No Experts Here, Just Collaborating Colleagues

This quarter, through the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, my classmates and I are building skills towards becoming peer coaches in our respective schools. As I describe in an earlier post, peer coaches work with a collaborating teacher to help them to recognize their amazing abilities through questions and periods of reflection, allowing the collaborative teacher to solve their own challenges with the help of a safe, supportive cheerleader on the side. One essential aspect of the peer coaching role is exploring the lesson improvement process, where the collaborating teacher and the peer coach examine a current lesson plan and find ways to enhance what is already being taught. As I move forward with the idea of lesson improvement, I am left wondering how to balance the role of coach without crossing into the position of “expert.” In Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, author, Les Foltos, warns readers that “teachers want a coach to be a peer, not an expert” (Foltos, 2013, pg. 19). Teachers don’t want someone to telling them what to do, they want a friend and a colleague to talk though a lesson and share ideas that could enhance … Read More

Librarians and Teachers Working to Incorporate 21st Century Skills

This week I explore the first and sixth ISTE Coaching Standards through the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University. Through my studies, the terms “21st century skills” and “21st century learners” continue to pop up. These phrases have been used in abundance over the last decade, but what do they really mean? And how do I, as a school librarian, help incorporate them into the classroom? In an effort to succinctly articulate my musings, my question this week is as follows:

What are 21st century skills and how can they be incorporated into the classroom in a meaningful way that enhances the curriculum?

Before I can explore the implementation of 21st century skills, I needed to pause and illustrate what a 21st century learner might look like:

21st Century Learners

The National Council of Teachers of English define a 21st century learner as someone who is able to:

  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology,
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought,
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes,
  • Manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information,
  • Create, critique,
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Stepping Into the Peer Coach Role

Last semester I began to explore the ISTE Coaching Standards through the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University, this semester I will continue that examination as I start the journey of serving as a peer coach. Before diving into my individual experience as a coach, it was necessary for me to understand the expected roles and responsibilities of this position. Les Foltos, Director of Educational Innovation at Peer-Ed and author of Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, describes a peer coach as a “teacher leader who assists a peer to improve standards-based instruction by supporting the peer’s efforts to actively engage students in 21st-century learning activities” (2013, pg. 3). What I quickly realized after reviewing the various roles of a peer coach is that this is an educator who is expected to wear a multitude of hats simultaneously. Foltos outlines the various roles below:

Peer Coach Hats

  • Facilitator – Planning and leading meetings, activities, and staff development in one-on-one, small group, or large group situations.
  • Collaborator – Working together with colleagues to plan, implement, and evaluate activities.
  • Expert – Acting as a subject matter expert on a variety of topics.
  • Catalyst – Helping teachers reflect on and improve
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A Critical Look at GAFE

I met with one of my colleagues this week and mentioned my plans to formulate an action plan to implement Google Apps for Education (GAFE) at a school I’m working with. She listened intently, but then quietly said, “I don’t think it’s a great idea for students to only use one platform, isn’t that what happens when you jump on the Google Apps for Education bandwagon?” I left that conversation wondering: Is there a right answer? Don’t all choices come with challenges and successes? How does a school make implementation decisions with all of these things in mind?

As I move forward in my examination of GAFE,  a suite of productivity applications that Google offers free to schools, I am going to look at the pros and cons and how those nuances might play a role in the adoption of this learning tool. With that being said, this is not a review of GAFE, it’s not a comparative list between GAFE and Microsoft. It’s a question of whether or not this specific tool can meet the specific needs of my faculty and students. In his article, Computer Criticism vs. Technocentric Thinking, Seymour Papert argues that when evaluating a new … Read More

Taking a Step Backward

Earlier this week I wrote of my desire to implement the use of Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in a school I’ve partnered with. As I feverishly typed out my goal of changing the school’s tech climate, I quickly found myself slamming on the brakes and furrowing my brow. I know that I desperately want to be a GAFE school, but I’m not able to article the reasons why. What challenges is the school currently facing that could be solved with the implementation of these tools? What is the pedagogical- and content-driven reasons behind my rationale? And most importantly, why GAFE?

gafe-e1433470938578While I’m still in the process of wrestling with those ideas, my (wildly supportive) classmates and professors gave me a great deal of thought-provoking feedback throughout the week. Annie Tremonte, one of my classmates suggested using this blog post as a platform to flush out my ideas and reflect on the feedback I was provided from others. This format is very foreign for me and I encourage you to continue to provide me your additional thoughts and reactions, allowing me to continue to grow my ideas in a very transparent way.

Reflections on the Feedback

“While focusing on Read More

Answering the “Why” Before the “How”

Last semester I examined the ISTE Teacher Standards through the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University. This semester I will start my exploration of the ISTE Coaching Standards, paying particular attention to the third standard, Digital Age Learning Environments. As I analyze various resources in the coming weeks, I will be viewing them from the lens of how to formulate an action plan to implement Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in a school I’m consulting with. As it stands, the school I’m examining currently employs a rather disjointed collection of tools to complete any number of tasks; Blackboard for grading, Edmodo for posting assignments, Outlook email for submitting work, LibGuides for content curation, Padlet for collaborating, the list goes on.

Tech Balance

While all of these tools serve an excellent purpose, how are they working together to create a well-rounded, transformative experience for our students? Tech coach, Josiah Hodgett from the Shell Lake School District writes, “GAFE is a technology tool that can help you to both inform and instruct. Coming from a theory like TPACK [Technological, Pedagogical, Content Knowledge] – it’s time to look at the interplay of Tech – Pedagogy – Content and determine how they … Read More