Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Coaching Conversations

What makes an effective coach? Marzano, Simms, Roy, Heflebower, and Warrick (2013) argues coaching must begin with conversations (p. 214). The authors outline four different types of conversations which can take place between a teacher and the coach. One type of conversation, “facilitating conversations are designed to aid a teacher in clarifying goals” (Marzano, Simms, Roy, Heflebower, & Warrick, 2013, p. 213). This has been my overarching goal as a tech coach this year while I am working with grade-level teams. Every fall I ask teachers to fill out a survey asking them their comfort level with certain tools. More importantly I also ask them what tech integration goals do they have for themselves for the year. During our first monthly team meeting, we review the survey results along with data from a student survey measuring growth which occurred the previous year. We discuss common themes and goals each individual on the team has in common with the other teachers on the team. We then select one or two goals to focus on and tackle during our monthly tech meetings as a team. During the conversations I am sure to ask “clarifying questions to help the teacher identify goals whose achievement will result in growth for the teacher” (Marzano, Simms, Roy, Heflebower, & Warrick, 2013, p. 213). This approach was greatly accepted and appreciated. Each team walked away from our September meeting knowing what and how we would use each meeting.
During the last couple of month’s sessions, we continued that conversation by focusing on the team’s goals. The goals ranged from using Seesaw, an iPad app, to deepen students’ understandings when they recorded their mathematical thinking to more practical sessions on using the interactive whiteboards in the classroom. For each session regardless of goal, I structured our time based on Aguilar (2013) “Arc of Coaching Conversation” (p. 238). This arc included six tasks:
  1. “Check in and chat.” (It’s important to me to get to know the teachers on a personal and professional level. I always start by finding out new joys and/or stresses in their life and at school. This helps me gear my coaching to them individually. Plus, I just really like the teachers I work with and enjoy getting to know them.)
  2. “Create a plan for the conversation” (In our case, I would recap what we decided to focus on.)
  3. “Check in on previous commitments.”  (After each team meeting, I offer to come in and co-teach a lesson with the teachers. I would highlight some of that work or I would offer new research on the topic.)
  4. “Engage in coaching stances and approaches.”
  5. “Determine next steps.” (The teachers and I decide what to do with the new information we discussed and make a small action plan for the next time we meet.)
  6. “Reflect on conversation and ask for feedback.” (Here I would again schedule time to work in classrooms as requested. I would also recap our next steps for the next meeting and create a to-do list for myself to research questions asked.)
(Aguilar, 2013, p. 238)
Using conversation of the teachers, has changed my role as a coach. The first two years I was a coach, I focused solely on the new tools we had in the classrooms. After a few years the teachers became more comfortable with the tools and wanted to go deeper. This year has been a game-changer for our team meetings because it was responsive to the teachers’ needs in the classroom.
Image result for coaching conversations
Aquilar, E. (2013). The art of coaching: Effective strategies for school transformation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Boss.
Marzano, R.J., Simms, J.A., Roy, T., Heflebower, T., & Warrick, P. (2013). Coaching classroom instruction. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Laboratory.
Smith Leadership. What is coaching? (2012, July 17). Retrieved November 16, 2016, from

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Breakout Out of Traditional Coaching

As a technology coach, I believe it is important to model new and innovative ways of learning and teaching. I typically do this in an integrated way so I am presenting new information using an innovative strategy. For example, this summer our Tech Facilitators came for a summer training. Our ultimate goal was to create an environment of collaboration. To do this, we decided to incorporate gaming in the professional development session.  Marzano, Simms, Roy, Heflebower, and Warrick (2013) theorizes  educational games are effective because they hold students’ attentions. They say this is true because ”of the innate human desire to fill in missing information” (p. 50). BreakoutEDU games did just that for the teachers and later, their students.
If you’re not familiar with BreakoutEDU, check out this short introductory video:
The teachers completed a 45-minute mission to open the BreakoutEDU boxes by watching inspirational videos and doing activities centered on Growth Mindset. After the PD session, the teachers were excited to try this game in their classrooms. In order to meet the teachers’ goals of using this strategy, the tech coaches modeled with the students a Breakout lesson with the theme of digital citizenship while the teacher observed. Knight (2007) describes modeling as “going into teachers’ classrooms and showing them examples of how to employ the particular best practice that they are learning about” (p. 29).
The lesson was immediately followed by a coaching meeting with the teams to explore and to identify curriculum they wanted to try a BreakoutEDU kit with. This was accomplished by browsing the ready-made lessons on Goals to implement the learning strategy of gaming were identified and examined at each meeting. Marzano et. al. (2013) states it is important for a coach “to understand how the teacher must be supported to move from one level of the scale to the next” (p. 30). Some teachers decided to take BreakoutEDU to the next level by creating games themselves and also having the students create games for each other based on current units of study.
Marzano et. al. (2013) emphasizes four levels of behaviors for teachers and coaches. Below are the actions of each coaching sessions as the teachers moved from one level to the next. Being able to closely work with the teachers and implementing game-based strategies while writing and working through goals, proved to be an effective coaching opportunity.
Coaching Levels in Action:
  • 0 to 1- Teachers are introduced to BreakoutEDU by playing it themselves. Each faculty was asked to do a Breakout based on our district’s CIP goal- Creating a Welcoming Environment. The kit was created and distributed to all principals and played during the beginning of the year faculty meetings. The tech coaches also led the tech facilitators in a game during our summer training.
  • 1 to 2- Second through fifth-grade teachers observed as the tech coach came and demonstrated a Digital Citizenship breakout. The teachers observed student behavior and discussed what happened with the coach. The teacher chose one game to create and do with the class based on the current standards she/he was teaching.
  • 2 to 3- The teacher leads a Breakout session and the coach comes and observes. Coach and teacher discuss what happened with student learning and makes adjustments as needed.
  • 3 to 4- The teacher moves from a physical Breakout kit with boxes and locks to a digital Breakout session or creates a new game from scratch using the templates online. Children are asked to create their own Breakouts for other students to play.

Sanders, J. (2015, September 14). Introducing BreakoutEDU. Retrieved October 19, 2016, from
Knight, J. (2007). Instructional coaching: A partnership approach to improving instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: NSDC.

Marzano, R.J., Simms, J.A., Roy, T., Heflebower, T., & Warrick, P. (2012). Coaching classroom instruction. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Laboratory.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Reflections on Coaching

Four years ago this past August, I started my journey as a tech coach. Just like my first years in the classroom, I thought coaching was about content and knowledge. I studied up on new tech tools the summer before and read about all of the newest and greatest tech fads. I have now realized content knowledge is important, but the most important thing about coaching is the relationship established with the teachers. In my classroom, children didn’t care what I knew until they knew I cared about them. Teachers are the same. I can have all the knowledge in the world, but if I don’t listen and hear what their needs are, it doesn’t matter how many new tech gadgets I know about. While forming relationships, I am able to show the teachers I am there to support their goals and this establishes trust. Marzano and Simms (2013) emphasize “trust is an important aspect of effective coaching relationships and effective schools” (p. 10).  Parker Palmer (2007) uses the phrase “teaching is a daily exercise in vulnerability” (p. 17). When I go into a classroom or into a team meeting, I always try to remember what it was like to be the teacher being coached and feeling vulnerable. I have been lucky that I have had two phenomenal coach mentors in my career that I have been able to model myself after.
Cameron McKinley, my tech coach when I was a fourth grade teacher, was (and is) an incredible teacher-leader. Cameron would often pop in while I was teaching to ask me a question, but she always had her eyes and ears open. She would read the charts on my walls, ask my students questions, and would ask me what I was teaching. She asked it in a way that I knew she wasn’t judging me but would gently offer me suggestions of how I could incorporate technology to help the students understand the concept better. She would not only suggest, she would also come in and support me as I implemented those ideas. I knew, because of the trust we had built, that I could always ask follow-up questions and advice. Cameron was split between many schools, but she would often take time to sit down with our team while we ate lunch to hear us talk about our lives and our frustrations and successes in our classrooms.
My second coach-mentor is Kathy Snyder, our literacy coach. Kathy is masterful at helping us identify, define and solve our problem areas as teachers. She did this through constant feedback. Marzano and Simms (2013) say “feedback helps teachers figure out how to accomplish their goals” (p. 11).  Kathy would often sit down at a meeting with me and I would discuss an issue I was having in my classroom. Through dialogue, she helped me identify what the root of the issue was and helped me set goals that were important to me. As a coach today, I work hard to listen to teachers’ personal goals. Gallwey (as cited in Marzano & Simms, 2013) expertly explains that by ”allowing someone to choose what to work on and how to work on it builds trust and keeps a coaching relationship from becoming manipulative” (p. 11). The video below also emphasizes the importance of using feedback from the coachee to drive instruction (Tremonte, 2016).  I apply this now as a tech coach and always start the year off with asking teachers to identify their goals and for me to help them achieve them.

Marzano, R.J., Simms, J.A., Roy, T., Heflebower, T., & Warrick, P. (2012). Coaching classroom instruction. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Laboratory.
Palmer, P. J. (2007). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tremonte, A., (2016). ISTE coaching standard 4: Professional and program evaluation. YouTube. Retrieved 29 September 2016, from


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Instructional Design Reflection

During this term, we have explored Instructional Design through many articles, videos, and through a book study of Rapid Instructional Design by Piskurich (2015). Piskurich (2015) offers a definition of instructional design as “simply a process for helping you to create effective training in an efficient training” (p. 1). I believe instructional design is the process a trainer goes through to create professional development for the trainees which takes into account what the trainees need to know and how they need the information delivered.
While I have been a technology coach and a teacher-leader for several years, I don’t believe I have slowed down to really think about the process I go through in order to design training for adult learners. I believe the most beneficial thing I will take with me from this course is the ADDIE process for developing training. While I intuitively went through this process as I planned, it has helped tremendously to be able to read and study what each stage entails. Specifically, I have found my largest area of growth to be in the analyze phase of my planning. A needs assessment must be done before beginning to design effective course work. Piskurich (2015) says a needs assessment’s purpose “is to determine what needs (gaps) exist in the performance of that portion of the organization” (p. 55). As a tech coach this can be easily implemented in future trainings by sending out a Google Form to assess what the teachers hope to get out of the training. I hope this data will allow me to gear my trainings to relevant information for the teachers.
For the application part of this course, I have chosen to highlight an upcoming professional development I will be leading. This training is for Hoover City Schools' Engaged Learning Initiative (ELI) Facilitators. ELI is the initiative which was started with the implementation of 1:1 Chromebooks for students in grades 3-5, but also represents an overall mindset of innovation which comes with technology integration.  Two years ago, the tech department started a facilitators program which is a train-the-trainer model. Each grade level team at each of the ten schools has one teacher represented on the facilitators' team. The team together is affectionately called ELFs (Engaged Learning Facilitators). The ELFs are rock star teachers who are innovative and creative. I work on a team of three elementary coaches. Every year before school starts, the coaches have a workshop ("camp") for the ELFs. This is our chance to set the stage for the year. It's a chance to build the ELFs knowledge and to encourage growth. The training is from 8 am- 3 pm on August 3rd.
The handout on the first page is the overall structure of the day. Everything is linked from this page. I have pulled out the different elements needed for the project for convenience. It can be navigated from the tabs on the top-right of the website.
This training will prompt the ELFs to choose one passion project to focus on this year. The ELFs will join Google Classrooms based on their choice and will virtually meet throughout the year. They will essentially be forming PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) within this PLC of the ELF group. Tech Coaches will facilitate their discussions and growth. The handout will serve as the ELFs future reference for the training. They can access it through the URL we will share or through the Google Classroom.  


Piskurich, G. (2015). Rapid instructional design: Learning ID fast and right. New Jersey: Wiley.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Development Stage of ADDIE

While developing a professional development session for teachers, I believe the development stage of ADDIE maybe the most important for a successful training. In order to create the course materials, schedules and training guides, instructor must have a clear vision of the objectives and where she or he wants to take the trainees. Print materials usually play a vital role in the training. Piskurich (2015) says “trainees will pay attention not to what the trainer says, but to the print overheads” (p. 236). As a result, much time and preparation should go to selecting aides which will support the learning.
As a tech coach, I often try to identify and use new tools in my trainings the teachers can see and take back to their classroom to use. I try to identify tools with an easy-to-use interface that teachers of all learning levels can use. One such tool, Gliffy, might be useful to use extensively in a training. Gliffy is a web-based tool which creates mind maps quickly and easily. Malamed (2010) says “Mind maps are a fluid way to visualize ideas through a diagrammatic structure. They graphically depict the connections between related concepts and ideas.” (N.p.)  I believe I could use this tool to aide in the development of a professional development. As a designer I can use the concept mapping to identify main points I want to address and also the subtopics of a particular subject. While developing PD, I often find it helpful to use paper and pencil to quickly sketch out the concepts; however, by moving to Gliffy, I would be able to efficiently produce the mindmaps digitally and share them with team members and co-presenters.

Gliffy could also be used to create materials for slideshows during professional development sessions. I often ask teachers to consider new innovations. We could use Gliffy to map questions and concepts as we brainstorm as a team. Because it is web based, the graphics can be easily referred to later and developed further. By modeling the new tool, the teachers would then have an idea of how they could use the tool in their classroom. Our elementary students have Chromebooks, and I can easily see Gliffy being a great tool for the students to use when they are planning a group project or planning out a fiction story in writer’s workshop.
Gliffy Online Introduction:


Gliffy Diagram Software Company (2013). Welcome to Gliffy Online. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 29 July 2016, from

Malamed, C. (2010). Designing With Mind Maps. Retrieved 29 July 2016, from

Piskurich, G. (2015). Rapid instructional design: Learning ID fast and right. New Jersey: Wiley.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Training Strategies for Tech Coaches

During my three years as a tech coach I have been able to incorporate many strategies to engage learners. One tool, beginning of the year surveys, I have used for years. The other tool which fosters creative thinking, Design Thinking, I have experienced as a learner and hope to incorporate more into my job as a tech coach this year.
Each year brings about change and many times I am working with a brand new faculty. It is my job to quickly get to know my learners in order to meet their needs throughout the school year. According to Piskurich (2015) my first task is “to figure out generally who your audience is and then to gather all the information you think you may need about them” (p. 92).
One way I do that is to determine teachers’ prior knowledge of technology integration.  At the beginning of the 2016-17 year, I sent out a Google Form which had each teacher from my three different schools rate themselves on their comfort level with certain products, their knowledge level with the ISTE Standards, and an open-ended response so each teacher can let me know about certain goals they have for themselves. I chose these items because we had been in our second year of Google Apps for Education (GAFE) implementation, and I had predicted most teachers felt comfortable with the suite of products and were ready for deeper integration in their classroom. This would also allow me to identify teachers who might still feel uncomfortable, and I could work with them one-on-one to help them gain confidence. Our elementary tech team had identified a main goal for the year was to help teachers become familiar with the SAMR model and ISTE Standards for Students. The survey question was put on the survey to identify knowledge level for each teacher. I had predicted this would be low, and I would use the data to compare knowledge growth at the end of the year after we discussed in monthly team meetings.  

I could also use the information teachers typed in for their individual goals, to create small Professional Learning Communities (PLC) and allowed me to communicate information which might be interesting to them throughout the school year. Using Google Forms allowed me to analyze the data as a whole with all three schools. It also gave me the flexibility to separate the data by school. I referred to this data for the entire year as I was conducting professional development sessions which allowed me to differentiate all of my trainings to just what the teachers needed. This ultimately allowed me to be as efficient as possible with the limited time I was given. Piskurich (2015) reiterates this concept when he says “you want your trainees to learn everything they require to do their jobs, but you don’t want them to waste their time learning things they don’t have to know (p. 63)”.
The second strategy, Design Thinking, is fairly new in the education world. The video below shows a quick synopsis of the process.

Our technology coordinator, Kelli Lane, experienced Design Thinking first hand at Google and brought it back to us this past fall to our small group of tech coaches. The process begins with posing a problem. In this case, Kelli asked us to design a highly effective professional development model. We broke into small groups after Kelli set up the scenario of developing a new PD model. We then brainstormed many different solutions. When we came back together as a large group we decided on one idea, badging for professional development, and then designed a prototype of the badges. We will be testing the idea this school year and will continue the process as we refine the design.
The process was highly engaging and effective. I believe we all felt valued because we were creating a solution to a problem. I believe this process will be highly effective with the teachers I work with for the same reasons. It is also a strategy teachers can take back and use in their own classrooms.


Stanford Graduate School of Business. "Design Thinking in Executive Education”. YouTube. N.p., 2016. Web. 22 July 2016.

Piskurich, G. (2015). Rapid instructional design: Learning ID fast and right. New Jersey: Wiley.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Instructional Design

Instructional Design defined by Piskurich (2015) is a “way to plan your training program from the moment you have the idea for it (or the idea is given to you) until the moment you complete your revisions of your first effort and get ready to run the program again” (p. 4).  Instructional design is critical in order to develop professional development (PD) or courses which are responsive to the trainees’ needs so trainees walk away with knowledge they can easily apply. While reflecting on Instructional Design, I am viewing the subject through the lens of being a tech coach. My job as a coach is to provide appropriate, engaging, and relevant professional development to K-5 teachers.
This short video is a quick synopsis on Instructional Design:

When thinking about a bad design experience, my first thought went to my first experience as a tech coach. I was asked to present to the faculty of a school, and I was given the freedom to design anything I would like to present. This experience was a one and a half hour PD session on the first day back from summer break. This was my first whole-faculty PD session as a tech coach. The experience reflects bad design because I did not know my audience as I should have and the group size was too large to differentiate. I presented up-and-coming technologies in a “sit and get” format. The failure on my part came when I did not take the analysis stage of the Instructional Systems Design to the extent I needed to. Reflecting on the experience I realized many of the teachers in the room knew the new technologies and were already using them in their room. At the same time, many teachers in the room were very tech reluctant and were overwhelmed by the long list of new ideas. I also did not provide hands-on time to try out the new tools. The training did not meet the varying needs of the large crowd.
In comparison, two years later I was presenting PD to a group of teachers who served as our tech facilitators. They were the rockstar tech users on each grade level team at each elementary school in the district. While still varying in ability, the group overall was very tech savvy. Because of the varying needs, we decided to conduct the PD in EdCamp style. The teachers signed up to informally present to whomever came to the session. The teachers rotated through sessions they found interesting. This met the needs of everyone and the response from the end of session survey was glowing. Teachers enjoyed learning from their peers and the ability to choose what they wanted to hear.
Watch a video which quickly explains EdCamp:

From these two experiences and many more in between I have been able to see trends in good and bad instructional design experiences:
Good Design Elements:
  • Differentiated to learners’ needs
  • Pre- and post- surveys conducted
  • Small groups when possible
  • Hands-on activities and interactive
  • Specific to learners’ context (grade level, subject area)
Bad Design Elements:
  • One-size-fits all PD
  • Not fully going through the analyze phase of Instructional Design
  • Large group settings of “sit and get”

By fully implementing Instructional Design there are many advantages including developing professional development which “means creating training that helps your trainees learn the things they need to know” (Piskurich, 2015, p. 9). By spending the time in the beginning to fully develop training before it is delivered can take a lot of time, a big disadvantage. However, by one person spending more time at the beginning, it will allow the training to be highly effective and will save time for the trainees in the long run.


Lee, Su Hun. "Edcamp 101". YouTube. N.p., 2016. Web. 15 July 2016.
Piskurich, G. (2015). Rapid instructional design: Learning ID fast and right. New Jersey: Wiley.
Prometheus Training,. "What Is Instructional Design?". YouTube. N.p., 2016. Web. 15 July 2016.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Online Learning Design

Before starting my Ed.S. courses through Montevallo, I had limited experience with virtual learning. My prior experience entails yearly required professional development teachers have to complete each year. Previously guest speakers would come to faculty meetings several times a year to present information on topics such as: harassment, special education laws, new information on illegal drugs, and signs and warnings for physical abuse. The meetings were informative but they took much needed time for school planning which normally occurred in faculty meetings.. As a result, administration decided to move the required inservices to an online platform, Moodle.
This experience was not ideal for my first online experience. The first hurdle encountered was technical difficulties. The teachers were sent a password for their accounts, but if they forgot the passwords, they could not reset them independently but rather had to email their tech coach for assistance which was time consuming. Also, the format, Moodle, was only a familiar platform for the high school teachers and did not have an intuitive interface for the elementary and middle school teachers.
The second hurdle was an issue of content. Moore and Kearsley (2012) outline general design principles for virtual learning including: “good structure, clear objectives, small units, planned participation, completeness, repetition, synthesis, stimulation and variety, open-ended, and feedback and evaluation” (p.121). The modules had very clear objectives and were divided into small chunk-sized pieces. The lessons had a good structure which included videos and presentations. The content, however, did not involve any open-ended activities or discussions which is a major factor in an online lesson.  Brinthaupt, Fisher, Gardner, Raffo, and Woodard (2011) state “in the online environment, lecture need not and should not be the primary teaching strategy because it leads to learner isolation and attrition” (p. 518). The module included all lecture with no interaction or assessment for understanding.
To remedy the issues with this online course, I recommend including prompts to encourage student engagement such as posting on a Google Classroom feed or a presentation synthesising the information. Moore and Kearsley (2012) recommend “one way course designers can achieve some degree of student participation is to present questions or problems that require a response; for example, at the end of the unit” (p. 115).
In contrast to this course, I have been very fortunate with the courses I have taken through the Ed.S. program. All of our courses have been well-developed and thought out not only as individual classes but as a program as a whole. A specific example of this would be the course I am in currently, ED 610, Management Distance Learning. Using the design principles listed above described by Moore and Kearsley (2012), the course fulfills all of these principles (pp. 120-121). The structure of the class is predictable based on previous classes, the modules are in concise chunks, and are balanced according to how much time is it is expected to accomplish the tasks. The objectives are listed at the beginning of each module and are listed for the entire class in the syllabus. The planned participation is what makes the course highly effective. Each module includes the creation of a blog post and members of the class are expected to reply on each other’s blogs. In addition to the comments, a discussion board was setup to reflect as a class.  Completeness is demonstrated by a wide-variety of materials including peer reviewed articles, descriptions, videos, and multimedia presentations. The modules include assignments which are open-ended and allow students to adapt to their own experiences and context. The assessments and feedback are directly tied to course objectives, are assessed by rubrics, and include individual comments for improvement or feedback. (Moore & Kearsley, 2012, pp. 120-121).  The Educause video below (2013) echoes the need for online courses to include explicit instruction and giving specific feedback which is another reason this course is superior in design.


Brinthaupt, T. M., Fisher, L. S., Gardner, J. G., Raffo, D. M., & Woodard, J. B. (2011, December). What the best online teachers should do. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(4), 515-524.

Educause. (2013, May 06). 8 Lessons Learned from Teaching Online. Retrieved June 22, 2016, from

Moore, M. & Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance education: A systems view of online learning.  Wadsworth Cengage Learning: Belmont, CA.

Image retrieved from: