ITI Journal #10: Further reflection and the Trust model

The trust model is essentially key to the way I would like to think those I work with think about me. Especially in the area of ICT the wrong kind of person can become a bit cocky and maybe even arrogant. I believe this is the biggest fear our other staff have – initially they are predisposed to the idea that “we” know a lot – probably a lot more than they will ever comprehend – hence the fear of technology and/or lack of skills. I believe it is important to proactively convince those around us this is not the case, and indeed we do show the different elements shown in the trust model.

In regards to my peer coaching last semester, I believe I could have been more proactive in getting things done. Time was essentially a large element of why my own progress in this project was limited, and also with clearer actions in the beginning I may be able to claim more success than what I actually do. Having said that, I worked closely with 2 members of staff, and we did complete some smaller-scale elements of peer coaching. I hope to be able to further develop this when we return to school in September.

ITI Journal #9: Reflection of My Peer Coaching

I feel my own plan for peer coaching over the last 6 months was not put entirely into practice for a number of reasons, however to a certain extent it did still exist, if only at a smaller scale to what was anticipated. Understandably the main reason for this evolves around the situation of my school only just amalgamating this academic year, and I expect I’ll be able to do more with the project in the coming academic year when we return in September. I also feel that now taking on the role of ICT co-ordinator will also empower me to take a more active role in this area, rather than just be seen as a teacher who knows a lot about ICT – To a certain degree I can now be more active in this area without being concerned about stepping into someone elses domain.

With the thought of evaluating what I have already done with peer coaching in the last six months, my main concern is centered around whether I have done enough to properly be evaluated. No doubt, with a bit of creative genius in this area I will be able to come up with something. I haven’t really formally evaluated a project like this before beyond the thinking and discussing stages. To be writing something down will take it all to a new level. However, I look forward to the challenges ahead and the experience in general, as no doubt, it will be a very beneficial learning curve for me.

ITI Journal #8: Creating a WebQuest for My Classroom

I generally do not have a problem with integrating technology into my classroom, so I don’t expect that incorporating a WebQuest into my classroom will be a major problem.  The children in my class are used to me using different forms of technology with them, so I would also expect they are quite open to the idea of something new.

I haven’t reallty designed a complete “proper” webquest before, although I have designed a simple “fact finding” kind of sorts, in which the children responded very well to. Following the appropriate templates, I expect quite confidently I will be able to produce a good webquest.

ITI Journal #7: Problem and project based learning

There are many exciting avenues to be explored when considering problem and project based learning for the classroom. I cannot say that it is a regular occurrance in my own classroom, but what I can say is when I have facilitated this sort of learning experience with my students they have gained a lot out of it. It brings the students and the classroom to life, and work is produced that the students feel extremely proud about.

There are clearly some key factors that need to be considered before embarking on any learning activity such as this. Key to everything is preparation. And there is usually quite a bit of it if the activity is going to be of any success. If the teacher is not prepared completely, then children will be led up and along paths that may not have been paved yet, creating potential hazards such as children heading off-task or becoming bored and disinterested while waiting to find out what comes along next. I also believe that the experience needs to be planned to great detail to ensure that students are engaged right throughout, and not just “interested” in what they are doing. The expectations of the work they will produce, their audiences and the way they go about putting all these together needs to be carefully planned out to ensure that students can maximise the use of the time given to them. I’ve sensed it can be far too easy for expectations  not to be defined clearly enough and what follows is sub-standard work for students who have far more potential.

Ultimately I believe the more project based work students do throughout their schooling, the better they become at taking part in such activities, with follow-on effects in their ability to plan their own projects, research and produce work of their own in the future. 

ITI Journal #6: Online Resources

There is a plethora of resources available out there on the World Wide Web. The daunting task is distinguishing the fantastic from the futile. I’m always keen to check out new websites and resources that I come across on the Internet, and the emergence of Web 2.0 only feeds my excitement about the endless possibilities available to me as a teacher and on a broader level, as a professional. The important thing to remember is that we try and keep on top of whats new in terms of online resources on the Internet, and not become complacent with the “good enough” ones we already have.

It’s always interesting to have new websites referred to me by friends, family and colleagues and as such, I think I am fairly well placed in that regard. In return I like to think of myself as someone who is always happy to share resources I stumble across as well. Hopefully, for the purposes of this subject, I will be beginning to place a range of the online resources I have come across and/or often use on a page attached to this blog. That way, it is a simple matter of directing anyone who is interested to that page for reference.

ITI Journal #5: Personal Coaching Portfolio

The word ‘portfolio’ brings a vast number of images to mind. I’m thinking large black plastic folders containing drawings and artworks, and plastic sleeve folders containing A4 sheets of paper containing something or other of interest to someone. I don’t really have a particular idea of what my own “personal coaching portfolio” should be looking like. I try to picture how it can be used and this does help me a little.

Firstly I would want it to be adjustable. It’s not exactly something that will ever be ‘finished’ as such, so I need to be able to alter it at any given time. So with this in mind I think it needs to be digital in some way, and not in paper form.

Secondly, I want it to be accessible. I don’t want it locked into a hard drive or CD somewhere where it ultimately will metaphorically collect dust. If I am going to put my time and effort into putting such a portfolio together I would like to think that I, and indeed others, will be able to easily access it. This leads me to want to have it placed online, and linked to my blog here is an ideal example. This way I can access it at any time to add or edit its contents, and any interested persons can also have easy access to the information contained within it.

 Initially I expect the portfolio will contain mainly links to external websites or other resources I have played around with over time. Right now I can think of three sub-sections, namely: (a) content specific websites, (b) tools for the classroom, and (c) real-time examples, which I anticipate would be examples of how I have made use of some of the tools for the classroom (e.g. my class wikis, podcasting, presentations etc).

Until I can begin to see it form and mould as I enter different links and resources, I’m really not completely sure how the finished product will look. But in saying that, I’ve just answered my own query – there will be no ‘finished’ product as such, because it will continue to evolve as new resources and links become known to me. Ultimately it will be editing the whole thing that could be a bit of a nightmare.

ITI Journal #4: The Coaching Cycle

The coaching cycle; assessing, setting goals, preparing, implementing and reflecting/debriefing seems a simple set of guidelines. It could be associated with so many things – general teaching practice, incorporating any new classroom practice or school project. As such the ideas within the cycle do seem a familiar concept that I have come across through university studies and other professional development experiences. To be used in association with incoporating a peer coaching plan though, is a different story and is new to me.

 As time goes by I’m getting more comfortable with the idea of introducing this all to my colleagues, and working collaboratively with them. The initial meeting should be an interesting experience, because I will finally be able to put some of my hypothetical ideas to comparison with what points come from the participating teachers.

I expect I will be finding myself consulting with peers within the forums for this subject and with others that I am in contact with throughout the school (including my superiors) and outside of my school environment. Just like with the participating teachers, I think it important that we all have a support network of peers and likeminded people that we can turn to in times of need, or just when we want to bounce an idea or two off. After all, peer coaching is essentially a collaborative effort where we all learn from each other.

ITI Journal #3: Peer Coaching and My School

 Peer coaching, as an official professional development activity does not really currently have a place within my school on a larger scale. It does have a place for Newly Qualified Teachers, where they have a mentor for the year. But as a whole school approach, nothing currently officially exists.

That’s not to say that peer coaching does not take place. On an unofficial, more casual level it certainly exists and actually has quite a large role to play. Our staff are quite a close bunch of professionals and a lot of time is spent talking with each other and bouncing ideas, sharing resources and the like. The dialogue that takes place is what contributes to a shared role in what we as teachers are doing within our own classrooms.

Introducing this form of professional development into the school will pose some great opportunities but also possible difficulties. In particular, there is great scope for some collaborative projects among some of the staff, but time and resources will pose some potential hurdles.

I am always keen to share resources and ideas amongst my colleagues, and to some extend have become known, amongst other staff, and a contributor of sorts, within our little professional community. As such, I honestly do not feel there would be any conflicting actions or feelings from other staff in respect to any perceived change in my behaviour in regards to introducing this peer coaching program on a quasi-official level. I say “quasi-official” because my intent is that it will be run at a relatively low key level initially and be evaluated throughout at at the end of the 12 month period.

Initially, I have one or two colleagues in mind that I would like to work with, based on what I know about their confidence with the integration of technology into their classrooms. I will though, hope to open to suggestion to all staff, keeping in mind that I will want to run it on  relatively low key philosophy. As such those that wish to participate will need to be happy with the idea of doing much of the collaborative work within in their own time (as would I). 

Technology in the Classroom: Friend or Foe?

I came across a forum here in regards to how teachers feel about technology integration in the primary classroom. It’s obvious opinions vary. Here’s what I wrote:

I find it quite amusing how people tend to swing in either direction of this debate. You find teachers who are willing to jump full-swing into the use of these technology tools in the classroom, and then you get those that are adamant that their teaching hasn’t been a problem in the last 10-20 years, so why should it change now?I have no doubt that the tools given to us can be a fantastic resource, not only for the staff development within the school, but for each child’s individual education. I also say confidently that all the technology tools in the world will not make a “bad” teacher “good”. As a matter of fact, badly used technology in the classroom can be detrimental. To be a successful educator, successfully integrating technology into the classroom, you must already be a successful teacher first and foremost.

So where does the problem lie? Some would say a significant proportion of teachers in today’s classrooms are afraid of the unknown, unwilling to accept that with new technologies will come an increased workload. No-one that knows what they are talking about will deny that learning to appropriately use and maximise the opportunities offered by these resources will certainly take more preparation time, if only in the intial stages of discovering the resource.

Ultimately, it all comes down to staff training. If a school is serious about wanting to successfully integrate these forms of technology into our classrooms, then it needs to put its money and time where its mouth is. And I don’t refer to mere one-day CPD insets. It all needs to be about on the job training and coaching from someone in the know, two professionals working collaboratively to achieve common goals. This way, each staff member’s CPD in this area can be personally tailored to exactly what they want to find out, and how it can specifically help them in their classroom. When the professional development systems such as this are in place, then and only then can our schools truly be maximising the potential of these fantastic education tools.

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.