  When discussing flipping the classroom we do shows tools in order to raise awareness of what is possible, but we hope that by exploring the tools themselves that teachers will be more likely to retain, transfer and use this new knowledge.

I was interested to read that directive-style training can in fact have a negative impact on a person's confidence with technology, and it can also limit flexibility and responsiveness to technology integration, as it reinforces dependence on someone to teach us, and puts the learner in the position of a notice and the teacher in the position of the expert.

Phelps and Graham argue that "although it's important to be competent in ICT use, it is much more critical to strive toward technology capability:  the confidence to try new things, to problem solve and to engage in continual technology learning."  It was pointed out this morning that the idea of a workshop is that the students do the work and share their learning.  Our aim is to help teachers identify what they need to learn and then go out and do the learning.  In this situation we want to encourage them to move out of their comfort zone and to try new strategies and pedagogical practices.

Competency refers to being able to perform or demonstrate specific skills.  Capability, according to Phelps and Graham, goes much further and is the "integration of knowledge, skills and personal qualities used effectively and appropriately in response to varied, familiar and unfamiliar circumstances.  Many technology teachers in fact have never been formally trained in how to use technology, however they have shown they are comfortable in having a go at new things and so are good at adapting to rapid and ongoing change.  They "employ self-directed learning strategies and are willing to experiment with new software and hardware.  They recognize and embrace appropriate avenues for classroom ICT integration and are prepared to persevere and problem solve when things do not go to plan .... Capable people are those who can operate in unknown contexts and with new problems.  capability is thus a much stronger attribute in context of rapid change", which is certainly the case with technology.

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Hitting a moving target

For me reading professional books is an important component of professional learning. Over the last several months I've been looking for good books for our new Tech Integration Coaches too.  Yesterday I picked up the book Technology Together: Whole School Professional Development for Capability and Confidence by Renata Phelps and Anne Graham from Southern Cross University in Australia.   I started reading it at the airport on my way to lead a workshop in Singapore and so far I really like it.

First of all the authors write about the importance of integrating technology, as an essential 21st century literacy and because it can maximize student motivation, engagement, and independence as well as allowing for individualization of learning.  Also important is the ability to interact with global communities.  Unfortunately technology, while being used in many classrooms, is still not being used in a way that supports student-centered instruction, nor is it often used in innovative ways.  The authors claim that "good teaching is effective only when combined with relevant ICT tools and resources and that we should expect teachers to use the most appropriate technology tools in the same way that we expect other professionals to do so".

One issue with traditional tech PD is that you are constantly trying to hit a moving target. A few years ago many s hooks focused on training for using IWBs, after that it was laptops and now we are looking at how to use mobile devices and tablets.  Who knows what the next wave of technological change will bring?

Some PD models focus on increasing knowledge.  For example the TPACK approach emphasizes differ sorts of knowledge (technological, pedagogical and content) that teachers need to develop.  Actually knowledge is easy to address in PD, but that's only a small part of what is needed.  More important is the mindset, where technology is valued and teachers are open to using it in their teaching practices, and the culture of the school which supports continual learning and risk-taking.
The Technology Together approach is interesting and based on 8 main beliefs:
  • technology learning is different from technology training
  • technology competency is different from technology capability
  • adoption and integration of technology is influenced by teachers' attitudes, beliefs, values, motivation, confidence and learning strategies
  • technology learning is influenced by school culture
  • a whole school approach maximizes student outcomes
  • leadership is important in establishing a supportive school environment
  • how teachers learn is as important as what teaches learn
  • technology learning can enhance teacher professionalism and stimulate change in school culture

The aim of Technology Together, and indeed  our aim of introducing tech coaches this year is not to have them teach specific tech skills, but to have them empower teachers to be in control of their own learning and to support them through reflection and dialogue.  In this situation, the fact that technology is constantly changing (that the target is moving), will become irrelevant.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tech Integration Coaches - our first meeting

During our back to school orientation last week we had a meeting with all the new Tech Integration Coaches (10 of them across the Elementary, Middle and High Schools).  We started our meeting with a working lunch - while they ate each of them was given a different reading.  We broke up into small groups of 3s or 4s and jigsawed for 2 minutes each to explain the main message behind each of the readings.  We were able to do 3 rotations of this so that each person shared his/her understanding 3 times and got to hear the understanding of 6 of the other TICs.

We then had a 20 minute meeting with our Data Scientist.  ASB has been collected student artifacts based on the ISTE Standards for Students for the past 2 years, and for the past few months we have employed someone to visualize the data for us.  This allows us to easily track the differences between years, between the different ISTE standards, between the types of artifacts that students are creating and between the various levels of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.  Visualizing the data allowed the TICs to quickly see areas of strength and areas where we need to grow.  This will be vital information as they start to have their goals meetings with individual teachers.

Following the data presentation we had a quick debrief using the 90-60-30 protocol, again in groups of 3s.  The aim of this was that the first person in the group discussed the implications of the data on the role of the TICs for 90 seconds while the other 2 in the group practiced listening.  Then it was the second person's turn to add in for another 60 seconds and then the final group member could share for 30 seconds.  Through this sharing we managed to confirm our role as:

  • identifying the grade level/ department’s teaching and learning tech integration needs, barriers and areas for growth in order to provide effective professional development
  • facilitating school-based high quality professional development to refine teachers’ tech integration knowledge and skills. Training opportunities could include
    • in-class coaching
    • peer observing and/or modeling of technology integration strategies and multiple and emergent technologies
    • guiding teachers in looking at student work
    • developing lesson plans with teachers
  • equipping our own professional development for this role through online and face-to-face courses and regular meetings with the Director of Ed Tech.

We then went onto a "futures" protocol where we imagined the outcomes at the end of the school year. We did a Think-Pair-Share activity about where we hoped to be. Our outcomes were: 

  • Building capacity in our colleagues through inspiring change and new ideas and providing resources
  • Building capacity in our skills as coaches so that we can be more confident in our role
  • Building a community for coaches
  • Building trust with our colleagues
  • Building a distributed leadership model

We talked about our personalized PD plans. Last year we personalized tech PD for all our teachers and assistants, this year we will be personalizing it for our new TICs as well. We gave them a template and asked them to fill in their strengths and areas for growth, so that we could make recommendations. We also shared the ISTE Coaching Standards rubrics and asked each of the TICs to self-evaluate where s/he currently was (so we could see where they needed to move forward in developing their skills). All this will be discussed at our meeting next week.

We also talked to the TICs about how they wanted to document their own learning and the time they were spending coaching teachers. This isn't to "check up" on them, but simply to ensure that there is a fair distribution of time and responsibility. We don't want to mandate a way of doing this, but asked them to consider different ways that might work for them.

We talked about Professional Development and how great it would be if we could put together a presentation or poster session for ISTE next year. We also talked about meetings. There will probably be 3 types of meetings - individually with the Director of Educational Technology, by division (Elementary, Middle or High) and as a whole TIC team. We sent out a Doodle to try to work out what were the best times for us to meet.

The 2 hours had flown by, already we were at the end of the meeting and needed to move onto other things. We asked for each of the TICs to fill out an exit card of what they had found valuable. Here are some of their responses:
  • Team building/Discussing our role
  • Going over and discussing the readings
  • Data Visualization - it was very powerful to see where we've been and where we need to go
  • Talking with other coaches about our role and getting information about how you can grow as a coach

All in all I felt it was a great way to kick off our new Tech Integration Coaching programme. I can hardly wait for our next meeting when we really get down to talking about and practicing coaching skills.

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Facilitative Coaching

I've been reading as much as I can about coaching over the past few months and have been exploring many different types of coaching - I really didn't know there was so many and every new book I read seems to advocate a different approach.  Today this post is about facilitative coaching which seems to have 3 main approaches:

The Cathartic Approach - this involves 3 main features

  1. Allowing the coachee to release and express emotions, for example the fear of failure, the feeling of incompetency, frustration or of not being motivated.  Expressing emotions (both positive and negative) can be a powerful form of energy and a coach can use this energy to help the coachee to move forward.
  2. In order to allow the coachee to release these emotions, the coach has to be tuned in to the nonverbal cues.
  3. Once the coach realizes that there is a "hidden" emotion, it can be useful to ask questions such as "what did that feel like for you?" or "would you like to talk about your feelings?"
One thing I discovered as I was learning about coaching this summer is that sometimes you need to say something out loud - to actually hear yourself saying it - before you really know what you think. The cathartic approach allows people to talk through issues and deepen their understanding.

The Catalytic Approach - this acts as a stimulus to change
This type of coaching relies on asking questions to stimulate change, while at the same time being sure not to push change.  It can help the coachee to reflect and learn for him/herself.  Probing questions are used for this approach, for example "how did you deal with that?', "how do you intend to start ...", "how important is this to you?" and "What would you do differently next time?"

The Supportive Approach - drawing attention to positive behaviours
The aim of coaching is to impact beliefs and behaviour and coachees who, as they are moving forward, often have to step out of their comfort zone, take risks and sometimes fail in order to arrive at a place where their behaviours have changed.  Supportive coaching offers encouragement and motivation through building up the coachee's self-esteem and self-confidence.  The supportive approach draws attention to the successes and so encourages further risk-taking and learning by pointing out all the micro-movements the coachee is taking towards reaching the goals s/he has set.

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Monday, August 4, 2014


I got sent a copy of an article from Forbes about different ways to conquer leadership pressure.  As I'm moving into a new leadership position and because I have the tendency to take on way too much at the best of times I thought this was good to reflect on:
Create Whitespace: The best way to maintain focus is to make sure you’ve baked-in some whitespace into EVERY day. Any rubber band stretched too tightly will eventually snap – there are no exceptions to this rule. Leaders who don’t create time for quality thought and planning end-up taking unnecessary short cuts and risks. They let pressure force them into making bad decisions that a little whitespace could have prevented.
I always thought it was balance that I needed.  Now I'm thinking it could be whitespace.

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Listening and asking questions

Although it sounds crazy to say this, listening is actually very hard to do.  Most of the time we don't listen, we have an internal dialogue going on about what we think, how it relates to ourselves, what we might argue with and so on, and often we judge what we hear.  Deep listening, the sort that coaches need to do, is very different and at times feels quite uncomfortable as you have to put your own thoughts on hold.  It's quiet and sometimes quite empty.  But Elena Aguilar argues that it is the most effective tool that is used in coaching.  Quieting the internal chatter creates the space where a coachee can explore his/her own issues.  At the same time you can help and guide the conversation through the questions that you ask.

But we don't need to jump in with questions.  What we observed in our summer cognitive coaching course was that there is a pause when the coachee stops talking.  This could be the time for the coach to formulate a question (not before this - remember you are listening at that point) or it could simply be wait time to allow the coachee to continue to talk without a prompt.

Both transformative coaching and cognitive coaching emphasizes that it is not our job to connect what we hear to our own autobiography, or to be inquisitive to to come up with a solution.  We don't want to think of leading questions to get to "our" solution.  Aguilar writes:
We listen from the point of view that people don't need answers, advice or wisdom.  They can do their own thinking, discover solutions, and figure out their next steps.  it demonstrates respect when we listen to someone from this space, believing they will come to their own understanding, and that my own understanding is not necessarily better than theirs.
So a coach doesn't share his or her own experiences, opinions or feelings, and doesn't give advice or suggestions.  Even clarifying questions can get in the way because the coach is asking for information for his own needs or curiosities.  Questions should only be used to help the coachee in digging deeper into his or her thoughts.

A coach listens for what is being said and for what is not being said - all those thoughts, feelings and beliefs that lurk below the surface.  A coach can see patterns in what is being said as a teacher shares stories of their struggles and successes - and a coach can then help the teacher to connect the dots and see the themes in what s/he has shared.

But it's important to listen actively.  Active listening involves body language and also conveying that s/he is listening and, even more importantly, hearing what the coachee is saying.  One way of doing this is to paraphrase.  During the cognitive coaching course we also learned to ask mediative questions to stimulate thinking right at the point when the coachee agrees with our paraphrase.  Mediative questions use plural forms eg:  what  are the reasons for .... what strategies are you ..... and also use tentative language eg:  what might be your thoughts about .... or what are some of the possibilities ....

We also talked about positive presuppositions - phrasing questions to show we think positively about what the coachee is already doing eg:  "as you examine the data, what are some of the similarities and differences that are emerging?" (you assume they are using data) or "how will you know that you are successful?" (you assume they are successful) or "what learning issues might your teachers be keen to spend their time discussing in staff meetings?" (you assume teaches are wanting to discuss these issues).

Transformative coaching also addresses probing questions.  Aguilar writes:
The purpose of asking a probing question is to help a client uncover thinking or beliefs - not necessarily to find an immediate answer or solution.  The great majority of the questions we ask in coaching should be probing questions, given that, at its broadest, our work is to help another person deepen reflective capacities and become more self aware.  Therefore, a probing question is for the client, not the coach.
We had lots of practice in listening and asking questions during the course - and I for one am keen to get more practice this year in order to develop these skills.

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Beginning coaching - planning conversations

Over the summer I did a 3 day cognitive coaching course with Bill and Ochan Powell where we practiced what they called the planning conversation.  There are a number of similarities (and some differences) between this approach and the one taken by Elena Aguilar in her book The Art of Coaching.  Aguilar writes that the next stage after exploration is developing a work plan since coaching is an ongoing effort focused on developing a specific and agreed-on set of skills or practices - and that therefore the coach is "consciously working within a structure and toward an end.  The work plan is the structure that holds the conversations, questions and actions that make up coaching".

Cognitive coaching refers to a 5 step "planning conversation map".  This is made up of the following steps:
  1. Clarify goals "Where do you want to go?" This is a backward design process so it's important that teachers know what they want to see at the end of the coaching.
  2. Specify success indicators "How will you know?"  This also involves a plan for collecting evidence about what this will look like, for example what the students will be saying, doing or thinking.
  3. Anticipate approaches "How will it flow?"  What strategies will the teacher use, what decisions will be taken, how will this be monitored?
  4. Establish personal learning "How will you grow?"  It's important for teachers to also decide what they want to learn or take away as a result of coaching and what process will be in place for this self-assessment.
  5. Reflect on the coaching process "How has this conversation supported your thinking?"  This involves metacognition - reflection allows the lessons learned to be carried forward to new situations.
The coaching for transformation that Aguilar uses also includes a vision and a picture of what success looks like as well as an action plan.  During these first planning conversations Aguilar notes the following:  coaches need to manage change, they are responsible for making sure we can guide teachers to meet their goals so the goals have to be realistic and attainable, and finally it's important to consider inquiry so that a teacher identifies a goal that they truly own and that is meaningful and relevant to them.  It's also important to consider adult learning and to determine the zone of proximal development (ZPD) for each teacher.  As Aguilar writes, "If we don't identify where a client is in her learning, we can't plan for and design the kinds of learning experiences that will help her meet her goal."

Aguilar has 10 steps for developing a work plan.  These give the coach more of a role in directing the learning, whereas in contrast the point of cognitive coaching is that it is directed by the coachee and is more about self-directed learning than about reaching a fixed goal.  As mentioned in previous posts, the goal of cognitive coaching is mediating thinking, not providing a solution.

10 steps to developing a work plan
  1. Identify areas for coaching:  what's the big picture?  This could take into account school initiatives or expectations about what teachers need to work on.  Aguilar writes that it's important to ensure that these are "high leverage areas" to work in - those that have a great potential for improving the experience and outcomes of students.
  2. Identify standards and criteria - for example the ISTE Standards for Teachers or other rubrics and evaluation tools that can be used as measurement tools.
  3. Determine a SMARTE goal (Strategic and Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-based, Time-bound and Equitable) - the most effective goals, according to Aguilar, are those that are focused on a clear change in practice.  Questions to be asked at this stage include: If you were to meet that goal what would it look like, how would it affect students, how would it affect their learning?
  4. Identify high-leverage activities that will guide a teacher towards her/his goal, first by brainstorming and then by reflecting.  A good question to be asked at this stage would be: What needs to happen to help you do that?
  5. Break down the learning.  Aguilar writes that we can only coach within the ZPD and that it takes a while to get to know our teachers as learners.  We need to identify each teacher's ZPD by listening, observing and asking questions.  These first 5 steps roughly equate with step 1 of cognitive coaching.
  6. Determine indicators of progress - agree on the data and evidence to be gathered to demonstrate progress towards goals.  A question to be asked in this step could be: How might we know when that has happened?  This step equates to step 2 of cognitive coaching.
  7. Develop coaching theories of action - at this point the coach needs to think through what s/he needs to do in order for the teacher to meet her/his goals.  Coaching strategies are also considered at this point.  
  8. Determine coach's goals - ideally the coach has a set of standards which guide and assess her/his coaching (for example the ISTE Standards for Coaches).  At this stage the coach also needs to determine which coaching practices s/he needs to focus on.
  9. Compile resources - these are primarily for the coach to draw upon.
  10. Present and celebrate the plan - following this the teacher might decide to share parts of this plan with her/his principal.  Supportive principals can also be a resource for a teacher and can reinforce, encourage and help deepen the coaching work.
As far as I can tell steps 7 - 10 do not exist in cognitive coaching since it is about the self-directed learning of the coachee rather than the coach coming up with a particular plan.

One point of agreement between cognitive coaching and coaching for transformation is the understanding that as you coach a person's goal can shift.  Aguilar writes "work plans can and should be flexible.  They often change as coaching develops.  What originally felt like the goal may end up being less important than something else that emerges in coaching and sometimes goals are narrowed or trimmed down."  Both types of coaching also put great emphasis on listening and questioning.  I'll be writing about this in the next post.

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Beginning Coaching - Exploration

In her book The Art of Coaching, Elena Aguilar gives advice for those new to coaching and how to start coaching with the aim of bringing about changes.  She refers to the first step as the "stage of exploration" and outlines 10 steps for gathering information and recording discoveries and reflections.  As we plan to meet with our new tech integration coaches on Tuesday, I'm keen to follow this advice to help them get started with their new roles.
  1. Gather relevant documents in order to get an insight into the big picture.  In this case we plan to share the big trends we have observed in tech integration based on a two year audit of student artifacts.  
  2. Gather and analyze data. Using the services of a data scientist, we have been able to visualize the data in a way that makes it easy to spot patterns (as well as outliers and surprises).  Compile questions about the data.
  3. Initiate informal conversations to build relationships and expand your understanding.
  4. Uncover knowledge, skills and passions.  As a coach your role is to help teachers transfer knowledge, understanding, skills and beliefs to bridge the gap between what they can already do and what they want to do better.
  5. Explore beliefs about change.  This could be an exploration of the new skills teachers have already learned as adults and what the learning process was like.  It's important in an adult learning situation to be aware of how an individual teacher now goes about learning, and to explore their beliefs about how change happens.  Aguilar writes that it's important at this stage to bring belief systems to the surface because beliefs can hold us back or propel us forward.
  6. Offer personality and psychological self-assessments.  Basically this is saying that it can be really useful to know what type of person you are working with to be able to build on their strengths.
  7. Observe the teachers as another way to gather information about strengths.  For most people being observed is fairly stressful so try to come to an agreement about exactly what you will be observing.
  8. Conduct formal interviews and surveys.  Gather baseline data which can be useful if surveys are repeated in 3 - 6 months in order to compare results/progress.
  9. Look for the fires.  Look and listen for the current reality and any issues that may indicate that systems are breaking down.  A teacher who is wanting to grow shouldn't be spending a lot of time and energy on these things.
  10. Engage in self-awareness exercises for coaches.  One of the things we are going to suggest is that coaches keep a reflective journal (a Google Doc) to record what they are doing and a spreadsheet to log their time.  There are several questions that coaches reflect on right at the start of their job:
  • Why am I looking forward to coaching?
  • What might be challenging?
  • Which skills might I need to develop?
  • What additional knowledge do I need?
  • What is it about me that might be an asset in my coaching?
  • What is it about me that might present a challenge?
I'm really looking forward to meeting with our new tech integration coaches next week!

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