Friday, August 25, 2017

Expectations - Defined, Communicated, and Reinforced

Expectations need to be clearly defined, communicated, and reinforced. In order for teachers to design and implement lessons that make the best use of digital tools, they need to participate in the development of district expectations and understand the implications on instructional practice. 

Teachers should be asking:
  • What does this look like?
  • What will my principal look for when he/she visits my class?
  • How can I take advantage of these tools to personalize learning, differentiate instruction, and assess for learning?
Teachers are wondering: 
Some teachers feel like every use of technology
is the equivalent of scaling a skyscraper.
  • Why are we using technology? 
  • What does a 1:1 look like? 
  • Do you think the students should be using their computers all day long? 
  • Must they take notes on the computer?
  • Will students use digital tools for reading, writing, speaking, and listening in all content areas? Or just in some?
  • You said that we should only use ____ (fill in the blank with Schoology, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Canvas), does that mean we can't use other tools?
  • If you want us to use digital tools to promote critical thinking, are there tools that are better than others?
  • Do I have to use all the tools that are mentioned in PD? 
  • How much time do you expect me to spend planning for a lesson? Is there someone to help me?
  • Everyone talks about using technology for collaboration. Does that mean that my students will never talk with each other in class?
  • We have been teaching our students how to read using a variety of literacy strategies, which include marking up the text. Now you want to limit our printing, because everything is on-line. How are students supposed to use these strategies?
  • What do you mean we should have our students creating? If they create a PowerPoint, does that count? 
  • Students can look everything up now. Is that cheating?
  • Everyone says that our students should be solving authentic problems with the use of the technology. How can we fit that into our curriculum?
  • Why should they curate content? The textbook has curated it for them.
  • How can technology make communication more effective? People never talk to each other any more. 
Do you know the answers to these questions? Have your teachers been part of the conversation?  Have they seen success stories?

When the devices arrive, not everyone will be on board. In fact, a large percentage will be less-than-interested. How do you get all voices heard and limit the negativity? Do you need to bring someone in from outside to facilitate the conversation? Will your early adopters be the best persons to share their stories? Or does your culture not support that approach? Could your teachers visit another school to see what's happening right around the corner or across the state?

How will you define expectations? If you've already successfully set the stage, how did you agree upon expectations?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Impact of Coaches on Changing Practice in a 1:1

Research tells us that one-and-done professional development has very little impact. However, ongoing opportunities for job-embedded professional learning increase the chances of professional development changing instructional practice.  In a study done for the Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC), teachers report that they have changed instructional practice as a result of instructional coaching.  Jim Knight's work suggests "that instructional coaching will increase the likelihood that teachers will use the practices with a higher degree of quality..." than teachers who simply attended a workshop.

What does an instructional technology coach do? In this video, Dianne Krause, an instructional technology specialist in the Wissahickon School District talks about her work. Although she does not have the title of instructional technology coach, Dianne's work reflects the Before/During/After cycle of consultation. In this interview, Dianne discusses how her role has evolved over the years - from one of showing teachers which button to push to one that focuses on collaborating with teachers on the effective use of technology. Dianne also talks about how "technology" is now more than just computers.

Sit back and enjoy Dianne's enthusiasm for the next 5 minutes.



Aguilar, Elena. (2013). How Coaching Can Impact Teachers, Principals, And Students. Retrieved from

Charner, I., & Mean, Monica.  (2016). Key Findings from The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC) Teacher and Coach Survey Report.  Retrieved from

Knight, Jim and Jake Cornett (n.d.) “Studying the Impact of Instructional Coaching.” University of Kansas, Center for Research on Learning.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Administrators: Setting the Vision

If change in instructional practice is going to happen, there are a series of questions that administrators and teachers must always keep in mind.

Let's start with the vision.
As instructional leaders, administrators set the vision. They must ask:
  • Why are we providing students with access to these tools?
  • How are we providing teachers with opportunities for the right professional learning?
  • What outcomes do we expect as a result of this investment?
  • How do we expect systemic change to happen?
  • What are the milestones we expect to see along the way?
Why are we providing these tools? 
  • Is it because all the other districts are doing it? If so, that's not a good answer.
  • Is it because we think it's the right thing to do, but we're not sure why. If so, thanks for being honest. Now it's time to think about the remaining questions! 
  • Is it because they will be using them upon graduation? If so, how will they be using them? Are we preparing them for that world by using technology for authentic purposes? 
  • Is it because they don't have the tools at home? If so, are we providing opportunities for students to do meaningful homework and ongoing projects for which the use of technology is necessary?
  • Is it because collaboration and communication are done more effectively using technology?
  • Is it because technology is essential for doing things never before imaginable?
  • Is it because creating new ideas means access to the most up-to-date sources and resources?
How are we providing ongoing, effective, professional learning opportunities for our teachers?
  • Do we have an instructional coach? Is that coach focused only on technology? Or is the coach someone who is focused on working with teachers to change instructional practice through the use of innovative instructional strategies? Then, when technology fits, is the coach there to support the teacher in using it?
  • When formal PD is offered, are teachers given the time to implement it and reflect on its use?
  • Do teachers have an opportunity to work regularly with other teachers?
  • Do teachers have a voice on how they want and need to use PLC time? Are they given opportunities to share what they have explored during PLC time?
  • How are teachers sharing their successes - and challenges - with instructional technology?
  • Are teachers encouraged to use technology as part of their professional planning, organizing, and communication? 
  • Do we model the effective use of technology for teachers?
 This is a big investment. What outcomes do we expect?
  • Increased test scores? You're probably looking at the wrong approach. Technology, in and of itself, is not going to increase test scores. Keep thinking.
  • Every student will be taking notes on a computer. Take a look at the research. Unless you have devices that allow your students to take notes using a stylus (one that feels like a pen or pencil and allows them to rest their hand on the screen), the neurons that we want to fire are not going to fire. Come to think of it,  are you still providing keyboarding classes? Research also says that the best way to take notes is the way that lets you process the information most quickly. So, if your students type more quickly than they write, go for it.
  • Formative assessment tools with immediate access to data. Woohoo! Yes, that is doable. 
  • Processing of content. My goodness, yes! There are so many tools available for students to read, write, speak and listen about the content they are learning.
  • Collaboration and communication - at its finest! Students can work together in person or remotely. They can communicate a message in ways never before possible - and on a timeline that still amazes me.
  • Creating is the highest level of the revised Bloom's Taxonomy, so you want them creating. Awesome! What are they creating? Movies? Podcasts? Online books? Apps for phones? Are they using this technology to design, plan, produce, animate, or publish? Create does not mean build a bulleted PowerPoint presentation. However, they could use PowerPoint, Prezi, or Keynote to effectively communicate about their creation and to explain their understanding of a topic as well as their process for applying, analyzing and evaluating their research.
How do we expect systemic change to happen?
  • What is the superintendent's role?
  • What is the role of district-level administration?
  • What is the principal's role?
  • What is the assistant principal's role?
  • What is the teacher's role?
  • What is the student's role?
  • What is the parents' role?

What are the milestones you expect to see?
  • Be practical. What do we expect to see by the end of the first year? The second year? The third year? Use backward design. If we want this to happen by June, what do we need to be doing by April, by January, by November, and at the start of the school year? 
  • How will we communicate these milestones? How will we get buy-in by all those involved?

This is no small investment - in time, effort, money, student learning. Take the time to think it through. Want to talk about it? Reach out. Let's talk.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What does a Classroom for Today look like?

In my last post, I shared some examples of students engaged with content through the use of technology. However, that is just the beginning. What happens when students take control of their own learning? 

Over the spring and summer, I've been interviewing instructional technology coaches and administrators about the transformation they have seen occurring in their districts.

In this clip, Melissa Fedigan, a technology coach from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania shares a story of casually popping into the class of a teacher she has worked with for years. His students were learning about the Holocaust. When Melissa heard that, she told him about the pictures her grandfather had taken upon arriving at some concentration camps after World War II. She told the teacher how just that week, her mother had shared her concerns that the pictures would begin to fade and someday be worthless.

At that moment, the teacher had an idea, and the project took on a life of its own. As the year wrapped up, these students were viewing history through the photographs and eyes of someone who lived it.

However, the story does not stop there. This year's class gave a recommendation to their teacher. Next year's students will not only be viewing history; they will be hearing it through several primary sources.

It's amazing what can happen, when students construct their own knowledge. I can't wait to see and hear the results.

Here is a clip of Melissa telling the story.

Watch for more interviews