Why I Dislike(d) Conferences

I spent much of last weekend at Bavarian International School in Munich, attending the ECIS Tech conference. The theme of the conference was on building engagement. I went to several sessions on making and the maker movement, collaboration, and technology support/coaching. I have a list of ideas to explore further through thinking, conversations, blogging and exploration.

I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of conferences. I’ve been thinking about what the traditional/typical conference offers to reframe my thinking from “don’t like conferences” to “conferences offer …”. The reason that I don’t like conferences is because they are an inadequate approach to professional development. I did my graduate work on professional development for effective technology integration. Conferences are the tip of the iceberg, but they can provide some unique opportunities.

Conferences are a great opportunity for informal learning. Take the chance to speak to people between and during sessions to expand your knowledge of what’s happening in education beyond your experience.

Conferences, especially large ones, provide exposure to new technology. Before going to a conference, make a list of the tools/resources that you are dissatisfied with or problems that you have not found a solution for. Visit vendors and demos to find out resources that may meet your needs. Also take the opportunity for hands-on experience with tools that you are curious about or have never encountered before to build your knowledgebase.

Attend sessions that are connected to your professional development plan. Look at the agenda to decide what value the conference offers you, and whether to attend. It’s okay to sit out a session; this could be a valuable opportunity to process a previous session and make a plan for integrating your new learning into your context. Spend some time looking at the schedule and select sessions that tie into your goals and plans, and that will help you achieve them. Have a focus.

Meet people from your virtual learning network. I’m a big fan of virtual connections but have to remember the importance of connections in the physical work. It adds a new dimension to the connections that you’ve built online when you can meet people in the physical world.

Present something that you’re excited or passionate about. Sometimes I feel that my role should be obsolete given the ease of finding things online. However, presenting lets you add the social element to learning which provides motivation and engagement. It also lets you cater to different personality types and learning preferences.

Take time to debrief. This is the process that I am embarking on. I plan to share resources to those who may be interested, to write some blog posts to expand and share my thinking, follow up with admin to clarify some goals, and implement some processes related to my own professional growth.

If you have a growth mindset, you can create your own learning experiences in a conference, or reframe the experiences provided to meet your goals and the needs of your role.

What strategies do you apply to grow from participation in conferences? Are you someone who loves conferences? I’d love to know what excites you about them.

Literacy Activities using Skype in the Classroom

There are several projects whereby you can use Skype for enriching learning in your classroom. One initiative is to encourage teachers to use Skype for building literacy.

Skype is currently highlighting a number of activities that you can do to reading, writing and digital literacy, as well as responsible Internet use:

Why use Skype in the classroom?

Skype helps you flatten the walls of your classroom, exposing children to the richness of the broader world. We can also use Skype to add context to learning, and to make it authentic for children. Skype can provide the opportunity to engage children’s inquiry, creativity and wonder by meeting other people around the world, learning from them, and sharing creations with them. The highlighted activity this month is the Big Questions Challenge.

The Big Questions Challenge uses a video to pose an open question for students to think about, research, and respond to. According to Skype, the goal of the challenge is “to develop digital literacy skills, and to encourage critical thinking and collaborative learning”. The challenges uses the following skills:

  • collaboration (students work in groups to answer the question)
  • critical thinking (students have to come up with solutions, where there are multiple options)
  • presentation (students can present the “answer” to others face-to-face or online, e.g. through a blog)
  • research (students may do research to find out about the topic)

The challenge uses an inquiry stance, whereby students self-organize to answer the question.

For this and other lessons, please visit Skype Education.

How to Use YouTube Capture

Do you take many video clips in your classroom? Would you like to merge them into one video? YouTube Capture lets you do just that.

YouTube Capture lets you easily merge two or more video clips together, trim parts of each one as desired, add music and upload the completed video to YouTube using only one app.

Here’s a tutorial video to show you how to use YouTube Capture. Before you start to watch the tutorial (or maybe even instead of it), I recommend that download the app and take a look at it yourself to see what you can discover. Here are some questions to guide your independent exploration:

  • How do you combine clips to form a video?
  • How do you trim a clip?
  • How do you add music/sound?
  • Can you edit any sound that you add?
  • What happens to clips if you restart the recording?
  • How do you log out?
  • Do clips take in YouTube capture get saved in the camera roll?

If you’ve used YouTube capture, please share your ideas/lessons in the comments.

Literacy Apps from Read Write Think

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 17.46.59Read Write Think, a website from NCTE and the International Reading Association has 9 Mobile Apps that may be useful to you for teaching. These apps are meant to engage students in literacy learning. Apps include those for writing poetry, for trading cards, for timelines, and for Venn diagrams.

While these apps mostly lend themselves to substitution, the scaffolding provided in the apps and the ease of moving items around may move the usage to augmentation. What you do with the final product or how you frame the activity may move the use to modification or redefinition. These apps may be useful for App Smashing (combining products from one or more apps into another app).

The Complete List of 9 Apps:



Research on Coaching

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

The final chapter of Coaching Approaches & Perspectives is written by Jake Cornett and Jim Knight on the topic of Research on Coaching. Quantitative research is (ethically) difficult in education. The analysis that Cornett and Knight have done of the existing research reveals a problem of validity and reliability due to problematic methods. There is also a dearth of of quantitative/experimental research on the effectiveness of coaching for increasing student achievement. The existing research suggests that coaching is effective in professional development by increasing implementation and understanding of programs and models by teachers. For research to guide practice, educators need more reliable and valid research on the structures that allow coaching to work and the instances when coaching is effective. Educators could also benefit from research that shows the types of coaching that are effective, for who they are effective, and when they are effective. For example, when is one-on-one, small group, autonomous online, and other types of coaching effective for working with teachers? What’s the appropriate use of modeling in professional development? Questions abound, and there are currently more questions than answers.

It’s been six years since the book was published. I wonder how the scope of research has changed in that time. I would like to determine the intersection of technology coaching with the ten types of coaching identified in this book. Although I am done reading this book, my inquiry is far from complete. My next steps are to identify my learning from this book, to extract the components relevant to my work, and to identify interventions that I will apply to my work based on what I learned in this book. I’ve also joined a MOOC on Technology Coaching. A key question for me is how can I leverage social networking and online communication to create the supportive network important to my own professional growth?

If you’ve read any recent research/books/articles on Technology Coaching that you found inspiring or empowering, please share them with me in the comments.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

YouTube for Kids

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 10.01.03YouTube for kids is the first app from Google solely geared at kids. There are apps for Android and iOS but the apps are only available through the US App Stores. Google uses “a mix of automated analysis and user input” (Official YouTube Blog) to determine which videos to include in the app. Videos on the homepage undo additional analysis to determine that they have no restricted content. The app lets parents add controls about:

  • usage time
  • sound (e.g. turn off sound effects and background sounds)
  • search settings

The app counts on parent involvement for refining the curation of videos. If you find a video inappropriate for children, flag it for Google’s review. It’s important to remember however, that Google controls the content that kids have access to in the app; parents cannot customize those options in the app. I think that YouTube Kids meets a need. I see children browsing YouTube on devices while waiting in various places with their parents such as school cafeteria, airports, restaurants, etc. If you’re going to let a child use a device to browse YouTube, it’s worth exploring YouTube Kids.

Will you be installing YouTube Kids for your children to use?

Here’s a great guide for aimed at parents – http://www.androidcentral.com/heres-what-parents-need-know-about-youtube-kids#

Literacy Coaching

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.
Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 10.46.00

I’d initially skipped Chapter 2: Literacy Coaching by Cathy A. Toll but I went back to read the chapter to see what I could glean. Although the chapter focuses on literacy coaching, which is a subset of instructional coaching, it presents ideas and concepts relevant to all types of coaching.

The chapter begins with a discussion of the landscape of literacy coaching in the USA. It shows that coaching has been a growing field, which first gained widespread popularity due to the Reading First program in the USA in 2002. It also looks at the work of literacy coaching, the opportunities that it presents in education, and its challenges.

Literacy coaching evolved as a new role which encompassed existing tasks such as monitoring a literacy program, providing PD for teachers, and demonstrating how to use purchased material. As the role has grown, literacy coaches have joined various associations, which have developed standards for literacy coaching. Toll argues that there was no need to define a new role for existing jobs, and that the real opportunity of literacy coaching is to have teachers partner with coaches to share data, needs, interests and questions for goal setting, planning and reflection to improve teaching practice. As in other forms of coaching presented, coaching starts with the identification of the needs of teachers. Toll shares that this is done using discourse so that the coach learns the current status for the teachers as well as his challenges, ideas, questions, goals, ideas and experiences.

In this chapter, the metaphor of coach as vehicle for change/transformation is revisited (as in chapter 6). The goal of coaching is to build efficacy and capacity through supporting teachers’ thinking and learning. Unfortunately, little research has been done on literacy coaching specifically, but research exists on the positive impacts of broader types of professional development which include literacy coaching. One of the challenges of research on the effects of literacy coaching is the difficulty of establishing a cause and effect relationship between coaching and student achievement. This problem may be of little issue since coaching focuses more directly on teacher growth rather than student achievement.

In the realm of teacher growth, literacy coaching can explicitly change behaviour, thinking, collaboration and feelings. An implicit effect occurs on teacher identify. Toll identifies four identities for teachers: “The Obedient Teacher”, “The Good Teacher”, “The Problem-Solving Teacher”, and “The Teacher with Agency” (Knight, 2008, p. 63). There is a reciprocal relationship between coaching teachers and the identity of teachers.

The challenge to literacy coaching is the lack of clarity around the term and the role. The term literacy coach is sometimes used to refer to someone who works with students; Toll defines the role as someone who works with teachers so there is a confusion of duties. She defines three duties for literacy coaches: one-on-one conferences with teachers, small group discussions of teachers with the coach, and demonstration lessons (Knight, 2008, p. 65). Unlike the other authors in this book, she stresses that teacher observation can be stressful for teachers and should only be done upon teacher request. Another problem of clarity is that a literacy coach may be given one of many titles which results in confusion about who performs the role. The third confusion is that some people confuse programs and models. A model is derived from theories and concepts and while some programs may do the same and can be used to derive a model, other programs are developed whimsically and do not correlate with a model. In conclusion, Toll provides  some guidelines for examining coaching programs.

I’m not so concerned about the terms and roles of coaching but I think that it’s important that each organization ascribe to a particular definition or create a well defined role. Are you in a coaching position? What is your title? Is your job well defined? How could it be clarified?

The issue of teacher observation has been the most challenging component of coaching to me; it feels like evaluation. However, some colleagues have been discussing co-teaching and this could provide a useful model for teacher feedback and reflection for professional growth. Co-teaching can be tricky when it comes to coaching teachers; depending on how it is structured, it can either be part of teacher coaching or student coaching. I think that the differentiating elements relates to teacher reflection, and discourse.

The issue of evaluating coaches is an important one, I think. As we define the role of a coach, we should make sure that evaluation and assessment matches that definition.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

1:1 iPads in Grade 2

Grade 2 was our first elementary class to have a 1:1 device. Last year, grade 2 students shared an iPad cart with one or two other classes. For the 2014-2015 year, we assigned each student an iPad mini at the beginning of the school year.

IMG_7058In preparing for this year’s roll-out, we had an trial of a 2 iPad minis in each Grade 2 class for two months last year. The purpose of the trial was to see how students worked with the iPad mini over the regular sized iPad, and to see how the iPads could be used in day to day teaching. The feedback from the teachers was that the size worked fine for their students, and having the iPads accessible all the time allowed them to integrate it into lessons, mostly for research but occasionally for creating. They wanted more iPads for more meaningful integration into the curriculum. Their greatest concerns were managing workflow and supporting students in using the iPads. We decided to meet at the beginning of the year and make some decisions about iPad management and use in the classroom to help make the implementation smooth. I outline our agreements and plans below. I’m interested in hearing about the steps that you took in implementation, and suggestions of agreements/structures/processes that will facilitate the effective integration of 1:1 devices like iPads in the classroom.

At the beginning of the school year, I met with all three Grade 2 teachers to discuss Digital Citizenship Agreement (DCA) training for Grade 2 students. Our goals were to come up with common language for managing iPad use in the classroom, and to schedule student training in the use of the iPads. From that meeting, we developed a list of tasks to structure our use of iPads in the classroom:

  • number iPads (TA; IT can do this in future)
  • assign iPad numbers to students (teacher)
  • personalize wallpaper (student)
  • put class and student name in About section (student)
  • link Digital Citizenship Agreement to school’s skills and behaviors – link iPad expectations to classroom routines (teacher/DLF*)
    • make sure that classroom expectations address choices that students make when online (teacher/DLF)
  • teach the terms digital citizenship and digital footprint, emphasizing the opportunity to create a positive digital footprint (teacher/DLF)
  • teach basic care instructions (teacher/DLF)
    • unplugging: practice unplugging safely – don’t pull wire, hold as close as possible
    • plugging in: plug in when below 40%
    • headphones: be careful pulling them out
  • Review new tech and workflow skills throughout the year (teacher/DLF)
  • Manage classroom passwords for easy retrieval (teacher)

We also talked about students bringing their iPads to specials. We got input from specialist teachers about student use of iPads in their classes. We came up with the following agreement:

  • Special teacher should send a message to the classroom teacher in advance – teacher will remind students in classroom meetings
  • For (occasional) last minute requests by specialist teachers, talk to the classroom teacher and leave a note on the classroom door reminding students to bring iPad to the special

We clarified Classroom Management Expectations specific to the iPad:

  • Storage – put it away in the cabinet when done using it
  • Charging – check battery percentage when using iPad and charge at 40%
  • Use around the classroom/school – can use the iPad outside the classroom for authentic uses, with teacher permission (no bathroom, outside recess, cafeteria use in general)
  • How we care for the iPads
    • get microfiber clothes/wet clothes
    • close apps when done using them (home button in the app if applicable, then iPad home button)
    • quit apps from multitasking display (double click home button, swipe up)
      • important to do if an app is frozen or if iPad gets slow
  • Messages on the iPad
    • Ask a teacher before clicking anything if you’re not sure what the message means

We identified a list of Skills for orienting students to using the iPad:

  • Turning on and locating specific apps
  • Turn off keyboard clicks (Settings -> Sounds -> Keyboard clicks)
  • Under settings→ general → about → change name to class + student name (ex. 2M Lucy)
  • Under Settings -> Mail (change signature) to Sent from Name
  • Gestures
    • zooming in and out e.g. in Google Earth
    • Closing an app (home or 5 fingers)
    • Quitting an app (multitasking bar)
    • scrolling
  • Plugging headphones and managing volume
  • Taking photos/editing (cropping, saving, mailing, etc.)
  • Taking videos (framing, stability, focusing, etc.)
  • Accessing sites using QR codes – a few websites that you may use throughout the year
  • Adding email addresses to the Contact list
  • Using Explain Everything
    • reviewing tools
    • importing from the photo library
    • exporting to DropBox
  • Using Doodle Buddy app – creating an image and saving to the camera roll to be uploaded into other apps to support projects
  • Making an iMovie – bringing in photos and videos made previously, taking and shooting photos and videos within the app – save to photo library
  • Developing a system for organizing information electronically – folders and tags in Google Drive and/or Dropbox
  • Sending email – to who, when, what
  • Moving items between iPads
    • explore Airdrop
  • Getting an item from Dropbox or Google Drive
  • Naming files – label with information that allows for easy access later
    • Format: class name, student first nameLast Initial, name of task/item,
      • e.g. 2M LucyM SummerHoliday
  • Renaming an item in Dropbox
  • Saving an item to Dropbox or Google Drive
  • Shared Photostreams for home-school or teacher-student sharing
    • explore by teachers

Lesson Plans for use in DCA Training Throughout the Year

Resources for 1:1 with iPads


*DLF = Digital Learning Facilitator

Leadership Coaching: Facilitating and Supporting Change

By Goalfinder.com, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

By Goalfinder.com, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Coaches can help their clients in self-discovery to make sure that energy drains are overcome for a healthy and successful life. Coaches help each client consider their whole life, both personal and professional as one affects the other. Coaches are open-minded and embark on a journey full of possibility with clients. They help clients clarify goals and identify actions to achieve the goals, and to reflect on progress to refine enactment. They encourage leaders to have a positive attitude about their life and responsibilities and help develop the leader as a whole person. Every leader has multiple roles in a workplace including that of individual as well as member of the organization. A leadership coach considers all the roles of a person in coaching him.

Reiss identifies 8 factors necessary for successful change, many of which parallel factors in coaching. They include passionate commitment, attention and focus, vision, action, support, letting go of deterrence, being aware of beliefs that hold you back, and challenging assumptions (Knight, 2008, p. 186). Brain research shows that people can train their brain to create change, and that new thoughts coupled with action leads to new behavior. Brain research shows four areas of brain function that explain the effectiveness of coaching: attention, reflection, insight and action.

Brain connection develops through use and practice. By giving attention to actions related to a solution rather than a problem, a person builds new helpful connections in the brain.

Reflection provides access to the right side of the brain which is more emotional/sensing.

Conversations between the coach and client provide insight that provide energy for action.

A person will have the most success if she uses the energy produced by insight to push her goal forward through action. Insight reveals thoughts and allows a person to choose new thoughts which can channel action.

Hiring a new leader can be an expensive endeavor for schools. It may be prudent for schools to look into coaching existing leaders, which also increases job satisfaction and retention. In the event where a school/district needs to hire a new leader, leadership coaching smooths the transition and established a course of success for the new leader in the job.

In education, we talk about educating the whole child. We understand that children are not robots who can turn off and on for learning, and that the experiences and circumstances of a child outside of school affect their school life. It stands to reason that the same is true of adults. The roots of a professional problem may be linked to a personal problem; the best results will be achieved by addressing the problems and their interactions together. It seems to me that the factors in leadership coaching also apply to other types of coaching as well.

Some years ago, at a previous job, one of my professional development goals was to work with a mentor. What is a mentor but coach as expert? I see the value of coaching as a means of professional development. In my role of technology coordinator, which comprises different roles at different times, knowing about and being able to apply the components of coaching would be beneficial to me, to those that I work with, and to my organization.

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 8: Leadership Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Leadership Coaching: Role and Actions

Image by Adrian Trendall: License. CC BY-SA 3.0

Image by Adrian Trendall. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Many people who have not experienced coaching have little understanding of the process and believe that coaching is only useful for fixing people. However coaching is useful for refining skills and gaining new skills that can be professional, personal or interpersonal. Coaching requires training and professional coaches have a minimum of 125 hours of training and practice in being an effective coach.

A coach listens to what is being said for the underlying thoughts and beliefs to help the client to identify priorities and implement them. In addition to dialogue and discourse, the coach advises the coachee in self-observation and reflection to guide or modify practice. The aim of the coach is not to fix the coachee, but rather to ignite the coachee’s potential to attain her goals. The recipe for effective coaching in the form of memorable results includes mixing “skills, attitudes, and process with a trusting relationship” (p. 178, Knight, 2008).

Leadership coaching is based on a trusting, confidential relationship. This makes it hard for supervisors who have an evaluative role to be a coach to those that they evaluate. A school leader cannot effectively coach person when there is no trust, confidentiality, honesty or openness in their relationship. There may be a conflict of interest if the coach is also the evaluating supervisor. However, all leaders can apply leadership coaching skills to modify the way that they communicate and act with staff to encourage them to use a growth mindset for desired change and improvement. Reiss lists seven behaviours of leaders applying a coaching style to help employees identify a goal for improvement and an appropriate intervention.  The key to a coaching style of leadership is for the leader to be able to have open, non-judgmental conversations with employees focused on the attainment of a specific goal.

School leaders can become more effective by working with a coach, and can also build their leadership coaching skills to guide employees, students or anyone in the process of change. One of the biggest areas of support for school leaders is on developing their interpersonal skills, and their capacity for dealing with change. Coaches can make a difference in attaining outcomes through their inspiration, curiosity, compassion, courage, thinking, problem-solving and support; this summarizes Reiss’ list of 10 attributes. Coaches help their clients find a way to make their goal a reality.

Coaches are becoming more commons in schools and school districts. Research is beginning to show the value of coaching as part of professional development for teachers. Ideally, a person interested in coaching would have a choice of coaches who do not supervise him and would select one that fits his needs.

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 8: Leadership Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.