Note: I’ve asked the authors to review this and offer their constructive criticism of this blog entry. Who knows, maybe I’m way off! Won’t that be fun to be corrected?
What if we matched up actual coaching conversations with their model? I was curious as to what this might look like, and, as such, decided to craft vignettes to capture this. As a writer, this enables me to explore reality and visualize it.
1. In this initial meeting, a diagnostic interview is to be had aligns teachers needs to campus goals.
During the interviews, the coaches guided the teachers in exploring their fears, hesitations, insecurities, and overarching goals.
One requirement for coaches was supporting each of their 3 coached teachers through the process of implementing at least 3 new tools.
“Sheryl,” began John, “I really like how you’ve implemented the writing workshop approach in your 5th grade classroom.”
“Thank you, John!” said Sheryl. “I’ve worked really hard to build a safe learning environment that is print-rich and conducive to students writing.”
“Have you thought about using technology to replace some of the aspects of writing workshop?”
“Well,” Sheryl began, “I have thought about it but I’m not sure how to start. I’m kinda scared about using technology…we have a class set of Chromebooks, iPads, but how does that work in the context of writing workshop? But now that you’re here to help me, maybe I’ll be able to get things started!” She smiled.
“Thank you,” John replied. “I am grateful to have the chance to collaborate with someone who knows writing workshop so well. I see three possible ways we can enhance writing workshop. May I share those with you?”
“Yes, please do. But I warn you, I’m not sure how well I will do!”
“That’s OK, Sheryl.” John said. “I have a feeling we’ll be able to get quite a bit accomplished. Before we start talking about tech, how comfortable are you with iPads and Chromebooks?”
“Obviously, I know how to turn them on, but I’m not sure how I should go about using them with students.”
2. Create partnerships.
Ask how technology has been used in the past.
Ask, “How could we tweak your lesson to include technology to maximize the audience and interaction and/or help students share what they’ve learned with others?”
“Let’s agree that neither one of us is an expert in this, we’ve just spent a little more time doing something that the other hasn’t. Could we, perhaps, just say we’re both going to be learning together? I’ll learn more about writing workshop, while you learn more about technology, and we can plan the road ahead together?”
“That sounds do-able! So I’ll coach you on writing workshop, while you’ll coach me on technology?”
“Yes,” John answered with a grin, “that’s exactly it!”
“So, would you like to hear how I’ve used technology in writing workshops in the past?”
“Yes, please do share! I’ll listen and then try to offer some suggestions to try next. Would that be OK?”
“Sure! Ok, remembering that I’m a tech-newbie, I found the easiest place to start with technology in my classroom was to get kids to type up their final draft and print it. We would then take the printed copies and bind them to make a print book. We placed that book in the library, and each student took a bound copy of the student anthology of writing home with them at the end of the year.”
“So what I hear you saying is that your students would write by hand throughout the year, and then pick their best works and those would get published in a print book, right?”
“Yes,” Sheryl replied. “I forgot to mention that I had students self-select their work for the anthology but I also had the anthology editors work with the writers to get their writing to ‘publish-ready.’”
“I wonder,” John says, “How could we tweak your lesson to use technology in a way that maximizes the audience and interaction they have with that audience? I’d like to share a story about lessons learned. Would that be OK?”
“Yes, please do share.”
“While attending a conference, the presenter, also a teacher, told me that for most student writing, publication is the closing of a door, the shutting of a book. The reason that is so is that we often have children speak to each other upon publication, get initial reactions from the audience, if we allow even that, but then that’s it. Publication is the end of the process. What this presenter pointed out, though, is that in an online world, publication is actually the beginning.”
John smiled. “What he was saying is that when student writing was published, readers–a global audience–stepped up and left comments for students, asking questions about why they wrote a piece a certain way. This led to deeper thinking on the part of students, giving them ideas about how to write continuations of their work and/or where to start. This resulted in higher student engagement, more just-in-time lessons for writing, and kicked-off more dialogue and conversation because there was now a real audience, not just the teacher, students and parents reading.”
“I see how that could work. I guess the question,” Sheryl followed-up, “is how do we start publishing student writing online? And, how do we get the word out to other people about writing?”
“That’s a great question, Sheryl,” John said. “As you know, the campus has been using Twitter to build a positive online presence about the kinds of stories we tell about what’s happening. Some teachers have been photographing then tweeting the photo of student work, celebrating their work. I’d like to suggest that you embrace 3 technologies that will help your students.”
“What technologies?” asked Sheryl with some trepidation.
“The first is Twitter. Your peers already expect you to use it. The second is Google Sites, an easy to edit web site, where students can share their writing. And, the third is your iPad and Chromebook. The iPad can be used to Tweet and capture students talking about their writing in photos or video. The Chromebook can be used by students to type their pieces and make them available in the Google Sites web site.”
“You know,” Sheryl said, “I just had an idea while you were speaking.”
“Please share!” John encouraged.
“One of the acts students do in writing workshop, as you may know, is to engage in peer conferencing. I would really like to have a peer conferencing audio recording, maybe even video, of students as they conference about a piece. Is that something we could do?”
“Yes, absolutely, Sheryl! That will generate excitement among your students about peer conferencing and student conferences could serve as models in the future.”
“Ok, I’m excited! How do we get started?”
Differentiated Learning Goals: When beginning the coaching process with a teacher inexperienced in technology integration, coaches should first focus on goals related to personal productivity.
As an initial integration piece, coaches should seek to focus upon a project that can be accomplished somewhat easily and within a relatively short amount of time.
This will assist coached teachers in quickly realizing the benefits of technology integration, and it will most likely provide them with a boost of confidence and increased motivation to take on more challenging projects.
“Would it be OK if we made a list of what your goals are for this project?” John asked.
“Yes, let’s see…
Goal #1 – Students learn how to compose their writing using the Chromebooks they have, then transfer that to the digital anthology on the web site.
Goal #2 – Students learn how to peer conference about a piece and share that online as a video/audio.
Goal #3 – Students learn to interact with each others writing online in ways that are safe.
Goal #4 – Students learn to respond to others–including strangers from outside class–who may leave comments about their writing.” Sheryl paused.
“Will that work to start out with?” she asked John.
“Absolutely!” John said. “You’ve done a wonderful job summarizing what your students will be doing.”
“To review, Sheryl,” John said, “this project will enable students to compose and publish their writing online, engage with real authentic audience members, as well as model how they can provide feedback to one another. That feedback can be text, audio, and/or video. Students will use the technology you have in your classroom (e.g. iPads and Chromebooks) to start.
And, to start this project off, you’re going to ask students to take one piece of writing from draft to publication, peer conferencing, and sharing online. Furthermore, you’ll be using Twitter to document this process in pictures and video, sharing the links to student writing that ends up online with others. People will be able to find it all using the hashtag #ArdentESWriters. How does that sound?”
“Yes, I’m very excited about the possibilities! I don’t know what a hashtag is, but I’m game!”
“That’s a good point. While you don’t need to be an expert, let’s agree to plan and learn these activities together. What goals do you have for yourself so that you can support your students in accomplishing these goals?”
“Why don’t you help me with that, John?” Sheryl answered.
“Ok, here are some goals you might consider:
Goal #1 – Setup a Twitter account, if you don’t already have one.
Goal #2 – Setup a GoogleSites Web Site for your Class and come up with some dividers.
Goal #3 – Setup your teacher iPad to send out tweets and learn how to take pictures/video for sharing, then add a hashtag.
Goal #4 – Practice composing a piece of writing in GoogleDrive so that you can share that with others.
Goal #5 – Learn how to post on GoogleSites page.”
“You know, Sheryl,” John said, “when we started this project, you were feeling a little fearful of sharing student work online.”
“Yes, I was,” Sheryl responded. “But now that I’ve had a chance to do this and my students are sharing, I’ve seen some real excitement because they can SEE what they are sharing, what others are sharing and talk about it to each other. Their having deeper conversations about what this means. You’ve really helped me accomplish this! Now, others are asking me to coach them!”
“I’m so glad to hear you say that,” John said. “I wonder if you and your students would be interested in letting other students at another campus write and respond to your students’ work. In fact, not only write, but also, create videos where they provide feedback and/or critique your students’ writing. I’m thinking of ‘group share’ that happens at the end of a class. We can kick off the conversation with a Skype or Google Hangout.”
“That sounds like fun, and I know this would deepen my students’ understanding. But I have to admit, I’ve never Skyped before or done a Hangout, whatever that is. Is it hard?”
Dr. Wilson and Dr. Alaniz suggest that the reflection process include these questions:
As you can see from the questions for the teacher and the dialogue with her coach, adding Skype/GoogleHangouts to the mix could be a future goal. What’s powerful about this is that the learning is additive. Now, reading over the vignette, it’s clear that it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. The “weeds” would be how to get every student setup with their own GoogleDrive account so they could have a virtual writing space. Of course, students could just as easily continue to write by hand, then the teacher could snap pictures of their work and post that online. One advantage, though, of having students post their own writing is the learning and engagement that happens.
What are your thoughts?
Note: This is a work of creative non-fiction. That is to say, neither the coach or the teacher are real people, but what they are engaged in…well, that certainly has been done!