A village and the whole world

Although there is a lot of debate (see NPR article here) on the precise origin of the claimed “African” proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child“,  it might originate from the Nigerian Igbo culture and proverb ‘Oran a azu nwa’, which means it takes a community or village to raise a child (Wikipedia).

The past fifteen months proved to me that it indeed takes a community to help you grow.

Fifteen months ago, in February 2020 is indeed when I started my COETAIL journey. I was not quite sure where I was heading to, nor what the program involved.
The Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy (COETAIL) was designed by international educators and consultants Jeff Utecht and Kim Cofino to encourage other educators to learn and reflect on their teaching, pedagogy, and to implement true technology integration.  By essence, it also fosters global collaboration, and help participants to develop their PLN.

It is also a rather intense program, that forced me to get out of my comfort zone, and I won’t lie: it was painful at times. The aggravating factor was the start of the pandemic a few weeks later.
But the takeaways are huge: not only it broadened the scope of my knowledge, but it also challenged me to (re)evaluate my practices, both from the pedagogical point of view but also in terms of true and meaningful technology integration.

But the biggest learnings are definitely linked to the continuous exchanges with other educators: the program is constructed on a Cohort model, guided by a Coach (himself a former COETEIL-er obviously) and based on collaboration and exchange among participants, and… the rest of the world thanks to social media such as Twitter.

It was great to get to learn about my #Cohort12 members, who they are, where they teach and where they are from, what are they teaching style and what they tried and tested during the past 15 months. What I valued most were the direct exchanges, either through a blog post comment that they would leave me (see below, with my answer), or that I will write for them.

But there was also some direct conversation when we started to use Twitter private messages, at first mainly to get organized our group work for the Course 2 Final Project.

A the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020, I also joined different educator focus groups on Facebook. For example “The Playful Librarian” (now renamed The Hands-on Hive), a place for “library workers and educators to share ideas for play-based learning”. Or Int’l School Library Connection, a group “for educators, particularly school librarians and others who have an interest in School Libraries from all over the globe”.
Keeping in mind all the COETAIL encouragement for collaboration, I started to interact, asking questions or trying to help when I could answer (but didn’t always think to keep evidence).

I joined Twitter at the beginning of the COETAIL program. Until then, I was only using my MHS Library account, posting about some of our events or projects with students. The targeted audience was mainly our own school community.
To be frank, I haven’t been an active Twitter community member (yet?), and I am still too much of a lurker as explained in one of my very first blog posts “To lurk or not to lurk?” published in February 2020.

I would explain this by the following:
– strangely enough, I have issues exposing myself on social media; put me in a room with a small or larger group, and I won’t have difficulties approaching different people even if I don’t know them, talking and mingling.
what is my validity? There are plenty of people “out there” that are more knowledgeable, and have a voice. I don’t believe my contributions can be meaningful enough to share them.
As an example, when co-#Cohort12  Cindy recently asked a question on Twitter, as I was about to write, I saw that she already got exactly the same answer (so what’s the point in posting the same answer?). This time I forced myself to reply anyway!

But as I was reading #Cohort12 Julija‘s blog post on her own Community Engagement reflection, I found it

Last month Luis organized a #Cohort12 video call with some of us that saw his message and were available to join, depending on our schedules and our time zone as we are spread across the globe. It happened so fast that Luis didn’t have time to prepare an agenda he said, but it was a very natural conversation, as we talked about our jobs, our own, yet shared COETAIL journey, and our final project. It felt great to feel part of the same community.

 

The COETAIL journey? It is definitely a trip worth taking… and the whole world is now my village. Thank you to all my co-COETAIL-ers that have inspired and encouraged me. Thanks to our Coach Joel for his support.

Audiovisuals and Apples

Audiovisual Elements during a Speech

Visual or audiovisual elements during a presentation can help as attention-grabbers, evidence, examples. Thanks to them, you can enhance your research and keep the audience engaged. Of course, they need to be carefully chosen and come naturally in your presentation.
Audiences who use more of their senses to engage during a presentation remember better the message, and for a longer period of time.

To help our grade 10 English students to achieve that goal during their new unit on “Persuasive Speech”, I used some of my COETAIL course 3 content,  as the purpose was related to “Visual Literacy: Effective Collaborators and Communicators”.

We planned my input on the following areas:

  1. help students to first understand what efficient audiovisual aids are and how to create effective Google Slides with those elements
  2. teach students how to use our Creativity Studio and its equipment, to create their own audiovisual support
  3. provide tech support during the entire process
  4. design online feedback forms for students to receive meaningful comments from their classmates after the practice speech

In The 7 Best Visual Presentation Tips You Will Ever Read we can find some interesting reminders on what a visual presentation should look like.
Of course, my main focus will be on Garr Reynolds’ What is Good Presentation. His Presentation Zen concept (and name of his website) is one of the “bible” in the domain. Without a doubt, I will reinforce his message to the students: “Simplicity is the key”!

Religions and babies – Hans Rosling (TEDTalk – 22 May 2012)

Hans Rosling had a question: Do some religions have a higher birth rate than others — and how does this affect global population growth?
Speaking at the TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar, he graphs data over time and across religions.

Ten years later, this presentation is still considered a reference for how Rosling uses visuals to get his audience to easily understand complex data, with a pinch of humour. If you don’t know it, I encourage you to spend 13 minutes of your life watching the video: it is worth it!
It is also a great example of using great online animation AND physical props with the same purpose: to help his audience understand more complex data and concepts.

Going for the Apple

We are a 1:1 school, and our laptop hardware lease for Middle and High school was expiring in June 2020. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic required to delay that process one more year.

Luckily our IT department started the process early enough before the pandemic hit us and kept us at home last Spring: they researched and tested several different models, gathering input from faculty and students in the process. Arts and Performing Arts teachers note that Macs have significantly more creative capability for learning. Additionally, faculty who work across divisions have expressed a desire for a single platform: as I mentioned in a previous post, the Early Childhood Center (Preschool to grade 1) and the Elementary school (grade 2 to 6) have indeed already been using iPads and Macbooks for a few years. It is a rather unique situation, I believe, to have different platforms at one school. Did you ever come across such a model?
It makes sense to adopt a common one that will enable the tech team to better support the single hardware, and it will facilitate a school-wide professional development plan. It also addresses a need noted in our last CIS Accreditation report.

While students will receive the new MacBook Pro at the beginning of next school year, to ease the transition for teachers, those will receive theirs after the Easter break, mid-April. The idea is to give them time to work with the new MacBook Pro while still using their Lenovo during this school year in order to become familiar with the new laptop. It was decided that the library team will get trained ahead of colleagues, to be able to help the IT team support the faculty and staff (yes I know!). We soon created a Google website where we could share tutorials and our own “exercises” (for example, recording a podcast). I did not choose the name: Mac Vanguard. I would not have dared.

It also includes the tutorial below that my colleague found, and linked to Eeyore‘s picture “Be Brave“… as it reflected how we felt we needed to be at that moment.

Indeed, it felt scary at first to change years of practice and habits using our laptops.
I was lucky enough to receive three nearly individual & professional Apple training sessions with Joe Moretti, who was first presented to me as “an Apple Guru”… which alarmed me more than anything else. Gurus don’t have the reputation of being great teachers I thought.
I was wrong. At least when it comes to Joe! All teachers in the world should be as knowledgeable on their topic as he on his while adapting their expertise to your level of learning. And doing that with empathy. On his site Intuition, you can read: “Using technology to facilitate and enhance learning” which particularly resonates with the COETAIL program!

Our Technology Integration Teacher from the ECC / ES divisions, by default our Apple specialist on campus, just sent us the link to a library of videos to support faculty and staff further learning: “Mac Basics by Apple Professional Learning Specialists”.
How does your own tech support look like in your school?

Obviously, I am still learning to get used to the Apple environment… If you have any tips or other tutorials that could help, don’t hesitate to send them my way!

The Art of Persuasion

Persuasion is part of the communications process and persuasion skills refer to:  “the talent of changing the attitudes, beliefs, or behaviours of a person or group towards another person, group, event, object, or idea. It is usually done by conveying, in a message, some feelings, information, reasoning, or a combination” (Source: Cleverism).

Mastering those skills are essential for success in every stage of life and are, therefore, one of the most important assets that students can develop. More than ever, when considering all the pressing issues our society is facing, the art of persuasion becomes the ultimate skill for bringing about any positive changes, for example in ecology, or social justice…

Colleagues AND collaborators

In the past year, I had a few chats with Matt, our HS English Department Head, about my COETAIL journey. He is indeed a former COETAIL-er, information that I found out thanks to his final project video seen online! This is why I naturally approached him when it was time to think about what my own final project would be. He was very open to the idea of building a collaboration that would work for me. But as he currently teaches IB English in grade 11 and 12, we quickly decided that it wasn’t the best fit to implement something new in the Spring.
As I was still considering designing a project within the Social Justice theme, I was about to contact the English 10 teachers, and more specifically Jess. As I explained in Course 5 – The Beginning of the End, the next morning, she walked into the library, which these days, with all the building access restrictions for safety reasons in a pandemic year,  was not something usual.
You might call it a coincidence or one could say that the stars aligned for me… But what I certainly didn’t expect when I started to tell her about my course and its final project, was her reply: she is herself a former COETAIL-er too!
Frankly, that was such a relief for me that she knew the program and exactly what I was looking for in terms of collaboration!

As the three colleagues teaching grade 10 are redesigning the curriculum this year, working with those English classes seemed a great opportunity: there was room for implementing something new (and for me!). For Jess to stay with the common program, it was finally decided that instead of working with her two classes only, I could work with all seven (!).
Another change was the theme to work on: the English team already decided on their next unit, as they have to cover some pre-defined content through the school year, and it was: Persuasive Speech. As I will explain later, students would be free to find a topic of interest and could even use the content of their recent unit on Social Equity from the Change and Challenges in the 21st Century course. At that point, no lesson plan had been crafted yet.


During our first meeting on February 25th (see picture above), once my colleagues explained to me which skills they were looking for their students to develop, we brainstormed on how my contribution could bring an added value to the students final presentations.

How to Organize a Persuasive Speech or Presentation – by Alex Lyon

A persuasive presentation is similar to an informative one but with a big difference in the desired outcome:  you are actually trying to convince listeners to change their minds or behaviours as the result of your persuasive speech.

One of the major aspects of a successful presentation is the appropriate use of voice, gestures, and posture.

Depending on their age, students might first need to realize that speaking in a clear and audible voice is critical. They indeed tend to deliver a presentation in their normal speaking voice, or sometimes even in a softer one if they are intimidated, making it difficult for classmates in the back of the room to hear what is being said. No need to add that, in the current pandemic situation, doing this with a mask on will add another layer of challenge.
Avoiding a monotonous tone is important too, especially in a persuasive speech.

The Youtube video below on “Why students should have mental health days” is a great example of a great persuasive presentation in which Hailey Hardcastle applies well different techniques to keep her audience engaged.

Adopting appropriate posture and gestures are necessary to keep the audience focused and attentive. Besides, actively participating in their own presentation will help the presenter keep the nervous fidgeting under control. Common gestures during a speech or oral presentation include listing numbered points with the fingers, using a solid fist to show intensity, or showing an open palm to build trust.

Obviously, the English teachers were going to teach the content: my role was to bring to the table different elements to broaden the students’ experience when delivering their persuasive speech. Referring back to my COETAIL course 3, “Visual Literacy: Effective Collaborators and Communicators”, I could definitely help students to first understand what efficient audiovisual aids are, and how technology might indeed enhance their presentations. Secondly, I will provide some tech support during the entire process.
As Amelia Harper explains in The benefits of collaborating with school librarians, school libraries are “increasingly being converted into learning commons, where learning takes place on a level not imaginable a few decades ago. […] Teachers can collaborate on the development of teaching modules.”

And I don’t have to mention again that collaboration is part of the COETAIL course DNA, do I?

Before ending this post, I will share another “sign” that was actually sitting next to my desk, on the brand new books cart: a couple of months ago, as I was putting together a book order for our library, I added the following title, thinking that our students could use it:

At the time I had no idea that the English 10 would be working on this topic, and even less that I would be reading that book to understand better my COETAIL course Final Project topic!

What is your best advice to students starting to prepare such a presentation? What should they pay more attention to in order to deliver a great persuasive speech?
As an educator, one can say (or at least hope!) that you are – or have become – an expert presenter, right? How did you grow in this role? What helped you most? And as a tech specialist, what are the tools you would recommend for students?

 

 

 

 

 

On coaching and on being a specialized teacher

As we entered the final part of the COETAIL course and started to dive into a full experience of implementing or redesigning a unit of our choice, to be taught at our school,  I  was skimming through some of the Eduro Learning publications, and quickly came up with a topic of interest: I have been meaning to find out more about a coach’s role.  Finding out on my own first might take away the apprehension to contact our own team of coaches (I know, I know! I am being honest here…).
Actually, some of my Cohort 12 COETAIL-ers have that role in their respective schools, or will next year, and it further prompted my curiosity.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

What is an Instructional Coach?

The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching defines an instructional coach as “someone whose chief professional responsibility is to bring evidence-based practices into classrooms by working with teachers and other school leaders.” Coaches are often experienced educators who have moved away from full-time teaching to work directly with other teachers and help them improve their practice. Sometimes, they are still teaching in the classroom part-time, or hold an administrative position.

Why Should Teachers Work with Coaches

In this short video which, like the others in this series produced by Eduro Learning, is less than 5 minutes long, educator, Technology & Learning Coach & librarian @nzchrissy explains what are the three main benefits for teachers to work with coaches:

  1. make your teaching better
  2. get support
  3. be exposed to a different perspective.

The proven bonus of working with a coach is to shorten the learning curve inherent to absorbing new knowledge. And that is especially true in the technology domain: the coach can help you find a solution for your specific need, or help you understand how to directly use new tech tools.

I remember those former training sessions aimed at all staff, which seems logical until the moment you find yourself alone in front of your PC screen and unable to replicate the steps, with no one to ask for help. I believe instructional coaching is a tremendous addition when schools embed professional learning opportunities into the day-to-day work of teachers. Coaches can directly support the development of specific teacher knowledge, skills, and motivation while fostering collaboration.

“Coaching is an essential component of an effective professional development program” explains Elena Aguilar in How Coaching Can Impact Teachers, Principals, and Students, adding that a “coach can foster conditions in which deep reflection and learning can take place, where a teacher can take risks to change her practise, where powerful conversations can take place and where growth is recognized and celebrated”.

Copyright Luis Carlos Moreno (ISP)

As another Cohort 12 COETAIL-er, Luis Carlos Moreno, aka Mr Luis Teach, published in a recent blog post, titled Coaching à la Carte, the list of what coaches can help with and came up with a rather long list!

With his team, he then organized all those detailed options into a structured program “à la carte” (choose your favourite from the menu).
Finally, he turned it into an easily readable infographic (see right) that can now be found on their school website (see more information in Luis Carlos next blog post: Taking Coaching Online). I am quite confident that it will help promote what coaches can bring to colleagues in the classrooms!

 

Indeed, it helped me realized that I could myself approach a coach for a specific (smaller) question, or for support request, and not only for developing an entire coaching program.

The past year, the COVID 19 pandemic and its consequences modified all our landmarks and forced us to adapt our practices. In Virtual Coaching Takes Off, American literacy coach Kimberly Blumke explain that coaching online is at the core of instructional coaching, as the entire process becomes more efficient and effective.
Despite so many difficult situations, we were forced to innovate and quickly learn how to use new tech tools for Distance Learning, and I am sure that we will keep some practices implemented during the past year. Working with coaches online, or having learn to value the help coaches bring to us might be one of them.

Through some other readings I also understood that even if you are not a coach in the title, as a specialized teacher, you are probably having coaching conversations – with your colleagues, parents of your students, maybe even your students!

As a school teacher-librarian, our roles are surely diversified (and I love it!), and as we can’t always teach all classes of every subject in each grade, the best option is to model some classes with teachers who can then deliver the content to their students, or help with the follow-up.
For example, I used to spend a lot of time teaching academic honesty along with how to create bibliographies and citations. I still do, but whenever possible, I try to involve middle and high school teachers by transferring at least part of this knowledge to them: after all, I will only be in their class occasionally while they can help their students who have questions afterwards.

At some point, we also wanted to help parents experience what their kids get familiar with at school. Therefore both library teams organized workshops for Early Childhood Center and Elementary schools parents. We could say that we played the role of a coach during those technology workshop sessions.
It was a success and everyone enjoyed those fun mornings.
We will plan some more as soon as parents are allowed on campus again!

 

Although there have been tech integrators at my school for quite a while, it was always a part-time divisional role added to another teaching assignment. In  2019-2020, the first full time and cross-divisional middle and high school Tech Integrator was hired with the following official title: Media Resource & Tech Integration Teacher. Obviously, it was a blessing when we started to prepare for a then “possible” lockdown, in February 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic (if only we knew that we even went back for a short time on Distance Learning earlier this month, in April 2021!!).
For information, our Head Librarian’s title is Head of Digital Media and Libraries. But another great decision was to combine the Tech and Libray teams in the same space: everyone has their own area of expertise but we are working towards the same goal in term of promoting the integration of technology. While we continue to encourage reading, the library’s role is also evolving to become a Technology Hub: not only do we have a Creativity studio with a green screen, and other sound or image recording, but also have 3D printers that students can use for projects outside specific classes, iPads, a GoPro, etc. Although we couldn’t run some activities or clubs this school year (here again, the pandemic is to blame), the library has become in the past few years a busy place, replacing its image of a quiet reference room with dusty books with a more modern one, involving lots of cool tech tools, bookbowl quizzes… and nice smiling librarians 😉  (I hope so!)

Coach.Better: Ep 6: We’re All on the Same Team: A Librarians Perspective with Philip Williams

Finally, coming back to the Eduro Learning material, I watched this “Coach Better” episode, featuring a discussion between Kim CofinoClint Hamada and Philip Williams, Head Librarian at NIST International School in Bangkok, Thailand. As a librarian at NIST, Philip is part of the coaching team, so this episode in particular highlights the overlaps of how a modern librarian fits into a culture of coaching at a school. Philip shares lots of great examples of how, even in schools without a coaching team, a librarian can be a stepping stone into building that coaching culture – with librarians as an information literacy coach.

And what about you? Did you ever work with a coach? How would you describe the experience?  What about your school library?

Course 5 – The Beginning of the End

We all have heard the phrase “The beginning of the End” and have most probably used it before. The question is: did you mean “the point where something starts to get gradually worse until it fails or ends completely”  (Cambridge Dictionary)? Or was your intent more neutral, such as: “the start of a series of events that leads to the end” (Merriam-Webster)? Interesting to compare both definitions, isn’t it?
And what if we wanted to use it in a positive sense: being happy to see the end start, as it will inaugurate new chapters afterwards? 

This is how it felt, a few weeks ago, when I started the last stretch of my COETAIL journey. Indeed, Course 5 is all about implementing what we have learned in the past 12 months in concrete ways, in our own professional environment. Therefore it is definitely the beginning of new professional practices and projects. It will be the end that brings a new beginning.

Photo by Csaba Talaber on Unsplash

While I considered different options for this final COETAIL work and wrote about them in this Course 4 blog post, as it quite often happens, it finally took a completely different path. For various reasons: this idea might not have met all the final project criteria, or the timing for teaching this other one wasn’t going to be right. Or it would have required working with too many people, including the administration, within a very tight planning frame if I wanted to address all grades in the Middle School for example. 

Or maybe another collaboration was meant to be? You know, this moment when you think of someone and BAM!: that colleague enters your library at that precise moment. And furthermore, when you explain your project and mention COETAIL: BAM! again, as I had no clue this new colleague would know precisely what I was talking about, being a (former) COETAIL-er herself!
It appeared quickly that Grade 10 English classes were the best group to work with, as this year their curriculum is being re-designed, unit per unit, as things progress… Meaning opportunities for me to collaborate with those classes! <3
#everythingfallsinplace (details will follow!)

I tried to hold on to the Social Justice theme, but for some of the above reasons, it didn’t work out.  Luckily there are a lot of initiatives taken at the school in the past year, either campus-wide, either specific ones in each division. It also includes some follow up work based on our two Professional Development sessions with Cornelius Minor.
Here are some examples geared towards faculty and staff, and actually often initiated by colleagues:

  • Anti-Racism Next Steps survey
  • Opportunity to join different discussion/planning groups
  • Diversity Equity and Inclusion Newsletter and website
  • Professional Development opportunities;  for example joining:  “Designing an Inclusive Curriculum Within International Schools.
  • And a few others…

Both libraries are also in the process of analysing their collections through the lens of diversity, focusing on the story but also on the author’ origin. We know we have always paid attention to add on our shelves books that include differences in gender, sexuality, ethnicity or culture, religion or spirituality, family, socioeconomic level, in short everything that make us unique, yet part of a whole.
But we are now investigating if we can cross-reference our students’ country of origin with those data from the books. The purpose is to check that all our students are represented in the books found at their school libraries.

What about your school?
What is put in place for helping educators and staff raise awareness about
social justice and diversity in meaningful ways?
And personally, where are you on that road? 

When I recently came across this article, it also made me think about some aspects of education in international schools, that might not always give a true “international” exposure at the end. Rebecca Stevens A. explains how in the 1980’s she “[…] Went To An International School And Didn’t Have A Single Black Teacher – And that in itself is problematic.”
Together, my two children add up 30 years as an international school student, in the years 2000 (’16 and ’19) and indeed, I can count on ONE hand (well, maybe one and a half) the number of teachers of colour they encountered. Notice that the student population was also (still is) mostly caucasian. 

Why Teachers of Color Matter for Students of Color to Succeed