Coaching a self-proclaimed “Dinosaur”: Week 1

EDURO Coaching Challenge 1: Identify a colleague at your school that you feel comfortable working with. Initiate a dialogue with that person to see if they would feel comfortable with you practicing your coaching skills with them.

[This post is an excerpt from my EDURO: Coaching from Theory to Practice certificate from 2015]

I’m really excited to take on this opportunity, not only to collaborate and share thoughts with others in this coaching position, but to reflect constructively on my role and also actively improve through paired-coaching feedback. Initially, I felt like I was a year late signing up for this course, but in actual fact, having one year of EdTech Coaching behind me is already providing me with a clear perspective and hard evidence to help me shape new goals for this year…both for myself professionally, and with teachers. Still, I do wish I’d come across Kim Cofino’s post about your first year as Tech Facilitator…it may have helped me shift my priorities and perhaps I wouldn’t have felt stretched in so many directions! Hindsight is 20/20 though.

Selecting a colleague to work with was somewhat challenging since many of our teachers are still very much in the “back carriage” (thanks Sean Walmsley for the inspiring leadership video) and therefore are not open to being observed. Luckily I have built some strong relationships with a few of these teachers, and was able to approach one teacher (Mrs.H) in particular who has recently asked me to introduce an eBook project with her grade ones. This one particular G1 teacher has grown so much since I first arrived last year and I’ve enjoyed honing my coaching skills with her. When we met during my first week of orientation last year, she grabbed my arm and said:

“You’ll have to forgive me… I’m a dinosaur…”

Her insecurities about iPads in the classroom were evident, but she was open to learning, and that made all the difference. Over the course of last year, with many scaffolded lessons and team-teaching, she grew from being tech-phobic to tech-advocate. For starters, we used the MyStory app to publish nonfiction eBooks and eventually implemented Easy Blogger Jr. for students to share learning with parents, students and other teachers. Still, at times we noticed children struggling to stay focused as many of them wanted to explore other apps, and they all had their favourites.

I’ve decided to approach EdTech in the classroom differently this year. Last year when I came in and tried introducing iPads to small groups, I was shocked at how many students went straight to youtube to watch videos, or sought out ‘games’ they could play. They clearly knew their way around this device! But not necessarily in a school-context. This year we started off differently, re-introducing the iPad as a tool for the classroom, rather than a toy. We hope that differentiating the use of iPads at school will help keep children more focused on the creation with iPads, rather than just consumption. We set up some essential agreements using the “Care and Maintenance Poster” from the Commonsense Media Platform. I started the lesson asking children if they had iPads at home, and what they used it for. Then we had a discussion on how we use it differently at school, and that there wouldn’t be videos or games unless it was something connected to learning that the teacher suggested. We talked about maintenance and care of the iPad but also focused on self-management skills and being responsible for our use of the iPad as a tool. We talked briefly about creation tools in general, then I introduced the My Story app.

Last year when I introduced it, I was also learning as we went, and tried a tutorial method of teaching students. A detailed example of how we used this app can be found in a previous post here. This year, I decided to change it up and give students the chance to ‘show me’ what they could find out from 10 minutes of ‘play’ with the app. This was a technique I learned from Jeff Utecht when he came to our school for a conference last year. Why teach them directly when they can learn it so much faster on their own? This was moderately successful, but not all teachers in the classroom were comfortable with this idea. I did notice a the EAL teacher and Library teacher trying to give direct instruction to the students. One of them commented to me, “It’s a shame the students don’t have more time to learn the actual skills of the app”. And I explained that the goal was to promote independence and rely less on the teacher for support, to encourage problem-solving, and also that they would naturally ‘learn by doing’.

The goal of the lesson wasn’t to ‘learn the app’, it was to find out about the app and use it as a tool to showcase learning.

After the 10 minutes were up, each small group (students were paired 2:1 per ipad) had at least ONE ‘cool thing’ they learned and wanted to share with others. Using Airplay, they projected their skill, and by the end all 20 students were exposed to the features of the app. This was a very successful way for students to learn from each other, and see each other as experts (rather than looking to the Tech coach or teacher for the answers). In just 10 brief minutes, they realised they were problem solvers, and could figure out the main features of the MyStory App.

After modelling this introductory lesson, I approached Mrs.H again and asked if she would be open to helping me improve my coaching skills. She was thrilled to participate in this professional opportunity and I’m so grateful for her willingness to both improve my coaching skills.

I hope this collaboration will give Ms. H opportunities to improve her independence and confidence with tech integration in the classroom, while also helping me to improve my effectiveness as a coach.

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