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. 

Digital Citizenship in Elementary School

Digital citizenship is not about the tools, it’s about …?

Image source: Unsplash

Yesterday, a few colleagues and I spent some time discussing teaching digital citizenship to elementary school students. Much of the conversation centered around how to teach children digital citizenship skills in context, rather than theoretically. We can draw parallels with the idea of learning just in time, versus just in case. One colleague suggested that learning is very powerful when it’s exploratory, relevant, and social, and we should create environments with those components to teach digital citizenship.

We ended with the question: how can we teach digital citizenship in a way that’s exploratory, relevant, and social in elementary school.

Do you have any ideas or success stories to share? Please leave a comment related to the question, or complete the first sentence of this post.

Note that this post is written for my participation in #EdublogsClub challenge. The prompt was to “write a post that includes an image”.

Blogging Journey

Invitation

This post is motivated by a prompt, as part of a blogging club that started last week. As soon as I found out about the club, I signed up (today). If you’re interested in blogging more this year, you can still join the Blogging Club, which will provide you with a weekly prompt to get you blogging regularly throughout 2017!

My Life as As a Blogger

I started my first blog while I was working in India, sometime between 2003 and 2005. I lost years of posts when I transferred the blog in 2008. I had a back up and intended to upload the posts again, and had a page of pictures for a while, but never put in the time to re-upload the old posts. For that first blog, I would tag posts either professional or personal. In 2010, I decided to host a separate professional blog. This blog was born as a result.

Over the years, I’ve continued to blog off and on, but never consistently. In some of my positions in schools, I’ve had to maintain internal (walled garden) blogs. I should have/could have cross-posted on Journey with Technology, but didn’t do that until I moved to my current school. Sometimes, my blog goes out, but I invariably resurrect it from the ashes. Usually this happens because I am inspired to share in this format by a blog post that I’ve read.

Curating/Consuming Blogs

I read many blog posts. In my must reads list are A Learning a Day, Practical Theory, User Generated Education, Seth’s Blog, Techcrunch, The Official Google Blog, Langwitches, Never Ending Search, Detoxinista, etc. I subscribe to them using Feedly, and read them in Feedly on my laptop, or Reeder 3 on my iPhone/iPad. I am subscribed to too many blogs, and have been working on removing subscriptions to the ones that add the least value to my work/self development at the moment. One of the things that I’ve been working on is to make more regular comments to blogs, or to share the content with others. I often share blog posts or the content of blog posts with colleagues that I think would benefit.

Blogging in 2017

One of my goals for 2017 is to blog more regularly. Before I found out about this challenge, I had already created a goal of blogging at least once a week. Being part of this challenge will provide me with a prompt to help me meet that goal. When I get busy, my blogging time is one of the first things to disappear from my schedule. I will reschedule it rather than deleting it from my schedule when there are conflicts this year. I’d also like to work on my blog roll, and make sure that I regularly engage with those blogs, so I will schedule that on a monthly basis as well.

The advice that I would give my younger self would be to blog regularly, and to engage with colleagues, the community of bloggers and with twitter chats for ideas to blog about.

Seth Godin and Tom Peters explains why you should blog, and what they get from blogging (H/T to Dangerously Irrelevant).

 

Note that this post is written for my participation in #EdublogsClub challenge. The prompt was to “write a post that shares your blog story”.

Worth a Second Look

I subscribe to a lot (too many) blogs in Feedly. My approach is to flick through, reading titles until something grabs my attention. Titles and headlines are very important for helping me which posts to read. You can get a good synopsis from a well crafted title, and I depend on that in filtering my resources.

When a post captures my attention, I either read it, open it in a new tab to read later (hopefully that same day), or save it for later. Once I decide to read a post, I scan it to see if meets or surpasses my expectations. I only read the whole document if it passes that test.

Lately I’ve noticed that I’m more likely to read about a tool, application, concept, project on the second pass. This means that I use my network to determine the popularity of an item, and to help me decide if it’s worth a second look. I filter through the information overload with the help of my personal learning network.

If you’re looking for a(nother) reason to carefully build your personal learning network, here’s one: filter through the information overload more efficiently.

dealing with information overload

Learning2 Puts Learning First

Learning2 is not a technology conference; it is a learning conference infused with technology. Technology is the servant of learning, not the other way around. The conference started in 2007 in Asia, and was held in Europe this year for the first time.

This was my second time attending Learning2; my first attendance was in Shanghai, in 2010. I remember that I focused on Home-School communication last time. The framework in Milan was different from what I remembered it being, in both format and content.

I observed the following elements at the Learning2 conference in Milan:

  • short talks on diverse topics by students and educators each day (TED style)
  • teacher led sessions
  • student led sessions
  • extended sessions
  • unconference workshops
  • cohort meetings (Administrators, Design Technology, EAL/ESL, Elementary Generalist – Lower ES, Elementary Generalist – Upper ES, ELA, Humanities, Information Literacy/Library, Mathematics, Science, Technology Leader – ES, Technology Leader – MS/HS, Technology Leader – WS, World Languages)
  • social gatherings (breakfast, lunch, aperitivo)

I led a teacher workshop on iPad Playdate: Apps for Language Learning, and attended a session on Making E-portfolios Work by Kimberly House from Bavarian International School (more on that in the future). I watched a professional chocolatier demonstrate how to make chocolate, and attended an unconference session on Genius Hour/20% time and skipped the second unconference session to work quietly in the library, processing all of the learning that I was doing. I also skipped the student led session; I tried to attend the one on Minecraft but it was full, so I went to the library and played with Minecraft Pocket Edition on my iPad for a while. I could have benefited from a student teacher.

The bulk of the time in Learning2 is spent in extended sessions. It’s less than 50% of the conference time, but the greatest amount of time spent on a single focus. I participated in two extended sessions, which are three hour long workshops. The first was called Connect Your Community, Connect Your Students, Connect Yourself by Marcello Mongardi, and the second was Students as Creators and Curators of Textbooks by Jeff Utecht. There were four other sessions: Designing Spaces that Build Community by Paula Guinto, Programmable Robots and Coding in the Primary Classroom by Warren Apel, Building a Culture of Collaboration by Tricia Friedman, and Living in Beta by Sheldon Bradshaw. Each session is a combination of presentation and hands-on experiences, with an opportunity to consider the relevance of what you’re learning to your classroom, and how you can apply the content to your own context. I found myself moving at my own pace, shaping my learning based on my interest and needs, and using fellow participants and the presenter to jump past some of the initial challenges when encountering a new idea or program. In the Curation workshop, there was a representative from Flipboard who was able to answer questions and helped me compare and contrast Flipboard to my existing tool, Feedly. As a result, I have a good idea of the difference between them and the value of each. I will keep using Feedly personally because I like the unread/read feature, but will use Flipboard for collaboration; I will share more about using Flipboard with students.

Learning2 is a great model for professional development. I suggest having a goal list for the conference, going with a team, making time to debrief and share learning after, and coming up with actions to improve teaching and learning. I encourage you to look into Learning2 when planning your professional development for the next academic year. It will be held in Warsaw, April 6-9, 2017.

Before you leave, take a few minutes to watch this talk by Scintilla.

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Cross-posted at ISP Elementary School IT.