Monday, February 17, 2014

Evolution of a Teaching and Learning Coach

As of this year, I am now a TLC. Before that for a year I was a Literacy Coach. The role is great because it offers timetabled periods to work with other teachers, and to respond to requests for assistance.
Our school and our present principal and staff get a lot of credit for creatively combining the TLC role with that of DLRT and eTech. We get a lot of mileage out of these resources, from moving forward purposefully with our CI, to co-teaching, to assisting struggling math or writing students.
However when I gave this success some thought, I realized that the reason we are doing so well with the model is that we have been practising it for over five years.
Looking back, a previous administrator allowed the staff to alter their given timetables by “horse-trading” subjects. This to me was the start of my present role. Several core teachers asked me to teach their IT course, or later, Media Strand, when IT was removed from the report card. In exchange, they taught my art and drama.
I loved it! They thought I was crazy, and that they had ended up with the better deal.
My colleagues and I had an informal arrangement. Periodically I would consult with them about what they had on the go in English, History and Geography. Then, I would think about which online or other tech resources would best match a broad range of project possibilities. Together we would decide what the students would work on. It was sort of ad hoc, but it worked.
The benefits were great, for both students and teachers. As soon as I introduced an app, I would explain to the other teachers how it functioned and how the students could use it. Then, when they had computer lab time, they could also use the app for other activities. The students already knew how to use it, or had accounts set up. The teachers, who were at once apprehensive about their ability to teach tech and seeing the possibilities, now had a painless way to move their teaching into the electronic realm.
Looking back, the key to our continued success is that the initial impetus came from the staff to me. I was happily carrying on with tech integration in my own classroom, but they were open to observing and appreciating this, and to inviting me to share my learning with them.
I think this actually imprinted a culture of sharing and a way of learning that persists to this day, even though there have been many staff changes.
It is less than 10 years ago that our school used the computer lab only for simple word processing. I vividly remember the first time I taught a full class how to use an app. It was Windows MovieMaker. I taught myself the basics, with help from a friend who had used it with a small group of students. And then I taught the 30 kids. And then the other classes.
No one had ever done that before. Not only did we not know any good apps, we did not know how to go about teaching them. Our students did not know any apps. Most did not have computers at home, and few had Internet. None had ever used tech to “create” anything.
We were also sure that our middle school students would run amok in the lab! How would we keep their attention while we explained things?
To this day, I still like to introduce something completely new in a regular classroom. In the past, with no way to project my screen, I would sketch a messy drawing of a user interface on the blackboard! Now of course I can easily show the kids brief instructional videos, and then send them off to the lab to create.
They are amazing. After a two minute video, I can have a Learn and Play class. I say, “Go to the lab, make an account, and show me these things before the end of class.” It is easy to wander around responding to questions as they arise, in context.
Meanwhile, on the teaching front, my colleagues have come so far. Now our co-planning is more formal, and is much broader in scope as we look at the pedagogical aspects of truly integrating technology to support student success.

We are all still learning... But that as well is truly integrated, involving me, my colleagues and of course our students. Big change, over just a few years!

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