“When professionals share their talents and skills, they help the whole school develop a collective wisdom.” ~ Robert Marzano
And now that the devices are in the hands of students in all of their 32 schools, the Alamance-Burlington Schools district has turned to a researched practice that not only makes a tremendous impact on the culture of our public schools, but expounds upon collaboration, increases rigor, and propels the capacity of all stakeholders at twice the expected rate of return: they have begun implementing instructional rounds, or Learning Walks.
This collaborative practice is based on the medical model or rounds. The practice has been further developed for school administrators to observe and discuss best practices in the classroom, and modified to enable educators to conduct their own instructional rounds focused on self reflection and growth designed to begin discussions of instruction directly into the process of school improvement. In other words, this simple process creates a common language, common discipline, common focus, common purpose, and common problems.
You can talk about Learning Walks, but to truly understand this experience and it’s associated benefits, you have to experience it – you have to ‘walk the walk’. It is important that all involved understand the purpose of the walks and that they are introduced in a non-threatening way. Although schools and districts will initiate learning walks in various ways, several strategies are critical to gain buy-in: In this case, Alamance Burlington committed all it’s leadership to experience a full day of learning walks spanning schools across their district. Leaders had the opportunity to sign up for one of four days of instructional rounds, each with their own area of focus aligned with district expectations for digital learning and teaching – Management of a Digital Learning Classroom, Content & Instruction, Using Technology to Differentiate Learning, and The 4 C’s.
Along with these focus areas, each with criteria and questions, Leadership was also asked to observe student engagement, learning goals and progress tracking, student understanding of new knowledge practices and /or deepened, and how expectations are communicated to all students, etc..
During instructional rounds, small groups of three to five people make relatively brief observations of educators in action. These observations are longer than a typical “walkthrough” (i.e., longer than a few minutes), but usually shorter than an entire class period. When engaged in rounds, groups conduct as many substantive observations of classrooms as possible within part of a day or the entire day.
These rounds are a non-evaluative, structured approach to get educators into each other’s classrooms to see the teaching and learning that is taking place. Cultivating a meaningful professional learning process for improving teaching and learning, and promoting a truly collaborative learning community, requires ongoing effort from all stakeholders involved.
The primary purpose is for those making the observations to compare their practices with those observed in the classrooms they visit, and it is the discussion at the end of a set of instructional rounds and the subsequent self‐reflection by observers that is their chief benefit.
PROTOCOL | How it works
Remember, during an instructional round rotation you are only going to get a snapshot of teachers and students in action, the goal is focusing on what you observe during a specific interval of time. Consider the context of the environment, content, pedagogical practices, and the decision to use digital tools and resources to enhance student-centered learning.
Before Entering: Briefly check in as a group and redress the key focus of the Instructional round observation and purpose. Knock at the door and then quietly move to an area of the room that does not disrupt the flow of instruction.
In the Classroom: Observe. Participants actively observe both the educator(s) and students in action: noting not only the focus of the learning walks that day, but also engagement, progress tracking, collaboration, how expectations are communicated, etc. Participants are not just a fly on the wall, however, and are encouraged to ask students questions and clarify understanding.
Exiting Classroom: IMMEDIATELY take a moment in the hallway to synthesise your observation into learning notes.
Debrief: As a group we will convene to reflect, synthesize on our experiences through collaborative activities to answer the following: what did you see? What could this mean for your schools? How will you bring it back to your schools? What are key components you gained insights on based on the day’s specific focus area?
Below is a sampling of principals’ comments made during post-walk conversations:
With adequate professional capacity building in instructional rounds and proper implementation, this process can positively impact collaboration and team decision making concerning instructional design, classroom management, the implementation of digital tools and resources to support curriculum and instruction, as well as support data-driven decision making. The reaction and energy shared in Alamance-Burlington in these first few instructional round experiences was one of overwhelming success with plans to make learning walks an expectational norm in every school!
Kachur, D., Stout, J., & Edwards, C. (2013). Engaging teachers in classroom walkthroughs. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Feeney, E. (2014). Design Principles for Learning to Guide Teacher Walk Throughs. Clearing House, 87(1), 21-29.
Allen, A. S., & Topolka-Jorissen, K. (2014). Using teacher learning walks to build capacity in a rural elementary school: repurposing a supervisory tool. Professional Development In Education, 40(5), 822-837
Back by an overwhelming popular demand, the Coaching Digital Learning: Cultivating a Culture of Change Massive Open Online Course for Educators is back! I am spending my time tweaking and updating our course for educators and coaches alike...
Coaching educators to create digital learning environments is a challenging, important, and highly collaborative role. Individuals who play this role are instrumental in cultivating a digital, personalized blended learning culture within their school, district and/or state. This course allows you to learn along with your colleagues from other schools and districts to enhance your digital learning content knowledge and further develop coaching strategies.
Registration is open now!!
The eighth annual Coaching Digital Learning Institute (CDLI), organized by the Professional Learning and Leading Collaborative (PLLC) team, in partnership with the Golden LEAF Foundation, was unique: the facilitators leading the capacity building sessions and hands on learning activities were all volunteers who have previously attended past CDLI events or other Friday Institute capacity building trainings and cohorts. This year, the students truly became the teachers.
“It’s absolutely, 110 times different… These are people that work with children, they work every day with elementary, middle school, high school students. They work with the teachers that are working with the kids. So you know they’re not going to encourage you to use something that’s not effective,” said Beth Davis, an academic coach at Graham High School in the Alamance-Burlington School System.
The CDLI is designed to support K-12 instructional technology facilitators, those taking the lead in implementing digital transitions in their schools and districts. CDLI builds capacity and enhances professional development, practice, and adds mobile and digital tools and resources to expand learning and teaching environments.
This year’s theme centered on a quote by Sir Arthur Charles Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” As the ones charged with assisting the growth of digital learning and teaching in North Carolina schools and districts, these educators aren’t just coaching and supporting technology, they are coaching and supporting magic. This doesn’t mean pretending to saw students in half; educational technology provides and supports “magical” experiences to all stakeholders in schools undergoing digital transitions.
“I often have people come into my office, or I’m in their classroom when they’ve called for help... and they say, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re magic’,” said Tracey Patterson, a librarian at Graham. “They literally say things like that to those of us that work with [tech tools] all the time.”
Watch the video below to see what participating teachers had to say when we asked them about this year’s theme.
Not every attendee this year was a North Carolinian. Because of a previous partnership between the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation and Ohio’s Trailblazer Teachers program, sponsored in partnership with Battelle, five coaches traveled from Ohio to participate in the training so they could give back and share their work with others.
“Honestly, the Trailblazer program really ignited something in me to push forward and to really just try and get the word out on how to integrate technology and blended learning. We all feel the same way, that’s why we’re all here,” said Casey Clark, English teacher at North Canton Hoover High School in Canton, Ohio.
This annual professional capacity building opportunity is designed for instructional technology facilitators, media coordinators, instructional specialists, and technology-driven educators and mentoring staff, positions that are often overlooked in traditional professional development offerings.
“It seems like all the [professional development] is tools, there’s not a lot about coaching,” said Clark. “No one really talks about coaching technology. It just doesn’t exist. It’s kind of a shame.”
Clark noted that, in a district of 300 teachers, he is the only person learning how to coach others to implement blended and digital learning practices. He said training, like that offered by the CDLI, helps coaches learn not only how to use technology in the classroom, but also how to get tech tools to teachers and students effectively and with purpose.
“I don’t know why [coaching professional development isn’t available], and that’s a problem,” said Clark. “It’s a need that needs to be filled, right now.”
Through providing professional learning programs, developing educational resources, conducting research, and advocacy, the PLLC team and the Friday Institute are working to address this immediate need.
A while back I posted about the 4Rs of effective Coaching - Relationships, Relevance, Rigor and Reflection: all elements that can be found in the Coaching Digital Learning Massive Open Online Course for Educators (MOOC-Ed), a free course for instructional technology coaches and individuals who are instrumental in cultivating a digital learning culture within their school, district and/or state. The feedback accumulated from the first installment of the Coaching Digital Learning (CDL) MOOC-Ed highlights not only the importance of the 4Rs, but how this course, grounded in practice and research, can support and assist coaches in developing strategies in each area. As I am making revisions to our sixth iteration of this course, I felt the urge to share its awesomeness....
There is nothing new about expressing the importance of fostering relationships and trust with those you support as a coach - but what are new ways to encourage the open and collaborative culture you are striving to see in your school/district. Thanks to the CDL MOOC-Ed, participants shared that they had a new understanding of their role as a coach, not just as technical support, but as a leader to guide their peers through a digital transition that empowered educators and focused on student-centered learning.
“Developing a better understanding that a technology coach isn't just someone who finds resources for teachers to use- it is someone who teaches educators how to transform their pedagogy to incorporate 21st century skills using technology integration as the vehicle.”
“I have been a technology integration coach for the past two years, but only now [after the CDL MOOC-Ed] have a strong grasp of that what that is supposed to mean. I can evolve with this new information. I had heard of most of these topics before, but they hadn't been put into a clear coaching framework for me. I am grateful.”- CDL MOOC-Ed participants, (from Course Evaluation)
The CDL MOOC-Ed course is designed around authentic and meaningful content building participants personal learning network (PLN) and aligning resources and rigorous activities to 21st Century Skills and the 4Cs, targeting real world applications and standards. Keeping relevant for today’s on the ground educators is crucial - offering strategies and best practices applicable for all coaches and those they support - meeting educators where they are in their own unique learning environments.
“At my site, I often feel like I am isolated from others...the [CDL MOOC-Ed] made it easy for me to communicate and collaborate with others on my own time. “
“[Coaching Digital Learning] really allowed me to focus and think about where I wanted to go and how I was going to get there.” - CDL MOOC-Ed participants, (from Course Evaluation)
The reflective practices of the CDL MOOC-Ed provides participants the opportunity to create, upon completion of the course, a complete Instructional Technology Coaching Action Plan. Regular assessment of coaching plans and the feedback of those coaches work with is pivotal.
“Coaching Digital Learning helped me have better conversations with teachers and clarify my own thought process in preparing for those conversations. Before the course, I was on the right track. Now, I feel very confident in speaking, teaching and coaching teachers how to effectively reach their idea of an optimal learning environment.” - CDL MOOC-Ed participants, (from Course Evaluation)
Rigorous and relevant expectations set by coaches to support their colleagues, combined with building strong relationships and continuous reflection, can make all the difference for your digital transition. The Coaching Digital Learning MOOC-Ed can aid coaches and those who are instrumental in cultivating a digital learning culture within their school, district and/or state, to build their own capacity. CEUs are offered along with a Certificate of Completion. For more information go to www.mooc-ed.org or Learn More about Coaching Digital Learning MOOC-Ed | #CDL_MOOCEd.▢
You might know him as Big Tech Coach, but Keith George is doing awesome things to support and promote the importance of Instructional Technology Facilitators and Coaches across the United States. We met after Keith took my Coaching Digital Learning Massive Open Online Course for Educators and we have been talking ever since. Recently I was featured in one of his podcasts talking about how Coaches need to be recognized for their expertise, valued for their insights and become a partner with educators in K-12 schools, and not just the tech-savvy person who get get the internet back up and running when it goes down, or fix that smart board that has been acting up again.
These educators are superheroes and kudos to Big Tech Coach for reaching the masses. Check out my podcast with Keith (Episode 1, "It's Alive"), and all the podcasts of Today's Tech Coach.
It was an honor to be a part of his first podcast and I hope to do it again!
Big Tech Coach Blog
Keith George Personal Website
My work with the SAMR model and my graphics and video are getting a lot of attention of late, so much so I decided to share with the EdTech Coaches Network on their monthly synchronous Twitter Chats #ETCoaches.
The Educational Technology Coaches Network promotes the development and collaboration of educational technology coaches who support the professional growth of educators as they use technology to enhance learning.
What made it extra special was that it was my birthday! And the outpouring of love and well wishes from my digital coaching community was overwhelming and awesome. Thank you so much folks, for all the learning and knowledge I gain from you, but that you are so dedicated to your craft and supporting learning and teaching for the betterment of our kids!
Check out the Storify of our conversation.
Erase the Line and Swim Laps!
For years now I have been sharing the TPACK and SAMR models as foundational frameworks for educators and leaders alike to incorporate as a cornerstone of technology supported curriculum and instruction for school and district’s transition to a digital culture of learning and teaching. While those I coached immediately connected to TPACK, they were reluctant and hesitant with SAMR – seemingly overwhelmed and anxious with the prospects the model had to offer. Why was this significant model, one receiving so much acclaim in the academic arena, getting such a lukewarm reception with educators in the field? Through candid conversation, modeling, and feedback, I was able to pinpoint the problem – and it was incredibly easy to fix.
Dr. Ruben Puentedura developed the SAMR model as a way for educators to reflect on how they are incorporating technology into their instructional practice: Is it an act of Substitution? Augmentation? Modification? Or Redefinition? This model is often depicted as steps, a ladder, or a swimming pool, suggesting that educators climb or swim towards the Modification and Redefinition categories. There is a line separating Substitution and Augmentation from this Modification/ Redefinition goal – a line dividing educational “Enhancement” from educational “Transformation”. The message given is that educators must “teach above the line” with a focus on Modification and Redefinition. This, however, is where a problem arises.
To understand the dilemma we must look at another popular model – Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Most educators are familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy, a way of promoting higher forms of thinking in education. I suggest that, just as educators work across Bloom’s levels (Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate and Create), that the levels of the SAMR model must also be flexible and align to what students are doing in the classroom. Only teaching at the level of Evaluate and Create is impossible and ineffective, just as only integrating technology at the Modification and Redefinition levels are unrealistic. Thus the SAMR model, in its current form, is not sustainable.
If the SAMR model was a swimming pool, and we all jumped in the deep end or “swam” above the “line,” we would exhaust ourselves and sink – but, if we swim laps, imagine the possibilities. Working across the SAMR model will support student-centered learning just as educators teach across Bloom’s Taxonomy to support student’s skills and abilities. Then imagine too the myriad of educators swimming in these technology waters: some will be doing cannonballs in the deep end (Modification, Redefinition), while some would rather stay in the shallow end (Substitution and Augmentation), while even more may need special floatation supports represented by professional development, coaching support, and professional learning networks, etc. Yet, even in these digital waters, educators cannot tread water and sustain teaching “above the [SAMR] line” as popularly suggested. Thus, I designed this new interpretation of the SAMR Swimming Pool inspired by the work of Carl Hooker.
Having shared this perspective with dozens of schools and administrations, this modified version is not only making sense, but is a means of taking successful steps towards a digital culture in schools and districts – especially when there is a struggle to get educators to embrace teaching with technology. The goal now is not to “teach above the line”, but to reflect and maintain a flow of student-centered, digitally supported instruction in each of the SAMR categories as appropriate to the context of the learning and teaching environment. One hundred percent of my experiences sharing this new model has swayed reluctant educators and given them a perspective on teaching with technology that they feel they can attain while growing toward the higher levels of the SAMR model. Rather than climb ladders or stairs, what we really need to do is swim laps.
SAMR Swimming Pool Infographic
SAMR Swimming Pool ThingLink
SAMR Swimming Pool Animation
We can all agree that while a growing number of schools and districts across North Carolina are making the transition to technology-enabled learning, technology is not the driving force behind these initiatives; teaching and learning always need to be at the forefront. On October 28th & 29th, we hosted over 130 enthusiastic Instructional technology facilitators, media coordinators, instructional specialists, technology-driven educators and mentoring staff who have taken the lead in implementing digital transitions in their schools and districts, leading their colleagues towards the future. In honoring this effort and their work, we went Back to the Future for this year’s event and when we do Professional Learning, we don't just engage, we have a blast!!
It is an honor and so much fun to be in charge of this annual event at the Friday Institute. The Coaching Digital Learning Institute (formerly the Technology Leader’s Institute) offered by the Professional Learning and Leading Collaborative at NC State University's Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, just wrapped up it’s 7th year, (My fourth year leading this event).
This one of a kind professional learning event is designed to support K-12 educators’ digital transition needs in districts supported by the Golden Leaf Foundation, our partner for this institute. It is a fun-filled two days of learning, playing, and digging deep into what it means to coach others through a digital transition.
There may not be flying cars and hover-boards in 2015, but there truly is so much to offer our students when it comes to digital learning and teaching. Twenty-eight guest educators and instructional coaches from across North Carolina, along with Friday Institute and NC State University staff, facilitated 30 workshops, a mini-EdCamp, a MakerSpace inspired playground experience, a Goose Chase, Breakout EDU challenges, a participant driven tool-slam, and an ignite talk by Spring Lake Middle School Principal and 2014 NASSP’s National Digital Principal Award recipient, Derek McCoy. Needless to say it was a packed two days filled with exploration, taking risk with intention, failing forward, building professional networks, and sharing best practices and strategies to support student-centered learning and empowering educators at all levels.
As the dust settles on what was the best Coaching Digital Learning Institute (CDLi) event we ever have had, we are already preparing for next year. The feedback and overwhelming response tells us we are doing something right, and we cannot wait to continue to support the growth and capacity of our educators in North Carolina.
This year’s institute was created with the amazing support of Emmy Coleman, Lisa Hervey, Alex Kaulfuss, Brittany Miller, and the amazing Friday Institute Coordinators – Thank you, Team!
Interested in more about this year’s CDLi, 2015? Check out our website.
The instructional technology coach strives to engage and support digital transitions in their school and district, to empower educators to take ownership of their technology and align its use to curriculum and instruction… but, though we try, at times all we as coaches seem to do is become the help desk for tech support. Why is that?
We know we must be available for those “tech emergencies”… those moments where we need to swoop in and save the day. Yet, we suffer the perception of our colleagues that this tech-support role is one we play on a daily basis – oh, but there is so much more! What does it take to effectively guide educators to use instructional technology to directly support and enhance student learning and content mastery? How can you share with others how your role impacts highly effective digital age learning and teaching? What strategies can be put in place to take your coaching to the next level?
It is up to the instructional technology coach to champion the school culture necessary for successful digital transitions. They are the guide and the expert, but more importantly, coaches must be the fount of trust. Building relationships with those you work with is the key, fostered naturally as you set clear and realistic expectations while sharing your competence in technology integration, lesson design, and becoming the agent to help build capacity – not dependents. Even something as simple as keeping your office door open and posting office hours for your colleagues can promote open communication and collaboration with your colleagues. It is also important that coaches not be part of the evaluative processes – to do so would blur the lines of the open and supportive relationships you seek to create.
Consider, too, those that are in your own support group. Foster your Personal Learning Network (PLN) with educators both locally and globally to build your own capacity, and create a dedicated team to support your work on the ground. Key members of your team should include individuals from your administration, educators, students, parents and community members. Engaging these stakeholders in the development of your school/districts’ digital initiative program, as well as the implementation will not only promote buy-in, but can also be aligned to existing initiatives going on at the district and school level. Work hand in hand – this is not a boutique initiative, after all – the more people you have invested, the more successful you will be.
Relevance and Rigor
Authentic and meaningful content and coaching is going to support building those strong relationships. If professional development and resources are not aligned to 21st Century Skills and the 4Cs, targeting real world applications, student ability and standards – what value is an educator going to see in giving up their time to learn? Model, use questioning strategies, create open ended questions and consider giving educators a chance in telling you what they want to learn. Voice and choice can be a powerful combination to ensure not only that you are meeting educators where they are, but that you are challenging them to push out of their comfort zones and removing the barriers that come with preconceived notions of your role or the digital initiative at large.
The best thing you can do as a coach is to listen. How do you capture feedback from your colleagues – and not just at the beginnings and ends of a given school year, but throughout? Survey often. Ask questions about current learning and teaching practices to have and begin crucial conversations with educators. Then, of course, put their feedback into action whether it be in the form of topics to cover in professional development, or one-on-one meetings with resources. This kind of active listening followed by deep reflection proves that you hear your colleagues and you value them: thus tying back into building those essential relationships and providing opportunities for innovation in a risk-free environment.
As coaches we know that digital initiatives transform professional learning through pedagogical shifts to meet the needs of all learners, and foster creativity and innovation. Creating this habit of mind around building strong connections, challenging your colleagues and assessing your progress regularly will define the digital culture you want to see in your school/district. And don’t forget to pull together your collaborative groups, partnerships and teams, both in your school/district and virtually through your PLN. We need to break beyond just playing the role of technology “fixer” and start showing our colleagues just how much we have to offer.
Jaclyn coaches and assists K-12 educators, ITFs, and Administrators to adapt, not adopt – fostering digital initiatives to transform professional learning through changes in pedagogical shifts and meeting the needs of all learners to champion creativity and innovation. @jaclynbstevens