For ideas and resources related specifically to the Google Suite for Education, Edmodo, or Hapara, please visit those sections of my website. While I might reference those tools here, this space is intended for deep thoughts and reflections.
by Randy Fairfield, 3/21/18
No, students will not be asked to effectively integrate Animated GIFs into their writing on their high stakes standardized tests. They probably won’t be asked to analyze questions related to the author’s purpose in using Animated GIFs in a blog post either. And that’s a shame. It’s a shame because Animated GIFs have become an increasingly important way that people communicate, and it’s a shame because there is a whole lot of higher order thinking that goes into this whole Animated GIFs thing. Just think about it!
Not convinced yet? Just consider how my use of Animated GIFs supported my response to a small kerfuffle that unfolded over an email chain at my church this past week. There were some concerns expressed that some children had gotten in the habit of taking the gluten free snacks provided during coffee hour, and as the email chain started to get a little too snippy for my liking, I decided to try and diffuse the situation with a little humor.
The following is a true story about the last 24 hours of my life:
Opens email from the rector.
Closes email. Goes about my day.
Opens reply all emails.
Considers whether or not 1 Cor 11:17-33 has any relevant wisdom.
Says a short prayer.
Considers the following passage from Proverbs 32:
Oops. I accidentally on purpose slipped a meme in there at the end instead of an Animated GIF. I actually thought about renaming the title of this blog post to, “If a Picture Speaks 1,000 Words, a Meme Speaks 10,000, and an Animated GIF Speaks 100,000.” Then I decided that would be a bit too wordy. In fact, I’m being a bit too wordy now! Moving on…
So, yeah, I had to put a lot of thought into which animated GIFs I selected for that email. It took a number of different searches on Giphy for me to find the Animated GIFs that precisely communicated the feelings I wanted to convey. Perhaps we should be teaching our students how to do this stuff, eh? As a reader, did you find yourself watching and then re-watching the Animated GIF loops to see what I was going for? What do you think I was thinking? Deep questions. Maybe ones we should be asking our students? Just a thought.
Animated GIFs can be used as a one-off to convey humor, help tell a story, draw attention to a social media post, and so much more! When I was in the classroom as a teacher, sometimes I would often send my students assignment comments on Edmodo with Animated GIFs and memes to give them feedback on their work and to encourage them in a fun way to keep working towards mastery. Sometimes I would include these images in assignments I posted on Edmodo to keep the group from being nothing more than stale and uninviting text. Here is one I used to send my students when they didn’t capitalize “I” in their essays:
In any event, I’ve probably had more fun with this blog post than any other post I’ve ever made! That gets me thinking, this could be a really, really fun presentation to make—or even better, a training event! Just hit me up if you’re interested in making this happen at your school.
by Randy Fairfield, 2/1/18
Kids like to make things. When I leave my kids to their own devices, my son goes off and builds stuff with Lincoln Logs and Legos, and my daughters go off and draw pictures. It’s just what they do. And of course whenever they are done making whatever it is they’ve made, the first thing they do is run up and say, “Mom! Dad! Look what I made!” Being a growth mindset conscious parent, I make sure to let them know how proud I am of all the hard work they put into their creation and then ask them reflective questions about what they thought they did well and what they thought they could make even better and so forth. Creating things and then sharing them with other people that care is a very human thing to do.
And then they get to school. And they get asked to show their learning on worksheet after worksheet and on test after standardized test. Or write papers that only their teacher will ever see. And while some kids like mine are resilient enough to put up with all of these stale demonstrations of rote learning, there are a lot of kids that aren’t. And the one question that just about all kids ask their teachers is this: What does this really have to do with anything? And too often the answers they get to those questions really suck. Since our assignments and tests are inauthentic and irrelevant, we have to say things like, “Stick it out and do your work to get your points so you can get good grades so that you can go to college.” Why do we do this to kids?
There are a lot of things we can blame—like laws passed by politicians far-removed from the classroom and administrators handing down stale curricula and expecting it to be taught with fidelity. But for as much as teachers can control, every opportunity ought to be taken to quit “doing school” and start engaging students in meaningful learning. During my time in the classroom, the biggest challenges I faced were threefold when it came to facilitating a student-centered classroom that allowed my students to be creators of authentic content: (1) I had a hard time coming up with great ideas for projects that were tied to standards; (2) Coming up with a budget and the time to get materials was daunting; and (3) Finding an authentic audience for students to share their creations with was challenging. Nowadays, I don’t think any of those challenges really present much of an obstacle.
We live in an exciting age where we don’t have to recreate the wheel all the time because, guess what, there are a lot of educators out there that like to create and share stuff too. Do a Google search. Search the #pbl hashtag and follow other educators on Twitter. Check out Pinterest. There are tons of ideas and resources on Edmodo Spotlight. If your school is using Hapara, there are public Workspaces out there that teachers have spent tons of time working on that are being given away. Check out the amazing HyperDocs on “Teachers Give Teachers.” Check out Project-Based Awesome. Access to high-quality vetted content and ideas is quite literally a few searches and clicks away!
Attending a three-day Buck Institute training this past summer was also useful in helping me help teachers generate ideas for projects. There are so many different ways for students to demonstrate their learning besides worksheets and tests!!!
The best part is that students are increasingly getting regular access to technology in the classroom, which gives them the ability to create stuff without the teacher having to scramble for resources. The web also gives students access to a global audience for their work! It’s far more exciting to share with the world than it is to share with just your teacher and classmates. Students can use the Google Suite almost exclusively to produce and share most of the projects listed above, and there are free web-based applications for video, photo, and audio editing that just a few years ago cost hundreds of dollars! Yet far too often, Chromebooks are used for little more than testing and Google Classroom is used for little more than digitally reproducing and distributing of the same old worksheets. Google Classroom is great and can be used for more of course, but I think the robust features offered by Hapara’s Workspace and Edmodo are a lot more conducive to the deeper learning I’m interested helping educators facilitate, which is why I’m always championing their platforms. As educators, we have a duty to prepare our students for the world they are in and are going into, and this is what that world is asking today’s students be capable of:
I like to create and share stuff with people too, which is why I just wrote this blog post, why there will be plenty more posts laden with ideas, and why there’s already a bunch of stuff I’ve already shared here on my website. Take a gander if you’re so inclined! I also really like leading professional development to help teachers help students become creators rather than consumers of content. Reach out if you’re ever interested in having me come out to your site! Have passport, will travel. 🙂
by Randy Fairfield, 1/4/18
Middle school and high school was just a game to be won for me, with the end goal of getting the highest possible GPA. Each teacher’s class had different rules, and I took the easiest possible path to manipulate them to end up with the lowest possible “A”. I thought things like, “I already have a 96% in math and the teacher said the final can’t hurt my grade, so I guess I’ll just skip these last few homework assignments.” The only purpose learning about quadratic equations served was to help me get that “A.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t until halfway through my senior year that my mindset started to change. Yet given the rules of the game and how the adults in my life framed “winning,” my mindset and corresponding behavior was completely rational.
All things considered, the game ended up working out pretty well for me. After all, I did end up learning about quadratic equations, I got into college, and as I matured I began to understand that there is more to life than having a good grade point average. However, I also noticed that a lot of marginalized students seemed to just disappear during the course of the game. I wouldn’t see somebody for a few months and would think, “Oh, wow… I wonder what happened to so-and-so.” And for many of them, I’d never see them again. For far too many students, the rules of the game were preventing them from feeling like they had a chance to win, and so they decided to quit playing. Can we blame them? Too often we do because it means we don’t have to change.
Change is uncomfortable. It’s hard. Most people do not like change, even when it serves to make things better for themselves and for everyone else. A perfect example of a rule change that most people hate is, “no trade, reverse robber” in Settlers of Catan. This rule change makes the game become far more strategic and largely prevents people like Cody (see below) from going on suicide missions to take out the best player. Please be gentle, it was my first of many embarrassing attempts to go viral…
Rule changes aren’t always for the better. A teacher I once worked with made participation a full fifty percent of his students’ grades so that, and I quote, “If they’re acting like little s***s in my class I can just fail them.” True story.
I can’t help but consider: What “rules” can we change to make our schools and classrooms better, and how can we frame the conditions for winning in a different way so that everyone feels like they have a chance? I think I’m better at asking questions than I am at giving answers, but as a recovering video gamer and current board game enthusiast, this is one I have some unique insight into. I’ve been working on a keynote titled, “What Teachers Need to Learn from Gamers” that I’m dying to give. Dee Lanier (@deelanier) has some pretty awesome thoughts on “hacking learning” too. I’d also love to hear some of your thoughts on Twitter if you’re open to sharing! Just tweet me at @RandyFairfield and you’re sure to get a reply.
by Randy Fairfield, 12/11/17
Nobody wants to be told what to do. I don’t, you don’t, and—guess what—your students don’t either. Yet if you were to spend a day in the life of the average student, you would likely find that most of your school day was spent being told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Perhaps this is because we as educators know a lot about pedagogy and perhaps not enough about andragogy.
The word pedagogy literally means “leading children” and came before the lesser known term andragogy, which means “leading adults.” An adult educator named Malcolm Knowles theorized nearly forty years ago that, as learners, adults have different characteristics than children do. As such, Knowles believed adult educators should take these differences into account when designing learning activities:
Yet as I look at that list, I can’t help but see a number of lesson design principles that I wish were more evident at the elementary level and especially at the secondary level. Why shouldn’t students be involved in the planning of their instruction to increase their level of buy-in? Why shouldn’t students’ experiences (including mistakes) provide the basis for learning activities? Why shouldn’t students be learning about subjects that have immediate relevance to their personal lives? Why shouldn’t students be learning content in the context of real-world problems? Do you see what I mean?
Particularly as students emerge into adulthood, their learning needs demand that educators adopt lesson design principles that strike a balance between pedagogy and andragogy. It is true that students often don’t have the necessary experience to draw from to form the basis of some learning activities. Sometimes they need to hear the message that what they are learning about today might not now be immediately applicable to their lives. And, yes, there are times where students need to be explicitly led—but we also need to teach them to lead as well. What I’m advocating for here is for educators to strike a developmentally appropriate balance.
Given the name of this website, at this point you might be wondering what this kind of reflection has to do with educational technology. Frankly, I am too as this blog post went a much different direction than I originally intended! I guess all that to say that to me the Chromebook represents an opportunity for educators to shift up as they find balance between pedagogy and andragogy. Though Chromebooks are not required, there are countless ways in which they can be leveraged to help educators plan learning activities that give students a bit more ownership over what, when, and how they learn and demonstrate their learning. Two of my favorite books from educators that embrace what I’m talking about are Dive Into Inquiry by Trevor Mackenzie (@trev_mackenzie) and The HyperDoc Handbook by Lisa Highfill (@lhighfill). And in case you were wondering, no, I don’t make any money if you click on their links and buy their books—I just think they’re worth taking a look at if you haven’t yet already! 🙂
Source: Kearsley, G. (2010). Andragogy (M.Knowles). The theory into practice database. Retrieved from http://tip.psychology.org
by Randy Fairfield, 12/1/17
The ability to find and solve problems both feeds and is driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. That is, a successful entrepreneur is someone who looks for and can find problems no one else has solved—and then comes up with a marketable solution to the problem. In the rapidly changing economy our students will soon be competing in, being adept at finding problems and coming up with creative and innovative solutions will be paramount. So how do we teach students these skills?
Before tackling that question, I think we first need to consider beliefs that drive practices that hold kids back. The bone I’d like to pick here is with differences often cited between children and adults as learners. While there are clearly differences, they should be seen and presented along a continuum. In no way, shape, or form should curriculum or instruction at the secondary level assume more to be true of students in the left-hand column below than in the right-hand column. Just consider the learning theories below and how damaging lower expectations can be to creativity, innovation, and problem finding and solving:
Source: Teaching Adults: What Every Trainer Needs to Know About Adult Learning Styles
So, with that out of way, let’s talk about AwesomeTable, which is a web application that transforms data from Google Sheets into a variety of pleasant views. The number of templates that AwesomeTable has to offer are extraordinary, and when I started exploring my imagination was immediately stoked with all kinds ideas for how students, teachers, and administrators could use the templates to solve numerous problems. I’m sure your imagination and your students’ imaginations will run wild too!
The first thing I recommend you do when you go to AwesomeTable’s website is expand the template gallery and just explore. Might there be a way for you to design a project that allows for student agency in exploring and deciding which template to use to meet the objectives of a project?
Once you’ve explored the template gallery and found one you like, simply click on it and then click the “use template” button. At that point, a copy of a Google Sheet that’s generating the template will be added to the root of your Google Drive. You can then go to the Google Sheet by clicking on the file name.
Once you’ve gone into the spreadsheet, you can then make edits that will immediately be reflected in the AwesomeTable view in real time! When you or your students are finished taking a template and making it your own, there are number of different ways to share it:
The number of different uses here are too many to count, but just off the top of my head, here are some ways students could use AwesomeTable:
- Create a student store with the Product Catalog template and embed it into the school’s website.
- Use multiple templates embedded into a Google Site to create a fictitious business.
- Populate the Geochart Demo template with locations of key WWII battles.
- Use the Marvel Movies template to create biographical profiles of historical figures.
- Tweak the code that’s in many of the AwesomeTable templates to participate in Hour of Code during December 4-10, 2017.
Finally, I’d like to share one way that AwesomeTable got me thinking about solving a problem in a creative and innovative way.
This past spring I set out to solve a problem that had been plaguing me for over a decade: That is, I collect sports cards—especially Dominique Wilkins basketball cards—and I was getting really tired of the tedious process of manually updating my website whenever a new card came in. After complaining on some sports card forums, I found few solutions and a number of other collectors with the same problem. Just weeks later, I stumbled upon AwesomeTable and realized I had found the solution I was looking for.
Rather than making things easy on myself and just using the AwesomeTable templates as-is, I used every ounce of coding ability I had, taught myself a few more things, created HobbyDisplay, edited the code in the AwesomeTable templates, and then embedded a number of different AwesomeTable views into HobbyDisplay. What I’ve come up with really isn’t economically viable, but it was a heck of a lot of fun to build out over this past summer, and it’s been fun to share my solution for free with a handful of different collectors that have found it useful. That, and I really like the way my Dominique Wilkins collection looks on the website. 🙂
by Randy Fairfield, 11/9/17
I’ve heard many people say that the most important thing they learned from college was how to learn. That got me thinking: Why does learning this incredibly important skill have to wait until college? Is it possible to empower students by teaching them this skill during high school? Middle school? Elementary school? Even younger? I believe it’s not only possible, but that it’s of the utmost importance.
For me personally, I started to feel empowered to take charge of my own learning during my senior year of high school. My mom pulled my sister and I out of school to go on a three week road trip to visit family in early January right before the conclusion of first semester. Most of my teachers grimaced that I’d be missing so much school, but since I was generally a stellar student they decided to just give me the grade I’d already earned. That is, except for my calculus teacher. He gave me an incomplete and assigned me a whole bunch of chapters to do on my own. What a jerk, right?
Once I finally mustered the intestinal fortitude necessary to teach myself calculus, I made a shocking discovery: Not only could I teach myself, I could also learn at a far quicker pace without all of the distractions and limitations that are an inherent part of being in a classroom full of students. Since I had taught myself, I felt a greater sense of pride in my understanding, and I found that my level of retention increased as well.
The discovery that I could be my own best teacher had a cascading effect on my life that reached far beyond calculus: I spent Spring Break teaching myself how to build my own website with HTML code; When a Rubik’s Cube craze hit our senior class, I figured out how to solve it on my own while the rest of the students were looking it up on YouTube; When the time came for me to file my taxes for the first time, I didn’t take them to a tax prep guy—I solved my own problem. I found some of my greatest joy simply in self-discovery and learning. What a shame that it took me so long to find it!
Now, am I advocating that the best way to teach students is to hand them a textbook and wish them well? Certainly not. Given a similar situation at a different point earlier in my life, I can’t say with certainty how I would have responded. Yet I do wonder what more my teachers could have done in response to this strange truth:
While I sometimes feel that I was often robbed of the joy of discovery during school, I did find that joy through other outlets—video games, in particular. I’m dying for a chance to give this keynote on “What Teachers Need to Learn from Gamers”. It does not surprise me that a game like Minecraft has become so poplar, for at its core Minecraft is a game about limitless discovery.
There are a number of practical ways in which educators can tap into this human desire to discover and learn in the classroom, but it really starts with looking in the mirror. When is the last time you got excited about something and learned about it on your own? Tell your students about it! They need to hear these stories. Yet too often I hear educators complaining that they don’t have enough time to learn this or that, or that they aren’t going to attend professional development unless they’re paid. If we want our students to take ownership of their learning and become lifelong learners, we must first do so ourselves.
So with that, I encourage you to click around my website and learn a thing or to. Better yet, shut this blog off, open an application you’ve been meaning to learn, and just start clicking around and figuring stuff out on your own. It’s fun!
by Randy Fairfield, 5/19/17
For every three likes this Google Classroom promo video has, it also has one dislike. Seeing all the dislikes got me wondering why so many people were turned off, so I decided to investigate! If you would, watch the video and let me know what you think on Twitter (@RandyFairfield)!
My feelings on the video are mixed. Here are some reflective questions I think the video begs:
- Are you intimidated by all the devices coming into classrooms?
- Do you feel like you should retire if you don’t “get it”?
- What problems can devices help solve?
- Can the use of educational technology help close the achievement gap?
- Is it a waste of time to write on paper instead of typing something out?
- Will students’ “beautiful thoughts just come out” because they are using Chromebooks and Google Classroom?
At first I thought the negative comments about the video would be coming from teachers offended by the implied answers to some of questions begged by the video. What I found instead surprised me:
Reading stuff like that from kids really gets me thinking about a previous blog post I made about what kind of backwards planning needs to be done by school districts to lessen the likelihood of this unintended outcome on students when it comes to district and building technology initiatives. If this kind of planning does not take place, unfortunately, students are the ones that ultimately end up getting hurt.
When integrating technology in the classroom, best practices and student-centered outcomes need to be at the forefront! A tool like Google Classroom is great, but only if used intentionally.
by Randy Fairfield, 1/18/17
This past three-day weekend was one of the best weekends of my life! I had the privilege of getting to head down to Roseville, CA and present three sessions at the EdTechTeam Roseville Summit featuring Google for Education. I shared some basics on Drive, Forms, and Chrome, shared and heard some ideas about leveraging the GSuite in Schools looking to support students coming from poverty, and showed my love for the Seahawks and the LinkClump Chrome Extension in a Demo Slam. The presenters with the EdTechTeam were great too! That is, except for Dee (@deelanier), who gave away the score of the Seahawks game. Actually, Dee was pretty cool because he showed me why I should be using Google Photos (which is awesome) at the hotel, so all is forgiven, my friend! This was the fourth annual Summit in Roseville, and you could see that the educators there were open to innovation and eager to try new things in their classrooms. There has clearly been a history of high-quality professional development offered by the team as the Summit was sold out and overbooked.
First off, props to Ken Shelton as he did a fantastic job (@k_shelton) as the lead on the Summit. It’s not easy to organize and MC an amazing event like this, and Ken pulled it off with a smile—all while catering to the very particular coffee preferences of each presenter.
My favorite parts of the Summit were the Demo Slam and the Ignite T(ed)TechTeam Talks. Demo Slams are truly an adrenalin hit for tech geeks. Participants get two minutes to get up there and show off something that the audience will find useful. I love the Slams because you can learn A LOT in a very short amount of time, and they are always very entertaining as well. The Ignite T(ed)TechTeam Talks are incredible as well because they are short, sweet, and motivating! They are basically the Demo Slam equivalent of a keynote. As I type this I am realizing my preference of Demo Slams and Ignite T(ed)TechTeam Talks over full training sessions and keynotes probably means I have ADD. I’ll take a look into it…
… In any event, I think one of the things that impressed me most about the entire event was that it wasn’t just about technology. The presenters really focused on student learning and building relationships, and then backed that up by showing how all of the tools we looked at could support those outcomes. This was particularly evident in Jeff Heil’s (@jheil65) keynote about “Technology, High Expectations and the Art of Relationships”. You could hear the emphases on learning and relationships in each Ignite T(ed)TechTeam Talk as well. Each speaker knocked it out of park, including Chris Betcher (@betchaboy), Dee, Holly Clark (@HollyClarkEdu), Rushton Hurley (@rushtonh), Jim Sill (@mistersill), and Jesse Lubinsky (@jlubinsky). Besides learning some things from the content they shared, I think I learned the most by paying attention to their unique and fantastic presentation styles. Now that the event is over, I can’t wait to lead more presentations and trainings and put some of what I learned into practice.
Besides the great presentations and training sessions, the EdTechTeam also had fantastic authors like Lisa Highfill (@lhighfill) of HyperDocs, Trevor MacKenzie, (@trev_mackenzie), and Kim Meldrum (@MeldrumKim) present and leading sessions. Lisa’s grassroots idea to build a culture of collaboration with TeachersGiveTeachers was perhaps the best thing I saw at the Summit. Overall, this was a fantastic event. If there is ever an EdTechTeam Summit near you, I’d encourage you to attend! They happen pretty frequently all around the world, so make the effort to get to one of them! You are guaranteed to leave a Summit full of inspiration and new ideas.
by Randy Fairfield, 11/25/16
One of my favorite TED Talks is Simon Sinek’s, “Start with Why”. I was introduced to this video shortly before presenting at EdmodoCon 2015 and it radically challenged how and what I decided to share during my presentation. The talk also helped me calm down right before I was about to present! Instead of worrying about what I was going to say, I simply focused on why I was there and what it was that caused me to submit my proposal to present in the first place. Here’s the video:
In the vein of “starting with why”, here’s some of my thoughts on why technology integration in the classroom matters as summed up by my tweets and re-tweets from this past year. Which of these reasons resonates most with you? I’d also love to hear some of your thoughts on Twitter if you’re open to sharing! Just tweet me at @RandyFairfield and you’re sure to get a reply.
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) October 23, 2016
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) August 25, 2016
— David Geurin (@DavidGeurin) August 15, 2016
— Google For Education (@GoogleForEdu) July 30, 2016
Will the Internet of Things be bigger than the Industrial Revolution? https://t.co/D4kKmWoSbh
— NCCE (@NCCE_EdTech) August 18, 2016
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) August 11, 2016
— David Geurin (@DavidGeurin) June 22, 2016
— MindShift (@MindShiftKQED) June 12, 2016
8 of the top 10 emerging technologies are Engineering!
Choose Maths A Level for millions of careers pic.twitter.com/52BypkHLVP
— ElecEng_Lboro (@WillWhittow) June 11, 2016
— Katrina Keene (@teachintechgal) May 31, 2016
Here's some motivation to get that college education: https://t.co/n0gpRIBlck
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) May 10, 2016
The jobs of the future require literacy in technology as well as critical thinking and problem solving skills! https://t.co/acBI7xVNbY
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) May 6, 2016
These Will Be The Top Jobs In 2025 (And The Skills You'll Need To Get Them)https://t.co/Ux61ImxQRz
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) April 1, 2016
— Brandi Snow (@cheer4tech) March 21, 2016
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) February 22, 2016
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) February 22, 2016
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) February 16, 2016
— Bryan Mathers (@BryanMMathers) January 12, 2016
— Joel Comm (@joelcomm) January 22, 2016
— Think with Google (@ThinkwithGoogle) November 24, 2015
The cashier at McDonald's is now obsolete. Jobs of the future require CREATIVITY and CRITICAL THINKING. pic.twitter.com/1zPOS5jlG0
— Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler) November 12, 2015
— Lee Araoz (@LeeAraoz) September 12, 2015
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) August 21, 2015
— edutopia (@edutopia) June 20, 2015
— KAPP-KVEW (@KAPPKVEW) February 3, 2014
by Randy Fairfield, 11/8/16
What is your name?
Are you currently a Google for Education Certified Trainer?
What is your official job title?
Technology/Instructional Classroom Support Teacher. I was hired with the original title, but the first two words were later removed due to shifting administrative vision.
How long have you been in your current role?
What was your previous role?
Classroom teacher (ELA/SS) in two very different alternative school settings. One was a dropout recovery school, and the other was a parent partnership program with students who primarily came from a home school background.
How did you first hear about your current role?
I interviewed for a literacy coach position I didn’t want and heavily focused on how I could serve as a technology/instructional coach. The head of human resources told me I gave a great interview, but it was for the wrong job–which was exactly what I intended. The following year my district created the position I was looking for and encouraged me to apply. 🙂
Who or what most influenced you to become an instructional technology coach?
Google Apps for Education and Edmodo helped me transform from a mediocre teacher to a distinguished teacher. I hated leaving the classroom, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a broader impact on the field of education by spreading my passion. While I sort of paved my own way into the role I was hired for in my district, it was Google for Education Certified Trainers Allison Mollica and Kristina Wambold that opened my eyes to the “treasure trove” of opportunity out there.
To prepare for this role, did you participate in any formal education/training?
I hadn’t really had much in the way of formal education/training to prepare for the role I’m in now, though I’ve taken a great deal of pedagogy-focused professional development since moving into the role. After seeing the power of educational technology in the classroom, I turned down three full-time jobs to take a half-time job at a school that was open to innovation. It was a financially risky move for my family and me, and—instead of subbing the other half of the time like I was supposed to—I would go and hole up in the public library to hone my craft. The personal learning network I developed through Twitter, Google+, and reading blogs was important in my development, but what helped the most in terms of developing the technical skill required for the position was simply taking the initiative to explore myself. When I went to the Seattle Summit Featuring Google Apps for Education last year, I discovered I already knew the bulk of what the presenters were sharing and I decided then and there that I wanted to join their ranks!
Outside of your core role, please describe any other responsibilities you regularly take on.
I am developing the website for my school using Google Sites, have taken on the roles of AVID Site Co-Coordinator and ATP Co-Chair (for parent engagement), and also serve as a mentor teacher in my building.
Please list any top resources (websites, publications, online forums, etc.) for getting important information or learning content relevant to your role.
Google+, Twitter, and various blogs are helpful. I find myself sometimes looking at other resources by Google for Education Certified Trainers. I especially appreciate Eric Curts’s and Alice Keeler’s blogs. I always learn something from the demo slams hosted by Lee Webster too. I also enjoy sharing my expertise and am working hard to be a resource for others as well.
What is the most challenging aspect of this role?
Many of the people I work with—particularly administrators—simply don’t know what they don’t know. It often seems to me that the IT folks don’t have much of a grasp on the instructional side of things, and the instructional folks often aren’t ready to embrace technology. The challenging role I have attempted to play in the past is to bridge the gap between these two groups, but the lack of a growth mindset from both sides sometimes leaves me frustrated. As such, I have shifted my focus to teachers that have expressed a willingness to learn. The only response I’ve ever gotten from teachers is, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing. Why haven’t I heard about this before? Can we get more training?” The power of the tools to enhance instruction and transform learning is an easy sell to those with an open mind.
How would you change this role to be more rewarding?
I was just listening to an interview of Robert Gottlieb (a well-known editor and writer) on The Diane Rehm Show the other day on NPR. Gottlieb said a few things that resonated with me immediately. He said, “All I wanted to do was the work. I wanted to be a part of it. It was so much fun…. What I came to realize was that I loved to be in a collaborative situation with like-minded people…. I didn’t really have much of a family…. I’ve spent the rest of my life creating families around me…. I never really differentiated between where I worked and my office where I had fun.”
I wish I felt more of that in my workplace, but instead I often feel that the skill set I bring to the table is incredibly under-utilized in my district and in my building. Unfortunately, providing teachers with professional development on the tools that have been dropped in their lap has not been a priority in the place I’m at. I still scratch my itch by getting up at 5:00 AM almost daily, creating tutorials, posting on my website, and presenting at conferences, but I wish I had more of an opportunity to do what I love where I’m at.
What are the main professional objectives in your role?
○ Present to staff on introducing new technologies in the classroom
○ Train/coach teachers on new technologies
○ Train/coach teachers specifically on Google tools
○ Work with school leadership to plan for change management
○ Act as technology expert / IT support at my school site/district
• Other: Implement our student-centered coaching model
What metrics (if any) do you track to measure your progress towards your goal?
○ Number of teachers trained/coached
○ Hours of training/coaching sessions
○ Google Educator Level 1 or Level 2 Certifications
• Student performance outcomes
○ Percentage of product adoption
○ No metrics
Have you set a concrete goal around your objective? If yes, please elaborate. (ex. By end of academic year, I hope to get the entire school site using Google Drive)
My evaluator said the only goal I needed to have for last year in my role was to “just survive.” We are expected to measure the overall impact of our coaching by looking at student pre- and post-assessment data, and while I get that student performance outcomes are the bottom line, I see some of the other metrics listed above as incredibly useful in measuring my overall impact as well. I also feel that it’s hard to look good and learn new things at the same time, which is why measuring the immediate impact on student learning might not be the best measure of the impact of my coaching when a teacher is trying to learn how to integrate technology into their classroom.
When do you feel most successful? Please describe.
I feel the most successful when I am able to support a teacher in becoming a more effective integrator of technology in the classroom. I realize it takes most teachers a significant amount of time and training, but helping a teacher get to the point where they reach the sweet center of the TPACK framework is incredibly rewarding for me. I believe—and research supports this idea—that quality professional development for teachers can have some of the greatest impact on student learning.
I also feel successful when I know I have left someone with the spark and the initial oomph they need to get going with integrating technology into their classroom. I love it when trainees leave a session I’ve led with a look of inspiration and wonder because I know that means they are going to follow through and start doing some amazing things. I know because I’ve seen it!
What is your next dream role?
I would love to be able to get on with a team of edtech trainers and spend more of my time delivering professional development. I have spent a lot of time getting certifications and getting my name out there in the edtech community over the past year and will continue to do so. I am not the type to sit back and wait for things to happen for me, so if a team doesn’t come knocking on my door I will most likely try and build one myself.
Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard for me to narrow my focus because I love doing so many things: web development, blogging, delivering training, creating tutorials, district planning, etc. Because I love the process of learning new things and because I have such a diverse skill set, I know I often fail to fully utilize my strengths. I am hoping to get better about that… but I want to learn Google Scripts, PHP, and MySQL too, on top of ninety other things. Utilizing my strengths, scratching my itch to learn, being an amazing husband and father, and sleeping sometimes feel like competing interests that I try my best to manage.
My latest passion, however, has been developing Google Sites for Schools. I really think that having a Google Site as a centerpiece and digital hub of activity can be incredibly beneficial for a school that’s “gone Google.”
What else (if anything) would you like the Google Apps for Education team to know about people in your role?
I think that sometimes people in my role can get so narrowly focused on the use of technology that they forget the importance of using it to enhance research-based, pedagogically sound practices. I hope that the Google for Education team will continue to keep their ears to the ground and look for avenues to make sure they are listening to top educators about how Google products can best support instruction and student learning.