July 3, 2014

Flashes Foretell the ISTE Cloudburst

Filed under: deep thoughts,gifted,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,iste14 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 2:10 pm

ISTE bagMost of us who went to ISTE 2014 in Atlanta have already blogged or sent copious clever tweets about it. We have collected, shared, and digitally packed our ISTE takeaways into a turquoise-tinted ISTE Cloud. Already precipitating from that cloud are favorite gems, sprinkling or pouring down on constituents back home. A long holiday weekend (in the U.S.) may pose a temporary interruption to the ISTE precipitation cycle,  but the ISTE Cloud remains pregnant and ready to burst open again upon the next inservice, staff meeting, or chat.

Since my home ground is everywhere that Thinking Teachers live and work, my ISTE Cloud will rain down over the next few months in many digital spaces from TeachersFirst. But for now I must share a few impressions that struck me at ISTE. These are not the downpour of thoughts and skills, tools and tasks, entire new angles and approaches to learning that are incubating in my ISTE Cloud. These are flash impressions, the lightning that foreshadows a coming storm. I saw each lightning bolt flash before me only briefly, but knew each had more power than anything I could produce on my own — and I can only attempt to explain.

A school board president and tech director from a rural Idaho school district stand outside the Bloggers’ Cafe as I hear the board president ask his tech director, ” So how could I use a blog?” The conversation that ensues (as I pipe in) spans from a 60-something business owner into a world he begins to envision: sharing his business, seeing his grandkids’ pictures and writing about school board issues so the community can understand and converse. Then he asks, ” And how do teachers and kids use blogs?” From the world he knows to the world of school to the world beyond as he SEES it for the first time. He came to ISTE, and he will go home a different leader.  My flash: Not every leader or every school or every teacher has the tech or PD we at ISTE assume they do. I wonder: How can we each turn our ISTE Cloud into PD and learning philanthropy? 

Six twenty-something teachers from a Georgia high school stand in a clump in the GWCC lobby on the first day of ISTE, teachers representing their departments at the same high school: math, science, history, English, etc. They stop me because I have badge ribbons, so surely I know where to go and how to get started. They have the ISTE app, but their eyes are those of a new ninth grader on the first day of school: giddy,  laughing, a little terrified, ready to rock and roll, but already lost without the schedule they know they have here somewhere. My flash: A first ISTE is like first year teaching. Everyone needs a mentor!

Late afternoon in a windowless room of tables nearly full.  About 150 ed tech coaches — with at least 40 different job titles — gulp down collaboration with peers from all over the U.S. and a few other countries. They exchange problems/solutions, Twitter handles, “kryptonite,” and verbal/Google Drawing pictures of what their coaching looks like. The sound of the room is beyond hum or buzz. It is a the sound of water tumbling powerfully at the base of the waterfall, ready to rush forward. My flash: The Ed Tech Coaches Network has all the energy we could ever need. Let it spill forth! We’ll just manage the flood control.

Mid-morning in the subdued light beneath a busy escalator, eight stations of Superhero Ed Tech Coaches are doing far more than “Saving the Day.” At the newbie coaches demo area, there isn’t even standing room left. The other stations are 3-4 rows deep. My flash: The ed tech coaching waters are deep, and the superheroes will allow no one to drown. 

Two hundred teachers look up at us from perfect rows of convention-center-latched chairs. They lean into their devices or hold them up to scan QR codes on the screen as they listen, chat back, and multitask with our enthusiastic endorsement. I glance beside me at my colleague and once-mentoree as she explains about dozens of ways to differentiate and meet the needs of gifted kiddos using great, free tools. Heads nod, and occasional Ooos escape. I chime in with my portion of the presentation as she chats back to the questions and comments on Todaysmeet. My flash: Not everyone has forgotten about the gifted kids in today’s test-driven world after all, but we have a whole new generation of teachers who may never have been given permission to think about them.  

May your July 4th bring you both independence and incubation time so you can share in the outpourings from ISTE 2014 over the months to come, whether you were there or not!

I will be posting a bit less often during July as I ease my schedule a bit to enjoy summer fun. Weekly madness resumes in August.

June 6, 2014

Ed Tech? Choose your superpower

Filed under: edtech,edtech coaching,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,iste14 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:05 am

superpowerOK, superheroes and superhero wannabes, now is the time to choose or renew your superpowers. It is summer, time for professional development and personal improvement among educators. The fortunate among us will be traveling to ISTE later this month, but most teachers and ed tech coaches must find their own PD to sharpen our powers. Ed tech coaches, in particular, have quite a challenge finding meaningful formal PD, and most of us turn to Twitter, edcamps, unconferences, and online collaboration/sharing to hone our superpowers. Now is the time to ask yourself:

If I could carry just ONE superpower into next school year to rescue LEARNING for my teachers and students, what would it be?

Here is a starter list from which to choose:

Filter Flummoxing: This fantastic flummoxing capability allows the superhero to perplex arbitrary or obtrusive web filters so they defer to the superhero’s wisdom, thereby allowing the powers of web-based learning into any classroom. The superhero can instantly fend off the filter without filling out forms, attending administrative meetings, or enduring tedious time delays. Note: If the superhero abuses this power, it will fade away, so use it wisely.

Parent Persuasion: This power permits the superhero to cast a spell over the most skeptical parent, instilling a glow of understanding that signs off on GOOD uses of technology and eschews frivolous or glitzy projects. As with all superpowers, the superhero should think carefully before using (or abusing) it.

Administrative Awe and Buy in: Imagine an administration that looks in awe upon student-directed learning, technology-infused projects, and collaborations that connect classrooms via Twitter and other “scary” tools. Imagine an administration in awe of the positive powers of technology and willing to learn it themselves as a model for their teachers, parents, and students, all within a framework of good digital citizenship that charges students (and teachers) to use resources ethically and demonstrate positive online behavior. If you choose this as your superpower, you will have administrative support at the wave of your cape.

Super Spider-webbed PD: As a superhero, you can swoop in only where professional development parameters allow you to go. By casting a spider-web onto all PD, you can incorporate technology as a logical pat of ALL teacher PD instead of separating it out. This superpower lets you tie technology into its logical place in support of any learning. Superpower spider webs never let go!

Time Control: Just as it sounds, this power allows the superhero to stop the sands of time long enough for a teacher to take a breather and make a few mistakes along the way to infusing technology  in support of learning. Think of Superman holding back the hands of the gigantic clock over Gotham City Hall (or the one on the school hall).  Wouldn’t that come in hand-y?

Envisioning Glasses: Give these high-powered glasses to any teacher, and he/she will see what you can see. Teachers will be able to focus on what technology does, not the work it takes. Think of these envisioning glasses as the heads-up display teachers can wear as they guide their craft wisely into the sky.

Gumby mental flexibility: Superheroes must be able to bend their plans, reshape their thinking (and that of others), and adapt to limitations at a moment’s notice, never straining a mental muscle. Stretch yourself as far as you need to go and around corners with this superpower. Amazingly, you will be able to shrink back to normal dimensions after the stress abates.

Access Prowess: The ability to provide access to functioning technology anywhere and anytime it is needed. Use this Prowess to enable any teacher or student to have a fully-functioning, web-connected device whenever learning demands it. This Prowess extends outside the school walls to home access for learning and inside school facilities, demolishing barriers from scheduling debacles, drill-and-kill test prep, or online testing monopolies.

Tech Invisibility Cloak: Most superheroes secretly enjoy flaunting their powers, but making technology invisible will ultimately win more battles over ignorance. If you had this power, you could make technology a seamless and appropriate part of learning, and no one would notice it as technology. They would see only the learning.

Glitch force field: Fend off the forces of Glitch with this amazing force field. Need the Internet? It will work on ALL machines. Need Google docs/drive/apps? No problem. Just deploy the force field, and things magically WORK! Of course, you have to recharge it periodically by actually maintaining equipment and network, but the time you save fixing weird glitches will provide plenty for prevention.

Can’t find your superpower of choice?  Please share it in a comment or at the Coaching Playground at ISTE later this month. We’ll be there, caped and ready!


May 30, 2014

Morphing a critic into a superhero sidekick at ISTE

Filed under: edtech coaching,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,iste14 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:39 am

Any ed tech coach superhero loves suggestions, and Dawn Wilson’s tweet in response to my recent post offers a great idea for morphing the ed tech coach’s nemesis into a sidekick. Her tweet says it all: Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 8.36.30 AM

Since every superhero needs a sidekick, I propose that we each adopt a reluctant teacher as our new sidekick. Here is a list of possible casting qualifications for the role of critic-turned-sidekick:

  • General attitude of skepticism
  • Profound dedication to education, though somewhat entrenched in doing it “the way I have always done it”
  • Communicatio skills: Vocal, strong communicator and dissenter
  • Leadership: Able to draw in other teachers, most often with biting remarks or loud questions in staff meetings
  •  Critical thinking skills: able to detect an unsupported or incomplete argument, such as vague explanations of new initiatives
  • Hidden flexibility: Can come around to a new point of view (well supported, of course) and make it sound like his/her own idea

We can each name teachers we work with who display these qualifications to be a great sidekick. I have true tales of nemeses turned sidekick, and I am sure most coaches do. Mine was a second grade teacher who griped so loudly in the faculty room about “having” to make a teacher web page that she sucked the entire primary hallway into the depths of disgruntlement. I asked her to be the teacher-trainer for the building. After a bit of convincing, she agreed. (Time passes. Workshops happen.) After six months, she was more proud of “her” teachers and their web pages than any other teacher-trainer in the district.  Such SUPERPOWERS!

The kryptonite lies in the transformation process from critic to sidekick. The solution: ISTE!Slide1

Imagine if we could submit a Sidekick Transformation application together with a nemesis teacher-leader to attend ISTE two-for-one. We might even get a corporate sponsor or two to pick up the tab on expenses (much more productive than giveaway doo-dads and exhibit hall junk that we give to our kids and grandkids). ISTE should be willing to waive the conference fees for Superhero Sidekicks who submit compelling applications. Imagine what that new sidekick might do to draw in others back at school after the ISTE experience. We could even have badge ribbons: “Sidekick in Training”? Or maybe “Superhero Sidekick”?

ISTE should really think about supporting the sidekicks. It would make a great superhero story for ISTE to tell.

February 7, 2014

Teachers want to know: Top Ten questions to ask your edtech coach

Filed under: edtech,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 1:20 pm

Lately, I have posted largely to an edtech coach audience.  At my core, however, I am “just a teacher.” (My license plate reads TCHR2GO.)  I think a lot about the teacher’s view of the relationship with an edtech coach and of professional development done poorly.  I know what it feels like to have someone breathing professional development at you like an unwelcome dragon. I was always the person asking loads of questions in those PD sessions, trying to make it meaningful to me and my teaching world.  So I offer the top ten questions you can (and should) ask to find out what your edtech coach can do for you.19156777

Top Ten questions to ask your edtech coach

10. Is it OK to have fun? Hopefully, you coach will burst forth with a resounding “Yes!” A good coach can actually get you excited about the learning that occurs along with the tech instead of  simply playing with “toys.” You wouldn’t have become a teacher if you didn’t enjoy learning as “fun”!
9. What if it breaks? A good edtech coach can help you get past the crutch of crisis help. If you have found your primary contact with your coach has been sending high priority emails with the subject line “Help,” you should definitely ask about the things you might anticipate in using a certain tech tool with your students. A good edtech coach can help you become proactive instead of reactive. Or you could simply ask your students the same question and see what they already know about the tool.
8. What if it bombs? Some lessons will, whether you are using technology or not. A good edtech coach will point out what you and your students you are doing right, helping you refocus and build upon it.
7. Where do I find that again? (What if I forget how?) After the refrain of “it’s easy” throughout a session with your coach (or your savvy students), you may want to declare yourself “dumb” for not remembering it all.  A wise teacher will always ask where to retrieve this information later. A good edtech coach will have it ready for you to watch the screencast or revisit the video or find the FAQ when you are ready to retrieve it.
6. Where do I PUT all this stuff? It may make sense to a “techie” person how to organize things like Word documents, files, Google presentations, how-to videos, and bookmarks, but you, as a teacher, did not learn how to put these things away in a four drawer file cabinet back when you were student teaching. A good edtech coach will share some possible ways to name files, organize folders, create cloud storage, and clean out old versions.  Even more importantly, he or she can show you how to search for that long lost file. Everybody has a different system, but the key is system. Ask for suggested options.
5. How do I remember all these passwords? Passwords are both the most critical security device and the most annoying reminder of our cognitive overload. A good edtech coach will share some of the clever ways others handle this problem or how they solve it themselves. They are good at hearing and sharing good ideas from one teacher to another — with or without “credit” as the original teacher prefers. (I will listen to good ideas on this one, too. In the meantime, I have resorted to password storage tool. I just have to remember the password to access it!)
4. What is _______ (fill in the blank as many times as you wish: Twitter, a wiki, a Google Doc, a hashtag…)? Your edtech coach should welcome each and every question you ask about something you have heard or are curious about. His/her response should come without any reaction to indicate your ignorance and with at least two of three ideas for how (fill in the blank) could fit into learning in your classroom.
3. Who is going to benefit if I do this? This question can sound pretty negative, so be careful what tone you use. It is like your student who asks, “What am I going to do with algebra, anyway?”  A good edtech coach will take it well. He/she will help you see into the shadows of your class where you did not previously notice the quieter student who comes to life on backchannel chat or the gifted one who did nothing but disrupt things until technology brought more open-ended learning to your lessons. What you are really asking is, “Can you help me assess the impact of these changes I am working so hard to make?”
2. What else can I give up to find time for this? Like #3, this can sound negative, but it is a legitimate question. Every teacher craves time.  Please show me what two things I can combine because I am using technology. Please  show me how doing it once will accomplish it ten times over. Please show me why the effort is worth it. Give me examples of what I can replace instead of just adding more. A good edtech coach will have those examples or will ask other teachers in your school community to share their answers.
1. How does this fit with (enter your latest school/district initiative here)? Any teacher who has been working for more than five years has seen initiatives come and go. Each comes with its own inservice requirements, new teacher evaluation elements, and “changes” to your practice.  When was the last time someone incorporated the ways technology can facilitate and meld with the initiative into those mandatory inservice sessions? A good edtech coach was at the district office advocating to treat technology as part of the initiative toolbox  and offering to work together with inservice staff to make it a seamless union. A good edtech coach will answer, “Let me show you how… I have been working on this because it all fits together.”

Ask questions. You may discover a new and productive relationship with that person with the mysterious title of coach, integration specialist, tech specialist, ITRT, or whatever.




January 31, 2014

A little edtech DIScomfort: A mattress story?

Filed under: edtech,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:15 am

In this week’s #SIGETC Twitter chat, we collected our top tips for edtech coaching success in 2014. The chat hit many themes, but a strong recurring thread was the importance of establishing rapport and providing a “safe” teacher-coach relationship where teachers can build confidence and experience success.

As Lynne so aptly put it:Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 12.57.39 PM

I absolutely agree that coaching, like teaching, is all about relationships. But I have to wonder whether coaching is also like mattresses: If we try too hard to simply make it comfortable, it may end up being just pain squishy, offering no support at all.

We need to turn up the DIScomfort a bit so teachers will “wake up” refreshed and energized by new ways of teaching. I have been thinking about the kind of extrinsic factors that could create  an appropriate level of DIScomfort to nudge teachers out of old patterns or beyond  satisfaction with past accomplishments: “I can use that PowerPoint (web tool, IWB activity, blog challenge, etc.) every year and check the box for using technology!” [Uh oh, have you said that, my teacher readers?]

Every teacher tolerates or manages DIScomfort differently. Some rebel; some shut down; some reframe it as a personal challenge. Saying, for example,  that every teacher must meet a certain level of technology by a certain date may work with some, especially the competitive ones who want to get to the goal line first. But imposing a one size fits all goal means that the DIScomfort is overwhelming for some but a mild annoyance to others. We all know that differentiation is key. So what constitutes a productive amount of DIScomfort?

Ollie Dreon, a college prof friend of mine who prompts and prods the faculty at Millersville University into using technology,  drew a parallel between the scientific concept of being “antifragile” and embracing the catastrophes (DIScomforts?) inherent in technology. Certainly fear of failure is a DIScomfort that can induce teacher paralysis. In an ideal world, flipping tech failures (both system glitches and lousy lesson plans) into an “antifragile” positive by learning from them converts a sense of catastrophe to mild DIScomfort. But we all know the old saw, “once bitten, twice shy” could be rewritten, “When the tech dog bites, teachers revert to pet rocks.”  Only a long period of perspective-gaining successes will convince most teachers to learn from failures and celebrate the learning hidden within disastrous experiences.

mattressPerhaps my mattress analogy works to find just the right level of DIScomfort for edtech coaches to motivate teacher progress. Think of the Sleep Number® Bed. You find the right number where you feel comfortable, your back does not hurt, and you awaken refreshed. The bed inflates to just that number, and bingo! What if we ask each teacher find the perfect edtech “sleep number,” then we subtracted (0r added) to tweak the number?  Start with a true, personal self-assessment — tell them you are helping them find a place where they are comfortable. Provide whatever “sleep number” scale you want: LOTI,  Arizona’s TIM, SAMR, the FCIT matrix, ISTE-T standards, or your school’s internal self-assessment. The important thing is to give them a measuring stick to find their Sleep Number. Then — perhaps as as surprise next step — ask how they would like to change their number: More collaboration?  A little closer to “the line” or just above it? More constructive or authentic? Give them the control to choose the “number” they want to try. Control over the DIScomfort is their own, but implicit in your question is the fact that they have to try a shift from that comfortable spot. Who knows, they may find they get out of bed in the morning changed by the experience of a little DIScomfort.

I guess I should say “sweet (edtech coach) dreams”?

January 24, 2014

R U an ETC? U R not alone, Part 2

Filed under: edtech,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,Ok2Ask,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:56 am

whistles2Last week I shared a list of ideas that came out of a recent collaborative  OK2Ask® session.  The participants, all edtech coaches or teachers who play a less formal “coach” type role with their peers,  chose the top  challenges from a longer list of possibilities and then shared ideas they have used or hope to use to meet those challenges. You can see  a recording of the full session  here (uses Adobe Connect). This post shares part 2 of their explanations and solutions, saving you the time of watching a recording. Like all of us, you probably value the  timesaving “executive summary.” Again, I offer only initials ( and state abbreviation the first time they contribute) to respect our participants’ privacy.

Challenge: Promoting tech for LEARNING, not tech for tech sake

CD (OR): you really have to model this for teachers.

DS (IN): With kids, you introduce technology and they FREELY explore. I help the teachers by having them watch me explore with their kids.

SR (NY): I want to ban the word tech and replace it with tools. We all use tools everyday in our lives, I want to be able to have all the teachers feel comfortable with these new tools.

RP (AZ): Ask them (teachers) “What are you going to do with that?”

NA (FL): I break down tech into teacher tools vs. student use for enhancing learning.

JZ (PA): I try to make sure what I do in computer class is connected to what they [students] are doing in some area of their curriculum, not just a “computer” assignment.

MB (UT): I get the kids hooked on the tools, then ask them how their teacher could use this tool.

JS (SC): Ask [teachers] why the “tool” is being used.

KB (PA): The pedagogy should drive the integration, not the technology. Eliminate the tool first approach.

LD (OR): It makes more sense to use tech within the subjects in the curriculum.

CD: I also think it is important that teachers are confident with the materials that they need to teach.  If they are trying to master their curriculum and use new tools, that can be just too much for them.

KB: Provide choices, selection.

MB: I used [a certain tool] with sixth graders last week, and they had a ton of ways they can use it in the classroom with their teacher. Luckily the teacher was listening :)

RP: Have follow up sessions where they [teachers] share how they used the new tools.

NA: Try teaching a tech elective [to students] using project based learning to showcase ways they can use technology in every core class they take.

JS: Spend several weeks of instruction on a tool — that gives teachers a better feeling about using the tool.

Challenge: Coaching during other major initiatives, such as implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

SR: This year has been very tough our teachers learning the common core.

Find ways to make technology help with that initiative so teachers can “kill two birds with one stone” as they adjust to the new initiative.

MH (PA): Digital writing is part of CCSS, so that helps.

Stephanie Ryall: Yes I think the common core will ultimately or already has created more use of the smartboards in our school because of the format the lesson are provided in NY. [helps teachers envision how they can be successful with both because the lesson plan shows them]

KB: Provide a pyramid approach for tools. One tool per year and it builds. In the intermediate/secondary grades the students have an arsenal to choose.

LG (MA):  Most teachers are apt to use what they know.

AQ (OR): Sometimes if a teacher can see the tool in action by observing another teacher use it in class or by having it modeled in their own class, they are more willing to give if a try.

CD: I think we also need to ask them what they would want to use if “it was easy”. Then you can backwards map it and teach them the skills they need.

Other CHALLENGES and ideas to motivate teachers

JZ: It is really important to be sure the technology works when teachers try to use it – a problem or 2 can turn teachers off from trying again.


MB: Modeling a lesson in the classroom first, then being there for back up when they are teaching.

Offer incentives and motivators:

CD: Teaching them all the ways to Google.  It blows their mind when they learn that all the information they want is there, if they know how to ask Google for it.

DS: A silly thing that I did was put a big smiley poster outside a teacher’s room that said “She did it”  after someone met one of my challenges.  Then, the kids would ask them why they got the smiley face.  The teacher usually beams as she tells her class.

KB: You could also use ClassDojo, a popular management app, to give  your teachers “tech” feedback. You can customize the behaviors. It sends emails, too.

SR: I have an idea for the teachers.  If they will Facetime with me I will answer their questions!!

Have competitions by hallway, department, or building. Who can have the greatest number of teachers implementing (insert teaching initiative here) using technology? Prizes? Food or release time or ??

MH: Funny how food works – lol

SR: chocolate

KB: You can buy chocolate computers or mouses online as fun tech gifts

What do ETCs WISH for?

We created a Padlet wishlist  from this session, and it is open for further contributions by edtech coaches by ANY title:   http://padlet.com/wall/29gq78x0vw

Join the conversation

Please feel free to comment here with your own edtech coach challenge/solution. I also invite everyone to join the ISTE SIGETC for our “Last Tuesday” Twitter chats. Simpy set up a search for  the #SIGETC hashtag! The next one is coming up January 28 at 1 pm EST. See the full schedule and transcripts here. Everyone is welcome, whether you are an ISTE member or not.

January 17, 2014

R U an ETC? U R not alone, Part 1

Filed under: edtech,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 1:46 pm

Are you and educational technology coach? Are you the go-to teacher for all things tech in your hallway, department, or building? Have you been assigned a couple of periods a day to bring every other teacher up to speed using tools well as a whistlesseamless part of learning? Have you had successes and challenges doing all this? You are definitely NOT alone!

Last night I took part in an online sharing session for educational technology coaches. Their job titles were all different, but the participants were all teachers who work side by side with their colleagues, helping them teach effectively — using  technology to help where appropriate. The discussion was  a firehose of great ideas, and I was lucky to simply chime in once in awhile as the moderator.  You can watch a recording of this free OK2Ask® session here (uses Adobe Connect) or simply enjoy this post, the first installment  sharing what came out of the fire hose.

I have used initials and state abbreviations (the first time they “speak”) to give credit for ideas and included my own thoughts in italics. I did edit, [add words], and rearrange the order a bit for clarity. Thank you to all these collaborative folks for their ideas!

Challenge: Ideas and resources to motivate teachers with varied tech expertise

JS (SC): Have teacher led sessions sharing what they know.

CD (OR): Front load information for the teachers that you know will have trouble.  They usually know it is hard for them and willing to do work ahead of time (and grateful to not feel lost during the training).

JZ (PA) Inservices are a real challenge! We did try splitting into several sessions, but that’s not always possible time – wise.

MB (UT): I do a lot of  one-on-one with my teachers.. Then I can address their exact needs and levels. 15 minutes with one teacher is sometimes more effective than a whole groupl

KB (PA) Leveled activities for participants

PH (AZ): teacher led sessions

NA (FL): Meet with small groups of teachers with similar skills / needs

RP (AZ): Teachers should be required to bring their laptop to the session to hands on not just watching

TJ (NC): Hands on training of tools

MJ (NY): I try to make it fun for all.

SR (NY): I now have a person who helps me from our church.  We are working on this challenge together.

DS (IN): I am trying to learn at the same time.

KB: Provide an environment where failure is OK. Promote problem solving.

CD: You can also go into their classrooms and model how to use the technology with the students.  Once the students get a taste of it, they may push their teacher to learn more.

JS: We ask teachers to differentiate so we must model. The 1 to 1 for a short period is very effective.

Challenge: Defining my role as a coach, not a repair person (or playing BOTH roles if that is your job!)

 MB: I am the go-to repair person, but then I always ask teachers what I can help them with.

NB: Set times for repairs (student or teacher) and then time to meet with teachers on developing tech skills

Use a repair ticket system—many schools have this.

TJ: instead of fixing problems for them I have started walking them through the process of fixing it themselves.

KB: I have “Techsperts,” a student tech team. They provide supports as well. Helps teachers with [classroom] management.  Many issues with integration are management. “Trusted” students help solve minor issues.

JZ: I play both roles, which makes it harder to differentiate.

If you play both roles, bring along TWO HATS and change them to show your role.

KB (PA): Birthday hats…. you can decorate them, too!

 Re ticket systems and “fixes”:

SR: My colleague and I have developed a trouble ticket.  Still those timid teachers have the most trouble filling them out.  Maybe I should make a simpler form.

DS: I try to explain as I fix.  That way they can be the expert at their grade level.

KB: Make “Please meet me face-to-face” an option in the ticket.

CD: Could you walk them through a fake ticket a few times so that when they need to fill it out independently, they won’t feel intimidated.

KB: Ask three before me! [use this same rule that we use with KIDS]

NA: Their problems are always an emergency (to them)

JS: Some say, “It is easier to call you”

MB: teachers will email or text me with problem. then I do the ticket

NA: our ticket asks how have they tried to resolve problem first

MB: I also have teachers do a ticket when i do inservice.

LD (OR): The students are pretty knowledgeable  on the computer,  sometimes with direction, they can solve their own computer problems

KB: Provide a list of tutorials or common fixes. It may be there before they contact you.

CD: You could even scaffold the help.  First time they watch you.  The second (and maybe 3rd) time they do it with your guidance.  Next time they do it with you there, but not helping unless they need it.

Challenge: Helping teachers continue to grow – in both teaching and tech use

KB: Grow & Glow time [teacher sharing time when they talk about something they did in class]. Can be small groups or similar or mixed ability [maybe a grade level or department?

JS: I hold departmental sessions for teachers to share

NA: once a month we have an entire faculty mtg and we have 4-5 teachers share things that they have learned / used with their students. Takes pressure off me.  encourages teachers to try something new

CD: make them the experts!

JS: having [training] sessions recorded is a great plus [so teachers can revisit]

CD: If you are able to get into the classroom and “catch” them using some sort of technology, you can compliment their use and boost confidence.  It is like the “catch them being good’ idea we do with kids. Even if it is just email or creating a simple document.

KB: Provide “Techtastic” tags for [teacher] badge lanyards if they are caught using tech

MB: I brag about my teachers to the other teachers — so they know who to ask when I’m not available.

NA: I also ask teachers to send me pic / videos of great uses of tech with their students so we can show it off

Encourage teachers to tell students the technology infused lesson is under scrutiny. They will make an even greater effort to “make it work” and show that they are learning. 

SR: Yes. Use the kids as motivators.

RP: Surveying teachers to find out what they most want help with is wise

What do ETCs WISH for?

Here is an online wishlist this group created. Feel free to add YOUR wishes: http://padlet.com/wall/29gq78x0vw

If you find yourself itching to respond to the ideas here, I hope you will join the twitter chats of a related group, the ISTE SIGETC (special interest group for educational technology coaches) and future OK2Ask coach sessions. We would LOVE to hear YOUR challenges and ideas. You are definitely not alone.

 (Full disclosure: I am part of the leadrship team of SIGETC.)

October 25, 2013

A TechToy Story: Why tech geeks fail and edtech coaches succeed

Filed under: edtech,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,Ok2Ask,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:48 am

This is a fable — of sorts.

After sharing the joy of figuring out a new tech toy for online professional development sessions, the tech geek (TG) and the edtech coach (ETC) stopped for a quick chat.

TG: Looks perfectly simple. Shouldn’t be any problems.

ETC: I wonder if the iOS app version looks the same.

TG: I’m sure it’s close enough.

ETC: Did we test to be sure the links in chat were clickable? We do send teachers off to explore things then come back to share a lot during these sessions. That gets them involved as learners.

TG: Who can’t figure out how to use a link?

ETC: IF the links are clickable, that’s great.

TG: They can copy/paste, can’t they?

ETC: I’ll have to test to be sure that the iOS copy handles are available inside the app chat box.

TG: I don’t have time to load an app just to check that.

ETC: I’d rather check now than start a session with people saying things don’t work. Do you know if the Android app looks like the web interface? Or the iOS version?

TG: You’ve gotta be kidding me.

ETC: I know some people have trouble using the little text selection handles to copy in iOS. And that’s if  the copy tool works at all in this app.

TG: Just show them how when they get to the session.

ETC: We aren’t screensharing from a tablet…. Wait, do you know how they enter a session if they are on the app version?

TG: No idea. They’ll figure it out.

ETC: Yeah, except for the ones who need professional development the MOST. This gives them an excuse not to try.

TG: They’ll get some kid to help.

ETC: I hope so. But this is after school.

TG: You’ve gotta be kidding me.

ETC: I’ll check both apps and give the hesitant teachers a few screenshots on our wiki — or email to them.

TG: You’ve gotta be kidding me.

ETC: I can see why they get frustrated when they didn’t even have the tablets to play with until the first week of school. I wish they’d take one home… Maybe I can host an online play session one evening and give them prizes for coming.

TG:  You’ve gotta be kidding me. You coddle them.

ETC: No, I respect them. I expect them to learn, but I know where they’re coming from. And every one of them is different. Like the kids in their classrooms.

TG: Kids aren’t that different. They’ll figure it out.

ETC: Glad you weren’t my teacher.

TG: Be a teacher?  You’ve gotta be kidding me.


Moral: Effective edtech coaching means constantly imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes. 

April 12, 2013

TF birthday issue: Asking the sticky questions

Filed under: edtech,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:30 am

cakeThis is the first in a series of editor reflections during April, 15th birthday month for TeachersFirst.

As a technology “coach” who works with my fellow teachers– albeit at a distance– I struggle with how to encourage, evangelize, and develop a healthy mutual trust while also nudging myself and my colleagues forward to better teaching decisions. Fifteen years ago this month, when TeachersFirst first went online as a service to help teachers understand what the Internet could do and how to use it to inform and support teaching and learning, the goals were pretty easy: help teachers find the best of the web and understand some basic ways to use these resources. Convincing teachers may not have always been easy in the first couple of years, but obviously this Internet thing has stuck. (Duh moment as of the turn of the millennium,  for all but the most hesitant teachers). Long ago, TeschersFirst’s mission moved far beyond a simple Web 101.

As coaches, we are obligated to ask the tough questions, the ones that require both bluntness and tactful support. I share some of them here:

Coach to teacher-colleague (or teacher to self or COACH to self):

Why are you using this (technology-based) teaching strategy?

Are you simply replicating an old way of  teaching, done with clicks instead of pencils? (Is it an effective way, or just a familiar one?)

If you are replacing drill sheets with drill and kill practice web sites, is it any better? (Do you and our students get data, tracking, instant feedback, etc)?

Do you ever go beyond drill and practice?

 Are you treating technology as simply a way to ENGAGE students… and nothing further? What then?

 How have you changed the way you use technology as a tool for learning in your classes this year (or in the last five years)?

 Which did you think about first: the big ideas and goals for your lessons or the technology you wanted to use?

 When is “fun” not just fun? When does it have meaning?

 Are you checking the box: Technology used this week? Check.

How often do you ask about a lesson strategy: Is there a way that is quicker, more flexible, a better differentiator? Does it happen to use technology?

These are just a few of  the sticky starters for the conversation between teacher and self, teacher and coach, or coach and self. A little warmth can soften the stickiness of the conversation and possibly even make it flow more smoothly. Ask these questions with a cup of coffee, the best accompaniment for something sticky, and see where the conversation goes. The nice thing for coaches is that we don’t have to judge our teaching peers. We help you judge (and change) yourself. TeachersFirst will continue to subtly ask the questions. It’s part of our birthday cake’s “sticky” frosting.

February 22, 2013

P.S.: Thoughts from a healthy teacher-skeptic

Filed under: edtech,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:35 am

I love the open letter that Library Media teacher Angela Estrella wrote to Edtech Entrepreneurs and shared via the EdSurge blog. I am sure every edtech coach out there would applaud it, retweet it,  or tack it up somewhere electronically — or even on precious paper. We who try to lure teachers into trying new tools have witnessed the rapid decline from enthusiasm to frustration when start up time on a new tool devolves into endless settings, checkboxes, and menu options named by a geek using vocabulary no teacher would ever use.  We who “coach” take the brunt of reasonable teacher skepticism about the latest and greatest new tool. Unlike those of us who enjoy edtech tinker toys, teachers have the patience of a flea when faced with the latest new gadget: “Get me to the red blood, or I jump… now!”letter

Teacher skepticism is a healthy thing. It is what makes us question a report that seems too well-written to be a student’s own work. It is what makes us wonder whether our own assessment (test, rubric) is perhaps measuring the wrong thing. It is what helps us survive the slings and arrows of politically-driven policies. Yet, it can easily morph into jaded negativism. [Insert your mental image of a burned out colleague here.]

So I add a followup note to Estrella’s letter.

Dear Edtech Entrepreneurs,

I hope you read my previous letter —  shared by Angela — more carefully than my kids read their assignments. I forgot a couple of things:

I am a skeptic by nature. You can help me focus my critical thinking skills on choosing appropriate technology for my class. Choose your words wisely and tell the truth. That will keep me from becoming jaded and negative toward all technology.

You have a responsibility beyond selling what you make. You are responsible for selling me on learning something new. I know how to do that with my students. Do you?


Your customer/critic, the healthy teacher-skeptic