Investigating Instructional Rounds

I have made several attempts over the past two years to encourage teachers to connect with educators outside of the building–but I missed a step.  Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was assuming that teachers were already connecting with other educators in the building.  Or, I was underestimating the interactions that I saw as connections built on trust and focused on a common goal to improve instruction and learning.  Was I really listening to the conversations between teachers?  Where those participating in the conversations truly engaged or just complying in an effort to outlast the meeting?  In all the talk about student engagement, what about teacher engagement?  What does that look like?  How do you assess quality teacher engagement?  And how do you support those who truly want to engage with other faculty members in deep and focused conversations aimed at improving student learning?

At the beginning of the year, the instructional facilitator and I were brainstorming ways to spend more time in classrooms and replace a culture based on a fear of evaluation and judgment with a culture of support and collective learning.  We set a goal to visit every classroom in the building as a first step.  As we discussed this, we thought it be great to eventually bring other teachers along with us during future classroom visits.  After some investigation, we discovered instructional rounds as a possible model to facilitate this cultural shift.  After some reading and connecting with other educators who had utilized rounds, we decided to implement the rounds in phases, giving us time to explore rounds and customize the practice to the needs of our learning community.

  1. The instructional facilitators visit each classroom and plan the instructional rounds debrief process and prepare for stage 4
  2. The instructional facilitators will read Instructional Rounds in Education and Leading Instructional Rounds in Education for guidance in implementing rounds
  3. The PLC will participate in an article study* and discussion to prepare for phase 4
  4. The PLC will practice the debrief process after watching a short classroom video
  5. The instructional facilitators will bring PLC members along with us to refine the process including the debrief process and norms. We will also be exploring problems of practice that are present throughout the building.
  6. The facilitators and PLC members will take other teachers on rounds with us and facilitate the debrief process. We will focus these rounds on the problems of practice that we define in phase 4

I know this process is subject to multiple changes and course corrections, and many adjustments have already been made in the recent weeks.  I’m anxious to see the process unfold and facilitate opportunities for our staff to improve their instructional skills in a collaborative setting.


#ETCoaches Blog Challenge Week 5 and Beyond

I have enjoyed interacting with other #ETCoaches for the past month as we have strengthened our PLN through sharing thoughts and experiences as part of the blog challenge.

As a result of the challenge, I have two goals.

  1. Read the blog posts that are shared through the #ETCoaches hashtag when I see them, rather than planning to read them later–which rarely happens.
  2. Continue commenting on blog posts.  Before the challenge, I never took the time to comment.  I’m beginning to realize that a simple comment or response can be a huge encouragement to the author, and the author wouldn’t be sharing if he or she didn’t want interaction on the topic.

Thanks again to Penny Christensen for organizing the challenge and coaching us through the process of growing our PLN and sharing our voices!


Even thought the #ETCoaches blog challenge is complete, we can still continue the conversation in several ways:

  1. Tweet with #ETCoaches and add a column for #ETCoaches to Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, or your preferred social media dashboard
  2. Share your future blog posts with #ETCoaches and explore the links shared by others.  Take the time to comment on future blog posts.
  3. Follow @EdTechCoaches through Twitter
  4. Join the EdTech Coaches PLN for our upcoming book study of “Integrating Technology in the Classroom” by Dr. Boni Hamilton.  All registered participants (ISTE membership required) will receive an ePub copy of the book.  Registration opens November 28 and the study runs January 17-February 24.  We will discuss the book through a Twitter slow chat using the #ETCoaches hashtag.
  5. Attend a monthly #ETCoaches Playground webinar.  These webinars are led by PLN members who presented at the ISTE 2016 EdTech Coaches PLN Playground.
  6. Participate in the PLN discussion boards (ISTE Members).  The discussion boards are great for questions or answers that require more than 140 characters and all responses are threaded with the question, making the conversation easy to follow.
  7. If you are a Voxer user, join our #ETCoaches Voxer group by contacting Lisa Hervey (@lisahervey) and she will add you to the group.
  8. Participate in the #ETCoaches monthly Twitter Chats.  They occur on the last Tuesday of the month at 1pm and 8pm EST.  Follow @EdTechCoaches for updates and reminders.
  9. Join and participate in our Google+ Group
  10. Host an EdTech Coaches PLN meeting at your local or regional conference.
  11. Visit the EdTech Coaches PLN Library.  The library contains archives of Twitter Chats, Webinars, Book Studies, and Playgrounds.

#ETCoaches Blog Challenge Week 4

I enjoy reading the blogs of other educators because it gives me the opportunity to hear them think out loud.  I tend to gravitate towards blogs that expose the thinking process and philosophies behind instructional decisions and tech adoption strategies.  This does not mean that I don’t benefit from the more “newsy” or tutorial based blogs, but I’m also interested in why a tool is being recommended and how it worked in an instructional setting.  I also benefit from hearing how other coaches solve problems common to the coaching practice.

I use Feedly to curate my blogs, which allows me to easily scroll through the most recent posts and click on titles that interest me.  I also created a custom search with Google Custom Search as a tool to search the blogs I follow in Feedly.  Feedly has a search function in paid accounts, but the Google Custom Search wasn’t hard to set up–and it is free.

Here are some of my favorite blogs (beyond those participating in this challenge) to follow (in no particular order)

  • I always find something new in the Edsurge blog.  I even subscribe their email newsletter, which I don’t do often to avoid inbox overflow.   Their posts contain a mixture of cutting-edge technology, entrepreneurial information, and great tools for teaching and learning.
  • Mindshift,  Edutopia, and GettingSmart contain a variety of thoughtful posts on many educational topics.  Although not always tech-based, posts are typically thought-provoking and promote new approaches to old problems.
  • Education Closet  focuses on arts integration and STEAM topics in an effort to support all teachers as they employ the arts in all content areas.
  • The Cool Cat Teacher Blog includes a lot of great content.  The author also publishes podcasts through the iOS Podcast App, which allow me to listen in while I’m driving.

#ETCoaches Blog Challenge Week 3

After a couple weeks of reflective blog posts, week three shifts to sharing tools–which is one of the EdTech Coaches pillars of practice.  The right tool for the job can make all the difference, and the wrong tool can quickly frustrate the learning process.  Here’s a few of the tools that I regularly use in my coaching practice.

  • Tweetdeck is a must have for any Twitter user.  It tames a never-ending Twitter feed into neat columns sorted by hashtags, users, lists, and more.  Tweetdeck also allows users to schedule Tweets–which prevents forgotten Tweets and frees users from being tied to Twitter at all times.
  • Nuzzle  summarizes my Twitter feed by collating the most popular posts shared by those I follow.  The best part about Nuzzle, is that it requires to setup–just login with your Twitter account and it starts working.
  • Feedly is another tab pinned in my browser that I access daily.  I began using Feedly when Google Reader was shut down and I needed an RSS reader to collate my list of blogs.  The free version has enough features to meet my needs, and displays the most recent blog posts in a magazine-style layout.
  • I created a Custom Google Search containing all the blogs I follow in Feedly.  This allows me to search only those blogs and websites, cutting out a lot of irrelevant search results.  My custom search is setup as a webpage, and looks like a standard Google Search-except it only searches the sites I have included.  There is some setup on the front end, but it was time well spent.
  • Canva is steadily working its way onto my list of favorite tools.  I’m not a graphic designer, but Canva helps me hide that fact.  I find it easy to create great designs, and there are many templates available for various social media and communication applications.  Plus, they just added team functions to the free account.  Some graphic objects are paid, but there are more enough free objects to cover my lack of artistic skills.
  • My district recently purchased a district license of Nearpod, and I am exploring ways to use that in professional development.  Nearpod is a 1:1 presentation tool that combines content slides with question slides.  There are several free features and more are available for paid accounts.  Peardeck is a similar tool.

If you are still seeking to build your EdTech Coaching Toolkit (and who isn’t?), the EdTech Coaches PLN is leading a webinar on Wednesday, September 21 focused on presentation tools.  It is free to ISTE members and registration is open in the ISTE Store through Wednesday.  If you miss the live webinar, ISTE members may view the recorded webinar through the same link.

#ETCoaches Blog Challenge Week 2

Week two of the challenge shifts from thinking about the purpose of my blog to reflecting on my purpose as an EdTech Coach.  You would think it wouldn’t be a problem to come up with challenges, but I became stuck sorting through various challenges as I tried to separate the urgent issues from the important issues.  Before going further, I read Penny Christensen’s blog post on this topic, which helped me focus my thoughts, or at least come to the realization that I needed to separate the urgent from the important.  We all face challenges throughout the day, but are we addressing those as a reactive response, or as a proactive priority?  If we identify the truly important challenges, we have taken the first step to meeting them mindfully and with a plan.  Anything not on the important list may present itself as an urgent challenge needing attention, but it shouldn’t consume the majority of our time and energy.  As Shaina Glass said in Tuesday night’s #ETCoaches webinar, everyone else’s priority can not always be your priority.  There isn’t enough time or energy to make that happen. How much time do we spend reacting to urgent problems that would have been better solved by addressing the underlying issues in a proactive manner ? I know I’m not the only EdTech coach that feels like I spent too much time addressing symptoms without focusing on the underlying causes of those symptoms.

While it may appear that I’m just rambling on in an effort to avoid defining my important challenges, I may be illustrating one of my biggest personal challenges–my tendency to over-analyze things.  I admit that I’m a compulsive planner and would love to plan every detail for any given coaching session, PD event, or meeting.  If you’ve been doing this for any amount of time, you are already thinking of all the variables that make that impossible–primarily the variability of adult learners and their needs.  A friend recently told me that I could find the potential pitfalls and loopholes in any process or project and I really couldn’t argue with him–he had called me out leaving little room for debate.  As Penny said in her blog post for this week, balance is the goal.  I am still searching for the proper balance of planning and flexibility as I fine-tune my coaching practice.

My next big area of improvement is empowering teacher leaders  and sharing the great things going on in classrooms.  I am working with the instructional coach in my building (she is a planner too, which sometimes reinforces my own compulsion to plan) on implementing instructional rounds as part of our PLC process.  We are starting small with the coaches visiting classrooms in the first phase, then in the second phase we will bring PLC leadership team members with us on the instructional rounds, and the final phase will be giving the whole faculty a chance to participate in the instructional rounds.  We are hoping this promotes collaboration and supports the goals of our PLC.

As I begin my third year as a coach, I can see successes emerge from the groundwork of the past two years.  I am continuing to build relationships both with staff in my building and my international PLN, and I am comfortable with how my role as an instructional technology coach fits into the structure of the building.

What is the Purpose of My Blog? #ETCoaches Blog Challenge Week 1

I originally created my blog in December of 2014 as a place to curate information I shared with my faculty in weekly newsletters, but it quickly became much more.  My blog has evolved into a website that serves as my digital homepage and portfolio.  What makes this so useful is the fact that I can easily update my blog/portfolio and it is ready at a moment’s notice to share.  It has become the center of my digital footprint and serves as a connective hub to other online spaces in which I participate.  A web-based portfolio also allows me to link to other  resources that document my experience and growth as an EdTech Coach.  I am beginning my third year as an EdTech Coach in the Fort Osage School District, and since I already have information about me curated in my blog, including links to my Twitter and Linkedin accounts, I don’t need to duplicate that biographical information in this blog post.  Feel free to explore and suggest any improvements to my blog in the comments below.

The intended audience of my blog started with the staff of my school and has expanded to my PLN.  In actuality, the audience could potentially include anyone with internet access.  This is both great and a little intimidating at the same time.  Perhaps this is one reason why the blogging process is a challenge to begin and maintain.

My year is off to a great start and my next big project is developing, in collaboration with the instructional coach in my building, a system of instructional rounds.  Our goal is to give faculty the opportunity to visit other classrooms in the building and find ways to improve their own practice based on what they observe.  We also collaboratively developed an Instructional Strategies Challenge for our faculty which gives them four weeks to focus on implementing a specific instructional strategy and then sharing their learning with the whole staff at the end of the challenge.  I’ve also started working with another #ETCoaches PLN leader, Pam Shoemaker, on preparations for the next #ETCoaches book study that will begin in January.  Technical issues have consumed quite a bit of my time during the first weeks of school and I am anxious to focus on instruction and learning as those technical issues are corrected.

I’m excited to participate in the blogging challenge with the #ETCoaches PLN and look forward to learning with other EdTech Coaches in this context.  Participating will also encourage me to update and improve my blog along the way, and I know I will see great things in other blogs that will inspire me to improve my practice as an EdTech Coach.  Don’t hesitate to comment.  Honestly, I had turned off comments sometime in the past due to spam, but comments are now re-enabled for some great conversations.

#OTFalcons Tech Update September 9, 2016

If you are new to Nearpod (we have purchased a district license) or thinking about using it in the future, Nearpod has created a short presentation to orient new users to their product.  This tutorial will show you how to create an account, find existing Nearpod lessons in the library, and launch your first presentation.  I will share more Nearpod tutorials over the next two weeks.  If you prefer printed instructions over a presentation, Nearpod has created a getting-started checklist.  Contact me if you have questions or want a district license to use in your classroom.
Listenwise is a library of podcasts and recorded news reports.  It contains recordings on recent events grouped by Social Studies, Science, and ELA.  The site supports creating an account with Google and when you login as a teacher, you can share podcasts through Google Classroom.  When you find a recording you want to share, click the blue link button between the assign and favorite buttons.  The window that pops up has a “share with classroom” button at the bottom.  Students do not have to create an account with Listenwise to access the recordings through Classroom.
I sent out an email last week saying MobyMax is working.  That was partially true.  We have since discovered that it works on a desktop computer, but not on a Chromebook.  We are looking into this and I will keep you informed of our progress.

Curate Your Professional Learning: ElevateEDU

I have spent the last few weeks covering tools to help you connect with colleagues and build your PLN with the ultimate purpose of helping you facilitate your own professional learning.  The “curation tool” for this week stands out from my previous suggestions because it is much more than a web-based resource or social networking site; this resource holds more potential for meaningful connections because it facilitates professional relationships both through digital tools and personal contacts.

Although I have been able to attend regional educational technology conferences in Omaha, St. Louis, Osage Beach, Des Moines, and Columbia over the past two years, I have found myself wishing  that these types of opportunities were available in the Kansas City area.  I am not the only one that has seen the need for quality professional development in educational technology within the Kansas City area; educational leaders across the Kansas City area have recently collaborated to transform and revitalize KCTechNet into ElevateEDU.  ElevateEDU is maintaining KCTechNet’s ISTE affiliate status and will continue to provide teachers and school leaders with meaningful and relevant professional development centered around the effective implementation of technology in the classroom.  But the vision does not stop there; these leaders realize that educational technology can change learning, but it is not the complete solution to transforming teaching and learning.  This fact was the impetus behind the name change from KCTechNet to ElevateEDU; where KCTechNet focused primarily on educational technology, ElevateEDU will include professional development and networking in multiple areas including classroom technology.  You can follow the organization through their website, Twitter account @ElevatingEdu, and the hashtag #ElevatingEDU.

ElevateEDU is planning a kick-off event for June 8 at William Chrisman High School and you can find complete details and registration information on their website.    The June 8 Summer Institute is designed to include networking, workshops, and planning for the future of the organization and how it can help teachers transform instructional practices and ultimately student learning.  Please consider taking advantage of this local opportunity to network and learn.  The event is designed to provide learning during that day and build relationships that will facilitate learning well after the day is completed.

ElevateEDU Conference Banner (3)

Curate Your Professional Learning: eThemes and edtechteacher

eThemes is a collection of curated lists of websites that are organized by topic and grade level.  These sites are curated specifically for student use and vetted for appropriate and accurate content.  You can search by keyword or browse by topic or grade level.  This collection is maintained by the eMINTS department at the University of Missouri.  If you are searching for a topic that is not included in their collection, they accept online requests for new topics from media specialists and eMINTS teachers.

Edtechteacher provides several resources to help teachers implement technology in their classrooms including tutorials, lesson plans, tech tool recommendations, and rubrics.

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