Posts Tagged ‘tech coaching’

CCO public domain image by Unsplash

So, I’ve been thinking about and trying to encourage other teachers to think about audio response as an option for student work. I find it useful and instructive to listen to students talk out an answer to a prompt.

For some students having an option other than text as a format for response makes a huge difference in terms of the apparent complexity of their argument. Text is just not everyone’s best medium. If the goal of the assignment is for me to assess understanding of a particular concept or understanding, then there is no reason students must demonstrate that in writing. As an English teacher, I know that I must frequently assess student writing. However, I think I have a responsibility to require and assess other forms of communication as well. rather than write it. Of course, there are students who plan out their answer, write it down, and then read it. Even for those students, I find this format interesting. As we have now had three assignments in this form, I hear in the planners’ responses more improvising and more willingness to go off script a bit. Then there are the non-planners. For this group, I really hear the ideas coming together, or not. There are pauses, think time, pages flipping as they find the passage they want to quote. But it’s all interesting data for me to collect. There is also a big in-between group. They plan some ideas, have some passages ready and then start talking. They are often the most natural. With no grammar issues to distract me from their ideas, I can just listen and evaluate sophistication of ideas.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to get others on this bandwagon, not because it’s a big tech idea, but because I think it’s a good teaching idea that happens to use some low-level technology that students have easy access to. And, with a learning management system that allows for file submission, which is really any learning management system, it’s easy to put a prompt out there and have students upload a file to one location. The teacher goes to the location, listens to the files, grades or not, gives feedback, done. In my effort to gain accomplices, I have described this in brief in my section of the divisional update that comes out every weekend. I have set aside time for meeting to discuss and learn. I have done all of that for several weeks running.


Then, the other day at lunch I mention it, again, in conversation when some teachers are talking about particular student work. All of a sudden, a few people are interested. They think this is a really interesting idea they’ve never thought of before. New information, no indication this sounds familiar. (I was not under any illusions that my part of the weekly update was considered a must-read, however, these were folks who I thought might actually read all the way to my part of the update. Sigh. Maybe they just forgot.)

Still, lunch for the win. Another reason I stay at that teacher table as long as anyone is chatting with me or even near me, pretty much no matter what the topic. I will be getting in touch with the particular teachers next week in case they want any support or help.

Then, a few days later, I’m standing around with another teacher passively supervising some students who don’t really need supervising. We get to chatting. Audio recordings as an option for student responses comes up. Again, no acknowledgment of the fact that I have suggested this before, but interest. Standing around for the win.

My big takeaway here: the actual conversation with colleagues is what matters, which means I am staying at lunch as long as folks are talking to me.


CCO public domain image from

CCO public domain image from

So, I’ve been thinking about our digital portfolio project. It started officially in 2014-15 with 6th grade and a few 9th grade courses. It continued this year in 7th grade, 9th and 10th grade, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.

A quick review–our portfolios are process portfolios (rather than showcases) where students will reflect on their learning and habits. We are using google sites set up announcement style (like blog posts) made with a school template. There is a drop down menu for posts in each division. In the lower school, the posts will be organized by grade level; in middle and upper schools the posts will be on pages by subject. We went back and forth about the organizing structure. If When the portfolios take off, there may be too many posts per page, but we’ll figure that out when we get there.

So far, some grades certainly ended up with a lot more reflection than others. As one of the chief cheerleaders and salespeople for this work, I spoke with colleagues about our ongoing digital portfolio use. I stressed the power of the pile. I admit this is not an elegant phrase, but as anyone who reads this blog knows, I am not always an elegant sentence maker. However, it’s not a bad phrase.

I think the it’s worth talking about the pile and how its power will grow as the pile grow. First of all, counting on one reflection to be powerful enough to carry this new work seems to be asking a lot. One data point is just a point. Anything that is going to become a habit is powerful as a habit not as the individual act. Second, once the reflections start to pile up there is the potential to see patterns and to see change. Even though I can always draw a line connecting two points, I will see much more with a bigger group of points. Maybe one of those first two points is an outlier that is not even close to the best fit line I see with a bigger group? So, to some extent the early posts, while they might turn up some interesting ideas, as some have, are building the pile. They are now there to be looked back on, to be mined for metacognitive wisdom, etc. But the work, both of building the pile and building the habit of reflection, continues. When the new school year starts, students can go to back to the posts from the previous year to jump-start their thinking about their learning.

Another thing that I stressed in my comments to my colleagues is that each reflection should include commentary on work habits, process, or social/emotional skills that are not exclusive to the particular content. So, a department or grade level might choose several habits of mind or process skills that they want to ask about routinely. Again, this would help students build that pile and make the individual posts worth reviewing. Seeing incremental progress is good for the brain (which I learned a number of years ago from Judy Willis) and motivating. We all want students to be motivated to learn, and of course it is motivating to see your own progress.

In thinking about the coming year, I notice that my colleagues fall into a few categories in terms of how they approach using digital portfolios. The folks who tackle this independently are set. I check in with them, throw a little something their way, and they are off. Those who like to work collaboratively with me are also set. I make a point to meet with them, or they initiate working together either in or out of their class. We make it work together. One group I plan to work more closely are department chair people to help them develop a few go-to questions that speak to the behaviors/habits of mind/skills that are critical for success in their disciplines and grade level. Although I have rather extensive collections of potential prompts available for teachers (in easy to access locations), for those who are not in either of the first two groups, I think it will be helpful if I am more prescriptive in my support.

I am excited that next year (2016-17) students in grades 3-11 will be reflecting on their learning, saving it on a digital portfolio, adding to their pile.


So, I’ve been thinking about Google Classroom. Since we already use Moodle and I had set up folders in Google drive for my students, I have to admit I was skeptical as to just how useful it would be.

Oh, it is useful.

My Google Classroom homepage

My Google Classroom homepage

As a school, we use Moodle, and Classroom is not a replacement for all things Moodle. Yet. There’s a lot I use Moodle to do, and I don’t use it to its full potential, but it’s just not attractive in any way. Classroom lists assignments in a stream. Each assignment can have documents associated with it. These documents can be viewable to students, editable by students, or, and this is the big one, copied and distributed to students. Or, students can create and upload their own documents. So classroom manages document collection and distribution. When it creates a copy of a document for students, it names it with a standard naming convention. I know Doctopus made this possible too, but with Classroom there is no extra script and the students see the assignments listed and organized in the stream, like Edmodo. I see the documents organized by assignment. In addition, it also lets me manage editing rights on the various assignments very easily. There are plenty of videos out there explaining how to set up and use Classroom. I won’t reinvent that wheel.

I found it interesting that several folks in #1to1techat on 11/19/14 were dismissive of Classroom. The complaint being that it is not a tool that fundamentally changes education for students. Fair enough. It is a very structured, teacher driven tool.  And, it’s very useful for organizing document distribution and collection. For teachers in the classroom, in many classrooms, with many students, a tool that is well designed, easy to use, and does something useful is a win. It is not high up on the SAMR model for sure. What it is doing is helping teachers manage practical tasks. It’s a facilitator.

As a teach coach, I’m supposed to be a facilitator too. I want to help both kinds of people in the classroom: students and teachers. Very few teachers’ class size is getting smaller, hence facilitating organization can go a long way. Very few kids are coming to class more organized than they used to, they’ve got so much going on, another chance to facilitate organization.

Sharing something that is useful and easy to learn means I will be able to share it widely. I also can feel confident that teachers will have some early success. Quick success with a tech tool that proved useful for the teacher means that next time I can come in with something that is much more disruptive to status quo education for students. One of my main tasks as a tech coach is to support teachers in their personal path towards more substantial and authentic tech integration. So my first step is to get a teacher thinking positively about the potential of integrating technology. No one is moving up the SAMR model if he or she technology integration is going to destroy education. Unless a teacher has a growth mindset, I can suggest or offer to help all I want. It’s just me beating my head against the wall. Besides the ugly bruises, it gets demoralizing.

Clasrroom gets even better. My friend @TeacherDebra shared this video by @MsMagiera with me. The video demonstrates how to integrate Classroom with Doctopus and Goobric for a truly amazing workflow situation. Again, I will not reinvent the wheel. Just watch the video. It’s worth the 10 minutes and then some.

Did you watch? Seriously, if you didn’t, watch it. And, the spreadsheet with the links to all the documents gets even better. The program adds another sheet with all the names listed and the scores by rubric category and comments. Any tool that is going to organize student work, student data, and not make me sweat about it, that’s a tool I’m going to use again and again. I have shared this video with a number of teachers and the response has been universally positive. Just yesterday I showed the very tech savvy @inveterategeek this combo and in moments, she knew with how she could use it in her very student driven, differentiated, standards based grading physics class.

Now, I’m thinking what else should Classroom do for me? Here’s my idea. I am already thinking about snow days. I love them. And, we had so many last year that it was a problem. What I want is for classroom and Google Hangouts on Air to snuggle up together. They’re family already. I would like to be able to set up a hangout in classroom which would automatically invite all the students as participants not just viewers. Then, once the hangout is over, the link to the recording would be in the stream in classroom for anyone to view. Seriously how hard would that be? If a googler would get on that, I’d be appreciative.

Good idea, yes?

Anyone else using Classroom and have ideas for what it should do next or want to debate Classroom as a useful tool?

Red Pants Team

Posted: November 19, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

So, I’ve been thinking about my tech coaching team.

We are a new team. This is only the third year that the team has consisted of tech coaches rather than computer teachers. So, I’m considering that year our beginning. Plus, that was the year I joined the group.

Anyway, our group started with me being both new to the group and a new leader, one of the other two members being new as well, and with a very large and imposing task (1:1 preparation). We had to come together quickly because we had shared work to do. Sometimes it seemed like our little team was always playing away games, somewhat hostile spectators, a lot of regrouping, a lot of going back to the drawing board. It was a “character building” season. (I personally hate that expression, but you get the idea.)

And then, part way through that first year, there was a shift. We started feeling like maybe we were the home team after all. We won a few games. We found a grove. The next year, we had to start our work again in some ways, but we were a comfortable team.

Trial by fire is either effective at forging a group or blowing them apart. The fire made us a group and we had a good thing going.

After two years, one of the team members went on to another school. We are new, again. We are trying to become a team, but are not in such pressure filled situation, which is nice. I was thinking about how our team spirit and connection was coming the other day. Then, we all arrived to our meeting and I tweeted this:

I know it’s hardly a sign from above, but I thought it couldn’t be bad.

So, I will now refer to us as the red pants team. We have our uniform, we are building our shared identity, and we plan to win some games.