February 20

Reflective Teaching and Learning

Maybe I am feeling old.  Maybe I am feeling years of experience.  Maybe I’m just noticing lots of reflection as a focus.

Yesterday for professional development I watched an archived webinar which focused on  building capacity for success as a teacher and a teaching team.  The webinar touched on a strengths-based, coaching-oriented teaching model.  I’ve recently read articles about strategies for success in the classroom.  Everything that has come into my realm lately mentions the importance of reflection.

When I plan a professional development workshop, I always include a time for teachers to reflect upon their recent practices at the beginning of the workshop.  Then, at the end of the workshop, I also include a time for teachers to reflect upon their time spent with me.  I think it gives folks time to ‘digest’ what they have learned or what has worked and what needs tweaking.  I think it gives folks time to think about what they are doing and learning and really look at what is effective.

In what ways do I encourage teachers to reflect?

I frequently will ask teachers to think about the lessons they have recently taught and choose the one they feel was most effective.  Then, I will ask them to post a brief summary using a technology tool such as Socrative or Padlet or even within a table of a Google document.  Sometimes I will ask participants to simply turn to a neighbor and share what they did and what worked.

Sometimes I will ask teachers to think about a lesson they recently taught which needs some improvement.  Then, we will talk about what strategies and practices were used and brainstorm for ways that the lesson could have been laid out differently.  We will discuss different options and map out a plan for what the teacher will try next time.  Lots of times this will lead us to plan a future lesson as well using a similar plan.

I almost always start off a one-to-one meeting with a teacher by asking them to share with me what they have been doing in their classroom – I like to hear what they have been doing even when there was no technology integration.  This opens the conversation for ways to integrate technology and it helps us both to consider what works well and what doesn’t when it comes to lesson planning.

When facilitating a workshop, I try to sprinkle in a few opportunities for me to ask teachers questions which will prompt them to discuss an idea with a partner or a small group.  Inevitably, this will encourage reflective thinking so that teachers can share ideas with one another.  Sometimes these questions will simply start off with the phrase: Think about a time in your classroom when…

I also like to use the focus topic of a workshop to guide reflection.  Recently I facilitated a project-based learning workshop where teachers were exploring different resources and planning lessons which included formulating an effective driving question which would lead students into a project which would direct their learning.  A simple way to reflect before starting the workshop was to simply ask teachers what they hoped to gain during the workshop.  They had to stop and think about why they chose that particular session over the others which were offered at that time.  Since the session was focused on project-based learning, another reflective question was to ask teachers to share what stood out or what struck a nerve in the opening video.  When you ask folks to notice, they really focus on what is in front of them because they want to be ready to answer the questions based upon their noticings.  Then, using the idea of what they notice, a focus for their approach to a project develops.

Collaborative work is an easy way to encourage reflection.  When we know we have an authentic audience for what we are putting forth, we always take a more focused approach and think deeper and plan more thoroughly.  After all, we don’t want to look silly.  I sometimes ask teachers to work collaboratively – in pairs, in small groups, and then ask those smaller groups to contribute to the overall group effort. Simple questions will encourage reflection are included – questions which start with: What if…

Many of my workshops have asked teachers to take a look at the SAMR model then I ask teachers to think about their most recent lesson integrating technology.  Finally, I ask them to determine where on that SAMR chart they think their recent lesson would fall.  I usually hear folks react – sometimes positively and sometimes not so much.  It is amazing how just a brief bit of reflection like that will nudge teachers into action for planning their next lesson.

One of the most important aspects of reflection, I think, is that it forces us to think.  However, those thoughts can quickly be dismissed or forgotten unless they are documented.  So, I am a stickler about that.  I always ask teachers to commit to a standard or to write down something in relation to their reflecting.  Sometimes I will request that they post in a public fashion to an online discussion board.  Sometimes I will request that they post in an anonymous fashion by completing a survey.  Sometimes I simply ask teachers to post their thoughts in a private document.  By committing their thoughts to paper – even virtual paper – I am encouraging deeper thought.  I am encouraging thought to clarify understanding.  Sometimes we don’t know what we think till we see what we write.

At the end of every one-to-one meeting with a teacher I ask him/her to reflect with me on what we accomplished and to think ahead to what we need to get done before we convene again.  As we are reflecting, I am usually crafting the follow-up email that I send.

At the end of every workshop or professional development session I facilitate I ask teachers to reflect upon what we did – even if it is just to answer the question: In what ways did this session meet your goals of what you hoped to gain?

This post was inspired by my cleaning out my email box.  I stumbled across a link I had sent to myself entitled: Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers.  There were so many ideas listed that I struggled to decide where to start!  Reflect!  It inspires us!

By the way, I firmly believe it is just as important for students to follow this model as well as teachers and look for a post encouraging the inclusion of reflection as a practice for students.

February 20

Weather

Everything lately has been focused on the weather around here.  Schools have closed.  Businesses have closed.  Roads have closed.

We have experienced the phenomenon of cryoseism, which scared us because we thought the house was falling down or a tree was falling on the house or something like that.

This site has several views of what it looks like around here according to a drone.

If you are curious to know what an instructional technology coach does on a snow day, check it out HERE.

Hope folks are staying warm and safe!

February 19

Snowmagedden!

We have been besieged by winter!  This entire week has turned into a snowcation from school for our entire district.  Students were not scheduled for school on Monday and teachers were scheduled for a day of professional development.  We were doused with a coating of ice and freezing rain for most of the day Monday.  Then, the temperatures dropped on Tuesday.  Today we had more snow and the temperatures dropped into the single digits.  More wintry weather is expected for the next couple of days with no thaw in sight for a while.  So, students are learning physics (speed and propulsion), physical science (friction), natural science (freezing liquids), math (record temperatures), and things of that sort!  There is lots of sledding, slipping, and sliding happening.

Stay warm!

 

 

February 16

Presidents Day

When I was a kid growing up and going to public schools, we prepared in advance for Presidents Day.  The advanced preparation usually involved a black silhouette of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington made from construction paper.

Maybe I did that yesterday in a way.  I had the television turned on to The History Channel and there were programs playing that had titles such as Ten Things You Didn’t Know About… I learned about Lincoln and Washington and The White House and loads of other Presidential things.  I didn’t see any construction paper silhouettes, though.

I also learned some Trivia Facts in an article I read.  The U.S. marks Presidents Day each year on the third Monday of February.  Students love this because they usually get a holiday from school.  Here are some things I recall from all my Presidents Day preparation:

Washington selected the site and design of the White House – toning it down so that it didn’t look too much like a palace – but never lived in it.  Our second President, John Adams, was the first President to live there.

Lincoln’s sons. Tad and Willie, reportedly had goat cart races in the White House.  (Lincoln was an animal lover.)

Both Presidents Washington and Lincoln had words of wisdom in regard to American freedom:

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
— George Washington

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
— Abraham Lincoln

Don’t those quotes sort of provide insight into what we know of both men’s Presidencies?

To learn more about Washington and Lincoln, check out this Infographic.

Happy 2015 Presidents Day!

 

February 13

Teaching Tips from a Coach

More and more we are becoming aware that the role of a teacher is not that of the ‘sage-on-the-stage’ who dispenses knowledge but really is more like a coach who guides learning.

In Dan Rockwell’s article 6 Core Skills of a Leader Who Develops Talent, the author starts out with potent statements which provoke thought.  “Powerful conversations are the coaching-leader’s path to remarkable results.  Coaching-leaders focus on developing strengths.”

First, I notice that he selected the words powerful conversations.  This made me pause and think about my experience interacting with teachers as a mentor or coach.  In order to have a meaningful conversations with them, I need to spend a bit of time to know more about them.  In the classroom, that was far easier because I was with students every single day.  The thing is we need to encourage conversation.

Secondly, I notice that Dan brings out the fact that we are developing strengths.  Each and every person has strengths.  So, it is important for us to discover those strengths and work with the person to build upon them.

I know that, as a tech coach, I am pretty aware of inviting input and expecting differing opinions when working with other tech coaches or with teachers.  When reflecting on this article, my first question is: Do I invite with an accepting attitude, input that will improve the ‘product’ I am putting out?  In other words, do I simply ‘allow’ feedback or am I really trying to improve the PD or whatever that I am providing?  I know from years of experience that I sometimes develop a sort of tunnel vision of what I think something needs to look like or to offer and it helps me when offered suggestions, critiques, and feedback.

I also know that I am not always the best at Open Listening!  Sometimes I just go through the motions of providing somebody else the time to share instead of really pausing and listening.  I think I must get too ‘married’ to my ideas and don’t want to accept suggestions and feedback or take the time to put that into action.

I would encourage you to read the post and reflect on your own practice as a teacher, mentor, and coach.  It certainly continues to make me self-evaluate.

February 12

We’re Back!

After a month of not having connectivity to this blog, we are back on track.

Yippee!!!

According to WIRED, “globally, we compose 3.6 trillion words every day on email and social media, the equivalent of 36 million books, not 52 trillion words and 520 million books.”

This tells me that folks have a LOT to say.

I cannot tell you how many times I would read something or stumble across some resource and the first thought that came to mind was…I need to write about that, to share it, to tell others about it.  So, I’ve missed posting to this blog and will try to do a bit of catching up during the next few days.

P.S. You might want to read the article linked above.  I know, I know.  It is L-O-N-G.  There is a lot of good information in it for educators (and for students)…and for anybody who would like to make a change in the world.

P.S. I really like how the author crafted the article linked above.  Full-circle writing.  Very effective.