Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Blended Learning in AJUSD

Our district focuses on creating 21st century, student-centered classrooms. We want classrooms filled with student collaboration and discussion about their learning, connecting to the world around them.
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Blended learning

Students learn in different ways, and at different paces. To address these needs, we've been piloting blended learning in two high school classrooms.

AJUSD's definition of blended learning is:
Blended learning combines the best features of in-class learning with the best features of online learning. Online delivery allows student control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of their learning. In-class learning provides student-teacher interaction as well as opportunities for students to collaborate on challenging, project-based work. 
By having content online, students have more time on task. They can pause the content, go back to revisit lectures/lessons, and have control over the pacing of their learning.

In class, they apply their learning by moving up Bloom's Taxonomy to create something that has real value and an authentic purpose.

New skills sets for teachers and students

The teacher's role shifts. He or she is no longer the sage on the stage delivering lecture, but something much more powerful--a facilitator. A great facilitator is part of the learning process, modifying and adapting to each individual, while moving the whole group along. The difference is, the content delivery now comes from more than just the teacher; it comes from the students, as well as online.

Discussing Blended Learning with Senator Crandall
Facilitation of project based learning and online content requires a different skills set from the traditional lecturer. Finding a balance with blending the project based facilitation with the online content is difficult to achieve. It's difficult for teachers who are well versed in facilitation as well as teachers who are most comfortable with lecture. We are realizing the specific ongoing professional development needed to support teachers in the blended learning environment.

We've also found there is a shift in the student skills set. There's a learning curve for the students to shift from being fed the answers to having to work through the answers. To process the information, they develop their critical thinking and analysis skills more in the blended learning environment. They also develop their communication and collaboration skills while working in collaborative learning groups.

Final thoughts

There have been successes with blended learning, but it's not for everyone. We are still at the beginning phase of sculpting what our ideal blended learning classroom looks like. There is much we're learning through our pilot and how to improve.

We are dedicated to providing the best education for our students, and blended learning is a viable option.
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of blended learning?
  • How does the project based learning enhance student learning beyond just receiving content online, from a lecture, or a book?
  • What types of learners benefit from blended learning?
  • What would the ideal learning environment look like for you?
  • What else should we think about regarding blended learning?
This post has been written in preparation for Digital Learning Day. I thank Sandy Rollefstad and Amanda Hetro for trying something new in order to improve student learning. Photo attribution to Brian Killgore.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Coaching and Professional Development Midyear Reflection

This post is my reflection (and brainstorm) for creating a 21st century learning district, specifically through developing our Collaboration Coaches. I’m asking for your feedback.

The focus for Year 2 Collaboration Coaches

This is the second year we’ve had Collaboration Coach training in the district. The first year training module is closely adapted from Microsoft Peer Coach Training developed by the Peer Ed Team.

Since there isn’t a continuation training module, I’ve created my own based on surveys, reflections, and four areas of focus:
  1. Communication, collaboration, and coaching skills 
  2. 21st century learning, pedagogy, and lesson design
  3. Best practices with technology integration and resources
  4. Staff development
The professional development plan for Year 2 Collaboration Coaches

Feedback for improvement

Some of the feedback for improvement was repeated by several coaches. I organized them into topics:

Created in xmind

Ideas I'm pondering to improve Collaboration Coaching

I’m brainstorming ideas to improve the coaching based on the feedback from above and our goals. In no way is this list a final draft or even a rough draft. It’s just a brainstorm to collect ideas.

  • Time collaborating and learning together: 
    • Meet more than one hour a month to bond, share, and learn together.
    • Invite continuing coaches to meet the new cohort of coaches, and have them participate in Session 1 -- setting site and individual coaching goals with the principals.
    • Join Year 2 and Year 3 coaching cohorts as one learning group.
    • Have one day of sub release (or a Teacher In Service Day) to work together on lesson improvement and PBL (either have it for all the Year 2 and Year 3 coaches, or have it for the teams that work together with a coach).
  •  Time to go in teachers' rooms:
    • Could we give Year 3 coaches an extra prep hour for 7th-12th grades, and K-6th coaches 1 sub day a month or a rotating sub to give the release time?
    • What other options are there for allowing teachers to leave their classroom and go into another teacher's room?
  • Site Goals--Blogging: Could the principal dedicate staff development to develop a blogging learning community? If not blogging specifically, then authentic learning or 21st century learning, and have blogging as one of the options.
  • Site Goals--CCJH: Since there are no longer pure teams, the coaching focus should be on content area for PBL, 21st century learning, and improving lessons. The house team, or team that has the same prep hour focuses on management and digital citizenship.
  • Specific Coaching Goals for PBL, 21st Century Learning, Global Collaborations:
    • Set a goal each quarter with their coaching team to share with one another. -- Possibly measure that goal by having them reflect with a quick survey to measure their/our progress towards that goal?
    • Have site sharing of these goals with the leadership (and staff?).
    • Set goals based on ISTE's NETS-S and/or NETS-C.
  • Incentives for others to collaborate with coaches on 21st century learning:
    • Offer 301 or inservice professional development hours during the contract time, and non-contract hours if outside school day.
    • While we still have Career Ladder, have those portfolios options on form to check off during the orientation meeting at the beginning of the year.
  • Other ideas:
    • Leadership book study: One of the best trainings I had was when Larry LaPrise took me under his wing, and challenged me to read various leadership books. I grew so much from reading a chapter, then debriefing in a quick meeting every week.
    • NETS-S: Incorporate ISTE NETS-S or the Learning Activity Checklist into their collaboration logs or into an agenda as a template (I've read many times that their coaching meetings are much more focused when they create and share the agenda ahead of time) -- Which idea would work better?
    • Relationships: A fun, informal gathering of coaches to build relationships outside of school time
    • Connecting the training from the end of the year reflection to the beginning of the year's setting goals: In the Peer Coaching training, Session 7A has the coaches and principal reflect and set staff development goals, and in Session 1A the coaches and principal set site goals, and then they set personal goals. It didn't seem to flow smoothly into one another because the training is set up for the first year only. So, I'd like to modify to have it fit together better. Suggestions?
  • Measuring effectiveness 
    • Build NETS-C into goals/reflection.
    • Survey Collaboration Coaches on what has worked well and changes for next year.
    • I have not asked for feedback from the team being coached and their reflection of the effectiveness.
    • Continue to survey Collaboration Coaches on what has worked well and changes for next year.
Final Thoughts

Collaboration Coaching is definitely helping us open doors and support one another as we create 21st century, learning-centered classrooms. Pausing to reflect on the effectiveness of what we've done, and looking ahead to what we can do to improve is necessary.

The purpose of this post is to gain insight from others. Whether you are part of AJUSD or not, I encourage your feedback to help us improve.
  • What ideas stand out to you here?
  • What questions do you have?
  • How would you improve coaching?
  • What have I missed?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Developing 21st Century Learning through Coaching Conversations

My passion and goal is to see 21st century learning (innovating, creating, collaborating, communicating, and critical thinking) in our classrooms.

How can I spread that passion so the goal of 21st century learner-centered classrooms becomes a reality?

As the Technology Integration Specialist, part of my job is coaching teachers, administrators and students in technology integration for 21st century learning.

As a coach, there are several different roles, avenues, and opportunities I have to further this goal:

RolesSharing or Consulting
(Peer to Peer)

Shares information, resources, content, and adviceWorks together to create; collaboratesSupports, encourages, critiques, and guides to new insight or deeper reflection
HowProvides supplies and resources;
offers ideas and materials;
gives tips and solutions
Brainstorms together;
plans together;
works together;
gives and takes
Provides "Wows" and "Wonders"; Paraphrases, inquires, and probes
WhenUse with new ideas, content, or techniques; don't overuseUse with willing, and remember that collaboration is goalUse when relationship is built and readiness is there (otherwise frustration or shut-down could occur)

The above representation is my summary of various sources such as NSDC's Learning Forward's "Fit the Strategy to the Learner", Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman's Mentoring Matters, and Microsoft Peer Coaching developed by the Peer Ed Team.

Key ideas in coaching

Building relationships and trust is key. Being passionate about learning and having integrity is part of building trust. Truly listening and helping will grow trust and the relationship. To show I'm listening, I do my best to:
  • Paraphrase the conversation and ask clarifying questions to make sure I understand.
  • Ask questions to probe deeper.
Shifting up and shifting down conversations

As I create our professional development for our Year 2 Collaboration Coaches, I turn to my friend, Taylene Bell, to help us understand more about the power of paraphrasing and asking questions. She shares Laura Lipton's and Bruce Wellman's three ways of paraphrasing and shifting conversations:
  1. Acknowledge and clarify by paraphrasing and restating the conversation.
  2. Summarize and organize by pulling the main ideas, themes, or issues into a short paragraph.
  3. Shift the focus of the conversation to something concrete (shifting down) such as an action, strategy or example; or, shift the conversation to something more abstract (shifting up) such as the big idea, the overall goal, an assumption, or a belief.
What could shifting conversations look like for our collaboration coaches?

Taylene and I put together two hypothetical situations to show what shifting conversations could look like:

Scenario 1 from our video: technology management

In the first scenario from our video, the teacher is having difficulty with management of technology based on the various readiness levels of the students. Since the teacher focuses on specific problems and examples, the coach shifts the conversation up to the overall goal, which helps the teacher move forward.

Scenario 2 from our video: Creative Commons

In the second scenario from our video, the teacher is frustrated over others not using Creative Commons. The teacher highly values sharing and respecting licenses. The coach helps by shifting the conversation down, resulting in the teacher setting a specific action plan to move forward.

Final thoughts

These skills help me continue conversations about 21st century learning--innovating, creating, collaborating, communicating, risk taking, and critical thinking.

I realize there is so much I do not know about coaching. My goal is to improve, learn more, and share so others can reap the benefits. Ultimately, if I become a better coach and listener, I'll have a stronger impact on creating 21st century learning-center classrooms.
  • What key concepts or take-aways did you get from this post?
  • How do you develop your coaching/listening skills?
  • How would building those coaching/listening skills help build relationships with your peers, students, friends, or family?
  • How do you further discussions about 21st century learning?
I want to thank Taylene Bell for helping me learn more. I also thank the Peer Ed Team for giving me a foundation in coaching.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Quality Blogging and Commenting Audit Meme

Silvia Tolisano (@langwitches) challenges us in a meme to audit blogs and comments to raise awareness of quality blogging. I'm honored that both Kathleen Morris and Sheri Edwards tagged me in this meme.

Here is Silvia's meme challenge:
  1. Select a blog post or blog comment to audit (Professional or Student)
  2. Take a screenshot or copy and paste the post or comment into your blog post (be sensitive whether you want to reveal any names or references)
  3. Include or link to the rubric you use to assess the quality of post or comment
  4. Audit the post or comment by describing your train of thought regarding the level of quality you would assess your chosen post or comment
  5. Suggest how you would coach the author of audited post or comment to improve
  6. Tag (at least) three educators and challenge them to audit a post or comment
  7. Leave a comment with the link to your audit post on Langwitches

Quality blog posts

I created a few variations of checklists as guides for quality posts. The checklists are based on the work of Silvia Tolisano, Andrew Churches, Ryan Bretag, and Sue Waters.
Click here to download this as PDF.
Checklists are helpful as planning tools, self reflection prompts, and also for starting coaching conversations.


I strongly believe in finding Wows and Wonders to provide feedback. A Wow would be something specific that is strong and working well. Based on the above checklist, I'd follow with a specific Wow for something that is checked off (and might add a few areas that should be checked off with a specific reason).

A Wonder is a statement such as, "I wonder how the post would look if (address one of the areas that was not checked off)..." I would try to focus on the one wonder that would make the most impact on the overall quality.

Crafting quality comments

Coaching conversations should also focus on crafting a quality comment. My favorite post regarding quality comments comes from Linda Yollis and her students. Her tips are what I share with students and teachers in my district.
Created on Glogster Edu. Tips learned from Linda Yollis & Class.
What if my kids still don't have the prior knowledge to start a quality comment?

Sometimes students don't have enough experience with writing or blogging to jump in and compose a quality comment, and the teacher/coach should address this.

That's just what Gina Fraher did when she realized her 3rd grade students didn't have the prior knowledge to successfully start creating quality comments.

Fraher created an assignment to help them analyze quality commenting:

She modeled her expectations with a real blog post and several comments.

After the students worked on their own for a little bit, they collaborated to share their thoughts and worked through their ideas together.

Their dialogue was amazing, filled with critical thinking. Students asked each other if the topic sentence could also be a compliment? They realized that the conclusion could also be a question. They recognized "Your blog is cool," was not a quality comment, then explained why, and how they'd improve it.

Breaking the task down and working through it together raised their awareness of quality comments, which is what this meme and post are about.

Improving quality in comments

We could use Gina's color coding from above to analyze comments, or the rubrics created by Silvia Tolisano or Andrew Churches

It's sometimes easier to assess someone else's comment than my own because I'm not as attached to it. However, I'd like to assess the comment I left on Gina Fraher's post:

Click here to see original comment; Click here to see Churches' comment rubric
I believe I left Gina a quality comment. When I use Churches' rubric, it scores high in quality. If I use Gina's or Silvia's, it will fall short in the area of starting a conversation because I don't ask a question, nor do I expect Gina to comment back on how amazing I think she is. However, if I had asked her about how she decided to raise money for their pen pals in Kenya, or the process of organizing a whole school to purchase pencils, etc. I could have started a discussion; hence, improving the quality of my comment.

Final thoughts

Blogging is such a valuable part of learning, and I hope it becomes common place in all classrooms. I believe if we focus on connecting with an authentic purpose, we could still meet all of our curricular standards and demands while practicing the joy of respecting others and embracing the love of learning!

In order for blogging to be part of classroom culture, we need to continue the discussions about coaching quality posts and comments. We also need to recognize that everyone has room to improve, and we all start somewhere.
  • How can educational blogging help students and educators regardless of age or experience?
  • How do you assess quality posts and comments?
  • How do you coach others to help them improve?
  • What else connects with you in this post?
Continuing the meme

Everyone is invited to write their own quality blog post and commenting audit meme. I would like to invite these three people, who do a fabulous job at teaching students about blogging:
I want to thank Silvia Tolisano for writing the series Learning About Blogs FOR Your Students, and for concluding with this meme!