Sunday, July 5, 2020

Virtual Coaching, the same as it ever was

This past three months, the last three months of the 2019-2020 school year for us in upstate New York (and throughout much of the world), has been unprecedented for schooling, for education and for learning. That is what we have heard for the last three months... it's unprecedented, that's unprecedented.... you get the picture.

Being a Technology Integrator Specialist, edtech coach, I wondered how it would look for me.
  • Could I maintain my relationships with teachers virtually?
  • Would I be able to identify and troubleshoot issues teachers were having and then support them as they move through these challenges?
  • What about new teachers that I never worked with before the closure? Could I create those initial critical relationships that build trust virtually?
These were all of the questions that popped into my mind.
As it were, the answer ended up being a resounding YES!

Virtual Coaching, although certainly different from 'face to face' coaching in the logistical sense turns out to be exactly the same in the relationship realm.
Relationships Matter
We all know it boils down to relationships and trust. What I found out is that when you treat teachers with respect, these relationships can and do get built virtually.  Here are my big takeaways from coaching virtually:
  • Listen and reflect: Start every virtual meeting with time to find out how they are doing. Show that you can and do listen and allow them to reflect on what they are going through. Also take some time to find out how they teach, how did they engage students prior to this moment. What worked in the classroom? (think procedures and routines) What would you like to try? It is key to establish a starting point, and by listening this often begins about that starting point.
  • Let them know you understand. In this specific scenario, it was important to let teachers know that none of us signed up for this. We are basically doing the best job we can for our students. We all are in a vulnerable situation that no one knows all the answers, but the fact that we are asking the questions makes us truly courageous.  To quote Brene Brown: 

  • Start where they are. Once you have listened and gotten to know them (content they teach, how they engaged students before the closure) then develop a plan together. This plan should start with something that is familiar. If they had a morning message every morning for students to engage with, continue that virtually.
  • Once you have an idea of a plan: chunk it. Start with one step that they can take to make them feel confident. Start simple, but go for a big win to get the trust and confidence rolling. This step often includes them sharing their screen with you so you can talk them through how to do something. Ending the meeting with one thing accomplished, or on its way to being accomplished will go a long way.
  • I'm here for you. It may not be easy, but I'll be there to support you throughout it all. Admit that this might be challenging, but that support is here, and my goal is to provide that support throughout. Always end with 'we are in this together', 'You are doing a great job, and you can do this'.
  • Make plans moving forward. Before leaving that first virtual meeting (and sequential ones) repeat what you will be following up with and what they will be doing and if possible set up another meeting. I often followed up a meeting with an email providing needed links or step by step tutorials as needed. If a follow-up meeting isn't planned then make a note to send a quick email out to them to see how things are going.

So, turns out Virtual Coaching was 'the same as it ever was'... (to quote a famous Talking Heads' song)
It comes down to listening, respect, trust, and celebrating together along the way.
It also totally comes back to not being the expert, but rather teammates...being 'in this together'. I learned something from every teacher I worked with this past school year. Every. Teacher. Some I knew before the closure, some I met through Zoom meetings, some I met with every week, some I only met once but continued coaching through email. All of them made me a better coach and educator. Many of them I hope to one day go out to coffee with, I think we'd have a lot to talk about and a few laughs.
But, until then, virtually will need to be where we meet and learn, and I'm ok with that because we are in this together... and we are stronger together.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Virtual Coaching Office

As we start to plan for the summer professional learning sessions I put together my virtual coaching office. One of the things we have been discussing is the need for both a physical office/classroom and a virtual one. Since we don't know what the fall will bring being prepared for both is vital, especially since it probably will involve some sort of blended environment-- or at the very least a need to have a virtual classroom set up to support technology integration projects! To help me plan for this 'new now' I put together the virtual office below so teachers that I work with can connect with me and check out what I'm reading.

I'm looking forward to continuing my work with teachers this summer. The focus will be on setting up their virtual learning environment so they will be ready to hit the ground running in the fall. I'll be posting my progress as I go through the summer here, as well as resources you can use.
Kudos to all the educators out there that have finished their school year! You did a great job caring for your students. Now let's take time to reflect and plan for a new year of nurturing relationships and learning!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Be Present Virtually by Creating Your Virtual Classroom!

As we finish up the school year and look to the fall we have a lot of questions: What will the fall look like? Will we be full virtual? Will we be in a blended environment? Will our classes be down to 50% present at one time, with the other completing assignments virtually? Or will it be a combination of any/all of these?
We just don't know, and may not for a while. 
At this point, I believe we should plan on setting up our virtual classroom because no matter what happens you will be able to use it with students. Having a physical classroom and virtual one set up will allow your students, and their parents to have access to you and the learning no matter what happens during the 20-21 school year.

Here's an easy step by step way to create your virtual classroom:
  1. Set up Google Sites as your main 'portal' to your virtual classroom. Making sure this site is accessible to anyone with the link will also allow this portal to be accessible to your parents, as well as the students.
  2. On the main page of your Site embed your bitmoji virtual classroom. This classroom will contain links to your weekly plan, websites that students will need, and other important documents/websites that are needed.
  3. Create your weekly plan (or unit choice board) that includes all the assignments the student needs to complete for the designated timeframe. Any assignments that require something to be created, answered, or uploaded, would link directly to the Google Classroom assignment. This will allow all your turned in assignments to be in one place for each checking, grading and offering feedback.
  4. Create assignments in Google Classroom and link directly back to your weekly plan.
Other possibilities include having a parent page off your Google Site with parent/student 'how-tos', or other assistance. Other pages can include links directly to virtual building sites or other team teacher sites.
Here are some video tutorials to help you create this new learning vision!

Be Present Virtually! (Video showing steps to create your bitmoji virtual classroom)

Creating a Weekly Plan/ Choice Board:

Stay tuned for more tutorials on creating your Google Site Portal!

New Vision, New Blog

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Moving forward we need to be mindful of how technology is a part of learning. Mindfulness about purpose and role will be key as we move forward with the learning and teaching in this new now. 

    From 2009-2020 my blog existed at Technology Chatter using the edublog platform. Due to various reasons I have decided to move my blog over to this Blogger platform starting now (June 2020). It seems fitting to make this transition now as we are just finishing up 3 months of virtual learning brought on by the closures due to COVID-19. Priorities that existed pre-March 2020 have shifted as we have discussions on what the 'new now' will look like. What hasn't changed is how students learn. Now more than ever, whether we are physically in a school building or in a virtual classroom online, we need to engage students in authentic, real-world problem-based, and project-based learning. That is the base of my new blog title 'Mindful Edtech'. 

Sit back, grab a cup of coffee and let's be mindful about where we are going and how we are using Edtech to advance and extend learning!