Stop Pretending in Education

In education, we have to stop pretending that

  • learning happens in straight lines, neat boxes and perfect circles
  • the adults have the answers, independent of conversations with children and communities and can effectively impart the answers to children
  • technology programs are naturally innovative and transformative
  • we are preparing students for their life and its okay to ignore who they are right now
  • learning can happen even when there is no engagement and fun

Scott McLeod challenged others to participate in a conversation on how to #makeschooldifferent with the prompt “… we have to stop pretending”. In this challenge, I’d like to invite @jmikton, @sbradshaw, @BobsPragueBlog, @elizabethperry and @njtechteacher to participate.

Prioritizing the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship


Mark Ribble contends that there are nine elements of digital citizenship. He invites schools to prioritize the nine components, and consider how they relate to the context and environment of the school. Looking at the nine elements, I tried to prioritize them:

  1. Digital Etiquette – acceptable standards of behaviour online
  2. Digital Access – students have access to technology as they need it throughout the day
  3. Digital Literacy – learning about technology and using technology meaningfully and successfully
  4. Digital communication – sending and receiving information electronically
  5. Digital Rights and Responsibilities – freedoms and responsibilities extended to everyone in the digital world
  6. Digital Health and Wellness – staying healthy physically and mentally within the digital world
  7. Digital Security – electronic precautions for safety
  8. Digital Law – electronic responsibility for actions and deeds
  9. Digital Commerce – buying and selling goods online

However, I’m not comfortable with this sequence because some of the elements go hand in hand. So I decided to organize the elements into tiers:

Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3

Digital Access

Digital Etiquette

Digital Literacy

Digital Communication

Digital Rights and Responsibilities

Digital Health and Wellness

Digital Security

Digital Law

Digital Commerce

I’m still not pleased with this organization. You should consider ergonomics (health and wellness) whenever using digital devices, for example, and make sure that media used in projects is creative commons licensed or from the public domain. So maybe the model is less about tiers and more about layers.

Maybe the way to approach digital citizenship is to introduce students to all the components, then to add another layer to deepen understanding of each element as is relevant to other units and lessons in the curriculum. The intent is not to cover digital citizenship and be done, but rather to incorporate digital citizenship into teaching and learning in the classroom, as is developmentally appropriate for students.

How do you approach digital citizenship in your classroom or school? Do you use the 9 elements framework or another framework?


For more information on the 9 elements, see

Research on Coaching

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

The final chapter of Coaching Approaches & Perspectives is written by Jake Cornett and Jim Knight on the topic of Research on Coaching. Quantitative research is (ethically) difficult in education. The analysis that Cornett and Knight have done of the existing research reveals a problem of validity and reliability due to problematic methods. There is also a dearth of of quantitative/experimental research on the effectiveness of coaching for increasing student achievement. The existing research suggests that coaching is effective in professional development by increasing implementation and understanding of programs and models by teachers. For research to guide practice, educators need more reliable and valid research on the structures that allow coaching to work and the instances when coaching is effective. Educators could also benefit from research that shows the types of coaching that are effective, for who they are effective, and when they are effective. For example, when is one-on-one, small group, autonomous online, and other types of coaching effective for working with teachers? What’s the appropriate use of modeling in professional development? Questions abound, and there are currently more questions than answers.

It’s been six years since the book was published. I wonder how the scope of research has changed in that time. I would like to determine the intersection of technology coaching with the ten types of coaching identified in this book. Although I am done reading this book, my inquiry is far from complete. My next steps are to identify my learning from this book, to extract the components relevant to my work, and to identify interventions that I will apply to my work based on what I learned in this book. I’ve also joined a MOOC on Technology Coaching. A key question for me is how can I leverage social networking and online communication to create the supportive network important to my own professional growth?

If you’ve read any recent research/books/articles on Technology Coaching that you found inspiring or empowering, please share them with me in the comments.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

YouTube for Kids

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 10.01.03

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 10.01.03YouTube for kids is the first app from Google solely geared at kids. There are apps for Android and iOS but the apps are only available through the US App Stores. Google uses “a mix of automated analysis and user input” (Official YouTube Blog) to determine which videos to include in the app. Videos on the homepage undo additional analysis to determine that they have no restricted content. The app lets parents add controls about:

  • usage time
  • sound (e.g. turn off sound effects and background sounds)
  • search settings

The app counts on parent involvement for refining the curation of videos. If you find a video inappropriate for children, flag it for Google’s review. It’s important to remember however, that Google controls the content that kids have access to in the app; parents cannot customize those options in the app. I think that YouTube Kids meets a need. I see children browsing YouTube on devices while waiting in various places with their parents such as school cafeteria, airports, restaurants, etc. If you’re going to let a child use a device to browse YouTube, it’s worth exploring YouTube Kids.

Will you be installing YouTube Kids for your children to use?

Here’s a great guide for aimed at parents –

Literacy Coaching

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This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.
Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 10.46.00

I’d initially skipped Chapter 2: Literacy Coaching by Cathy A. Toll but I went back to read the chapter to see what I could glean. Although the chapter focuses on literacy coaching, which is a subset of instructional coaching, it presents ideas and concepts relevant to all types of coaching.

The chapter begins with a discussion of the landscape of literacy coaching in the USA. It shows that coaching has been a growing field, which first gained widespread popularity due to the Reading First program in the USA in 2002. It also looks at the work of literacy coaching, the opportunities that it presents in education, and its challenges.

Literacy coaching evolved as a new role which encompassed existing tasks such as monitoring a literacy program, providing PD for teachers, and demonstrating how to use purchased material. As the role has grown, literacy coaches have joined various associations, which have developed standards for literacy coaching. Toll argues that there was no need to define a new role for existing jobs, and that the real opportunity of literacy coaching is to have teachers partner with coaches to share data, needs, interests and questions for goal setting, planning and reflection to improve teaching practice. As in other forms of coaching presented, coaching starts with the identification of the needs of teachers. Toll shares that this is done using discourse so that the coach learns the current status for the teachers as well as his challenges, ideas, questions, goals, ideas and experiences.

In this chapter, the metaphor of coach as vehicle for change/transformation is revisited (as in chapter 6). The goal of coaching is to build efficacy and capacity through supporting teachers’ thinking and learning. Unfortunately, little research has been done on literacy coaching specifically, but research exists on the positive impacts of broader types of professional development which include literacy coaching. One of the challenges of research on the effects of literacy coaching is the difficulty of establishing a cause and effect relationship between coaching and student achievement. This problem may be of little issue since coaching focuses more directly on teacher growth rather than student achievement.

In the realm of teacher growth, literacy coaching can explicitly change behaviour, thinking, collaboration and feelings. An implicit effect occurs on teacher identify. Toll identifies four identities for teachers: “The Obedient Teacher”, “The Good Teacher”, “The Problem-Solving Teacher”, and “The Teacher with Agency” (Knight, 2008, p. 63). There is a reciprocal relationship between coaching teachers and the identity of teachers.

The challenge to literacy coaching is the lack of clarity around the term and the role. The term literacy coach is sometimes used to refer to someone who works with students; Toll defines the role as someone who works with teachers so there is a confusion of duties. She defines three duties for literacy coaches: one-on-one conferences with teachers, small group discussions of teachers with the coach, and demonstration lessons (Knight, 2008, p. 65). Unlike the other authors in this book, she stresses that teacher observation can be stressful for teachers and should only be done upon teacher request. Another problem of clarity is that a literacy coach may be given one of many titles which results in confusion about who performs the role. The third confusion is that some people confuse programs and models. A model is derived from theories and concepts and while some programs may do the same and can be used to derive a model, other programs are developed whimsically and do not correlate with a model. In conclusion, Toll provides  some guidelines for examining coaching programs.

I’m not so concerned about the terms and roles of coaching but I think that it’s important that each organization ascribe to a particular definition or create a well defined role. Are you in a coaching position? What is your title? Is your job well defined? How could it be clarified?

The issue of teacher observation has been the most challenging component of coaching to me; it feels like evaluation. However, some colleagues have been discussing co-teaching and this could provide a useful model for teacher feedback and reflection for professional growth. Co-teaching can be tricky when it comes to coaching teachers; depending on how it is structured, it can either be part of teacher coaching or student coaching. I think that the differentiating elements relates to teacher reflection, and discourse.

The issue of evaluating coaches is an important one, I think. As we define the role of a coach, we should make sure that evaluation and assessment matches that definition.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

1:1 iPads in Grade 2


Grade 2 was our first elementary class to have a 1:1 device. Last year, grade 2 students shared an iPad cart with one or two other classes. For the 2014-2015 year, we assigned each student an iPad mini at the beginning of the school year.

IMG_7058In preparing for this year’s roll-out, we had an trial of a 2 iPad minis in each Grade 2 class for two months last year. The purpose of the trial was to see how students worked with the iPad mini over the regular sized iPad, and to see how the iPads could be used in day to day teaching. The feedback from the teachers was that the size worked fine for their students, and having the iPads accessible all the time allowed them to integrate it into lessons, mostly for research but occasionally for creating. They wanted more iPads for more meaningful integration into the curriculum. Their greatest concerns were managing workflow and supporting students in using the iPads. We decided to meet at the beginning of the year and make some decisions about iPad management and use in the classroom to help make the implementation smooth. I outline our agreements and plans below. I’m interested in hearing about the steps that you took in implementation, and suggestions of agreements/structures/processes that will facilitate the effective integration of 1:1 devices like iPads in the classroom.

At the beginning of the school year, I met with all three Grade 2 teachers to discuss Digital Citizenship Agreement (DCA) training for Grade 2 students. Our goals were to come up with common language for managing iPad use in the classroom, and to schedule student training in the use of the iPads. From that meeting, we developed a list of tasks to structure our use of iPads in the classroom:

  • number iPads (TA; IT can do this in future)
  • assign iPad numbers to students (teacher)
  • personalize wallpaper (student)
  • put class and student name in About section (student)
  • link Digital Citizenship Agreement to school’s skills and behaviors – link iPad expectations to classroom routines (teacher/DLF*)
    • make sure that classroom expectations address choices that students make when online (teacher/DLF)
  • teach the terms digital citizenship and digital footprint, emphasizing the opportunity to create a positive digital footprint (teacher/DLF)
  • teach basic care instructions (teacher/DLF)
    • unplugging: practice unplugging safely – don’t pull wire, hold as close as possible
    • plugging in: plug in when below 40%
    • headphones: be careful pulling them out
  • Review new tech and workflow skills throughout the year (teacher/DLF)
  • Manage classroom passwords for easy retrieval (teacher)

We also talked about students bringing their iPads to specials. We got input from specialist teachers about student use of iPads in their classes. We came up with the following agreement:

  • Special teacher should send a message to the classroom teacher in advance – teacher will remind students in classroom meetings
  • For (occasional) last minute requests by specialist teachers, talk to the classroom teacher and leave a note on the classroom door reminding students to bring iPad to the special

We clarified Classroom Management Expectations specific to the iPad:

  • Storage – put it away in the cabinet when done using it
  • Charging – check battery percentage when using iPad and charge at 40%
  • Use around the classroom/school – can use the iPad outside the classroom for authentic uses, with teacher permission (no bathroom, outside recess, cafeteria use in general)
  • How we care for the iPads
    • get microfiber clothes/wet clothes
    • close apps when done using them (home button in the app if applicable, then iPad home button)
    • quit apps from multitasking display (double click home button, swipe up)
      • important to do if an app is frozen or if iPad gets slow
  • Messages on the iPad
    • Ask a teacher before clicking anything if you’re not sure what the message means

We identified a list of Skills for orienting students to using the iPad:

  • Turning on and locating specific apps
  • Turn off keyboard clicks (Settings -> Sounds -> Keyboard clicks)
  • Under settings→ general → about → change name to class + student name (ex. 2M Lucy)
  • Under Settings -> Mail (change signature) to Sent from Name
  • Gestures
    • zooming in and out e.g. in Google Earth
    • Closing an app (home or 5 fingers)
    • Quitting an app (multitasking bar)
    • scrolling
  • Plugging headphones and managing volume
  • Taking photos/editing (cropping, saving, mailing, etc.)
  • Taking videos (framing, stability, focusing, etc.)
  • Accessing sites using QR codes – a few websites that you may use throughout the year
  • Adding email addresses to the Contact list
  • Using Explain Everything
    • reviewing tools
    • importing from the photo library
    • exporting to DropBox
  • Using Doodle Buddy app – creating an image and saving to the camera roll to be uploaded into other apps to support projects
  • Making an iMovie – bringing in photos and videos made previously, taking and shooting photos and videos within the app – save to photo library
  • Developing a system for organizing information electronically – folders and tags in Google Drive and/or Dropbox
  • Sending email – to who, when, what
  • Moving items between iPads
    • explore Airdrop
  • Getting an item from Dropbox or Google Drive
  • Naming files – label with information that allows for easy access later
    • Format: class name, student first nameLast Initial, name of task/item,
      • e.g. 2M LucyM SummerHoliday
  • Renaming an item in Dropbox
  • Saving an item to Dropbox or Google Drive
  • Shared Photostreams for home-school or teacher-student sharing
    • explore by teachers

Lesson Plans for use in DCA Training Throughout the Year

Resources for 1:1 with iPads


*DLF = Digital Learning Facilitator

Leadership Coaching: Facilitating and Supporting Change

By, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
By, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

By, License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Coaches can help their clients in self-discovery to make sure that energy drains are overcome for a healthy and successful life. Coaches help each client consider their whole life, both personal and professional as one affects the other. Coaches are open-minded and embark on a journey full of possibility with clients. They help clients clarify goals and identify actions to achieve the goals, and to reflect on progress to refine enactment. They encourage leaders to have a positive attitude about their life and responsibilities and help develop the leader as a whole person. Every leader has multiple roles in a workplace including that of individual as well as member of the organization. A leadership coach considers all the roles of a person in coaching him.

Reiss identifies 8 factors necessary for successful change, many of which parallel factors in coaching. They include passionate commitment, attention and focus, vision, action, support, letting go of deterrence, being aware of beliefs that hold you back, and challenging assumptions (Knight, 2008, p. 186). Brain research shows that people can train their brain to create change, and that new thoughts coupled with action leads to new behavior. Brain research shows four areas of brain function that explain the effectiveness of coaching: attention, reflection, insight and action.

Brain connection develops through use and practice. By giving attention to actions related to a solution rather than a problem, a person builds new helpful connections in the brain.

Reflection provides access to the right side of the brain which is more emotional/sensing.

Conversations between the coach and client provide insight that provide energy for action.

A person will have the most success if she uses the energy produced by insight to push her goal forward through action. Insight reveals thoughts and allows a person to choose new thoughts which can channel action.

Hiring a new leader can be an expensive endeavor for schools. It may be prudent for schools to look into coaching existing leaders, which also increases job satisfaction and retention. In the event where a school/district needs to hire a new leader, leadership coaching smooths the transition and established a course of success for the new leader in the job.

In education, we talk about educating the whole child. We understand that children are not robots who can turn off and on for learning, and that the experiences and circumstances of a child outside of school affect their school life. It stands to reason that the same is true of adults. The roots of a professional problem may be linked to a personal problem; the best results will be achieved by addressing the problems and their interactions together. It seems to me that the factors in leadership coaching also apply to other types of coaching as well.

Some years ago, at a previous job, one of my professional development goals was to work with a mentor. What is a mentor but coach as expert? I see the value of coaching as a means of professional development. In my role of technology coordinator, which comprises different roles at different times, knowing about and being able to apply the components of coaching would be beneficial to me, to those that I work with, and to my organization.

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 8: Leadership Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Leadership Coaching: Role and Actions

Image by Adrian Trendall: License: CC BY-SA 3.0
Image by Adrian Trendall: License. CC BY-SA 3.0

Image by Adrian Trendall. License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Many people who have not experienced coaching have little understanding of the process and believe that coaching is only useful for fixing people. However coaching is useful for refining skills and gaining new skills that can be professional, personal or interpersonal. Coaching requires training and professional coaches have a minimum of 125 hours of training and practice in being an effective coach.

A coach listens to what is being said for the underlying thoughts and beliefs to help the client to identify priorities and implement them. In addition to dialogue and discourse, the coach advises the coachee in self-observation and reflection to guide or modify practice. The aim of the coach is not to fix the coachee, but rather to ignite the coachee’s potential to attain her goals. The recipe for effective coaching in the form of memorable results includes mixing “skills, attitudes, and process with a trusting relationship” (p. 178, Knight, 2008).

Leadership coaching is based on a trusting, confidential relationship. This makes it hard for supervisors who have an evaluative role to be a coach to those that they evaluate. A school leader cannot effectively coach person when there is no trust, confidentiality, honesty or openness in their relationship. There may be a conflict of interest if the coach is also the evaluating supervisor. However, all leaders can apply leadership coaching skills to modify the way that they communicate and act with staff to encourage them to use a growth mindset for desired change and improvement. Reiss lists seven behaviours of leaders applying a coaching style to help employees identify a goal for improvement and an appropriate intervention.  The key to a coaching style of leadership is for the leader to be able to have open, non-judgmental conversations with employees focused on the attainment of a specific goal.

School leaders can become more effective by working with a coach, and can also build their leadership coaching skills to guide employees, students or anyone in the process of change. One of the biggest areas of support for school leaders is on developing their interpersonal skills, and their capacity for dealing with change. Coaches can make a difference in attaining outcomes through their inspiration, curiosity, compassion, courage, thinking, problem-solving and support; this summarizes Reiss’ list of 10 attributes. Coaches help their clients find a way to make their goal a reality.

Coaches are becoming more commons in schools and school districts. Research is beginning to show the value of coaching as part of professional development for teachers. Ideally, a person interested in coaching would have a choice of coaches who do not supervise him and would select one that fits his needs.

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 8: Leadership Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Leadership Coaching

In Chapter 8: Leadership Coaching, Karla Reiss discusses the value of coaching as embodying the best components of professional development. She presents the view that coaching is personalised to the needs of the leader to realise the goals of an organisation. She explains that coaching is necessary for transformational change, and should be viewed as “a process, leadership style, and continuous improvement strategy” (Knight, 2008, p. 168). She recognises the need for studies on the effect of coaching on leadership in schools, and presents research from industry which shows that coaching has a positive impact on the leader and the organisation in a broad range of areas including job satisfaction, beliefs about coaching, organisational structure, relevant skills, and tenure.

Reiss states that every leader can get better with coaching.  Coaching is individualised and contextualised with a focus on flexibility and growth mindset to help leaders deal with changes and achieve their mission and vision. Leaders can also apply a coaching approach to their leadership through weekly meetings to discuss goals, progress made, perceived obstacles, and paths for continued progress. The most important skills of a coach are listening and questioning to learn about the person being coached, the situation, and the context to support the coach in coming up with individualised solutions that will lead to success.

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 8: Leadership Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.

Differentiated Coaching: The Coaching Plan

The final step in differentiated coaching is to create a coaching plan. An information gathering sheet can be completed in any order to record the coaching styles and strategies that the coach thinks will be most effective for providing evidence that could change teacher beliefs.

Coaches have to work the hardest when working with teachers who have an opposite personality type. Completing this four step differentiated coaching process may complicate coaching, but it provides a framework where the coach can achieve success with all teachers. Success is defined as interventions resulting in greater student learning, providing clear evidence of improvement that can challenge and change teacher beliefs.

Differentiated coaching makes sense to me. I know that I respond best to coaching styles that match my Mayers-Briggs Type Indicator. It stands to reason that the same would be true of other educators. It would be useful to know the personality types of colleagues; this information could make coaching them more successful, and a more pleasant experience for both parties. We know the importance of student centered teaching and learning; it is also true of adult education and professional development.

This post is part of a larger series based on the book Coaching Approaches & Perspectives edited by Jim Knight. This post is based on sections of Chapter 7: Differentiated Coaching. Visit the Coaching category for other related posts.

Book Citation: Knight, J. (Ed.). (2008). Coaching: Approaches and perspectives. Corwin Press.