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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Be the Change

I had one of those days yesterday where you question how effective you truly are at your job. When you realize that thinking you're on the same page as somebody and actually being there are two different things. I tried to reflect on my leadership skills to see where it is that I'm lacking...places where I could make change in order to be the leader I need to in order to move people forward. I often see the same struggle in the people around me: the technology mentor teachers that I work with and how discouraged they are when people don't show up for their professional development, or a technology integrator friend of mine who's struggling with administration right now in trying to get them to see what's really best for teachers. It's sometimes easy to get stuck when you feel like you're pulling people along instead of supporting people in their own desire to move forward. I questioned whether I had what it takes to even live in this role, and if I was able to actually dig down and find the part that told me I could, where do I go from there?

Recently, I've had several discussions about modeling the behavior we want to see. This needs to happen at all levels. If a teacher wants a student to be an effective listener, are they modeling that behavior when the students are talking to them, or are they distracted and thinking about 10 other things? If an administrator is asking a teacher to be a global collaborator, are they connecting with people on a global scale and modeling that behavior? We can't expect things out of people that we're not willing to do ourselves. After several lengthy discussions with a few members of my PLN, I came to the conclusion that I need to be the change that I want to see. If I want people be reflective and embrace growth, or if I expect people to be uncomfortable and learn, I better be willing to do those same things myself to show them that I'm walking the walk.

I can't preach change and stay stagnant myself and expect people to take me seriously.

Recently, my phenomenal mentor has challenged me to learn more about the back end of our technology department. My strength is instruction and teaching and curriculum and not networks and switches and routers. I balked when he first told me this. "I hate that stuff," I said.It made me uncomfortable because I didn't understand it. I honestly thought to myself how much of my brain power am I willing to allocate towards learning that. But, I set up some time with my network administrator and I'm slowly becoming familiar with that area. I don't particularly like it, and it makes me uncomfortable to be so unfamiliar with a large part of our department, but if I expect other people to grow and change, I need to have those same expectations for myself, especially when it's an area that I don't particularly like.

So, at a time when initiatives are plenty and I feel like there are many days where I'm not only not on the same page but possibly in a different book, I've decided to be the change that I want to see. I could give up and say that it's not possible to make change, but I'm going to choose the higher road and continue to model this attitude and behavior because in the end it's about the students and what's best for their learning, which alone is a good enough reason to make the effort.

Image result for be the change you wish to see

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Supporting Instruction: How is Tech Integration Different?

I've often said that technology instructional support is different than any other content area support. I learned these lessons in my role as a technology integrator, and working closely with the wonderful math and literacy instructional support teachers. While I feel like all instructional support should work in tandem, sometimes, in order to move teachers forward, I needed to provide them with different types of support that may not have been necessary in the other areas. I narrowed them down to three main ways I provided support.

Tech Services: Can you fix this?
I was not tech services, but sometimes I needed to provide technical support when the technology was needed for the lesson immediately. Not only did it work toward cultivating relationships and building trust with the teachers I worked with, but as a professional, my job was not to dissuade the use of technology by leaving the teacher hanging if there was a quick fix in an emergency. Therefore, I did what I could if the situation warranted it. It was often the first contact with a teacher who would end up working with me later. While this was my least favorite role, I knew that some support of this kind was a necessary part of keeping a classroom comfortable with technology use, and in watching me problem solve, I was modeling some of the skills that I would like to see from teachers and students.

Training: Where do I click?
I've always said that the main difference between literacy/math support and technology support is that literacy support teachers, for example, don't need to teach teachers to read in order to teach them reading instructional strategies and best practices. However, in order for teachers to effectively integrate technology, they must have at least a baseline knowledge of what they're using. For example, in order to use Google Classroom with students, teachers really need to understand Drive. Training is the foundation for technology integration. Not only do you provide teachers with the skills they need to try new ideas in technology, but you also show them HOW to learn a technology. As technology continues to change and grow, we often say that we want students to learn how to learn as much as we want them to learn the content. This is what we are doing for teachers when teaching them the skills they need. We are providing them the content as well as the confidence to learn in the future when the technology changes.

Infusing Learning & Technology: How do I empower my students?
Even though it's difficult to get away from utilizing the term "technology integration", I feel like technology should be something that is so seamlessly infused in learning that it is difficult to separate the two. Integration sounds like it is something extra piled on top of the curriculum that is already there. This is often how technology is viewed, but my job was to support teachers in how they could look at their lessons from a new, more innovative angle, and how technology could empower their students to problem find/solve and show their learning. Ultimately, this is typically where the other content areas reside. They are supporting teachers in working with students and how to help them grow.

Oftentimes, the amount of professional development in the area of technology is significantly less than in other content areas because it's seen as an extra. When speaking with other technology integrators or coaches, their frustration is the lack of time given for professional development. I believe this is because when they do get time, it needs to be focused on training, so they never feel like they can move into the third category of learning.

However, if we truly believe that curriculum and technology should mesh seamlessly, it's reasonable to create learning opportunities for teachers where all of the instructional coaches are involved. If a presentation is being created on math strategies, for example, it could be done in Nearpod and modeled for teachers on how Nearpod could be used in the classroom. The teachers are then immersed in the technology that they could be using, and learning the math strategies at the same time, therefore fusing the two together. Not only does this benefit teachers by introducing them to ways technology can engage and empower, but there should also be a reasonable expectation that Math and Literacy instructional coaches have some tech knowledge, and that technology integrationists have general background knowledge in Math and Literacy strategies. Creating a team of instructional coaches to play off each other's strengths allows for professional development that is useful and relevant, and models the kind of collaboration that we want to see.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Busyness as a Badge

As I've often said in previous posts, I have been so fortunate in my career to work in multiple areas in education. I've been a teacher, instructional coach, district admin and I've taught at the post-secondary level. With each change in position, I have been able to look at situations in education through a different lens and I've been able to actually walk in the shoes of different positions and what the day entails to serve whichever stakeholders I serve to the best of my ability.

Personally, I've been a student, a college student, a college student with kids, a wife, a mother who worked part-time, a mother who worked full-time, a mom who worked full time and finished grad school, and a mother who worked several jobs at once. I've always thought, in every situation, that I was extremely busy. With all of these personal and professional experiences, I've noticed one commonality. People wear busyness as a badge of honor.

I've had several of these discussions around the idea of being busy, but most recently the #edtechafterdark guys posted about busyness as a badge, and that has really resonated with me lately. I made a conscious decision awhile ago to stop talking about how busy I was. Sometimes, I still fall into the old habit that when someone asks me what I've been up to, I'll answer that things have been crazy/busy/insane, but really, I've become better at realizing that being busy is relative.

I could give multiple examples both personally and professionally where people around me have declared a task can't be because they're busy. It usually starts with, "I can't" or "I could never" or "That would be impossible", yet there is another person, who may or may not have as much to do who will pick up the task and finish it with flare. When reflecting on this, I was reminded of this quote by George Couros:

Even though  George was referencing people moving forward and being innovative (or rather choosing not to), I think that the quote still applies to the badge of busyness. How many opportunities do people pass up because they feel they're too busy to take on something else? I am certainly not endorsing saying yes to everything that is presented, but I feel like busyness is a mindset. Since changing my mindset about what I have to do, I have been able to look at situations with a calmer attitude, and I've found ways to organize my thoughts and calendars to work with a better flow. My "crazy" schedule didn't change, just the way I thought about it did. Now, when someone else tells me how busy they are, I feel that I wish they would stop wearing the badge, change their mindset, and become less entwined with what they need to do minute to minute.

Along with busyness, I've noticed that at all levels, people question how truly busy other positions can possibly be. The fact of the matter is that everyone has plenty to do, it just may look different depending on what the work entails. For example, when I became a Technology Integrator, I would be sitting at my desk creating an instructional video for a teacher or researching new technologies, and inevitably a teacher would come up to my desk and say, "Since you're just sitting there...". It's so important to remember that in each of our positions, in order to support a positive culture, we understand that everyone is working toward supporting students and their learning. There is no us against them, no we are busier than they are, no this level/grade/school/group has more to do than the other. It's all in the mindset, and I think that it's imperative that we all embrace the opportunities presented to us instead of flashing our busyness badge.