How Culture Creates Room for Coaching and Collaboration (or… Culture – it’s what’s for breakfast!)

ISTE-Coaching Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment 

f. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences 

Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth 

b. Engage in continuous learning to deepen professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions in organizational change and leadership, project management, and adult learning to improve professional practice 

c. Regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology-enhanced learning experiences

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a famous quote from legendary management consultant and writer Peter Drucker. To be clear he didn’t mean that strategy was unimportant – rather that a powerful and empowering culture was a surer route to organisational success. ~Ross Bernard

While learning about and researching the ISTE Coaching Standards and how to be an effective and meaningful coach throughout this quarter, building trust and authentic relationships with teachers around student learning and educational practices has been at the forefront.  Drawing on my own personal experience as an educator, I realize every day that there is more to learn, do and adjust as a teacher when striving to keep student learning and success moving. Yet, I must admit, I know that for myself and fellow teachers I work with, there is a twinge of uneasiness and uncomfortable vulnerability if assigned a coach. Reflecting on my own knee-jerk reaction, I have come to realize that this is because coaching is not currently the norm within the overall education setting. When it is present, coaching tends to focus on new teachers or teachers whose evaluation marks are low. (Please note that this is my opinion and experience, and I do not believe everyone feels this way and it is not viewed like this at all schools, thank goodness!) When this is the current culture around coaching, educators see coaching as someone trying to fix them rather than an opportunity for authentic growth, collaboration and student-centered reflection – something everyone in the education field would benefit being a part of – from principals to teachers to specialists to instructional assistants, etc. 

In the article, The Instructional Coach: A Springboard, Not a Scarlet Letter, Jensen writes, “…how can schools pull back the curtain on teaching and turn it into a team sport, complete with a coach for every teacher?” In order to pull back the curtain, Jensen suggests 4 ways that schools, especially leaders and coaches within our education system, can help educators feel more comfortable with coaching. 

  • Spotlight Strengths – focus on the strengths that all the teachers in the building already have.  Have them reflect on their own strengths and each others strengths – at my school, we do shout-outs at the beginning of every staff meeting and having this occur within a coaching session could be really helpful for building trust. “Acknowledging that the building is full of capable and competent educators goes a long way in shifting the culture toward accepting coaching.”  
  • Team Up for Growth – From the starting point of strengths, educators are more likely to be ready to focus on areas of growth.  When teachers determine how they want to grow, the door is open for collaboration, rather than dreading the knock from the outside.  When coaches provide support in the self-identified areas for growth, we honor the expertise of the teacher and position ourselves as a springboard for growth rather than a scarlet letter.”
  • Be Flexible – Coaches need to be flexible and adapt to the educators schedule, timing and the busy nature of education. “Finally, part of every school leaders’ responsibility in building staff capacity includes making coaching accessible.”
  • Spread the Word – If a school is lucky enough to have the resources to have coaches, starting with the teachers who are willing and experienced could go a long way when trickling down to teachers who may be uneasy about coaching.  When the vocal teacher leaders within a staff have a positive experience with coaching, they will become your greatest asset as they spread the word that coaching works, it is worth the time, and everyone needs a coach.”

Bernard Ross, an internationally regarded expert in strategic thinking, organizational change and personal effectiveness with The Management Centre, lays out 5 steps to change and align culture. Below is an excerpt from his article, Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast – I highly suggest reading the article in full but for the purposes of this blog post and focusing on changing culture, these steps seem critical and I have left in the descriptions that seem relevant to the educational system since he focuses more on organizations and companies. 

Understanding culture is not enough. The point is to change it. And to do this you need to follow five steps.”

1. Analyse culture as it is now (and be honest!)

Job one is to sit down and work out accurately what the culture is now. There are a number of ways to do this.[. . .] Focus groups, especially externally facilitated ones, can be a great way to get a real handle on this. You also might want to run an anonymous survey monkey study.

2. Imagine the culture as you want it to be

[. . .] think about how you want your culture to work, if everything was correctly aligned. To make it concrete we often then list the key stakeholders and describe how things will be better for them in the new culture. These stakeholders could include: staff, beneficiaries, service users, donors and others.

3. Map the differences between the two

Now compare your two cultural web diagrams, and identify the differences between them. [. . .]

4. Make an action plan

You need an action plan to make sure that the culture change actually takes place. [. . .] This plan should ideally be published and available to everyone. (Provided transparency is a part of your culture!)

5. Measure differences over time

You need track that your approach was actually implemented and that it has had the desired effect. [. . .]

Ross also explains in his article how to map out current cultural desires using specific questions that can help guide coaches and leaders in determining what is creating the current culture – positively and what opportunities are available to shift. 

One of the deepest takeaways that I have had when looking at how to establish a positive coaching culture is the importance of starting at the top and having the positive outcomes filter down throughout the school. Magdalena Mook speaks to the importance of starting at the top in her article, How to Create a Coaching Culture

1. Start from the top, but include everyone

Typically, coaching takes hold in organizations where a well-respected senior leader is engaged in a coaching relationship and can promote its benefits across the company. While buy-in and strong support are very important at this rank, ultimately, coaching should be made available across each level of an organization, to professionals of all ages and levels of experience. This is crucial for a lasting, enterprise-wide impact.

I have noticed in education, coaching tends to focus solely on teachers. It would be interesting to see if not only investment from administration but also participation in being coached, helped to lessen anxiety and/or hesitation for a teacher who is offered coaching..especially if it was being offered to all teachers, as well.  But that is another topic for another time!  

Finally, here is an interesting video that gives a unique perspective of having a coaching mindset. These ideas translate into the education realm…which makes sense considering coaching is adaptable to all professions and focuses on growth for who is being coached and those who they interact with, especially.

Resources:

Gawande, Atul. (Jan. 30, 2018). Want to Get Good at Something? Get a Coach. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHDq1PcYkT4

Jensen, Sydney Clark. (Jan. 3, 2019). The Instructional Coach: A Springboard, Not a Scarlet Letter. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol14/num13/instructional-coaches-a-springboard-not-a-scarlet-letter.aspx?fbclid=IwAR1PmF0lge4tIB_dmDaGB0Xozgic5dcSb9-UGKqbB_tc1YDV0uommOqJ71Q

Kobulnicky, Ben. Does Culture Really Eat Strategy for breakfast. Retrieved from https://medium.com/startup-grind/does-culture-really-eat-strategy-a3172df58912

Mook, Magdalena. (Jan.11, 2017) How to Create a Coaching Culture. Retrieved from https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/growth-strategies/2016/01/how-to-create-a-coaching-culture.htm

Ross, Bernard. Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast. Retrieved from https://www.managementcentre.co.uk/culture-eats-strategy-for-breakfast/

A Pinch, a Dash and a Smidgen ~ Blending 21st Century Skills with Proven Practices

I tend to be a simple cook.  Generally, I make what I am familiar with, either from what I grew up eating or what I figured out how to make when I first lived on my own.  I attempt to branch out but it takes extra time, focus and effort and life can feel too busy to try and find new ingredients at the store or to figure out if a cooking gadget I have will work instead of the fancy gadget the recipe says to use but I don’t own. I do try to mix it up though because it is boring to eat the same things over and over.  Last week, I tried a new recipe. It always feels a bit overwhelming at first yet the anticipation of having something new is exciting – for me and my family.  Once the meal is on the table, the dinner conversation tends to revolve around me giving disclaimers to my family (If it’s terrible, we can pop that frozen pizza in!).  We all eat the first few bites thoughtfully and talk about what we are tasting.  I reflect throughout the meal about what I will do differently next time while my husband and kids reassure me that it is good and that they really do like it.  Then, if it was actually good, I fine tune the recipe the next time I make it and as I make it more often, it becomes easier each time.  Eventually, the recipe is not in front of me but instead, a part of what I know.   

In reality, I already know how to do the most important parts of every new recipe, the basic cooking steps, it is just getting comfortable with the new ingredients, sequence or cooking style. I have also realized that each time I ventured out of my cooking comfort zone, I become more comfortable. This process and awareness of learning applies to how 21st Century skills can enrich prior teaching practices. The basic skills educators have gained throughout their careers do not become null and void just because there are new skills to fine tune and try out with. As a coach, I hope to inspire who I am working with to add a pinch of this, a dash of that and a smidgen of something new until they are using these skills more naturally in how they approach teaching.  Shifting one’s educational philosophy and pedagogy is not about changing everything at once but to instead mix new ways of thinking in to find the right teaching recipe that works for the them and the learners they are working with, which remains a tried and true pedagogical practice just with a 21st Century perspective thoughtfully added. This leads me to my question, how do 21st century skills influence the changing criteria for effective learning and technology integration? 

(Let’s look more closely with the idea of a recipe in mind)

21st Century Skills and 21st Century Learning 

(These are the basic cooking steps that we don’t have to relearn with every new recipe but are reimagined in a new way when new ingredients are added!) 

Educators have always had to keep up with the changing landscape of the world that they and their students interact with and live in. When thinking about how 21st Century Skills influence effective learning environments and pedagogical approach, there seems to be the theme of focusing on an updated process of learning rather than just the outcome of facts, data and what students know or do not know through summative assessments.  The National Education Association (NEA) goes beyond just the skills and talks about the elements of 21st Century Learning as: 

  • Emphasize core subjects 
  • Emphasize learning skills 
  • Use 21st century tools to develop learning skills 
  • Teach and learn in a 21st century context 
  • Teach and learn new 21st century content 
  • Use 21st century assessments that measure core subjects and 21st century skills 

I appreciate the distinction NEA has made between 21st Century Skills (often talked about as the 4 C’s: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) and 21st Century Learning which encompasses the 4 C’s but also includes the elements listed above to reflect the technology, learning environment and content/context changes that connect past and present approaches. 

Learning Progressions 

(This is the time where you learn a new sequence of steps to blend with your prior knowledge of cooking that is required for your new recipe!)

In the article, Learning Progressions: Road Maps for 21st-Century Students—and Teachers, we are reminded that the pedagogical shift of 21st Century is about the progression of learning.  “…The focus should be on Learning progressions—the journeys that students take as they move toward mastering skills in specific areas or disciplines—rather than on outcomes in the form of scores on standardized tests “(Kim, H. & Scoular C., 2017).  Kim and Scoular focus on the idea of moving learners from novices to experts and that learning progressions emphasize how students move through the learning of the core subjects. 

“Tried-and-true progressions exist for those subjects [literacy, science numeracy], and we know they work. We can thus use this established approach to benefit our understanding of more complex skills—not just of the skills themselves, but also of how students demonstrate them at various levels.”  

(Kim, H. & Scoular C., 2017)

Building a Bridge Together 

(This is the part of the recipe where you are taking a risk and trying out the new and some unfamiliar ingredients, steps and/or cooking style to see how this influences the meal in a new and exciting way!) 

In the book, Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, Foltos reminds us that, “Educators and the Peer Coaches that work with them find it easy to talk about 21st-century skills but much more difficult to turn abstract ideas like critical thinking, analyzing and synthesizing information, transference, information literacy, and creativity into practical classroom learning activities.”  This is where coaches and educators benefit from strong collaboration and take the learning activities they are already familiar with and reimagine them by tweaking the process and end result to be more student centered and fine tune what they already have instead of reinventing the wheel.  Using a process such as the Learning Design Matrix (Peer Coaching, 2018) below can help to inspire rethinking and focus on the teaching, learning environment and desired outcome. 

21st Century Pedagogy  

(This is the part of the recipe that once everything is mixed in and cooked, you must finalize the meal with the last critical step – putting it on the plate.) 

While thinking about bridging the old with the new, it is important to realize how intertwined the new and old ideas, philosophies and approaches already are. It benefits all stakeholders to remember that focusing on teaching styles, learner centered instruction and 21st Century ways to showcase deeper learning is key to not becoming overwhelmed with thinking everything around education is new. Like always, each aspect relies on the other. Much like how basic salt and pepper, turning on the stove and trying out new recipes and tools enhances our basic ability to cook and better feed ourselves and each other.  

Below is an example of a new pedagogical approach: 

Context matters, and the diagram from edorigami captures this, though not from the perspective of the student and content knowledge, but the teacher and various pedagogical components themselves, including Higher-Order Thinking SkillsPeer Collaboration, and Media Fluency. (TeachThought Staff, 2018)

And finally… 

I thought this was an interesting way of thinking about past versus present – this was not how every classroom always was in the past or how it currently is for every classroom  in the present but elements of each ring true and what an exciting time this is for education and the changing landscape within and outside of the classroom. The powerful connection between school and real life…considering school is real life and learning forever embedded in the lives of the generations we are teaching today – 21st Century and beyond.  

Follow this link to see page 2 of the document: http://www.21stcenturyschools.com/20th-vs-21st-century-classroom.html

Resources: 

21st Century Schools. 20th Century Classroom vs. the 21st Century Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.21stcenturyschools.com/20th-vs-21st-century-classroom.html.

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin. 

Kim, H. & Scoular C. (April 24,2017). Learning Progressions: Road Maps for 21st-Century Students—and Teachers. Retrieved from https://ssir.org/articles/entry/learning_progressions_for_students_and_teachers# 

McAlpin, Renee. (2017) Brookings Institute. Skills for a changing world: The global movement to prepare students for the 21st century. Retrieved from http://www.brookings.edu/blog/education-plus-development/2017/04/24/skills-for-a-changing-world-the-global-movement-to-prepare-students-for-the-21st-century/ 

National Education Association. Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/home/34888.htm 

Peer Coaching. (2018). Learning Design Matrix.  

The Coaching Relationship ~ The Many Layers of Building Trust through Communication and Collaboration

  • ISTE-Coaching:
    • Standard 1: Visionary Leadershipd. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms
    • Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessmentf. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences

Through researching and conversations with my SPU Digital Education Leadership cohort, I have found myself continually wondering how to best communicate and collaborate when starting a coaching relationship while still connecting in a way that felt organic versus clinical or predetermined.  In my own experience, why do I sometimes accept clarifying, probing and paraphrasing communication as a positive communication strategy with some people (coaches, other teachers, admin/leadership positions) yet with others I feel it is predetermined and just a sequence of steps they are applying to our conversation?  This led me to my question, What are best practices for starting to use probing and clarifying questions when you first start coaching someone and how do probing and clarifying questions strengthen trust with who you are coaching?

The most obvious answer is trust. When I am collaborating and communicating in a trusted relationship, I can let down my guard, be vulnerable and break away from my own initial thoughts or usual tendencies. But how do we gain that trust? In a coaching role, active listening inspires educators to feel truly heard through communication which is a crucial building block for trust and sets the stage for the other foundational block, compassion (I hear you, not a predetermined agenda) and commitment (I hear what you need and commit to those needs/desires/hopes first and foremost)

Peer-Ed (2018)

In the graphic above from Center for Creative Leadership, each active listening skill reinforces being heard before diving into deeper thinking. When I reflect on these skills from the perspective of being coached, I would say #6 – be attuned to and reflect feelings, #1 – be attentive and #5 – paraphrase are the skills that strengthen my relationship with the coach and results in be being more available to be coached. 

The article, Getting Better Results Through Authentically Curious Leadership, touches on how our subconscious wants to connect immediately with our past experiences which means we draw conclusions and make judgments quickly (Garrison, 2018). To be authentically curious, Garrison tells us about 3 techniques that can apply to the coaching relationship to create a fresh perspective that is ready to be built with the coaching partnership. The three techniques he describes are:

Assume a Blank Canvas: The goal is to allow the other person to “fill in” this canvas with their words, emotions and meaning. Rather than responding with phrases like, “Don’t you think … ?” (a thin disguise for trying to convince someone of their point of view), authentically curious leaders listen deeply and ask clarifying questions that begin with phrases like, “Can you tell me more about … ?” or “How do you see … ?” This allows for additional clarity and perhaps new insights. When the authentically curious leader does make a point, they invite challenges or conflicting views in a respectful and authentic manner.

Prepare For The Unexpected: The brain sees data that supports its model of the world, but this model also inhibits our ability to consider other unexpected points of view. The brain must be trained to consider all the data, especially that which does not support our current beliefs. 

Make Decisions Using Common Criteria: When a group is working to address a problem or make a decision, the authentically curious leader doesn’t debate alternatives. Instead, the leader solicits answers to the question, “How will we know a great decision when we see it?” Note that the question is not, “What’s a great outcome?” When a group can agree on common criteria for a great decision, then each member is free to explore alternatives with certainty of how each will be evaluated.

(Garrison, 2018)

Through building trust with thoughtful communication skills and coming to the table with no solution already determined, only then can collaboration occur.  Les Foltos describes in his book, Peer Coaching, Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, the importance of inquiry over advocacy.

When is the right time for advocacy? How often can [coaches] present their solutions? As I noted in earlier chapters, successful coaches feel that a little advocacy works, but only after a strong coaching relationship based on inquiry is formed. Too much advocacy, they observed, means the coach becomes the expert with the answer. Garmston and Wellman (1999) argue it is important for successful collaboration to balance advocacy and inquiry. Effective Peer Coaches emphasize inquiry over advocacy. Too much advocacy can produce learned helplessness. Inquiry builds capacity to improve teaching and learning by helping teachers to be more effective at designing and implementing learning activities that meet the needs of their students.

(Foltos, 2013)

Once a coaching relationship has been built on trust and communication skills that bring out inquiry based conversations, coaches can begin to know how to best deepen the thinking of who is being coached.  In order to achieve what Foltos and Garrison are speaking about, coaches need to understand that the questions they ask and how they ask them are critical to the relationship, especially in the beginning. In the article, The Questions Good Coaches Ask by Amy Jen Su, she reminds us that…”Asking the right coaching questions means the difference between a one-way interrogation and a dynamic learning session. Good coaching questions give someone who’s busy and competent the space in which to step back and examine herself. The right question can stop her in her tracks as she finally sees her own actions from a different perspective or envisions a new solution to an old problem. She may indeed learn to question herself so that next time she can catch herself in the act and change her actions in the moment. (2014). Once a coach has achieved showing authentic curiosity and an inquiring approach by asking opened questions and paraphrasing, they can then move into clarifying and probing questions resulting in the communication and collaboration as a dynamic partnership…and if advocacy comes into play, when it seems appropriate, it will be from all perspectives, not just the coaches. A true collaborative approach.

 Philipp Schneider (2013) Balanced Action. Sketchnote: Coaching Essentials.

Resources:

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

Garrison, David W. (2018).  Forbes. Getting Better Results Through Authentically Curious Leadership. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/10/18/getting-better-results-with-authentically-curious-leadership/#7de6ef971cfc

Jen Su, Amy. (2014). Harvard Business Review. The Questions Good Coaches Ask. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/12/the-questions-good-coaches-ask

Schneider, Philipp. (2013) Balanced Action. Sketchnote: Coaching Essentials. Retrieved from

Tech Etiquette ~ a framework for building classroom community in a technology rich environment

Before students can learn within the digital age learning environment, the environment needs to be one that is community minded, with clear expectations that students have created, agreed upon and are understood in full, with routines that are second nature and where all students have engaged in creating a safe space for all to flourish in. Tech Etiquette is critical for building and maintaining an environment that focuses on respect, learning and connecting with each other, not just the use of devices and technology.  Educators take time to create a positive, supportive and well-mannered environment within our classroom while offline and the same tenets need to apply when devices and technology are being used. This may seem obvious but I have yet to see this focused on as deeply as how students learn to log on to a device, how they carry the device, learn to type, creating digital portfolios or get to an app. Focusing on Tech Etiquette in the classroom will provide the framework needed for technology to enhance learning, collaborative relationships and a creative classroom that uses design thinking. This is important at any age.  I believe diving deeper into Tech Etiquette strongly supports ISTE Coaching Standard 3 for those reasons, at the very least.

For my graduate program, Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I have chosen to focus on creating a presentation about the importance of Tech Etiquette in classrooms. It has been an eye opening experience to think more deeply about what it means to teach students about Tech Etiquette inside and outside of the classroom because this is not an area that I have seen focused on. We often teach students about digital citizenship, how we act online and our digital footprint, but how we act with each other while using devices in the classroom is not focused on as often. There is not one right way when it comes to etiquette which is why it is important for educators to tap into what their classroom needs and what makes sense culturally, is age appropriate and what students want as part of their tech etiquette agreement. Below, is my reflection on what my presentation will look like if accepted into a conference or how I would present it as a Professional Development for other educators.

Length:

The length of my presentation or workshop will depend on the audience and location. If I was accepted to the NCCE, it would be for 10 minutes. If I were doing it as a PD for staff/families at my school, it could be up to 45 – 60 minutes. 

Active and Engaged Learning:

I would like to have role playing or real life scenarios as part of the presentation.  For example, starting with everyone writing down (or using an online platform to gather these thoughts in real time) 1-2 things they notice bothers them about tech etiquette and use in the classroom, workplace or personal life or take a poll using a tool like sli.do to determine if many of the issues are similar. From there, connecting to basic manners that we expect from students (and that we give to them!) and how we need to role model for them when applying these manners in a technology rich environment – looking up from devices when someone is speaking, tone when working together, taking turns, stopping when the activity is over (no sneaking!), how to hold, handle and take care of devices, stamina when things go wrong or get confusing, awareness of surroundings and others when using a device and more. Audience members could role play these scenarios or create solutions to share with the group as a whole with small groups working together.    

Using Prezi as a way to present and interact with audience and then create an action plan using Mural so that everyone will have the ideas and work created to look back to.

Content Knowledge Needs:

Common Misconceptions: Touch on the idea of digital citizenship being not just online behavior but how we interact with those in our physical space when using digital tools and resources

Specific content standards/objectives: 

  • ISTE Coaching Standard 3 – Digital Learning Environment
  • ISTE Student Standard 2 – Digital Citizen and Standard 7 – Global Collaborator 
  • ISTE Educator Standard 3 – Citizen, Standard 5 – Designer and Standard 6 – Facilitator

Address Teacher Needs:

Make the Prezi available to all so educators can look back at it, add to it and create a community to interact with as they implement the ideas into their classroom

Educators leave with clear ideas on how to introduce, implement and maintain tech etiquette within their own classrooms. The Mural tool will keep these ideas in a collaborative space.

Provide a video of in-class examples of teaching students these tools (this would be something done at a later date when I teach my own class, video tape it and provide closed captioning for educators to review and then fine tune for their own classroom)

Anticipated FAQ:

  • Home to school connection with tech etiquette
  • Breaking bad habits that students have already learned
  • How to train student tech mentors
  • What does a tech mentorship program look like, sound like, feel like
  • Dealing with adults and friends who model behaviors that counteract what we are trying to teach them to do with tech etiquette. 
  • Growth – it takes time to learn these skills and to be aware of when we are not having tech etiquette – the point is learning these skills so focus on the skill not the ‘bad behavior’ or ‘wrong way’. Positive reinforcement and helping students learn to be aware and shift is key.

Collaborative participation:

Student input, discussions and collaborative decision making around tech etiquette in their classroom will be critical is making tech etiquette meaningful.

Collaborate with other classrooms who are embarking on this topic and connect via Skype or another platform to see how it is going, what others are doing that is successful, what is not going well, the opportunities and successes. This could be done by connecting with other educators who are a part of the presentation or having a living document that educators can go back to and update each other and reach out for support when needed. 

Students could create images, media, and more around the topic to then use to teach other students which will promote student agency, motivation and pride around being stellar tech etiquette role models for each other and outside of the classroom.  Teaching awareness around how they engage with tech is a huge part of this.

Be a Troubleshooter to Transform Your Technology Integration

ISTE Coaching Standard 3: Digital age learning environments

Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.

E – Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments

Question: How can coaches best support teacher and student stamina when learning how to incorporate new technology into their classroom?

Throughout the Digital Education Leadership (DEL) program at Seattle Pacific University, I have noticed that my own learned helplessness when using new technology was much more ingrained than I had realized. When our cohort was asked to use Coggle to create a Mindmap from our readings during the first quarter, I became frustrated and told myself multiple times that I am just the type of person who is better at using pencil and paper for this task – more specifically, “that is just who I am”. The rigidity around the idea of “that is just who I am” morphed into learned helplessness that I could not do it well because it wasn’t suited to what I was already proficient at. I am incredibly thankful that throughout learning the Coggle tool and being a part of the DEL program, I realized that by tapping into a growth mindset, I eventually saw and appreciated the value of expanding my skills and not stopping as soon as I had to put effort into something new, uncomfortable and challenging. Luckily, the DEL program coached me through these challenges by having an atmosphere of support and patience with what it takes to learn these skills. This is exactly what I expect and hope my students will aspire to every day in my classroom.  How unfair not to grow with them and this had led me to expect it of myself, first and foremost.  Coaches and the educational environment we are all part of needs to have this same patience and perseverance in order to gain stamina through creativity to succeed when we get stuck on something.  

Many of the issues that surround implementing technology in the classroom result from a fixed mindset from educators, administration, district demands around testing, parent fears and students who have been exposed regularly to one ‘right way’.  When connectivity and basic hardware/software issues pop up, it is easy to sweep away what you were attempting to implement in the name of needing to teach a standard. This challenge becomes not worth the time, effort and resources. Sure, time may be spent differently than you anticipated but in the long run, you and your students will learn critical life long skills that our students need to learn for the 21st century and beyond. Our stamina around implementation of new technology, as coaches and educators, is critical to the success of these skills for our students.

When looking at the Life and Career column of these 21st century skills, these are the skills that will help all the other skills take root, grow and maintain footing in all contexts.  Each one of these has been critical in my own growth with implementing digital education and technology and to grow with my students while moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. While researching ways to inspire stamina for other educators as a coach, I came across a great article about common issues that arise when using technology.  This list can help coaches teach educators what to do with common problems while using technology in their classroom. I would also extend this idea into creating a living document (a document that is always changing, being added to and being updated) style list with the classroom community adding to it as issues arise. The classroom community, as a whole, is part of problem solving the issues that are sure to come. There have been many times that a student shows me how to solve an issue occurring in class…what an invaluable opportunity for students to become leaders and mentors and this has the opportunity to create a safe environment for solving problems and collaboration between students and adults. In addition, this can help students and teachers to move past learned helplessness and into an eagerness to solve problems as they arise.  

In the Edutopia article, Avoiding Learned Helplessness, Andrew Miller lists out ways educators can shift students into a growth mindset. Miller states, “We, as educators, are often responsible for learned helplessness, and we have a responsibility to change it. How can we empower our students to be self-directed learners?”

  • Curate and Create Learning Resources (Wakelet if a great resource for this!)
  • Using Questions to Drive Learning
  • Stop Giving Answers
  • Allow for Failure

“We need to take responsibility for empowering our students, and to scaffold the process of self-direction. Self-direction doesn’t happen overnight, especially when many of our students have been trained through specific structures of their schooling to be helpless. Although we can take steps as individual educators to avoid learned helplessness, we need to reexamine the systems of schooling, from curriculum to assessment and instruction, to allow for empowerment rather than always getting the right answer.”

~ Andrew Miller

Miller reminds us that specific structures of schooling trains students to be helpless.  In order to counter these structures, consider the idea of Productive Failure (Maun Kapur) as a way to shift from learned helplessness to seeing challenges as an opportunity for authentic learning and a more engaging learning experience that frees students up to wonder, problem solve and have multiple opportunities to try out ideas.  This applies heavily to how teachers can view troubleshooting technology issues, as well, and showcase this pedagogy to students.

“This pedagogy [Productive Failure] requires students to manage an open-ended process of challenge and exploration, so they may feel less confident in the short term. The approach helps them to become more creative and resilient over time.” “For productive failure, the order is reversed, so students try to solve ill-structured problems first, and then receive direct instruction.”

https://iet.open.ac.uk/file/innovating_pedagogy_2016.pdf
https://sites.msudenver.edu/sips/sip-6-4-productive-failure/
A peek into Manu Kapur speaking about Productive Failure

Throughout researching how to build stamina for teachers and students, I keep coming back to the idea that we as educators need to model a desire to approach challenges.  The more we run from using digital resources and technology because there are bound to be issues, the more we are modeling learned helplessness for our students – exactly what we are trying to steer them away from! At the heart of this ISTE 3 Coaching Standard 3E, is the word troubleshooting. The Merriam-Webster definition of a troubleshooter is:

a person skilled at solving or anticipating problems or difficulties

Coaches have the opportunity to inspire the stamina it takes to implement new ways of teaching by providing resources that give educators the skills to anticipate problems or difficulties rather than focusing on how to do it ‘right’ the first time. Solving and anticipating problems and difficulties are key aspects to be ready to grow as an educator and meet students in the educational world they are growing up in.

How have you lost or gained stamina when using technology in the classroom? When have you given up? When have you pushed through? Who have you seen rise to technology challenges and who has helped you to push through? Have you seen students push through issues/challenges with perseverance and stamina and what was the sequence they went through? In what ways have you been successful or not successful with teaching growth mindset to students? Have you tried approaching learning from a Productive Failure pedagogy? Learning from each other, connecting with the challenges of stamina, perseverance and growth mindset for students and ourselves and being inspired by each other is how our community can become stronger and more supportive. I would love to hear your perspective!

Resources:

Diplomatic Courier. (2017, Jan. 29). Interview w. Manu Kapur at GTS 2017. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fosOJ_4Fqxk

ISTE Coaching Standards. (2019) Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches 

Kapur, Manu.  Productive Failure.  Retrieved from https://www.manukapur.com/productive-failure/

Kesh, Arvind. (2017, Fe. 17th). Importance of Education Technology in Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from https://www.animaker.com/blog/importance-of-education-technology/

Metropolitan State University of Denver. (2018, Feb. 07) SIP 6.4 Productive Failure: Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?  Retrieved from https://sites.msudenver.edu/sips/sip-6-4-productive-failure/

Miller, A. (2015). Avoiding Learned Helplessness.  Edutopia blog: Teaching Strategies. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/avoiding-learned-helplessness-andrew-miller

Murray, Jacqui. (2013) Solve Those Tricky Classroom Tech Problems. Tech Hub. Retrieved from http://www.teachhub.com/how-solve-tricky-classroom-tech-problems

Famularo, Lisa. (2011, April 29). Developing 21st Century Leaders: Creating Paths to Success. National Partnership for Educational Access.  Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/NPEAConference/integrating-21st-century-skills-into-teaching-and-learning-preparing-all-students-for-success-in-college-career-and-life

National Institute of Education: Singapore. (2016) Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Exploring new forms of teaching, learning and assessment, to guide educators and policy makers. Retrieved from https://iet.open.ac.uk/file/innovating_pedagogy_2016.pdf