Following Dr. Covey’s advice (I’m not a huge fan, but he had some good points and I’ll cherry pick the ones that have worked for me or make sense to me), I’ll begin with the end in mind. As an educator, my “end” is our students, what kind of people do we want our students to be? One of the truest things I know is that if we’re going to evolve, we have to learn all of our lives, which means that we’re students our entire lives.
I think one of the highest goals of any educator is to make themselves irrelevant by helping each student become their own teacher, independent of others. Don’t get me wrong, none of my 2nd grade students will be independent of me or school in general by the end of the school year. Seven- and eight-year olds aren’t emotionally or cognitively developed yet. But they can become more confident, curious, independent, and discerning learners. My goal is to help them learn how to learn anything in the 2nd grade world and even beyond by giving them the tools and the framework for learning, to show them what progress looks like, and how to share what they’ve learned with others, so a community of learners becomes a community of people, no matter how young, who can help themselves, their peers, their communities, and outward, discover new things and solve problems.
This “planned obsolescence” doesn’t mean the teacher/coach can set out all of the tools and then sit back while the learners attempt to figure things out for themselves. I think that would be very lazy, while the model I’m thinking of is just the opposite. It requires an understanding of learners’ cognitive and emotional development and of taxonomy, which is basically a knowledge ladder, and how those things work together to build knowledge, understanding, and connection.
Teaching early elementary is especially humbling for many reasons (How are your classroom management skills? Not too good? Good luck!), but the most difficult thing is that it’s virtually impossible for untrained adults to imagine how poorly developed a young learner’s brain is at that age (K-2) and how difficult, nay literally impossible it is for them to grasp many ideas and make logical leaps which for us as adults seem like mere child’s play (pun intended). Of course, this is ironic (Take that Alanis Morissette!). If you don’t know exactly what I’m talking about and you’re ready to have your mind completely blown, you should watch this video on Piaget’s stages of cognitive development (6:17 and worth every second, I promise).
Isn’t that just incredible? It never gets old for me (no pun intended), and I think every early elementary teacher should watch it at least once a month (I fail to meet my own requirement, but I’ll set a reminder on Google Calendar.). All other things being equal, teaching early elementary takes a huge adjustment on the teacher’s part to teach in a way the students can understand because the students aren’t simply ignorant of what you’re trying to teach them, they might be completely incapable of how you’re trying to teach them, their brains simply aren’t fully developed and they can’t grasp ideas that make total sense to us, not because of our relatively vast storehouse of prior knowledge compared to theirs, but because our brains are fully developed, and that means we can think abstractly in ways they can’t yet. It’s a frustrating, humbling, and enlightening experience.
So where was I…oh yeah, begin with the end in mind. With everything I’ve talked about so far, I think the Learner standard is the most compelling to me. I want to empower educators the same way I want to empower students, by modeling, sharing, giving positive feedback and specific correction, watching them try it, giving more positive feedback and specific correction, until eventually I feel they’re ready to do it on their own, while still supporting them and cheering them on. In short, coaching them. This is why becoming a technology coach is so appealing to me.
As for my learning goals, I want to learn proven or highly promising approaches to teaching my entire audience. I worked in sales, customer service, and hospitality (restaurants and hotels) for a number of years before I started teaching, and it’s helpful for me to think of my audience as my clients. I don’t know if “client” is a socially acceptable word in the EdTech world, but it works for me. (Here’s another word or concept that I think is often maligned, “marketing”. I’m sure I’ll get an opportunity to present my perspective on it before the end of the cohort.) I want to find the best methods and technologies to help clients do what they must to do, what they’d like to do, and open them up to possibilities they hadn’t dreamed of yet.
I want to be a resource for my PLN and I want to be able to identify those in my PLN who can help me when I have questions. Like I said in an earlier post, I can’t know everything, but I can stay connected to the EdTech and education community which collectively does know everything. The community is the most important resource we have, and the world is our community due to the power and reach of the Internet. I’ve found the community to be very friendly and generous with their knowledge so far, and I’ve always enjoyed sharing what I know with people who I think would benefit from knowing it.
I think the ISTE standards don’t really make me more or less ambitious than I was before, but it does help me delineate between learning areas and focus on those areas which I feel most passionately about, where I think my strengths are, and gives me a path and vocabulary to talk about them with my cohort, instructors, and the community.
Because of my interest in the Learner standard and my interest in having a hand in influencing school policy around technology, I’m most interested in the following certificates: School Technology Leadership, Instructional Coaching, and Leadership for Deeper Learning. My medium-term educational and training goal is to get a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the U. of Kentucky, and I’ve started the application process with them so I can begin in the summer or fall at the latest.
The pursuit of these certifications will have plenty of indirect impact on my day-to-day work with my 2nd graders, but their exposure to technology at KKFS is minimal and I don’t think we have a 1:1 policy until 5th grade or middle school. I’d love to have a 1:1 tablet policy for my students, I think that would be great, and I should work on a grant proposal to make that happen. Outside my early ES classroom is where the pursuit of my goals will have the most impact. I’d love to hold trainings for staff so they can go beyond their mandated GCE Level 1 and make the tools really work for them, help give them the freedom and courage to play with the Google for Education suite, ClassDojo (which I love and use every day), find and experiment with apps that could help make communication, collaboration, scheduling, and assessment easier, and then train the staff to use them. But for most teachers, the pain of discarding what they know and having to learn something new is often too great. It really has to be worth it for them. That’s where the marketing part of the job comes into play. In my opinion, marketing gets a bad rap. Marketing is simply the assessment of a client’s wants, needs, and what they’re willing to pay (in money, time, and effort), and then finding the best fit for them. Ultimately, someone who’s excellent at marketing and customer service is a tremendous resource, they’re the authority you go to when you have questions about something. “I need to do ‘X,’ can you teach me how to do it? Do you have something to help me do ‘Y’? I want to make the lives of educators and students better.
I’m currently at a small school, about 260 students K-12, about 25 teachers across all grades and subjects. KKFS doesn’t have a full-time IT or EdTech person. I’m on the EdTech committee and we meet maybe once a month. I’ve been one of the leaders on the committee and I really enjoy helping training teachers, listening to what they’re trying to accomplish, and suggesting solutions based on what I know about the tools we have or ones which require a minimum of time and money. The EdTech committee is just starting to create awareness of the ISTE standards to KKFS and I’m excited to be a part of that. I don’t know where it will lead yet and what it will involve, but there’s a high potential for me, at this small, incredibly diverse international school in Seoul, to have a large impact on the entire student body and staff.
Because of the size of the school, everyone on the EdTech committee will definitely need to work together to make that happen. I can build up my School Technology Leadership and Instruction Coaching muscles at Kent, but I’ll probably have to talk with EdTech leaders and admins at other school in order to work on the Leadership for Deeper Learning certification. I’ll have to talk with my instructors about the requirements for each cert to find out how much I can do at Kent. If I need to fulfill some requirements of the courses at different/larger schools, then I have plenty to choose from in Seoul, including Seoul Foreign School, where I live with my wife, Holly. She’s a highly experienced teacher (20 years in the US, 6 years at SFS), and has been an invaluable resource and support during my journey to become an educator.
David Beatty, the Director of IT at SFS, who recommended COETAIL, has been a great resource. I’ve probed him on several occasion about academic and professional options in EdTech, and he’s been generous with his time and information. I’ll definitely be talking to him throughout my time with COETAIL 11. My goals is to be a full-time digital learning coach or similar, and that’s not really possible at a small school, so I’m more interested in a large school similar to SFS. Because of my proximity to SFS and my relationship with David, some of the DLCs, and school administrators, I’ll be able to tap them as well when the inevitable questions arise.