Emergence of the Technology Coach

The SAMR Model

The SAMR Model; License: CC BY-SA 4.0

I’m a technology coach. Well, I’m not sure what my official title is. When I started at my school almost four years ago, my official title was Digital Learning Facilitator, DLF (almost an ELF but not quite). Apparently, the title of IT Coach had been considered and discarded.

Fourteen years ago, I started out as a computer teacher at an international school in Bangalore, India. This involved me teaching high school and middle school Computer Science courses in the Ontario curriculum, IB Computer Science, and a weekly class to students at every elementary grade level. I was the department head for Math and Computer Science, and taught one semester of Data Management, MDM4U. In addition, I was the computer support person. We had a network manager, but teachers saw me for all their problems from logging on, to printing. During my two years in that job, there was no concept of co-planning or technology integration.

In Khartoum, Sudan, I was the technology coordinator. My first year, my  responsibilities were similar to those in Bangalore. Every child had a computer class with me once a week. I campaigned to change this process and developed an IT curriculum with two prongs: technology integration at every grade level, as well as dedicated computer science course offerings. This was a substantial shift for me, and for the school, but grounded in educational research as well as my beliefs. Elementary teachers started co-planning and co-teaching classes with me. Those classes happened in the computer lab, but the content and activities were governed by classroom goals. We also did some computer science activities with the children, particularly from CS Unplugged. In middle school, I taught programming classes, mostly using Logo, and some technology infused financial math courses. In high school, I taught photo editing with GIMP, web design, and programming. I later taught Adobe InDesign and Photoshop Elements for creating the yearbook. I was employed as a teacher, but did the job of a Tech Director. We redesigned the computer lab during my third year, and I led the research and decision-making about the new equipment. I worked in Khartoum for four years.

In Nagoya, Japan, I was once again the technology coordinator. I led the curriculum through the same process of redesign and change as in Khartoum, from weekly classes to trimester-long or semester-long classes in Middle School and High School. I worked much more closely with elementary teachers in curriculum planning and co-teaching. I consulted with middle school and high school teachers about using technology to augment, modify, and redefine their teaching. In addition, I lead the technology committee and the technology planning for the school, and managed the WordPress server. In my third year, I learned about TIM, and TPACK, and improved my approach to working with teachers. Before this, I used to focus on the technology, but then I started to focus on the curriculum, and how technology works within particular contexts and curriculum areas. I started looking into the affordances of different technology tools. We diversified our technology tools beyond desktops, and added some Macbooks, iPads, and Netbooks. We also invited high school students to bring their technology devices from home, and gradually implemented a BYOT program. I worked in Nagoya for four years.

I’m now in Prague, Czech Republic. One of my intentions in moving to this school was to be in a bigger school where I could grow with colleagues. It was my first opportunity to be in a school with more than one person in my position. Over my four years here, I’ve seen a shift in my job responsibilities, and the expectation of the job. I solve problems for teachers regarding the use of iPads and laptops (tech coach as expert), do some professional development, and am involved in planning meetings. This is the first job where I haven’t had my own classes, and that sometimes feels strange to me, but I still get to work with students through co-teaching, mentoring groups of students, and leading lessons in various grades. I have more time for leading professional development, and for preparing professional learning material than I did in any of my other jobs. That has been great because we’ve more than doubled the number of devices at the school, and I’ve been able to work with individuals and teams to decide how best to use iPads and laptops for learning in different units, and with different children. The major shift for me in this job, is that the job of tech coach seems to be morphing to include being the expert/guide for STEAM, Robotics, design thinking, and for using laser cutters, and 3D printers. I’ve been involved with teachers in design challenges such as Scribblebots, Makey Makey projects, copper tape projects, etc. I also coach a middle school FLL robotics team, host after school robotics activities for elementary school students, and work with teachers to integrate robotics into the curriculum. There is a Tech Director, who I report directly to. I’m not sure what my official title is, maybe Tech Coach, maybe DLF, but the job looks very different than it did 14  years ago. Part of this change is due to location and context, but some of the change is due to changes in education.

After 14 years, I’m aiming for a (bigger) change. I don’t know what I’ll be doing next year. I feel, in some ways, like I did in those days when I just finished receiving my certification from the Ontario College of Teachers, and I had no job and wasn’t sure what I would be doing next. Yet, it’s nothing like those days because I have a wealth of experience, a growth mindset, and an attitude of adventure.

 

This post was inspired by the Edublogs Challenge prompt to write a post related to the constant changes and the pendulum effect in education. 

Read & Write Extension for Accessibility in the Classroom

rw gdocs

Overview

rw extensionRead & Write is a family of tools to improve accessibility of digital resources to all students. As part of this suite, there is a free Chrome extension for teachers. Otherwise, the premium tools are free to use for 30 days. Read aloud and Translation continue to work in Google Docs after premium access expires.

The features of Read and Write include text to voice, dictionary support for digital text, word prediction during writing exercises, and study skills tools to support students in their research. The features work in web pages, as well as in documents saved in Google Drive. There is a handy toolmatcher that determines the appropriate tools in Read and Write for the particular student situation. If you check all the possible accommodations, you get the results below. You can download the results in a Microsoft Word format, which could be useful for documentation in an Individual Education Plan, or Student Support Program.

read and write tools

While I have just highlighted the accommodations for students, the Read and Write extension is also useful for teachers. One of the features that I find the most useful is voice comments/feedback to students. You can insert a voice comment right into a Google document, instead of text. Each recording has a 60 seconds limit. The sound recording saves to Google Drive, and presents to students as a link that they can click to listen. To use the extension after the 30 days trial period, make sure to register as a teacher.

1 minute recording saved voice comment

Dashboard

There is no teacher dashboard to manage this tool with the Google Chrome extension. It is a tool that is meant to improve accessibility and provide support for creating and reading digital text.

Grade Levels

Read & Write in general, and the Chrome extension in particular, can be used at every grade level.

Why use Read & Write

Read & Write is great for supporting students learning a second language, and students with special rights in the classroom. It is also useful for teachers, due to its integration with Google Drive, for teachers to provide feedback to students.

Features of Read & Write in the Classroom

Not all the tools in this help page are available in the Chrome Extension. The link is useful for finding out more details about each of the tools labelled below.

rw tools screenshot

Top image from toolbar in Google Doc; Bottom image from toolbar on webpage

Main Uses

  • text to speech
  • speech to text
  • voice comments
  • read aloud
  • translation
  • dictionary and picture dictionary

Platforms

Note that you must be connected to the internet to use this resource. It is available for the platforms generally used in schools:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Google Chrome

Subject Area

All

Professional Learning

Login integrations

Users of the Chrome extension log in with their Google account.

Reviews

Better Search with Google

Google search box

Google is the most common search engine in the world. It’s likely that you used Google the last time that you wanted to look up something. How good are your search skills when using Google’s search engine?

9 Tips for Searching using Google Search

  • use the most accurate words possible in creating your query
  • ignore case and aim for correct spelling, but Google will suggest alternate spelling
  • put @ in front of a word to search social media
  • put # in front of a word to search hashtags
  • put in front of a word you’d like to exclude from the search e.g. -metal
  • use quotation marks to find an exact match e.g. “prague spring”
  • use OR to search for one of two or more things e.g. prague OR paris
  • use site: to search within a site e.g. site:.cz to find Czech websites
  • search for a file type e.g. filetype:pptx to find PowerPoint files

Quick Search Features in Google Search

Things that you can do in the Google search box (or the Chrome Omnibox):

  • define Omniboxtype define in front of  a word to get its definition
  • type weather and the name of a city to know the weather in that city e.g. weather prague
  • perform calculations by typing a formula
  • perform unit conversions e.g. 200 eur in usd

Bonus Search Tips

Make it all the way to the end for the rapid fire sharing!

Continue reading

Newsela in the Classroom

Overview

Welcome Back, Teachers. from Newsela on Vimeo.

Newsela is primarily an online news site that provides access to high-quality news articles, each of which is written at five different reading levels. The original article is presented as the highest Lexile level.

Newsela has integrated features that allow assessments by teachers. As users read a story, they can annotate the content for deeper engagement with the material to develop understanding. They can also take a four questions quiz after reading the article to check for understanding. Teachers may also assign a writing prompt to students. Students store their assessments into binders, where they can later review their work. Teachers can see class data in aggregate with the free features, and have to upgrade to Pro for individual student information.

Newsela organises news articles into different categories, including Science Law, Math, Arts. The news are curated from sources such as Associated Press, the Washington Post, The Guardian, Scientific American, Smithsonian, Atlas Obscura, AlJazeera and others. Many of the news stories have been translated into Spanish as well. Although news is the primary resource on Newsela, there is also a library that includes primary sources, biographies, famous speeches, myths and legends, etc. Newsela also organises content into text sets which curates material from the website around a particular central topic or theme. Teachers can use existing text sets or curate their own text sets. Teachers can also access and used “paired texts” which are made up of two articles on a theme or topic. The writing prompt for paired texts requires students to use evidence from both texts.

Dashboard

Teachers set up students into classes in Newsela and select a reading level for each student. The system is responsive and adjusts a student’s level after 8-10 quizzes.

Grade Levels

Newsela is meant for use in Grades 2 – 12. Newsela elementary mirrors the parts of the main site that are for elementary school students. The premium option is called Newsela Pro.

Why use Newsela

Use Newsela to help students build background knowledge and vocabulary around a topic, and knowledge of current events. Provide differentiation in the classroom by letting students high-quality documents at their individual reading level, so that they can access the same content at a level appropriate to their individual progress.

How to Use Newsela in the Classroom

  • use articles and texts for students to develop background information
  • provide examples of concepts from the real-world
  • expose students to the real-world vocabulary around an issue
  • access additional information or context on a subject
  • use the five w’s or other frameworks to help children learning about their world
  • find articles that spark iTime explorations
  • explore the pros and cons of a controversial issue through news and articles
  • read articles related to personal interest

Main Uses

  • debates
  • persuasive and opinion writing
  • discussions
  • comparing and contrasting
  • summarising
  • reading and comprehension

Platforms

Subject Area

All

Professional Development

 There is a built-in learning and support centre, which provides a variety of resources, including sample lesson plans and information about how to use various features and articles in Newsela.

Adoption

According to the About page, it is used by over one million educators. Customers include Chicago Public Schools, Newark Public Schools and KIPP Foundation.

Login integrations

Google account logins available

Reviews

Epic! Tool for Reading and Literacy

Epic is an online library for children 12 years old and younger. It is free for use by teachers, and cost $4.99 per month for home use.

Tools available


Search – Search and filter by age, lexile level, AR level, or fiction/nonfiction book type, or select a common search word

Browse – Look through the books recommended for the child, based on available categories and your preferences.

My Library – Access books and videos that the user has made a Favorite.

Mailbox – Access collections of books that a parent/teacher has created and sent

Profile (avatar) – See books read, the number of hours read for, and the videos watched

Hamburger (three lines) – Access profile or reading log, or sign out

Great features:

  • wide selection of books
  • works on Android, iOS and web
  • no ads
  • no in app purchases
  • 30 days free trial
  • up to 4  profiles allowed per household account
  • differentiation is possible with individual student preferences

Area for improvement

  • Let students log in using a pin such as a picture or symbol

 

Next Steps

Sign up for an account at Epic for Educators, or if you would like to try Epic first, check out my class.

If you are a teacher interested in using Epic in your classroom, here are some suggestions of ways to do so.

This post was originally made on http://blogs.isp.cz/esit/2017/03/15/epic-tool-for-reading-and-literacy/