Getting the Groundswell

Sep 25, 2012 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

Education is such an interesting field. It involves elements of so many other occupations – coach, financial manager, psychologist, marketing, and many more. All these elements ensure that there is never a dull day.

Since moving into the area of ICT education I have been involved in the launch of a number of whole school initiatives. Some have been very successful, whilst others could have run a little more smoothly. As this school year is well underway we have a number of initiatives which are ready in the wings but are there lessons to be learned for passed experiences? Here at the things I am thinking about as we prepare for launch:

  • Building a groundswell of support. Often doing a “soft launch” can help to build positive experiences and “iron out” the kinks. For example when blogging first started up at our school there was a small group of teachers who set up their own class blog. Slowly more and more of their colleagues joined up and we got to a stage where a significant number of staff were blogging and we were getting a lot of positive feedback from parents and other schools. It was decided then that we would roll out blogs for each class. With the groundswell of support the transition to blogs was very smooth. People had an idea of what they were getting involved in.
  • Transparency of decision making. Some decisions need to be made quickly and this doesn’t always allow for a “soft launch” approach. In these instances it is important that the reasons behind the decisions are also presented so all parties involved can see the rational behind the decision. People need to see the “why” so they can gain a perspective of a decision.
  • Focusing on the end goal. As an initiative is rolled out there are always going to be challenges faced which need to be addressed. As these challenges are met it is important that all parties are aware of the end goal – improving student learning.
  • Integrating ideas. Integration has been a focus of classroom practice of sometime now but often when new initiatives are developed the connections with our current ideas/strategies/initiatives are not highlighted. When introducing a new initiatives it is important to highlight how it is connected to current practice and how it will fit into the whole school program.

Hopefully by focusing on these areas as we roll out our initiatives this year we can avoid some of the challenges we have faced in the passed. As they say “experience is the best teacher”.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Sunova Surfboards

Refocus the Model

Sep 18, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

This post is a follow up to an earlier post – Perfect Blend

Is there a perfect blend out there? Finding that right balance is a challenge in all areas of life. Finding this blend in my position as an ICT coach has been a constantly evolving process. Balancing class time, resource development, just in time support and general IT support is a tough role.

As an ICT department we are in the process of actually defining our blend. We want to get it down on paper and have it as a document which we can base our practice around.

So here is our refine blend:

75% – Coaching (Individualized Coaching with teachers mixed with Just-In-Time classroom/technical support)

25% – General Support (Workshops, Resource Development, Professional Development and Sharing Professional Practice)

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Leo Reynolds
We are still further clarifying the full break down of the various areas but it looks like things are coming together. This blend encompasses some of the best features of the blends I have used in the passed but has a different element which may really help further student learning. We will see how this blend matures.

Classroom Connection: Common Craft

Sep 4, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Classroom, Collaborate

So what is the perfect professional development experience? Is it a conference with a fantastic guest speaker, a small working group focusing on a specific topic or a visit to another school?

I have been part of many different professional development experiences but still the most powerful experience I have had is visiting the classrooms of my fellow teachers at the schools I have worked in.

In this series of posts I am going to highlight some of the amazing teaching and learning strategies I have had the chance to be the part of.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by niznoz

Classroom Connection 1 – The Research Assignment

From the looks of it this class was completing a pretty standard activity – researching a topic and then presenting their findings. But as I got involved I began to realise it went much deeper.

In this class, students were asked to take on the perspective of a historical figure and prove that a certain theory was correct. They needed to provide evidence that supported their case. To make things more interesting students were given a variety of options of how they would present their findings – essay, comic book, storyboard, “Common Craft” style video or Go Animate animation.

So obviously the students were engaged but this wasn’t what really set this experience apart. Here were the things that I took away:

  • A clear task which was effectively presented and shared with students
  • A thorough explanation of the assessment rubric as the task was introduced (and regular refocusing throughout the assignment)
  • Individual conferencing with students during the assignment to check in with how they were going
  • Accessing support teachers to lend assistance to students.

I really looked forward to working with this class on this assignment because they were actively engaged whilst also having an effective structure of support to help assist them throughout the process.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Marina – Canon broke,no new photos till it’s fixed

Admiring the View

Sep 4, 2012 by     4 Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

Things seem to have been travelling at a million miles an hour of late. Like the start of every year there is so much going on it seems like you are constantly trying to catch up. The increased activity on this blog is my way to get some head space and take a time out. I am finding that I really need these moments to step back and think about the things that have been going on.

This idea of stepping back is something that the tech department is going to actively pursue this year. It never ceases to amaze me the number of things going on the tech office at once – student laptop repairs, new program requests, recording tv shows, log in issues, student information systems, teaching help, new students, and that is just as I am writing now.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Mark Wheadon

In the next few weeks the IT department is going to step out for a day and take a look at where we are at and think about where we want to head – we are having a “retreat”. We have talked about doing this a number of times before but have never got the idea out of the planning stage. We have drawn up a skeleton of how this day will look. So here are the elements:

  • We will be off site during the day
  • Members of the administrative team will be invited to attend certain sessions
  • Specific goal – further refine our model of curriculum integration and instructional coaching
  • Hope – by the end of the day we will have a plan which will enable us to further support student learning and teacher development

What do you think? Any elements missing? We are planning to have a few conference calls with fellow educators to ensure we are aware of current best educational practice and will be sharing our work as we do it.

The Power of Teams

Aug 21, 2012 by     3 Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

Things are really starting to click here at the Secondary School. There hasn’t been any huge changes but you can feel the community coming together. Funnily enough I think this shift has been due to a change which is in no way revolutionary – it is just the right timing. This year at the secondary school the focus has shift more towards year level teaching teams as opposed to subject teams.

This slight shift has helped promote a new level of professional dialogue. Discussions are focusing on how to group students, lesson pacing, targeting student’s individual learning needs and things along these lines – the type of talk we all have always aimed for.

It is amazing how such a small change can affect the environment of the whole school so quickly.

Reaching out

Providing Support

Aug 13, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

Working at an ICT integrator or technology coach it is always a challenge to find the right balance of support for students and teachers. Over the years I have tried our various different strategies but each one has had its drawbacks – there is always room for improvement.

So after much thought last year I am going to try something a little different this year. My goal for this shift is to promote further professional dialogue about teaching and integration practices – if we can talk more about what we are doing I am sure we will bring all our practice forward. I suppose this has been the goal of many initiatives that schools have brought in but it seems to be somewhat elusive.

After taking inspiration from the Olympic I once again saw the value of having personalized attention. People need that connection and attention in order to move themselves to the next level. Luckily for me I work with a group of amazing and forward thinking teachers who are always looking for ways to improve their practice. So when I introduced the idea of providing individualized coaching to them they jumped at the chance.

How is it going to work?

  • select a range of teachers from a department to work with
  • discuss what areas of their practice they want to work on – doesn’t have to be tech related
  • attend as many lessons as possible
  • after each lessons simply chat about how things went
  • highlight connections between teachers who are part of the group
At the moment there isn’t much more to report other than there is a bit of buzz building about this idea.

Could this be the formula of support that I am looking for? I am not sure but I think it is moving in the right direction

Staying Connected

Apr 11, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Collaborate

In my role as an ICT educator I hear a lot about the importance of staying connected. Most of the time these discussions revolve around using technology to establish personal learning networks. But of late I have been thinking about the importance of staying connected with those around you.

This is especially so when we look at a school community. I am lucky to have worked at schools where the school community is so engaged in learning. They play an active role in establishing a learning environment which is conducive to positive school culture.

Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to run a range of Learning Seminars for the parents of the school and it has highlighted how important the home/school relationship is. In theses sessions we have worked with the parents to help develop an understanding of the values and practices that we as educators believe in. These sessions have been very engaging and have provided both the parents and myself with an opportunity to discuss how best to support the students of the school.

By establishing connections with the school community we are able to listen to their needs and desires and also at the same time help establish a relationship where we can work together to create the best learning environment for the students.


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