Collaboration, Kuwait, Professional Development

Empowering is difficult

Part of my job involves teaching and supporting teachers in learning new technologies. In my 3.5 years here, this has included apps (iMovie, Keynote, etc), online gradebooks, blogs, Google Apps and more. Every time I work with a teacher I have to make the conscious effort NOT to do everything for them. Sometimes this is easier than others.

It’s not uncommon for me to walk into a classroom and have the teacher offer me their seat at the computer. I never allow this to happen and make it clear (in a caring way) that they will be the ones doing the work and I will simply be talking them through the steps (coaching!). Many times it would be infinitely faster if I just took over and made all the clicks. When it’s especially frustrating and time consuming I have to physically & mentally force myself to stay away from the mouse (or other device). What I could do in 10 minutes might take an hour to walk a teacher through (like my most recent experience that prompted this reflection).

straitjacket-rear

I have to focus on a couple things to help me keep my hands to myself:

  • I am a coach and a teacher. Neither coaches nor teachers do the work for athletes or students. Instead we provide learning experiences to allow our students (whoever they might be) to grow. I am doing my job well if I there is a gradual release and the teachers need less assistance next time.
  • The excitement that teachers (inevitably) feel when they, not me, have accomplished something. When I am leaving the classroom and the teacher is profusely thanking me, I have to make sure they understand that this accomplishment was theirs, not mine. Being present to see the process and completion of a task is a powerful experience that I have to keep at the forefront of my mind when I’m most frustrated.

My job is about empowering, not doing. It can be incredibly frustrating (and time consuming) but also so rewarding. And that is what makes me love teaching and coaching teachers. #gratitude

Google, Professional Development

Oman #GAFEsummit – a whirlwind!

After spending spring break in Oman last year, it is now one of Jeff and I’s favorite countries. We love it. When Jim & Marcello asked if we wanted to come to the EdTechTeam Summit…we were all in!

Now that the craziness of the last 2 days is over, I’m sitting here in our hotel room enjoying the view and reflecting on the Summit before we fly back to Kuwait tonight.

IMG_9509

Friday we had a great time checking participants in – I really enjoyed starting the summit off with this kind of energy and connection! I’m just bummed I didn’t have time for the photo booth 🙂 I had two sessions on Friday (slide decks embedded below). Most of the pictures in my slide decks are links. I’ve been doing the Harnessing the Power of Google series for a couple years now and it’s always a good time. I found the participants at this Summit engaged and excited about learning. I loved reading my feedback on Friday evening – the positivity and realness was much appreciated.

By the end of the day I was exhausted and not really sure how I was going to make it through Saturday. Then I woke up Saturday morning and realized I was presenting during 3 of the 4 sessions and doing the closing keynote. Whoa. I was a little nervous I was going to fall over from exhaustion at some point. But the energy & excitement of the participants kept me going and I made it through! My two unique sessions are embedded below.

I’m always looking for more recent examples to share of how world language teachers are using Google Apps in the classroom – please contact me and I’d love to include the cool things you’re doing in your classrooms 🙂

My goal for the Hangouts session is that everyone leaves having participated in 2 successful Hangouts – one On Air lead by me and one of their choice, initiated by them. It’s a hands-on session where we experience lots of bugs in hopes that next time they try it will be smooth and they can start thinking about how to use Hangouts in their classes. I wish I could carry around a box of headphones for this session.

Jim contacted me Tuesday (yes, 3 days before the Summit) and asked if I would give the closing keynote. Freaking out ensued:image1

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Christina‘s response made me laugh at first…and then the more I thought about it, the more genius the idea sounded. I started brainstorming, moved to an outline and then just wrote. I asked for advice from my UKSTL & COETAIL mentors on giving keynotes and bounced ideas off of a few people (huge thanks to everyone!). By 4:15pm Friday I had a slide deck and keynote ready. There were definitely some growing pains! When I gave the keynote it was the first time I’d ever read through the entire thing out loud. A couple minutes in Jeff helped me remember to breathe and slow down. I wouldn’t have been able to get through it without having the speaker notes with the timer going. Working on memorizing it will be a huge plus for the future. I have a lot to work on but it felt really good to get the first one under my belt!

Thanks to everyone involved for a great weekend! We’ll be back Oman 🙂

TAISM & the mountains
TAISM & the mountains
Google, Kuwait, Professional Development

Year 3 of PEAK

This weekend I participated in the Professional Educators Around Kuwait conference for the 3rd year in a row. I did 2 sessions in 2012, 3 sessions in 2013 and 4 sessions this year. It was a full day!

Each year PEAK moves to a different school in Kuwait so each year it’s a little different. In 2012 I learned that I needed to be in computer labs. Last year I learned that I would gain the most professionally by presenting during all 4 sessions. This year I learned that it’s quite difficult to run a workshop in 45 minutes.

My first session of the day was Making the Web Work for You. After waking up at 6am on a Saturday, I was a little disorganized. It was the second time I’ve done this workshop and I much preferred having an hour. If I do this session again I want to allow participants to create the account of their choice at the end. I still want them to be active during (check out #edchat, discuss, etc) but it’s difficult to get people back when they sign up for an account in the middle of the session (and you never know what kind of technical issues you’re going to have). This woud also allow them to choose which account to create (Twitter, Diigo, Pinterest, etc). and explore with. The slide deck below is slightly updated from last year.

My next two sessions were my two-part Harnessing the Power of Google for Educators & for Collaboration. I was SO pumped that Google Spreadsheet Add-ons can finally be triggered on submission (from a Form) again! I love having attendees fill out a form & automatically receive all the resources in an email. The biggest change I made in the Educators session was not having them sign up for a GMail/Google account. A pushed it to the end in case we had time (we didn’t) but most people already had some sort of Google account already. This allowed them more time to explore & ask questions.

Personally I enjoy the Collaboration session more than the Educators session. Although I love helping educators see how GAFE can save them time & energy, I really enjoy the possibilities for working together. However the Educators session is always first and tends to get more people. The best is when they’re 4-hour sessions 😉 Scunching Collaboration into 45 minutes was tough but I think people still got some good stuff out of it!

My last (and maybe favorite) session was Creating a Globally Connected Classroom. It’s a brand new session and the first time that I presented with my sister! We developed the presentation together and presented it as a teacher-coach team. It was the last session of the day (after a 50-minute break) and we only had 3 people. But it was freakin’ great. They were totally into the topic and inspired that someone in Kuwait was actually doing this. I can’t wait to try this session again soon!

Overall the day was a success. I had a lot of great conversations and learned more about each of my sessions that will help me perfect them in the future. I only wish I had had more time to collect information in order to stay in touch with people who attended my workshops.

Coming soon: Edcamp in Kuwait, GAFE Summits in Oman & Qatar 🙂

iOS, Kuwait

Community walk

In November, I participated in a Community Walk with one of our Grade 2 classes as part of their ‘Where We Are in Place and Time’ unit of inquiry. Their teacher, Ms. Kira, is currently working on her International Teaching Certificate and IB level 1 award and this was part of her course requirements.

In groups of 2 (each with an adult supervisor), students walked around the community near our school for 30 minutes. The majority of our students do not live near the school so this was a new experience for them. Their goal was to take pictures of the community and interview someone in order to learn about life in the community. Shahad and Lulwa were ready to go with their interview questions (2 pages!) and iPad.

They wandered around a bit before finding a man working at a bakala (convenience store) who agreed to answer their questions.

They had two full pages of questions that were…quite interesting and definitely detailed! Although I did have to help focus them, it was really fun to see them interact with a local community member in both Arabic and English.

They took pictures and videos using their school iPads during their walk in order to create a presentation for their classmates and parents. Afterwards, they ended up creating a 6 minute long Explain Everything…it was a struggle to watch. The heart was there but it was a time when the technology seemed to inhibit the demonstration of their learning. Explain Everything just has a few too many tools for 2nd graders. But I was also impressed that they did the video all by themselves (I had my suspicions about some of the other groups).

Overall I really enjoyed being a part of this experience and hope I can be more involved next year! Kira asked me to reflect further on the experience:

Explain how you believe the Community contributed to the cultural life of your school and how it contributed to the local community.

  • Most of our students don’t live in the community of the school. Being forced to actually go out and explore this community helped the students understand what life is like here. The saw the stark differences from what they’re used to seeing where they live. Walking around the community was not a normal part of their everyday lives and took courage on behalf of the students (and adults!). The walk helped our students become more open-minded and reflective. It also benefited the community – our school and the community are kept almost completely separate  99% of the time. This was a fantastic opportunity for the community to see and interact with the students at our school. It created a better understanding, both on the part of the school and the community, about what is on the other side of the walls. Our students took a risk to be communicators with adults in the community and were rewarded when those adults treated them with respect. Everyone learned something!

How did the Community Walk change your perception of the local community?

  • I enjoy interacting with the local businesses around our school (while still being conscious of my surroundings). Although I live in the community, our walk took us to streets that I do not often traverse. I enjoyed seeing the new businesses and how the employees interacted with the students. It was definitely a positive experience!
COETAIL, Collaboration, Professional Development

#Coetail Course 1 is done!

I can’t believe it’s already done! It went by so fast 🙂 I’ve already been able to meet fellow COETAIL-ers in person and love that my PLN is expanding exponentially. Although I’ve been “connected” for about 2 years, my PLN consisted of mostly American educators. COETAIL has given me the opportunity to connect with international educators around the globe and we’ve just begun!

Feel free to browse my Course 1 posts/reflections including my final project 🙂 (Bug all fixed thanks to Jeff Utecht!)

COETAIL, Kuwait, Professional Development, Reflector

I’m still here

I’ve been kind of absent on here. Instead I’ve been busy traveling, planning PD and reflecting for course 1 of COETAIL.

We’re still having Reflector issues and it’s not yet been rolled out for our entire staff. I’d love to get everything solved this year so we can make it 100% available next year.

Jeff and I are heading to Dubai next weekend for the Middle East GAFE Summit. I’ll have my presentation up for viewing pleasure next week.

I also have some draft posts that I need to finish. My goal is to finish those before we head to Thailand and NESA for Spring Break.

Kuwait, Professional Development

Teaching: A Love/Hate Relationship

Recently I read John Spencer‘s two part series “What I Forgot When I left the Classroom” (part 1, part 2). I’ve been thinking about my place in education ever since.

I grew up in a family full of educators and vowed I would never be a teacher. I majored in Chemistry and minored in French at college. I dabbled in working on a dude ranch, in a pharmaceutical lab and as an English assistant in France. I followed my husband to South Carolina and was substitute teaching while looking for a job in a chemistry lab. When a job to teach high school French fell in my lap, I took it. We needed money and I needed a job.

Three and a half short years later I’m certified to teach Chemistry and French but I’ve left the classroom. I’ve also moved halfway around the world to Kuwait. I’ve grown a ton as a person and would (mostly) do it the same again. I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be in the classroom and have even had the chance to teach some French this year. And I don’t know if I can go back. I’ve thought a lot about it and have created a short list…

Things I miss about the classroom:
1. Students. And the relationships that we were able to foster during 3 years of being “together.”
2. The ah-ha moment when a lesson comes together perfectly!

Things I don’t miss and still have nightmares about:
1. Grading.
2. The hard work of creating relationships with students.
3. Managing a classroom and cultivating respectful individuals.
4. Hours and hours spent lesson planning.
5. Creating tests and giving them.
6. Grading.
7. Proctoring standardized tests.
8. Interacting with angry parents.

The list could go on and I’ll probably add to it in the near future. I’m young and my career is in its toddler stage, but I still wonder about what the rest of my professional life will look like. Will I feel the pull back to the classroom? Will I stay involved with education technology? Will I stay in education?! I look forward to seeing what life has in store for me and looking back to see how I’ve grown.

For some other recent reflections…Sunday & today.

iOS, Kuwait, Professional Development

A Reflection on Tech Integration – SAMR

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with this whole technology integration initiative that is sweeping the world. Yesterday Jeff and I went into a 1st grade classroom to help them create word-webs and stories using their iPads. It didn’t go as smoothly as one would hope and by the end we were wondering if the technology made the project better.

This morning we were truly challenged as Technology Coaches – two elementary teachers are starting their final project for COETAIL and need to integrate technology into a unit plan. Unlike many teachers that we come into contact with they know about SAMR and want to attain the Redefinition level.
This is what our job is supposed to be…right? Integrating technology in a way that redefines education? I honestly can’t say we’ve done a ton of that this year. I often wonder how many technology coaches (or whatever you’d like to call us) are truly helping teachers CHANGE education through the use of technology. I’m not naive enough to think that it can happen for every task that a student completes…but how about once a unit? Once a month? I’d take once a year! So many people (me included) are quick to make suggestions for integrating technology (in our case iPads) – make movies, use Explain Everything, write blogs, etc. How often do we stop to think…and ask ourselves “Is technology making my lessons better?” and “Where am I on the continuum?” I’ve sat around tables with teachers who truly believe that they are redefining & transforming education when they are simply at the substitution stage. I am just as guilty of this too! There are thousands of education blogs out there boasting about the latest and greatest way technology is “changing” their classroom. But is it really?

So where do we (me, my school, you, your school, educators around the world) go with this? How do we ensure that technology isn’t just a band-aid? I’ve had this discussion with Jeff countless times. But how do we have this discussion with other teachers without stepping on toes and hurting feelings? We haven’t introduced the SAMR or TPACK models to staff yet because we think they’d be a little overwhelmed (have you read Nicholas Provenzano‘s rant?). We are also in limbo waiting to hear what our iPad initiative will look like next year. Do we introduce these models? If so, when?

Quality technology integration isn’t easy. It’s takes time, patience and lots of brain power. It takes CHANGING the way we teach. Are we ready for that?

Get started redefining…
Exploring the SAMR model (ECISD Technology)
Brief Intro to TPCK & SAMR (Dr. Ruben Puentedura)
Technology in Education: A Brief Video Intro (Dr. Ruben Puentedura)
More on SAMR (Dr. Ruben Puentedura)
Elementary example of SAMR
TPACK
TPACK Explained

This is in no way a complete list…please feel free to share more!

1:1, Collaboration, iOS, Kuwait

A Reflection on Tech Integration – Grade 1

A couple weeks ago a 1st grade teacher emailed us wanting to discuss how she could use the iPad in her lessons. I was the only tech coach available so I invited her up to the office. When I asked her about her objectives, she explained that she wanted the students to create word-webs to brainstorm for a story and then write their stories (individually). She wanted to give those with the iPads the option of using the iPad to brainstorm and create their stories. The two apps on our iPads that might be simple enough for 1st graders to create stories are Explain Everything and Keynote. We decided that my first session with the students would be to “teach” them how to use Explain Everything through the creation of their word-webs. I would then go back into the classroom a second time to help them create their stories.

Session 1 Reflection:
Jeff came with me to help teach the 10 students with iPads how to use Explain Everything. While we were with the iPad students, the teacher was in another part of the classroom with the rest of the students. Students without iPads were given a paper template to create their mind-maps. Students using Explain Everything had to create their own shapes before starting their brainstorm. It didn’t go quite as smoothly as one would have hoped.

After class, Jeff and I discussed how we could have done it differently. We knew we couldn’t just teach 1st grade students how to use Explain Everything through direct instruction. BUT the students were quite distracted by the technology. Many of them created great brainstorms, others never got past the stage of drawing their shapes. Looking back on it I would have changed several things:
*all students start with the classroom teacher to talk about brainstorming and create a class mind-map.
*all students make their first draft of their mind-map on paper using the teacher-created template.
*students with iPads then re-create their mind-maps using Explain Everything (with assistance from tech coaches).

Does this process take longer than without using technology? Yes. Is using technology making their stories better in the end? Maybe. That’s a big maybe and depends a lot on how the students use Explain Everything. When I was in the classroom my lesson plans involving students using technology usually took longer so students could become comfortable with the technology (device, app, etc). But the ultimate goal was to save time in the long-run and end with a better product and a deeper understanding of the concept. In revising this 1st grade lesson, students would be repeating the process of creating their mind-map (once on paper, once in the iPad). Maybe students would revise their paper draft when creating the iPad draft, allowing them to think of better ideas. The major purpose of the second draft would be getting them comfortable with Explain Everything so that they could then use the app to create their stories.

Session 2 Reflection:
Jeff and I went back into the classroom today to continue helping the students use their iPads to create stories. We thought we would mostly be helping them transfer their ideas into stories however the majority of the hour that we were there was a continuation of creating their word-webs. Once again students were distracted by the technology. By the end of the hour, most of the students with iPads had moved on to turning their ideas into stories. We weren’t exactly sure what the stories were supposed to look like, so we had students add slides to their Explain Everything word-web and write 1 sentence per slide.

After leaving the classroom Jeff and I began immediately debriefing and reflecting on the project and instruction. Did the technology cause the students to create better projects? No. The projects were of equal quality, if not worse, to what the students using paper created. Does this project still have potential to create something better? Maybe. After the students have finished their stories (with 1 sentence per slide), they could use the record feature of Explain Everything to make a product that the other students would not be able to make. Students would then have original stories (writing), with their own narration (reading) and the videos would be able to be shared with other students and parents. Is this possible in a 1st grade classroom? Maybe…with lots of practice and patience!

As technology coaches we need to make sure that we are always encouraging our teachers to use technology when appropriate. It is a TOOL that should be used when it is the BEST tool for the job. If paper and pencil are the best tools for the project…that’s okay! There is a fine line between quality technology integration and superfluous technology integration.