Bridging the Gap…

bridge for gap post

I wrote this three years ago. I am not sure why I didn’t post it then, but as I read today it is still relevant. Thank you to my readers for indulging me with this “hidden” post from the past. 🙂

I’m in my second year as an Instructional Technology Coach. I think about my previous year and what I learned, how I succeeded and how I failed.  I also think about where am I and the teachers I work with regarding authentic seamless technology integration into classroom instruction and learning, and where I would like to take my teachers and students.  I have teachers who seamlessly integrate already.  They are the first to show me what they have learned and will often ask me to partner with them as we take risks and try new approaches and techniques with technology.

That is all good stuff.  As a coach it makes me feel pretty awesome.  However, that is not where the challenge lies.  It is in the places where teachers are not confident in their use of technology and are at the same time adjusting to new curriculum resources, techniques and/or scope and sequence that the true test of my abilities as an Instructional Technology Coach arise.  It is there I see I have work to do.

Teachers who naturally integrate… they don’t really need me.  They are a bonus in my job as they help me sharpen my own skills and provide me opportunities to “try” things with them before I bring the ideas to others.

For most teachers, however, there needs to be a bridging of a gap or divide between technology utilization and content taught. Some may say that the divide is not that big, but in all honesty it is there and larger than many care to admit.  It is easy to get frustrated or even say teachers were given the training and it is up to them to use it.  However, I go back to the mantra “We do what’s best for kids.”  I argue that if we are doing “What’s best for kids,” then, as an instructional technology coach, I am responsible for making it happen with those teachers that are more reluctant to use technology as a seamless part of instruction and/or provide digital platform choices for students to demonstrate learning.

So I asked myself, “How can I bridge the gap between curriculum and technology?”

These are a few things I have learned and through reflection have realized:

1.  A teacher who begins conversations with “I don’t have enough time…” I work with them on ways that they can become more efficient with the use of a technology tool.  When they see the benefit they will take that same tool and utilize it in ways for students to demonstrate learning.

2.  Honor the content expertise of the teacher.  When meeting to determine ways to integrate technology in the lesson or lessons, begin with the end in mind, seeking to understand the learning expectations and goals of the teacher. For example, ask “Could you share with me the learning target(s) for your students? I want to understand the content that students should demonstrate mastery with when this lesson is completed.” and “Would you mind sharing the rubric you plan to use that assesses student mastery of the content for this lesson.” (If the teacher does not have a rubric available, this is a great time to collaborate and create one together.)

3. Design a lesson that reflects the philosophy of teaching on that campus and district.  In our district we have moved to a workshop model approach and have campus level Problem of Practice (P.O.P.)/Instructional Focus to address areas of continuous improvement.  As I continue to move forward bridging the gap between curriculum and technology, I consider how I can help teachers seamlessly integrate from the opening, to the work period, and then at the closing.  Additionally, at every turn the process will be measured against how the integrated technology and instruction work toward the P.O.P./Instructional Focus while delivering the content.

4.  Streamline paperwork.  Teachers are inundated with forms, data collection, and progress monitoring tools.  When teachers see technology as a seamless way to perform their behind the scenes duties they become open to ways to integrate in the classroom.  Providing tools that streamline this and provide them ways to better interpret the data and make informed decisions about how to best meet the needs of students is essential.  If we don’t meet them in the areas that consume their conference time and relieve those time demands via efficient tools then they won’t make the time to learn ways to integrate technology into daily instruction.

5. Change the mindset of how the Instructional Technology Coach is viewed.  If you are still getting emails or being stopped in the hall to fix a printer, politely offer to show them how to put in a help desk, but then take the opportunity to ask them about upcoming instruction. Take that opportunity to share a way for them to go paperless with that lesson. When they email you asking for a fun new presentation tool you would recommend, refer them to a database of tools, but then ask them what is the lesson target and could you meet with them to see how the lesson could be fully integrated and student learning redefined.

6.  Perform your own walk throughs and collect your own data. How many students are actively utilizing devices for learning? Are the students interacting/collaborating with the lesson via their devices or is it to record information?  What level on SAMR is being demonstrated in the class instruction and student product? What are some next steps that could happen very easily with technology? What is motivating about the lesson and the teacher’s use of technology? (ask a student)  Then share your data with your administrative leadership team.

The gap is getting smaller, but there is still much work to be done. Teachers can no longer ignore the essential need for technology in the classroom learning environment. Technology if used just as a tool or toy is not beneficial to anyone.  Technology is only beneficial if it is partnered with good instruction and fully integrated into instruction and learning with purpose.

What are ways that you are closing the gap between tool based technology implementation and a separate content implemented curriculum?

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10 Ways to Assess Learning Through Technology

Educators are constantly looking for ways to check for prior knowledge and understanding of content facilitated in the classroom. Constructivist learning environments require ongoing quick assessments to ensure that there is a progression of learning and mastery of content. Well crafted worship model designed lessons, purposefully planned guiding questions and learning targets that students utilize to evaluate their own learning are key. Additionally, as engineers of the learning experience we must find a variety of ways to assess the learning.

Recently I presented with teacher leader, Hayley Sample, to teachers in my district on the variety of formative assessment approaches and technology tools that can efficiently facilitate that process.

To ensure optimum utilization and variety, Hayley and I created a quick reference sheet that teachers could access, review and use when planning formative assessments as part of purposeful planning for instruction.

Here is the Quick Reference “Purposeful Tech Integration for Formative Assessment” resource provided.

These tools were designed to meet the needs of our district where our elementary campuses share both iPad and netbooks, and our secondary campuses are 1:1 with Dell Latitude tablets, but have a BYOD policy for those students that opt for another device.

What are ways that you and your district formatively assess through technology? Please share your thoughts, comments and ideas.

#EdCampNOV8

Click on the #edcampNOV8 Thinglink (at date of post Thinglink cannot be embedded in a WordPress blog)
The Northwest ISD IT team, that I am a part of, hosted our first #EdCamp.  It was an exhilarating experience and I was amazed at all the new #EdCampers that attended.  I created the Thinglink above as a celebration, curation and brief reflection of the event.  Additionally, I have a fun 20 second video that I took capturing our autonomous learning #EdCampers moving to GoNoodle a free dance/exercise based online program for situations like indoor recess or incentive built physical education activities.

The “E” in ePortfolio- A Reflection

This past fall our Superintendent shared with us her four main initiatives.  One of them to have every student K-12 create a living portfolio that showcases student learning.  The platform to deliver this… Google Sites.

What happened next was a concerted effort by our instructional team to help train teachers, support students and intentional time spent with students to get started.

When the educational world is in an uproar over testing and common core, ePortfolios show what can happen when effective instructional practices are in place and high expectations, married with freedom of choice, are communicated with students.  ePortfolios is authentic learning at its best.

But authentic learning aside, what happened with students is the story worth telling.

Students embraced the ePortfolios.  Eager to have choice in design and input on what would be included changed how students and teachers viewed learning.  It suddenly became about what is best about the student and not a compliance about products that “must” be included.

Follow the link below to our District IT blog to see how one student,  with teacher’s guidance, fully embraced the idea of ePortfolios and ran with it..

(Northwest ISD Instructional Technology Blog: “Making IT Click”)

 

When Control Sinks Your Ship…

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Co-authored by Middle School Tech Club Sponsors Susan Fitzgerald, Library Media Specialist and Kirsten Wilson, Instructional Technology Coach
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In days gone by, the teacher was the sage on the stage –  the expert in the room.  Today educators are working with a population of post-modern learners with needs and learning styles that are very different from their industrial-age parents and grandparents.  Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until  2003, according to Google CEO, Eric Schmidt.[3]
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With that in mind, it is unrealistic nor good instructional practice to presume the teacher remain the expert and captain of the ship.  For motivation, passion and creativity to be fostered in students, we have to stop being the tyrannical Captain and become the endearing Love Boat Captain Merril Stubing.
When we started this voyage, the intention of the Tech Club was to foster student engagement with the district’s implementation  of ePortfolios through Google Sites.  What happened then was much like the legend of Blackbeard, in that our well-intentioned Tech Club was “hi-jacked” and the resources were pillaged for their treasure by a group of Pirate Coders.
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These Pirate Coders, a group of 7th graders, took our Tech Club premise and revamped the course.  They needed a place to congregate, collaborate and create.  Perhaps they saw something in us that we weren’t even aware was in us… but somehow they knew we were up for a mutiny on the Bounty.  They wanted to overhaul the Tech Club for the purpose of learning coding and programming and we seized the opportunity for the challenge.
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The realization that there was a treasure to be discovered was during the HourofCode.org event in early December.  It was at this point that our students began presenting self-written code that created things such as browsers, calculators with square root function, and operating systems.
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As facilitators we shared the message of coding, created an online course to help access resources and allow for collaborative discussion forums.  Every time we met they collaborated, learned, and coached one another.  Soon we knew their message and passion-driven work needed to be shared beyond our school.  Our districts technology showcase TechnoExpo was the perfect forum to share the Pirate Coders’ treasure chest of learning. To a standing-room only audience, the Tech Club presented their message of passion about coding, goals and big ideas.  They were even solicited for their autographs… our Pirate Coders were legendary.
Pirate Coders (Tech Club members)  took the helm from there.  They were ready for their next voyage… they were headed into the winds with full sails. Together the Pirate Coders knew, to achieve their goals, they would have to organize their resources.  A constitution and bylaws was written, an executive council was elected, they collaborated through their Google accounts, and a platform for sharing lesson plans on coding (including languages like batch, c++, dos, and java script),  was developed.
Who knew letting these Pirate Coders take over our ship would have taken us to this place.  We haven’t reached our destination but we are so glad we changed from the traditional educational route.  We are here to keep them in safe waters, but not keep them from taking an exciting new course.  They set the course with their coordinates.  We are here to help maintain the ship… but they are here to navigate the ship.  For that we are glad… had we not seen the beauty in the horizon, we might had never left the port.
All photographs compliments of Sue Fitzgerald and Kirsten Wilson.

[2] “Clipart – Teacher Lämpel – Open Clip Art Library.” 9 Mar. 2014 <http://openclipart.org/detail/10362/teacher-l%C3%A4mpel-by-stefanvonhalenbach-10362>
[3] “Eric Schmidt: Every 2 Days We Create As Much Information As We ...” 2010. 7 Mar. 2014 <http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/04/schmidt-data/>
[4] “The Love Boat – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2004. 9 Mar. 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Love_Boat>
[5] “Blackbeard – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2004. 9 Mar. 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackbeard>
[7] “TechnoExpo.” 2013. 9 Mar. 2014 <http://technoexpo.nisdtx.org/>

This post is also cross posted at Tech Super Coders Blog.

#LessonCrashers

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Who are we?

In mid-August I joined my district’s Instructional Technology(IT) Team.  There are five other coaches, an assistant director and director.  Between the 8 of us we support 3 High Schools, 5 Middle Schools, 17 Elementary Schools, support programs, curriculum and central administration. Numbers-wise that is 19,000+ students and the staff that facilitate student learning.

Our team is in many ways still in its infancy.  Forging an identity, both individually and as a team, seemed a natural and important step.  What I am realizing now is HOW important the identity we were giving ourselves and our team was.

We are a creative bunch of IT coaches.  It is amazing how we complement each other and our individual strengths truly make the team the best instructional team in the district.  But this didn’t just happen because we are individually amazing.  We had a vision, a focus and a goal.  Our intent was to change the perception of what we are to teachers and students and begin establishing our role in relationship to sound quality instruction.

How did this happen? 

Through the process of our roll out #LessonCrashers.

Here is the sequence of events:

1.  Collective brainstorming.  What would happen if we took a teacher and a lesson with difficult content (engagement/motivation wise) and “crash it.” Much like HGTV’s “Bath Crashers” or “Yard Crashers.”

2.  Logistics:  How we would roll out this idea and be the vehicle for changing how IT was perceived not just in our district but across education.

3.  Promotion: We filmed a “promo” Anchorman-style to gain traction and encourage teachers to submit a lesson to be crashed.  Through email, word of mouth and Twitter got the word out to submit a lesson to be crashed.  We also designated two of our district #nisdnov8 chat nights to the topic (which garnered interest beyond our district).

5.  Selection: Using Google Forms for submissions and video the IT team selected our first crash.

6.  Planning: We met with the teacher, collaborated on ways to deliver content, created a menu of  applications for students to create product, designed a rubric, and provided a way for the products to be shared and viewed by students.

7. Implementation: With a plan in place the IT team supported the teacher through the entire process.

8.  Student Product/Result: A gallery walk of product that students accessed through Aurasma including a quick assessment for each product.  All student created.

9. Reflection: There were several benefits, but the top three were:

1) 100% student engagement

2) student product reflecting deeper levels of learning

3) the teacher embraced without apprehension students experiencing and exploring technology without the need for the teacher to be an expert with technology tools

What were the results?

We realize this journey with #LessonCrashers has caused a mind shift among teachers and administration on how they perceive the use of technology from an instructional standpoint as well as how they perceive our role in the district. Since this first crash, each member of the team has “mini-crashed” other teachers and departments. Most recently the IT team crashed a Middle School Staff Development.

Why is this important?

With our first classroom “crash” it was with a well-respected, experienced, department chair.  Her first thought once we did this was “How can I share with others?”  DING, DING, DING!

With our “mini-crashes” many are not asking for a tool to use anymore but are starting with the standards and consulting IT Team about the different choices students can use to create to deliver deep meaningful content.  DING, DING, DING!

With our Staff Development crash we used two tools and multiple devices in a 45 minute time span.  Results… the realization that technology integration does not have to be a huge time consuming event AND most used the two tools modeled THAT DAY in their classrooms! DING, DING, DING!

What are our next steps?

We continue to seek opportunities and are sought out to provide “crash” experiences.  We have developed systems and supports for teachers to take the reins and do for themselves what we have facilitated through #LessonCrashers.  We have created a wealth of resources on our moodle called NetSchool including an online Technology Integration Course that is constantly changing, just like the technology tools.  It changes so much we have even wondered if it is a course that should be encouraged to be revisited every few years to facilitate teachers continual sharpening of their skills.

I am excited how this “idea” called #LessonCrashers has redefined the role of the Instructional Technology Coach.  #LessonCrashers was the vehicle for something bigger.  It’s been just a few months in this position and on this team and the change is palatable. Where this is going is bigger than this district. It’s a vision and change that’s purposed to serve all learners.  It’s a ride I am glad to be not just a passenger on but a navigator and pioneer into the 22nd century of education.

This is how our IT Team is evolving.  This is how our IT Team is redefining Instructional Technology.  Please share how Instructional Technology is changing the face of instruction and student product in your district, campus and classroom.

It’s Not Just an “Hour of Code”

by Sue Fitzgerald, Library/Media Specialist and Kirsten Wilson, Instructional Technology Coach

The “Hour of Code” has proven to be a very exciting adventure for students that has just begun. The development and launch of this event was driven by students’ passion for coding and educators’ efforts to provide the opportunity. It was collaboration in its purest form for everyone involved.

How it Happened

There were several factors that came into play that brought this event to fruition. Here are some of the major factors that made “Hour of Code” a reality:

  1. Our district began an initiative to host student ePortfolios on Google sites.

  2. Two forward-thinking future-minded student library aides took the leadership role in hosting “Technology Club” during 7th and 8th grades lunches to help answer questions on the ePortfolios.

  3. A group of coders took full advantage of attending the “Technology Club”.

  4. The student aides and the librarian quickly realized the “Technology Club” was about to advance into the world of coding.

  5. The librarian informed the Instructional Technology (IT) Coach and principal of the enthusiasm of these students who wanted to code.

  6. The IT Coach found the opportunity for our students to participate in the “Hour of Code.” Not only did our IT Coach offer this opportunity to our school but spread the word through Twitter PLNs and our district to have many other schools join the campaign.

  7. Students eagerly came by the library to sign up for the event after the news spread via our coders.

  8. During our “Hour of Code” event our IT Coach  collaborated with another IT coach in the district to Skype with a sister Middle School campus also participating during the “Hour of Code” and share as we worked through Java coding tutorial offered through code.org.

Reflection

As the adults in this process, we knew very little about coding . We did recognize the  amazing opportunity this would be for our students by choosing to take on this challenge.  We also saw how important it is for educators to take risks when facilitating students’ pursuit of their passions and facilitate the process for student-led passion-based learning.

At the conclusion of “Hour of Code”our students reflected with enthusiasm and determination that this must continue.  The Technology Club decided they wanted to continue to meet at lunch at least once per week with hopes to meet twice when possible.  They also decided they wanted to try and collaborate on a group project that could be presented during our district TechnoExpo event.  Additionally, they reflected upon the JavaScript coding done during “Hour of Code” compared to students previous coding experience.  They preferred another coding format referred to  by the group as “Batch.”  Students left the “Hour of Code” with plans to take initiative to collaborate and together create some type of product.  As facilitators we hope to encourage these students to take on leadership roles in teaching others in our school to code.

Comments we have received –

L.A. Teacher – “I am so excited my student is involved with this group.  For the first time during DEAR he had a book out and was reading.  It was a book on coding!”

Student participant in “Hour of Code”- “This gave me such a sense of accomplishment!”

Student participant in “Hour of Code”- “I have already talked to my teacher and plan to work ahead in his class so I can come for both lunch sessions as we continue to meet.”

Instructional Technology Assistant Director- “By providing ‘The Hour of Code’ you have just provided a social platform for these students that gives them a place to not only pursue their passion but a place for those that are like-minded to meet.  Their lives will be forever changed.”

Librarian – “I just wanted to thank you for sending this out!! I’ve got 73 kids signed up!”