Monday, June 27, 2011

10 Peer Coaching Tips in 10 Minutes at ISTE

I was asked to present ten coaching tips in ten minutes at ISTE. Here are the ten I presented today:

1. Building relationships is key. It takes time and energy to build those relationships, but it's the key in coaching.

2. Work with the willing. It is more effective to work with those who are willing, and forcing someone won't get the results the students deserve. If this were an ocean, I probably couldn't turn a whale. However, I can focus on turning and working with the leaders in a school of sardines, and the rest will eventually follow. (Thanks Jon Castelhano for giving me that imagery).

3. Cater to their readiness. It's the same idea as individualizing for your students -- pre-assess and adjust to their needs. I ask questions to assess their comfort level, if they use it primarily to teach, or use it for students to learn and create. In other words, is technology something that is used? If so, how? Is it used mainly by the teacher or also by the students, and in what capacity?

4. I provide them with positive feedback. This goes back to building trust and relationships. When I go in their classrooms, I actively look for great things they are doing. I make a point to leave them that specific, positive feedback via an email, a note, or verbally.

5. Cater to their strengths. They will be more successful if we focus on their strengths, and tap into those. Having a successful initiation fosters more trust and willingness to take more steps towards 21st century learning-centered classrooms.

6. Integrity builds trust. I am not there to "fix" anyone. I am there to bring out the best in them and help them grow.

7. Collaborate. Collaboration is two ways. Sure, I do the best I can to help them, but I also create opportunities for them to help me. I need their feedback and insight too.

8. Build in support and PLN. I support them with planning, modeling, and/or team-teaching. Providing critical feedback helps nurture ideas and think through steps. Guiding them to resources and setting up that infrastructure for sharing resources (i.e. through Diigo groups), is also extremely important for their success. Anytime we can provide opportunities for building PLN, it's a win-win.

9. Celebrate the successes. I like to celebrate their successes by blogging about it. Teachers and students are very proud to have someone else recognize their achievements, especially when they reflect on what they've learned and how they've grown from their learning experience.

10. Coaching should connect with the district vision. If it doesn't all connect, we won't have a common goal and vision. I'm assuming that the vision is valued by the district, and the administration believe in it. If they do, then coaching is a way to help them support and sustain their goals. Hence, administration buy in must be there to support coaching, otherwise it's limited to the influence and success of the coach.

Special thanks goes out to Peer Ed for all the support you have given AJUSD with Peer Coaching! I also want to thank Sandy Rollefstad and Lynn Cook for helping me brainstorm my ten tips!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Connecting in PLNs

The Edublogs PLN Teacher Challenge #2 gives me an opportunity to ask what questions I have about PLNs and share some insight.


I want to connect with innovative educators who are passionate about learning-centered classrooms. I am rewarded when I learn and can help others grow, because of the impact it makes on the students.

Developing PLNs are like developing friendships. It takes time. It's easier when I have similar goals and common things to discuss, or can respectfully challenge each other with new ideas. I need to contribute as much as I take, otherwise it's an unbalanced relationship, which won't last.

My One-to-One PLN Needs

My job title is "Technology Integration Specialist" for AJUSD. I spend over half my time in K-12 classrooms working with students and teachers. The other half of my time is spent helping teachers with resources, project based learning, creating/facilitating professional development, and setting goals for future implementation.

I am the only Technology Integration Specialist in the district, which is why it's so important that I have a PLN to help me process ideas and grow.

Last year we took all 7th graders (Class of 2016) in the district to a one-to-one environment. Next year, it will be 7th (Class of 2017) & 8th graders (Class of 2016). As the Class of 2016 goes through the grades, they will continue with the one-to-one environment and so will the classes who succeed them.

Where do I connect with other ed techs, leaders, and teachers who are in one-to-one environments and/or starting the process of going to one?

My Blended Learning PLN Needs

At the High School level, we are looking at blended learning. Our thoughts are to have Bloom's lower level (lecture/content) delivered digitally, whereas class time would capitalize on Bloom's higher levels and PBL. I am interested in knowing if our vision is more like that of the Flipped Classroom?

Outside of one person, I have not connected with ed techs, leaders, and teachers who are on this same path (at least I don't think I have). It seems like everything I've found is already established, however we are in the early stages of planning and preparing. I would like my PLN to reflect this.

Grow your PLN

I primarily connect with my PLN via blogs, Twitter, and even Diigo. I've heard much about the Educator's PLN on Ning, and even found The Flipped Class Network on Ning, but I don't know where to start. Do you have any tips for me?

Final Thoughts

Even though this post is about my PLN goals and insight, I'd like to hear about yours.

  • How do you connect with your PLN?
  • What would you like to learn about PLNs, or what insight can you share from having one?
  • Are you involved in the Edublog PLN Teacher Challenge?
  • Are there any thoughts or feedback you'd like to share about this post/PLNs?
Thanks Edublogs for once again catering to my needs by bringing people together who also want to develop their PLNs!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fail Forward

I was reminded what it felt like to be incredibly frustrated with technology.

Perceptions of Failure

I had everything ready for my first BlackBoard Collaborate webinar where I was a guest of Shelee King George for Peer Coaching. My computer was ready, and just in case, I had Plan B set up -- my laptop was booted up with the URL typed in.

When it was time to start, my computer crashed and my laptop froze. Panic. Anxiety. I ended up using our System Admin's computer because neither of mine would reboot.

Pictures by AJUSD's Brian Killgore

I was taking a risk and trying something new, but didn't feel like I was connecting with my audience because I couldn't see nor hear them. Plus, I didn't feel like my calm collected self after the technical errors.

I easily could have dismissed the whole experience and told myself, "I guess it's just not the medium for me, so I'll never try that again."
Time Gives Perspective, even Inspiration

The following two days were filled with fabulous training. I had the privilege of facilitating training for AJUSD's second group of Collaboration Coaches.

During our training, I was inspired by three teachers who used new mediums to create a multi-media presentation to introduce Collaboration Coaching to their staff. They experienced some technical difficulties, but instead of giving up and dismiss using technology, they stuck with it and figured it out.

By falling in the pitfalls, they learned how to successfully navigate around them for next time, to achieve their goal quicker.

Fail Forward

These few days were a great reminder of frustration, but also a reminder to fail forward. Remembering John Maxwell's words of wisdom to pick yourself up and continue on is essential in leadership.

Even though my first webinar did not go the way I envisioned, it went much better than how I perceived it, and the rest of the week was epic. I am glad for the opportunity to learn from perceived failures, and to turn those into successes.

Click here to listen to the recording of the webinar, and skip ahead to 2:30 for the start of our webinar.
  • How do you help others (or yourself) when frustrated with technology?
  • Do you find that time and reflection gives strength and perspective?
  • Failing does not make you a failure. Do you agree? 
  • What do you do to get over a failure?
  • How else does this post connect with you?
Special thanks to Shelee King George and Peer Ed for being so supportive. Collaboration Coaching has made such an amazing impact on our district! Thanks to Brian Killgore for sitting through the webinar, and for the images used here in my post.

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Beyond 4 Walls -- Building PLN

    I'm filled with excitement as we move beyond the four walls of our classroom to build our Personal Learning Network (PLN).

    What is a PLN?

    Watch this fabulous 2 minute interview of Steven Anderson explaining the difference between a PLC and PLN, and its power.

    Our Growth

    In the past year, almost 70 AJUSD educators joined Diigo to start sharing resources. Approximately 100 AJUSDers subscribed to blogs in Google Reader, and roughly 30 educators started Twitter accounts, including me.


    We started moving to a one-to-one environment at Cactus Canyon Junior High (CCJH). Our professional development (PD) throughout the year focused on pedagogy, which naturally included differentiating instruction with technology. Therefore our PD modeled our beliefs.

    Skype Beyond 4 Walls

    When we focused on engaging students with authentic purpose, we discussed blogs. There were three PD options for our CCJH educators tiered to their needs. Since this is so new to us, our "advanced" option focused mainly on global awareness and commenting on blogs.

    Mr. Salsich's Class Blog
    We were fortunate to have Jonah Salsich as our expert guest via Skype to answer questions and provide resources. This was our first Skype experience for PD, and Salsich's expertise was incredible. It opened our eyes to the power of moving beyond the four walls of our classroom with our learners, in addition to the power of PLN.

    Final Remarks

    As I reflect on this past year, I'm encouraged by our progress and look forward to seeing where we will be this time next year!
    • How has your experience with growing in a PLN made an impact?
    • How do you move beyond the four walls of the classroom?
    • What else would you like to add to this discussion?

    Special thanks to Nick Sauers for coming out for 1:1 training and getting AJUSD teachers hooked up on Twitter & RSS in Google Reader amongst all the other things you did. Special thanks to Jonah Salsich for going above and beyond to help others out!