Archive for January, 2008|Monthly archive page

ITI Journal #2: Roles and Responsibilities of a Peer Coach

(This article was first published on my old blog in August 2006, and has been revised for publishing on this site.) 

The roles and responsibilities of a peer coach are many and varied. A peer coach within one school may have a particularly different job description to that of another in another school. Five common areas of responsibility can include coaching, organising, managing, professional development and technical support.

My current role within my school is of a classroom teacher. I teach year 7. I also have the responsibility of being the subject co-ordinator for Design and Technology within the school. This involves an increased workload and more responsibility in an area that covers every student and most teachers within the school.

Some of the roles and responsibilities that are listed as common for peer coaches I do already, be it just for myself or voluntarily within my school as something I feel is important that we share. For example, I am often finding resources – websites, software, lesson ideas etc and emailing fellow teachers about it (in and outside of my school). Alongside this, I am often placing things on the school network that can be of benefit to others. For me, teaching is about sharing ideas, resources and pedagogy – that in turn will benefit everyone that we come into contact with within our professional lives. I have also held a number of insets on basic Microsoft products to interested staff at the school. These were particularly popular and were deemed a success by those that attended. Taking on the role of a peer coach, if only through the requirments of this post graduate subject, I will be formalising some of the roles I unofficially, and freely participate in already.

The challenges that I may face in taking on some peer coaching responsibilities include the time available to myself and the candidate/s I coach. I tend to do a lot of what I do in my own time, and do so because I enjoy what I do. Finding “official” time to properly conduct some of these coaching sessions will be a delicate balance decided upon by myself and the candidate/s. I expect there will be minimal “in-school” time offered to do all this, not so much because there is a lack of support within the school (because there is not), but because I am taking on this post grad study in my own time and off my own conscience. I am not expecting anything in return. Of course, if the Senior Management Team were to offer support in terms of time off class, it would certainly be something that I would happily consider. I expect class class access to the ICT suite will obviously be determined by which allocated lessons we receive and then which “free” sessions we can acquire each week. It will certainly be a bit of a balancing act, involving some negotiating with other staff within the school, but certainly something we can get around successfully.

Going through the characteristics of a peer coach, I found I was ticking most of the boxes under each of the five areas that I noted above. Predominantly I cover all of the roles set out for coaching and organising things within my school (if even unofficially, and freely in my own time). I cover some of the aspects of management and professional development, but no technical support, other than simple problems that may arise in my classroom or in other colleagues, but nothing at all official. However I am known throughout my school for my knowledge and skills in this area and always offer my help and advice whenever it is sought.

I look forward to suggesting the concept of peer coaching to some of my colleagues. I expect it will be done at a fairly unofficial level, as it is purely to meet my needs within this course. Although, my hope is that staff within the school will see and hear about what we are doing and consider the benefits of possibly officially incorporating such a system in coming school years. Time will tell.

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ITI Journal entry #1: Peer Coaching

(This post of mine originally appeared on my old blog, but with me resuming my post grad studies that I had to halt a short time into the course, I am now going to post it again.)

 

Professional development programs exist as a number of models and forms. The most popular would probably have to be the ‘inset’ or ‘workshop’, where the staff member goes off to an externally held workshop or class and receives what would normally be a crash course of some description, usually associated with a particular key learning area or subject. I’m no stranger to them. They offer what is often an expertly delivered day-long course in a given topic area, which I can then take back to school and feedback to those interested parties at school.

Obviously in this case, I benefit most because I was the one to attend the inset. Then a small percentage of the knowledge I have gained from attendance is then passed on to my colleagues that will also benefit from the information.

I can certainly see the weaknesses that lie within this style of professional development. The cost effectiveness of the delivery of information, time restrictions associated with feeding back the information and ultimately the reduction in benefit to students the further along that feeback is passed. There has to be a better way.

Insets definately have a place within any professional development program, but there also needs to be a culmination of other ways in how we as teachers pass on the new ideas and methodologies we encounter.

Peer Coaching, known of many other names, no doubt, is in my opinion an untapped resource rich in information, skills and pedagogy. We all do it to some extent already, but formalising its approach could definately give a boost to the sharing of ideas and skills amongst fellow teachers. I have always found that sharing resources and ideas amongst my peers to be of benefit not only to them, but also to me because of the follow-on effect when they start sharing what they come across as well. Culminated with the immediacy of sending links and resources over email or on shared spaces within the school intranet, it is not long before we are truly maximising what we know and find for the greater good of all those around us – and ultmately for the children we teach.

As such, there is no official form of peer coaching within my school, but a fair amount of “sharing” takes place, particularly amongst those staff that have regular use of email and the school intranet resources. Other forms of knowledge sharing take place in the form of weekly 1-hour insets on Monday afternoons where a different topic, issue or task is set upon. Regularly some of these insets are set aside for smaller group sessions, and feedback sessions from those staff that have been on some of the external insets and workshops.

By formalising the peer coaching ideals within my school, particularly in the area of ICT and its integration into the classroom, I feel that many more students will ultimately benefit from the skill development taking place amongst the staff. Unfortunately, the vast amount of technology available within the school it not used nearly enough for simply lack of skill and confidence with it. Peer Coaching will offer a non-threatening peer-to-peer means of sharing our own skills with other staff members who can then practice with the technologies throughout the school, make mistakes occasionally, but ultimately become more familiar and confident with its use.

Using Popular Culture in the Classroom

 

I stumbled accross this video report from the Australian Today Tonight current affairs program. I have been able to watch a number of episodes of Summer Heights High and find it funny. I always endeavour to try and incorporate whatever I can from what my kids at school are watchig or listening to in their own time, but obviously it always comes down to what is generally appropriate for their ages etc.

 I was very impressed that it was noted in the report that it isn’t the actual episodes themselves that make them good for classroom discussions, but how the teachers choose to make use of them. The same can very well be said about technology as well – You can have all the latest technology resources available to you as a teacher, but it won’t make you a better teacher. The technology (or in this case, the episodes of Summer Heights High) is merely a tool that can be used by good teachers.

Podcasting in the classroom – Prequel

Since BETT last weekend, I have certainly been keen to imagine new ideas of how technology can be integrated into my classroom. I’ve begun playing around with recording my own voice (just speaking, mind you!) and have attempted to load up my very first podcast!

 I’ve managed to upload it directly on my wiki (another experiment in progress), but am struggling to seamlessly upload here on my blog as well….Does anyone have any advice on how I could get it working simply on this wordpress?

 Until I am magically able to put it up here on my blog (if I am ever able to, that is!), a simple link will have to do. So without further ado, please go to www.sparcoz.wikispaces.com and check out my very first podcast!

If you BETT, You might just win stuff!

On the weekend, I made my way to BETT, an educatinal technology show in London Olympia, where all the latest gadgets, ideas, software, hardware and systems were out on show for like minded folk. I’d never been to any of these shows before and didn’t really know what to expect. Getting around to many of the stands ended up taking me most of the day- and interesting, it certainly was!

It has motivated me to start experimenting with wikis and podcasting in school and also gave me the oppotunity to sign up for a number of trials of some cool software systems etc at school. There’ll no doubt be plenty for me to blog about in the coming weeks!

The highlight of my day though, would certainly be the fact that having entered a competition at the SMART stand, I actually won the first prize of a state of the art SMART interactive whiteboard system, worth £3000 plus! I’m even more excited with the prospects that my school doesn’t need it (we already have an excess!) and I will be able to look into selling it as soon as it arrives.

Having said this, I have to admit having had my own moral dilemma about the whole thing – considering whether I should just give it to school etc etc…. But ultimately have come to the conclusion with consultation with my headteacher.

Writing to Persuade – Just Add Spice!

I began doing some work with my class today which will lead them to writing their own speech and written text involving  the art of persuasion to put their points of view across.

Initially we began by brainstorming what makes up a “healthy school”, an issue and buzzword that has been bouncing around schools in this country for a number of years now.  The task led to me mentioning that like any good campaign (be it political or advertising), you need a good punch line or slogan to drive home your message.

 It gave me an exciting opportunity to show a number of television advertisements via YouTube that would not only show clever use of slogans, but also other mechanisms adopted as a means of persuading the consumer they target.

It led to some good discussion on how in some cases the slogan played a vital role in selling the product, and in other cases it was more a matter of using other devises, such as using gimmicks, celebrities and other enticements to sell the brands. One popular tv ad was a recent Tesco campaign which included the Spice Girls.

The videos opened the floor to a lot of good discussions about the different tactics of some other different brands being promoted, and of course the range of different ways that could be seen. If nothing else, it got the kids excited about coming up with their own slogan to bring home their own arguments for the speeches they are about to write.

Nike Plus Running With Me

  I’m right into my training to run the London marathon on April 13. Special mention needs to be made to the fantastic Nike Plus system which links the statistics involved with my running activites and my iPod into one system, which then is linked to a recording system on the internet. Here I can track my runs, keep a running total of my runs and average pace, and even set myself running goals.

Here are a few screen shots: