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 a 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

3 Replies to “Be a Troubleshooter to Transform Your Technology Integration”

  1. Christine,
    It is a big challenge for coaches to inspire teachers to rise stamina when implementing technology in classrooms. You made a powerful statement 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. As the educator, we need to build up confidence and stamina when we try new technology into instructions to model students to be self-directed and eager to solve problems rather than fear of them. Thank you for the sharing.

  2. I see the evidence of ‘learned helplessness’ in my classroom every quarter. Your point about allowing for failure is so important to students today. Educators need to take this to heart as well. When trying new approaches to teaching a topic, there will be failures. As your pedagogy cycle shows, educators must model for students the determination to try again, and again, until the issue is resolved. This is the determination we want to see in our students. For me, the self-direction skill listed in your 21st century life and career column is at the heart of what we need students to learn in order to be successful outside of the classroom.

  3. Christine,
    Your blog post speaks volumes to me as a new technology specialist in my school. The idea of failure prevents many educators from attempting to try something new in their classroom, especially when dealing with technology. Many times I have been asked the “right” way to use technology in the classroom , which leads to the question “What are you comfortable trying?”. I like that your blog post recognizes that each teacher and student has different stamina and that failure is expected and accepted. Thank you for sharing!

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