Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Hardest Thing About Being a Technology Coach For Me

I don't have a classroom. Students don't come to me for instruction. I co-teach with in-classroom teachers on subjects that they want to infuse with technology. Most of the time I have great leeway in helping those teachers decide what type of technology they want to use and what apps should be taught or offered for certain projects. I appreciate the fact that my co-teachers allow me to try new things with their students, but I miss having time with my students (especially the one on one bonding it allowed) and being able to do things on my own. I realize that the structure we are in now is best for the place we are now, at our school. My co-teachers feel they can call on me to guide and support them as they venture into using technology more regularly. This can only be a positive in terms of using more technology for instructional purposes across the board (and yes, I see more technology usage in the classroom as a positive because it leads to individualized instruction); but I miss being able to have my "own" agenda. Now don't take that wrong, I am not trying to deviate from curriculum or teach inappropriate or subversive technology. I miss opportunities to try out new things I've heard about to see if they are truly as good as people are talking about. I miss my "guinea pig" moments.

In the past, when I was part of the related arts rotation, students came to me once a week for instruction. It wasn't the ideal way for technology instruction but the consistency allowed me to do things that I just can't do as a technology coach anymore. I miss that. Now, every single time I try something new in the classroom with a teacher it has the potential for "realness" to be all up in the lesson. Playing around with an app as a teacher and teaching an app to 24 students is very different and can have remarkably different outcomes. Now before you shake your head and say "Psssh, she teaches apps." Yes, I do. I try to teach new apps to students all the time, not because I feel like every project should just be done one way, but as an elementary technology coach I see part of my job as filling their technology tool belt with different options for later on in life. That being said, we do a lot of app-smashing projects and as the year floats by students are given options on how they want to do a project. It doesn't matter what means the end results are made with because they are graded by a rubric. So don't judge us technology coaches so harshly for teaching apps or websites. Somebody has to do it!

This year I am trying to find a solution for missing out on that exploratory instructional time. Do I start an elementary tech club after school? Do I find some teachers that might be willing for me to take time to just try things occasionally? Do I use a teacher's aide to play with an app that I am considering and just watch to see what questions they might have? Do I just go for it and see what kind of realness happens?

Regardless of the answers to the above questions, I love the fact that part of my job is to always be looking for new things. It fills a basic part of who I am. I never get bored with my job because it is always evolving and changing. It can sometimes be overwhelming because I also can never just pull out an old lesson plan, but for now, that's just fine. The hardest part is less continuity with the students, both professionally and personally, that's now a void that I struggle with filling. Teaching faces occasionally verses teaching names and personalities weekly is a big adjustment for me.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What I learned at #ISTE2014- I am a little fish in a big pond.

I am a little fish in a big pond. I thought I was special. I thought I had the DL on how to make technology work in a school setting- to encourage, to support, to coach teachers out of their comfort zone, to show the benefits, to be honest about the limitations, and to change my K-12 world one teacher at a time. I'm not special. I attended ISTE with 14,000 educators in Atlanta all wanting to make a difference by using technology in the classroom. It was an overwhelming experience.

I am a little fish in a big pond. I saw vendors "courting and wooing" big name educators in hopes of getting endorsements for huge school districts. I sat in my room in the evening while vendors were offering special evenings for educators. I wasn't invited...It felt much like high school all over again. ;)

I am a little fish in a big pond. I realized (and knew this already), that we really aren't doing anything cutting edge at our school regarding technology.- we are adopters and I am thankful we are doing what we are doing. I was awed by Gwinnett County, Georgia's push for BYOT in elementary schools. I was blown away by the amount of Augmented Reality workshops and posters that were out there. Nothing I'm doing is cutting edge, even though it might feel that way to me because I have been a first implementor at my school.

I am a little fish in a big pond. I got a little down, maybe even mad, as I saw the technology support that these big public schools often have because of great funding. We just don't have the funding to do that type of thing at my school, even though we are the largest private school in Chattanooga. We are dependent on enrollment and supporters, and there are always other very important and needed things vying for money at my school.

So what did I walk away with after I got over my initial feelings of inadequacies and not feeling like I was as special as I thought I was or that I wanted to be?

A. I am a fan of a technology. I do not believe technology is the end to a means, I believe technology is a tool. I see the benefits as I teach- students collaborating, students engaged, students organized, teacher workloads decreased so that more one on one can take place in the classroom, immediate feedback to help teachers, parents, and students plan, teach, support, and learn. I find myself having to stand up for my love of technology in ways that amaze me, with my own co-workers and complete strangers. Teachers feel threatened by technology. I want them to feel less threatened and more supported.

B. I am a innovator. I want to be a part of things that are cutting edge. I want a makers space for students to be creative, via cardboard box models or 3d printers. I want to do things that causes students to have to answer questions that can't be googled. I want to be a part of teaching students critical thinking skills. I want to dig deeper and see what bits and pieces I've learned and heard about would best meet the needs of OUR students in the elementary school. How can we reach every student? What forms of teaching does THAT student respond best to? How can WE help that student feel like a confident learner?

C. I want to bloom where I am planted. I struggle with being content where I am, which kind of makes me a pain because I am always pushing for more. I want to be the best support as a technology coach that I can be to my fellow teachers. I want to be the best teacher of technology that I can be to my students. I want to take technology to the next level at the elementary school, but not in a fearful climate, in a way that the teachers feel supported and confident in this process.

D. I want to set goals for myself and my school curriculum. These include:

  1. Thoroughly defining what my job description is and how it can best help my school (i.e.- writing down what a tech coach looks like at CCS elementary school) and share it with my co-workers so they can feel confident in what they can expect from this role.
  2. Immerse lesson plans in digital citizenship so that my students realize technology can exacerbate a heart issue quickly. Talk about digital footprints and show grace and love to those that struggle with using technology inappropriately. Teach students to set self-discipline with the amount of time they spend with technology (and perhaps teach myself).
  3. Get keyboarding back into the curriculum.
  4. Ask for us to go BYOT in the elementary school sooner than planned with a push in 3-5th grades starting with simple classroom blogging opportunities.
  5. Find software, apps, options that gives teachers immediate feedback and students a feeling of accomplishment because of intelligent adaptive programming that differentiates to meet the needs of the student constantly.
  6. Be hands on- find "guinea pigs" that want to try something new in the classroom, to work with their strengths and build. 
  7. Incorporate project-based learning opportunities, including cross-curriculum subject matter, in order to make student learning more authentic.
  8. I want to be more flexible and openminded. To know I do not have the DL on all things technology in the classroom. I am truly a little fish in a big pond, but I want to be a rainbow fish. ;)