Sunday, November 30, 2014

Flipping Professional Learning

On Thursday at school we had a professional learning day.  It was a great day and a lot of very relevant learning happened, but since then I have thought about the flipped learning and how it can apply to PD.   Around the world there are millions of teachers who have to attend PD sessions which are basically low-level instruction/information delivered to large groups - many are not engaged or are even passive-resistant to these sessions.  How can we flip PD so that it is more individual and self-directed?

This year at ASB we introduced a tech coaching model.  There was a gap of 4 months between the start of the school year and the visit of cognitive coaching trainers Bill and Ochan Powell, where our 10 new tech coaches needed to start developing their coaching skills in order to have goal setting meetings with their teachers.  In the summer we decided to add a new coaching course onto our Haiku LMS that would cover some of the basics of coaching, and that our coaches could use as a starting point for their own learning.

Flipped PD is also addressed in the book Flipped Learning:  Gateway to Student Engagement. Kristin Daniels and Mike Dronon write about how flipped PD has transformed the role of tech integration specialists into "technology and innovation coaches" - people who encourage and support innovative and transformative teaching practices.  They started with the aim of providing teachers with effective PD so that they could use technology to change the way they taught.

ISTE has also released a white paper on effective PD that involves 3 factors:  a coaching model, online communities for collaborative idea sharing and a fully embedded use of technology.  Daniels and Dronon used this framework in order to flip PD.  They made videos and rather than organizing them by tool, they grouped them into 2 areas:  communication, collaboration, creative media and presentation.  As a result, they were able to create a different work environment where the technology and innovation coaches were able to motivate teachers to create, improve and innovate.

As Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams point in in their book, the question of what is the best use of face-to-face time is not simply directed at teachers.  Administrators need to consider it too as they consider the best use of time in staff meetings.  They write:
What if administrators flipped their faculty meetings?  Instead of faculty meetings being used to disseminate information, what if they were rich discussions about best practices?  During those meetings are teachers disengaged?  Are they checking their email or grading papers?  Could technology deliver content so that your face-to-face time is rich, rewarding and powerful.  A number of administrators who have implemented flipped learning tell us their faculty meetings are now deeper than ever before, and make much better use of the most valuable resource a school has:  the creative minds of amazing professional educators.
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Control -v- Choice

At school we've been considering the possibility that, at some stage, we might be forced into a situation of distance learning.  We have been told, for example, that if there are any cases of Ebola in Mumbai, school will move to a distance learning model.  And sadly, the situation in the world today means that a terrorist threat could also prompt a school closure.  We are going to prototype a distance learning situation next week and then refine our approach as we consider what worked and what didn't.

Last Thursday we had a Professional Learning day.  One of the activities on the secondary campus was a PlayDate.  The teachers in my room were investigating flipped and distance learning tools.  They explored places where they could find content, Tools for making their own videos, and different places to post these to share with students.  To prepare for facilitating this session I read through Tom Driscoll's story about democratizing learning through the flipped classroom (in Flipped Learning:  Gateway to Student Engagement).

Tom writes that he used to be a teacher who maintained a firm control on what students were learning and how they would be assessed.  This situation was one that caused him to feel dissatisfied because it was hard for students to apply their learning to their lives beyond school, as they had little choice or control over their own learning.  Tom describes his World History course where he observed that his lessons were too fast for many and yet too slow for others in his mixed-level group.   He wanted to ensure that his students could access a diversity of knowledge and opinions, that they would develop personal initiative and that they would have choice and control of the various modes of expression for their assessments.

Tom did what most people who start flipping their classroom do:  he screencasted his lectures and assigned the videos for homework.  He then started to consider what to do in the time freed up in class.  He noticed that his students learned at different rates, so pacing was something he wanted to address in class.  After making his videos, Tom then moved onto the "Flipped Mastery" model.  He designed each unit around 4 learning goals, each with 3-4 learning objectives, and each objective with 1-6 learning tasks.  Students worked through the tasks at their own pace to show mastery of the objectives.

Tom's move towards a more democratic classroom came with the introduction of inquiry-based learning.  He describes how flipping the learning individualized instruction, increased opportunities for interaction and expression, promoted active and experiential activities, offered equitable access to intellectual experiences, encouraged ownership of learning and valued critical thinking and collaborative problem solving.  He highlights the following:
  • Personalized learning happened as a result of greater differentiation as students learned at their own pace and were given more choice and control over their learning.  Tom offered choices of assessments for each learning objective and also provided students with the opportunity to develop their own assessments.
  • An increase in the number and quality of student-teacher interactions.  Flipped learning led to more discussion among peers and he now spends most of his face-to-face time having conversations with individual students and small groups.
  • Critical thinking and problem solving  were promoted by collaborative inquiry.  In Tom's case, this has led to the introduction of 20% time where students develop a project they are passionate about.
Above all, Tom concludes, he feels this new approach has created a learning environment that better models the 21st century democracy that his students live in, and so better prepares these students for success in their modern, interconnected world.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

2moro I will .... share how to add audio files to Google Sites (#gafesummit)

Our last challenge at the Google Summit was to tweet 2moro I will .....  I thought about this - possibly I could put into practice something that I had leant during the 2 days of the Summit - and then I decided to do something else.  This post is the result of that decision.

A couple of weeks ago one of our teachers had her students make audio files to reflect on their learning.  They used Quicktime Player to record an audio file and then she wanted the students to put their reflection into their ePortfolios - which is a Google Site.  A few days later, one of our language teachers wanted her students to record themselves reciting a poem in Hindi using Voice Memo on the iPads.  The idea was that this would also be added to their ePortfolios.  The problem we found, with both of these, is that the files saved as m4as which caused problems as they did not convert in the students' Google Drive to a file that could be embedded into a Google Site.  In order to deal with this problem, I sent an email out to the Google Certified Teacher group, asking for help.  I got a lot of great responses, so my idea for a 2moro I will .... tweet was to thank my Google group and to share their solutions that I got with everyone else - since I am sure this is a common issue.

The first question that we came across is what exactly is an m4a file?  This was answered by Steve Philp (who was actually a GCT with me in London in 2010) who explained that "m4a files were derived from a format that was originally for video as well as audio, which is why some audio players find them difficult."  Steve suggested renaming the files as mp4 to help audio players.

Another suggestion was to add the files to SoundCloud and get the embed code for the player.  I looked into this and found that to have a SoundCloud account students needed to be over 13.  While I thought this was a good option for older students, it would not work for our elementary kids.

Then there was the suggestion to upload the m4a files to YouTube as audio only files and then link to it.  This also seemed like a great suggestion and an easy one for students from Grade 3 upwards.

Several other suggestions included creating the files as mp3 files.  For this various Chrome apps were suggested by Naomi Harm, such as VoiceRecorder, Audio Recorder, Twisted Wave, the Chrome extension of Screencastify and the storytelling app Narrable.  This is a great idea for making a new audio file, but I was really looking for something I could use with the files we already had (I didn't want to have the students re-record).  There were some options to convert the files online, such as, again I wasn't sure that these would be very user friendly for our Grade 3 students, but I will certainly check these out for our older ones.

Popular gadgets were NiftyPlayer and Ujam, suggested by several of the GTCs who joined in the discussion.  One teacher explained that students used TwistedWave and dowloaded their file as an mp3, then uploaded the attachment to Sites.  They then used the Odeo Flash Player gadget and copied the link from the mp3 attachment.  I thought most of these would be too hard for Grade 3 students however.

To make an audio recording from a phone and send it straight to Drive, the suggestion was that Voice Record Pro is awesome.

So what did I decide to go with after all this?  Well as the students had already made all the audio recordings we decided our best solution would be to upload them to Vocaroo.  This takes up to 5 minutes of audio and students don't need to create accounts.  They simply go to Vocaroo, click upload and navigate to the file they have on their computer (or that they emailed to themselves when using the iPads).  In a few seconds the file uploaded and gave them an embed code.  This works really well when embedded in Google Sites and the player looks much better than a link to something that needs to be downloaded.

So 2moro I will share my learning about how to add audio files to Google Sites.  Done!  And at the same time I have also shared just what an awesome set of educators there are in the GCT group, who have helped me to troubleshoot and solve problems for our students and teachers.  Thanks everyone!

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Monday, November 24, 2014

No correct answer

ASB hosted its 3rd Google Summit this weekend, with members of the EdTech Team flying in from Singapore and Australia.  While I will write several individual posts about the various subjects I attended, I wanted to write one to start with today sharing some of the resources from the Keynotes. The first one, from Patrick Green's The Relevant Teacher, is about how students are more creative when there is no right answer.

Here are some Tweets that followed this movie:

The message was a simple one:  Provide blank examplars to allow for creativity rather than carbon copies.    

The next video was also provided by Patrick.  It was made by one of his students.  This led to another Tweet:  "If we're not helping them to fly, we're clipping their wings."

We also heard from Jay Atwood who challenged us not just to walk the talk, but to talk the walk - to have students make their learning visible.  To have them work together and then talk about how they have worked and why.

It was a great weekend of learning.  I hope you enjoy these videos too.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

If you are going to walk on thin ice you might as well dance: the IB Learner Profile Risk-Taker/Courageous

Today I was reading about three great 20th century leaders who exemplify risk taking, courageousness and devotion to justice.  All of them made huge sacrifices to bring enduring change for humankind.  I'm thinking about how important it is to learn from these teachers and how these lessons can be applied in schools.

I'm also thinking about ASB's mission statement and how proud I am to work at this school.  Our mission statement also mentions courage, as well as enhancing the lives of others.
We inspire all of our students to continuous inquiry, empowering them with the skills, courage, optimism, and integrity to pursue their dreams and enhance the lives of others.

A Center for Life-long (Transdisciplinary) Learning

This week at ASB we hosted 2 candidates for the Assistant Superintendent position for next school year.  One of the areas that will fall under the new position is to imagine and create a center for life-long learning.  This will involve the development of alternative and innovative educational paths for anytime-anywhere learning.  ASB has already started on this journey.  We already have service learning programmes, year round educational experiences such as internships and intersessions, and online learning for students, teacher and parents.

In his book Twenty-One Trends for the 21st Century, one of the issues Gary Marx writes about is the depth, breadth and purposes of education in a fast-changing world.  He, like the leadership of ASB, asks "What are the purposes of education?"  At a recent State of the School meeting with parents this question was raised by our Superintendent.  Traditionally we say that education should prepare students for the future.  The question that Craig Johnson asked was "What future?"  Are we preparing students for their future here at ASB?  For their future in another school, as our students' families are highly mobile?  For their future at university?  For their life?

Gary Marx points out that when asked this question, John Dewey's response was that a teacher should provoke "a continuous interest in learning throughout a student's life" and yet what we find today around the world is national curriculums with narrow standards and high-stake tests that mean that what is important to learn has been whittled down to the things that are easily testable.  The impact of this is that many key, creative, subjects such as music and art as well as foreign languages, science, social studies and PE are getting less and less time.  Marx writes, "We are too often faced with the prospect of preparing our students for the future - constrained by a mentality and infrastructure that emerged from another time." and proposes 5 different purposes for education:

  • Citizenship - creating good citizens
  • Employability
  • Interesting lives
  • Releasing ingenuity that is already there
  • Stimulating imagination, creativity and inventiveness.
Yesterday and today our Twitter PYP chat was about transdisiplinary learning.  As always it was great to have a discussion with so many educators about this.  Reflecting on our conversations, I noticed that Marx is also a proponent of learning across disciplines.  He writes, "It's in those multidisciplinary white spaces, in the connective tissue, that we are likely to discover new knowledge.  Teaching and learning across disciplines should be considered part of how we operate."

Is this how the new center of life-long learning is going to operate at ASB?  Looking at ASB's website we already pride ourselves on being a center of learning for students, educators and thought leaders from around the world, in an environment where all members are constantly in pursuit of personal and professional growth and development.  In addition we are building global communities of learners and researchers through sharing data, content, tools and ideas with colleagues and schools around the world.  ASB also hosts a range of educational conferences and learning events, from our Maker Saturdays, TRAI Summits, Global Social Entrepreneurship Summits and TEDx ASB events for students, to conferences such as ASB Un-Plugged, Future Forwards, InspirED and the Google Summits for educators from India and around the world.  

Last weekend I was involved in the Teacher Training Program at ASB.  Our Mission calls on us to "enhance the lives of others" and this is one way I feel I can give back to the Indian community.  The TTP is a 2 year program for Indian teachers who are working in partner NGOs.  The program is taught by ASB staff and introduces to Indian teachers new ideas and critical skills for teaching in the 21st century. 

Our journey towards becoming a center for life-long learning has begun.  I'm interested to see who is the person who will be taking us forward.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Authoritative -v- Authoritarianism

Such a huge difference between those two words!  Today I've been considering another of Gary Marx's 21 trends and also thinking about a conversation I had a few days ago with one of our teachers who has recently resigned and is looking for another job in a different part of the world.  It's a scary place to be - giving up a secure job for the unknown.  I remembered something that someone told me a little over 3 years ago when I was also looking for a new job:  when a door closes a window always opens, but until it does you are in a very dark place.  I remember being in that dark place well, though possibly what came before was even darker.

Last week in our Leadership PLC we were discussing the #1 reason why people break contract - it is because of their supervisor.  Having mulled over this for a whole week, and having read what Marx said about authority -v- authoritarianism, I feel a lot of empathy with those in this situation.  I guess everyone who has read my blog over the years I've been writing it, has seen a change.  Sometimes I meet people for the first time who have been following my posts and they say "Wow!  You're certainly in a much better place now"  (I think they mean mentally as well as simply that I have a much better job).  Marx writes about people who continue to work in organizations where new ideas are seen as threats and where the prevailing culture is "my way or the highway", where the leaders are authoritarian rather than authoritative.

Authoritative leaders are good news - people go to them for advice because of their knowledge and experience.
Authoritarian leaders are bad news - Marx refers to this as "a concentration of power in a way that is not responsible".  These people are dictatorial, domineering, arrogant, pretentious, controlling and narcissistic.  Here is a typical example:  at team leader meetings ideas were discussed, but the decision had already been taken.  Few people volunteered their honest opinions - those who did were "trouble makers".  Most said nothing.  Others simply said what those in charge wanted to hear.  Anyone with different opinions was "disloyal".  What happens in these situations?  Marx writes that "incompetence replaces excellence  ... the talented are often the first to leave since they have options."

Marx writes about a number of implications for education.  I've chosen to summarize the ones that I think are the 3 most important:
  • Students need to understand inclusive decision-making and how to legitimately use authority in achieving the common good.
  • Students should receive a grounding in principles that are basic to democracy.  They should understand empathy, human and civil rights and learn how to identify the benefits and consequences of their own actions, for themselves and others.
  • Teachers should be engaged in ongoing professional development in order to prepare to exercise legitimate future-focused leadership in a fast-changing world.
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Monday, November 17, 2014

Profile of a Modern School Leader

This week we are interviewing for the role of Assistant Superintendent for the next 3 years at ASB. Our leadership team already drew up a list of attributes about what we are looking for in a leader for the future.

As I was thinking over what we are looking for in our next Assistant Superintendent today, I saw this graphic posted by Edwin Lagos (@elag87) on Twitter.  I contacted Edwin to ask him whether this graphic was part of a blog post he had written.  His reply is that it was inspired by another infographic by Reid Wilson (@wayfaringpath) that had been posted on the COETAIL website.

As I considered the infographics by Edwin and Reid, it occurred to me that both involved a huge climate of trust.  Teachers will only step outside their comfort zone, take risks and allow themselves to fail, if they know that school leaders encourage a culture of innovation and motivate the community to take risks.  I love the way that "Trusts" is the biggest word on Edwin's infographic. Trust is also something that we talked a lot about in our recent cognitive coaching workshop.  The facets of trust, according to Tschannen-Moran in Trust Matters:  Leadership for Successful Schools are as follows:
  • Benevolence - caring, supporting teachers, expressing appreciation for efforts, being fair, guarding confidential information
  • Honesty - integrity, being truthful, honoring promises and agreements, having authenticity, accepting responsibility
  • Openness - communication, sharing important information, sharing decision making, sharing power
  • Reliability - being consistent and dependable, demonstrating commitment
  • Competence - setting an example, problem solving, conflict resolution, working hard, setting standards, buffering teachers, being flexible.
Below is a copy of Reid Wilson's infographic on the Profile of a Modern Teacher.  Click on the infographic to go to a larger version.

Are you a modern teacher or modern school leader?  What do you think are the most important attributes that you bring to your role?  Are there any others you could consider important in a school for the future?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Leadership PLC - part 4

At today's Leadership PLC we were asked what were the 4 factors that would cause a new teacher or administrator in a critical position in school to leave within the first 3 months.  This got me reflecting on my "early days" experiences in the 6 schools where I've worked.  Now before I go further I just want to say that I have never broken a contract and left a job after just a short time in the place, though there was once a time when I considered it.   After discussing various reasons, we were told what the findings, according to the Harvard Business School, are:
  • Your Supervisor.  According to the HBS this is the #1 reason why people decide to leave after a very short time in the job.  I started to think about this.  In fact in most schools where I have worked I have been hired by someone who was not my supervisor - usually the Head/Director of the school.  And no matter how many "good vibes" you might get in an interview situation, usually this is not the person that you are dealing with all day, every day in your new job.   In fact by the time you arrive, this person may even have moved on to another school.  Arriving in a new job and finding that the person who is one step up the ladder from you is just not a person you can work with, is horrible.  This is something that it's not really possible to do a lot of homework about beforehand - in particular because your supervisor might well be a new hire too.
  • Transition Issues.  We talked about how hard it is to transition from one school or one country to another.  At ASB we pride ourselves on being "masters of transition" - even brining new staff to the school 3 months before their contract starts, to give them a good introduction to the school and to living in India.  Other places are not so good at this.  Someone I used to work with recounted her arrival story at a different school where she had to find her own way from the airport to her new apartment all by herself and when she got there she found there was nothing at all in the apartment.  She recounts how she had taken the blanket with her off the plane and how she put this down on the floor of her new apartment and lay down on it to sleep.  The following day she had to navigate buying furniture, getting a telephone connected, getting internet and so on - all in a language she did not speak.  Perhaps it's not surprising that this teacher resigned before Christmas of her first year!  We all go through a honeymoon period following a transition, and then a big dip.  The support (or not) of a school can make a huge difference as to how deep the dip is and how quickly you can get out of it.
  • A Disconnect.  There are many reasons why you might find yourself in a situation of disconnect, so that you feel you don't fit into your new school.  Perhaps the values of the people there are different from yours.  Perhaps their philosophy of education may be different.  Perhaps you have been led to believe something and it turned out not to be true.  Perhaps you were so keen to get the job that you settled for something that was not really a good fit for you.
  • Personal Reasons.  These are the ones that everyone will understand - the ones that no one can ever hold against you.  Suddenly finding that you or a family member is ill.  A death of a parent that calls you back home.
It's interesting to think how these may apply to our students too.  Why some kids who do very well in one place, do extremely poorly in another.  Perhaps they end up in a class with a teacher for whom it is just not a good fit.  Perhaps the culture of the school is totally different from what they are used to.  Perhaps different things are valued.  We often forget that we, as adults, can do our homework about a school and can still make a terrible mistake in accepting a job there - and we have the choice.  Our children don't have any choice at all.    Something worth thinking about for international school teachers who end up with "difficult" children in their classes!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

1 in 100

Today I heard from Bob Greenberg who has just published his 100th Brainwaves video on YouTube. This 100th video doesn't highlight one individual educator, but rather pulls together some words from 13 of the thought leaders he has interviewed this year.  I am honoured and grateful to be 1 of Bob's 100 Brainwaves.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hierarchy is the death of creativity and innovation

One thing that Jim Collins' team found when researching how a good company can become a great company is that many small, start-up companies are high on creativity, innovation and risk-taking, whereas a more established company can often be a victim of its own success.  Collins charts the movement from an egalitarian, fun company to what he calls "an unwieldy ball of disorganized stuff" which leads to a hierarchy being established with a "we" and "them" attitude, the result of which is that the most innovative people leave and the creative magic starts to wane.  Let's think how this applies to education.

Over my 30 years in schools, I've worked in large schools of over 1,000 students and small ones of under 300.  I've also worked at small schools that have become large schools and I've thought about what vital spark disintegrated as the school grew.  Certainly the small schools seemed friendlier places:  I knew every single teacher and student who worked there and they all knew me, whereas in large schools, especially those split among multiple campuses, this was not the case.  I recall one time when I went for a parent conference with my daughter's teachers and some of the teachers I spoke to were surprised to find that I was also working there!  I also recall working in small schools where everyone had to pitch in and take on multiple hats, and where there was also a feeling of having a finger on the pulse, or being involved more closely in decisions that were made.  In others it was pretty much an "old boys club" where cronyism was rife and where the culture became less and less innovative the more the school grew.

Jim Collins writes "the purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence".  His point is that basically if you have the right people onboard in the first place, who are self-directed and self-disciplined, then there is no need for a bureaucracy which is only in place to manage the "small percentage of wrong people".  His advice is to avoid bureaucracy and hierarchy and instead create a culture of discipline.  Today at lunch I was sitting with our R&D Coordinator and we were talking about the fact that everyone at ASB works hard because they are so motivated and given a huge amount of freedom within certain guidelines (autonomy and purpose).  I remember saying to him "I'm working harder than ever before, but I'm also much less stressed."  Jim Collins writes about this, referring to the culture in good to great places as being one of freedom and responsibility within a framework, and that these places are filled with self-disciplined people who engage in rigorous thinking before taking action, and who are willing to go to extreme lengths to fulfill their responsibilities.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Stepping out of the coaching role

Cognitive Coaching is an extremely effective way to support a teacher's self-directed learning, as it involves allowing the coachee to make choices about the direction s/he wants to go in.  However what happens if, during a coaching conversation, the teacher has no ideas - at that point the coach might need to temporarily step out of the coaching role and into a different one.  The first role, that many coaches might be called upon to adopt, is the consulting role.  If the coach realizes that the person being coached needs a different type of support, he or she should make it clear to the coachee that the supporting role is changing - and then as soon as possible he or she should step back into the coaching role again.

Let's take a few examples.  When I sit with teachers to have them set their tech goals, or when we look at student work and decide where it belongs on the Tech Audit, I am always in the coaching role.  If I suggest a goal, or make a judgement about a student artifact, then I'm not supporting a teacher becoming self-directed.  However at school I often do step out of the role of a coach and into the role of a collaborator - for example during our PYP collaborative planning meetings, where everyone works together as equals to achieve a common goal.  At our Day 4 session of Cognitive Coaching, we talked about how collaborative meetings need norms and protocols and also a skilled facilitator who can bring the coaching skills of pausing and paraphrasing into the meeting - often productive meetings don't happen "naturally".

As mentioned earlier, I'm most often asked to step out of a coaching role and into a consulting role because of the expertise I have in technology.  This could happen at a tech meeting or in a training session where specific expertise is called on.  It's important to realize, however, that people can only take away what they are ready to hear.  Although I can talk about different tools or strategies, I need to be aware that the teacher may not be ready for them.  At times, I think, I move to a consulting role simply because of a lack of time or because that is what teachers thinks s/he needs, but as much as possible I think a teacher can to develop his or her own capacity with technology and not come to rely on a consultant/integration specialist for assistance.  As I gave a lot of assistance when I first arrived at the school, I'm trying to back-pedal this year so that teachers learn how to resolve their own problems, and even when offering advice or making recommendations, I try to give options and use the phrase "or not" so that the teacher has control over decision making about the way forward.

In my role I try never to evaluate a teacher or assess their performance, but at times it is necessary to touch on this role.  It's extremely hard to be both a coach and an evaluator and this can only happen if there is a lot of trust and if it is clear to everyone which role is happening and when.  The aims of a coach and an evaluator are very different.  A coach wants to support a teacher's thinking so that s/he arrives at his/her own goal, whereas an evaluator is looking for some conformity to performance standards or perhaps a school-wide goal.  In fact Bill and Ochan Powell summed up the different roles in the following way:
Coaching = transforming
Collaboration = forming
Consulting = informing
Evaluation - conforming
Looked at in this way, it's easy to see that of the 4 roles coaching should have the most impact in the long-term on a teacher developing internal capacity, and so transforming student learning.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

How can coaches use data to stimulate teachers' self-directed learning?

In Day 4 of the Cognitive Coaching Seminar that I attended yesterday, we spent some time discussing the role of data.  As the aim of Cognitive Coaching is to help a teacher think through an issue and perhaps take action, the data is only useful when it is reflected upon by the person being coached to draw his or her own conclusions about student learning.  The coach can be involved in collecting the data by observing a lesson or meeting prior to a reflection meeting.

Data, therefore, can play an important role in the coaching cycle of planning - observation and reflecting.  During a planning conversation, a coach will first ask questions to clarify a teacher's goals and what success looks like.  At this point the idea of conducting an observation to collect data could be a useful discussion so that the teacher will have evidence of success. The important thing here is that the coach and teacher need to agree together on what data to collect, and when and how to collect it.   It's really important that the teacher being coached agrees on this, otherwise an observation can very easily be seen as an evaluation.  The coach therefore needs to ask the teacher what s/he wants to have observed and recorded and what tools would be most useful for subsequent reflection (for example perhaps the teacher wants the coach to scribe all the questions being asked, or to count the amount of wait time or to use tally marks to count how often a certain behaviour is happening among students).

Following the observation, during the reflecting conversation the coach then needs to communicate the data in such as way as to promote the self-directedness of the teacher.  First the person being coached needs to think about what s/he can recall of the lesson, and only after this self-reflection should the coach share the actual data so that the teacher can see whether the data supports their initial impressions about the lesson.  Often, if there is a discrepancy, the data can be useful as the "3rd point" in the conversation, as it can depersonalize a contentious issue and prevent a teacher becoming defensive.  In this situation a coach simply needs to share the data and ask "What patterns do you notice?"  The coach's role at this point is to ask mediative questions as this is where the new learning for the teacher happens.

Effective teachers are themselves lifelong learners.  By asking mediative questions to help a teacher analyze, interpret and draw conclusions based on the data collected during their classroom observations, a coach can help a teacher to explore ways they can modify their actions as they work towards achieving their goals.

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Feedback that supports thinking

I've just completed Day 4 of the 8-Day course on Cognitive Coaching.  I'm hoping to do the second set of Cognitive Coaching seminars next Spring.  Today's seminar was very timely for me, as having followed the Planning Conversation Map with teachers and assistants over the last couple of months as they have set their goals for this school year, I'm now moving on to reflective conversations and to conducting class observations and giving feedback to support teachers as they work towards their goals.

This morning we watched a lesson and considered different ways we could, as a coach, give feedback to a teacher.  We talked about 5 different forms of feedback, some of which were helpful and some of which were definitely not (and in the case of evaluative feedback would actually get in the way of a teacher making his/her own judgements and conclusions about the lesson).

Evaluative feedback
  • Judgements:  oftentimes a person giving feedback will make judgements about what has been observed.  Even statements like "great lesson" can get in the way of thinking.  The phrase that Bill Powell used when referring to this was some some people can get "addicted to praise" which then leads to a shut down of their own thinking.  In all cases, the anticipation of judgement works against a teacher developing self-directedness.
  • Personal observations:  these are statements that contain the word "I".  For example "I like the way you ....."  These comments are personal to the observer and may not be true for others, and make the coachee reliant on the thinking and feelings of the observer.  If these statements are negative ones, then the most common reaction in the person being observed is defensiveness.
  • Inferences:  these are vague, unclear statements such as "the students learned a lot".  The coachee isn't provoked to think deeper, but often may be left wondering what is meant by the feedback.
Feedback that supports thinking
  • Data:  providing data that is specific, observable, and measurable allows the coachee to make meaning out of the feedback.  As they self-assess against the data that has been collected they become more self directed.
  • Mediative questions: are thought provoking.  These include questions such as "what strategies did you use to ....?", "how did you decide to ....?", "what do you think your students learned about ....?", and "how might the data inform your next steps?"
We spent quite some time talking about data today and how to use data in both the Planning and the Reflecting Conversation Maps.  I'll write more about this in the next blog post.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Leadership PLC - part 3

This morning we had another Leadership PLC session.  We moved on from our previous discussion about Jim Collins' "hedgehog concept" and started to think about other writers and how their ideas connect to his.  For example, in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers he writes about the 10,000 hours of practice that is needed to become an expert, about opportunities based on when and where you were born, what your parents did and the circumstances of your upbringing and educational experiences, and something he calls legacy which is a mixture of religion, culture, tradition and attitude. We then also talked about Daniel Pink's book Drive which describes the most important factors of motivation being autonomy, mastery and purpose.   I have tried to add these into the previous diagram that I was making about the hedgehog concept and the 4th circle.

So here is what we went on to talk about: what does 10,000 hours look like in teaching?  For a subject teacher (let's say history) this devotion to one subject will give a very different sort of mastery than being an elementary teacher who teaches lots of different subjects.  At what stage could we say a teacher has "completed" 10,000 hours of "practice".  What about if the practice they were doing was "wrong" and teachers are simply practicing "bad" hours/habits?  In many schools novice teachers are left pretty much to themselves and don't have a coach or mentor to help them to improve their practice - so how do they get better and become experts?  School leaders, who were once classroom teachers themselves and then moved on to become administrators are often not really focused on the practice of those teachers still in the classroom - so who is making these 10,000 hours of practice valuable for the teachers?

I started thinking about something else during this meeting too - a little known study by Bloom about the romance and the rigor.  Apparently he too studied "outliers" those who were excellent in their own field, and discovered they had had 2 types of teachers - first the warm, fuzzy ones who got them to love their subject and develop their talent ("the romance") and then at some point later, each of these experts changed to a more strict teacher who built up their skills ("the rigor").  It seems you need both types of teachers to become an expert.  We also talked about the fact that the 10,000 hours may not apply to teaching - because rather than a simple mechanical repetition or practice, every day is different and we need to think on our feet rather than follow a particular pattern.  All interesting stuff.  As I began to dig a bit deeper today after our meeting I discovered that Anders Ericsson, the psychologist at Florida State University who came up with the 10,000 hours theory, actually stated that you only get benefits by "adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal."  Clearly it's the feedback that matters, not simply the hours of practice - and this brings me back to teaching again.  Let's throw in the observations of another expert, Daniel Goleman, who states "The secret to smart practice boils down to focus on the particular feedback from a seasoned coach."  You can imagine how pleased I was to read the work coach there!  

What questions come from this research?  Well I guess the first question that needs to be asked is how do you, in your busy life, find the time to pursue the 10,000 hours of whatever it is that you are most passionate about?  We talked about what it is in our daily work that we don't need to do anymore - and whether we can empower someone else to do those things to give us the time to focus on developing our passions.  Certainly an interesting idea to explore further!

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Collaborative Cultures

I'm blessed to work in a very collaborative culture where people are happy to learn with and from each other.  As we are a PYP school we value collaborative planning, but I've also worked in places where competition rather than collaboration was the norm.  Michael Fullan writes that it is up to the leader to create the type of culture in which collaboration is effective and he has identified 5 elements that lead to this culture:
  1. A focus on a small number of goals - that everyone needs to pursue
  2. A guiding coalition - a strong central team so that progress is not dependent on one leader
  3. Collective capacity building - involving peer-based learning.  Fullan identifies 2 benefits of learning as a team:  improvement in a staff's knowledge of ideas and practices, and staff allegiance to peers within the organization.
  4. Individual capacity building - hiring people who will work with and complement the abilities and styles of others.
  5. Reaping the benefits of collaborative competition.  At first competition and collaboration seem to be opposites but Fullan writes that competition can be a by-product of collaboration - as people are intrinsically motivated to work together, they develop a healthy competition to do their best for the common good.  An effective change leader appreciates this combination and fosters a culture that supports both in a healthy way without leading to a win-lose mentality.
What do you think about the last point.  Can competition and collaboration work together to improve the culture of a school?

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Monday, November 3, 2014

What is the role of a technology integration coach?

My blog post entitled What is the role of a technology integration specialist? is the 3rd most read post that I have written (coming only just behind 2 posts about the SAMR Model).  However, at my new school having a tech integration specialist is something we have moved away from, and instead we have introduced a system of technology integration coaches.  As such I thought it was time to update my writing to include this new model.  At ASB we have adopted the ISTE Standards for students, teachers and coaches.  From the point of view of coaches there are 6 standards:
  • visionary leadership
  • teaching learning and assessments
  • digital age learning environments
  • professional development and programme evaluation
  • digital citizenship
  • content knowledge and professional growth
I wanted to dig a bit deeper into these and also think of them alongside educational coaching roles in general and recently I read a chapter on coaches' roles, responsibilities and reach by Joellen Killion, in the book Coaching Approaches and Perspectives edited by Jim Knight.  Joellen starts off with an excellent description of what a coach actually is:
Coaches are master teachers who participate in explicit professional development about coaching to become skillful.  In professional development, they examine their fundamental beliefs about student learning, teaching and coaching; acquire deep knowledge about adult development and change; and acquire skillfulness with a broad range of strategies to use in their new role .... [They are] school-based professional development specialists who work with individuals and teams to design and facilitate appropriate learning experiences, provide feedback and support, and assist with implementation challenges.  Their work centers on refining and honing teaching, and their indicator of success is student academic success.
I found this description of how a person becomes a coach and what they then do to be particularly apt in the light of the fact that all of our tech integration coaches are undergoing cognitive coaching training at school this week.  The intention of cognitive coaching is to transform the effectiveness of decision making through facilitating reflection.  The idea is that all behaviour is produced by thought and perception, and so the goal of coaching is to mediate thinking in a way that builds capacity. Joellen describes 10 different roles of coaches, and I thought it useful to reflect on the extent to which these roles are the focus of our tech integration coaches.  I like the emphasis on narrowing the focus:  Joellen points out that coaches who take on too many roles dilute the impact of their work.

1.  A Data Coach
Joellen writes that a data coach assists teachers to examine student achievement data and to use this to design instruction and to make curricular decisions.  At ASB we are now in the 3rd year of a tech audit of student artifacts.  This audit is based on the ISTE Standards for Students.  Teachers are able to enter artifacts that students have produced in their classes into a Google Site template based on each of the ISTE Standards for Students.   The artifacts are then discussed and ranked according to where they fall on Bloom's Taxonomy.  Once all this data has been collected and visualized it's clear to see which standards are being covered at which grade levels, and also what type of thinking the students are engaged in as they create their artifacts.  From this is has been possible to target whole school professional development for the standards that are weaker, and to target individualized PD for teachers who see the need to grow in certain areas.  More about this PD role later.

2.  A Resource Provider
Our tech integration coaches are now the first port of call for tech resources in the grades that they are supporting.  Teachers expect the coaches to be knowledgeable about what is available.  This role also aligns with the ISTE for Coaches Standard 3 where coaches maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teaches and students to use in technology-rich learning environments.

3.  A Mentor
ASB does a particularly good job of mentoring student, novice and new teachers to the school.  The April before the school year starts, all new teachers are brought to Mumbai to orientate them to both the school and India, and to let them see the expectations for technology integration.  Following this visit, teachers can start to prepare for their arrival with a variety of online courses offered through ASB's Online Academy.  Joellen writes that coaches need to have knowledge about the stages of teacher development and the coaching skills specific to novice teachers.  The coach needs to acclimatize new teachers to the school's norms and practices so that the new teacher quickly adjusts to the expectations of the school.

4.  A Curriculum Specialist
In this role, our tech coaches are expected to be familiar with the ISTE Standards for Students:  this is the what of teaching and will include students using technology for creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making, and will include students understanding digital citizenship and technology concepts, systems and operations.  Since we do our tech audit based on these standards, coaches help teachers to understand what successful learning looks like and how technology can be used for learning and assessments.

5.  An Instructional Specialist
A tech integration coach also needs to focus on how to teach using technology.  Here we use the ISTE Standards for Teachers.  Although there are 5 of these standards, our main focus to date has been on Standard 2, designing and developing digital-age learning experiences and assessments.

6.  A Classroom Supporter
Joellen describes how in this role a coach works alongside a teacher to model effective teaching and/or observing and giving feedback.  This role requires co-planning, co-teaching, observing, giving feedback and engaging in reflective conversations about teaching and learning.  In my role I am able to do this quite regularly, however all of our tech integration coaches are full time teachers who have less time to be able to work with another teacher in his or her classroom.  In fact our coaches do have a lot of input into the co-planning and reflecting on the student work for the grade they actually teach, but less when they are coaching the grade that they don't teach (each of our elementary tech integration coaches is responsible for 2 grade levels).  This role is also seen in the ISTE Standards for Coaches - Standard 3 requires coaches to model effective classroom management and collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources.

7.  A Learning Facilitator
Joellen writes that learning facilitators "organize, coordinate, support, design, or facilitate learning among adults within the school".  This aligns with the ISTE Standards for Coaches Standard 4 where technology coaches design professional learning and evaluate the impact of this on student learning.

8.  A School Leader
Tech integration coaches are seen as leaders, and together can contribute to schoolwide initiatives and assist teachers in implementing them.  Again, this is a role mentioned in Standard 1 of the ISTE Standards for Coaches, as coaches inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment.  Recently one of our tech coaches has led his Grade in prototyping connectivity devices such as Apple TVs.  Joellen writes that coaches may lead task forces and that they "work to create a healthy, collaborative community of learners among the adults in their schools".  She cautions that there is a delicate balance between supervising and supporting and that coaches should have no supervisory responsibility so that their allegiance rests with teachers.  At ASB although coaches do help teachers to set their professional goals and support them as they work towards reaching these goals, they play no role in the evaluation of teachers.

9.  A Catalyst for Change
Joellen writes that coaches frequently initiate change.  This is one of the outcomes of cognitive coaching where a coach "intervenes in such a way as to enhance another person's self-directed learning".  Through asking questions and making observations, a coach can help a teacher to inquire into his or her practice, which can lead to analysis, reflection and change.  What I found really interesting was that Joellen pointed out that schools that made the most improvements in student achievement were those with teachers who were dissatisfied with their work; conversely schools that showed limited improvement in achievement had staff who were satisfied with their work.  Coaches, it seems, through provocative questions, can "generate the dissonance essential to promote change."

10. A Learner
It goes without saying that a tech integration coach needs to also engage in continuous professional learning.  This can involve attending conferences and workshop, reading widely, networking and talking, writing or blogging about their own experiences, insights and discoveries.  Recently we have been trying to identify (or even to start) Twitter chats focused on coaching as well as exploring online communities such as Google+ for our tech coaches to get involved in.  Three of our coaches have also applied to present at the 2015 ISTE Conference.  Being a learner is also seen as important in the ISTE Coaching Standards.  Standard 6 refers to coaching as "continuously deepening their knowledge and expertise" and to "regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology enhanced learning experiences".

Are you a tech integration coach?  How many of these roles do you have?  Do you agree with Joellen that having too many of these roles can dilute your work?  I'd love to hear about your experiences - please leave me a comment below.

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