EdtechRVA Recap: Dynamic Coaching Model

Sad to say, but this will be the final Edtech RVA recap that I post for this series. Previously I’ve written about Getting Interactive with Google AppsBite-Sized Professional Development, and Plotting, Programming, & Printing in the ELA Classroom. The day was certainly a fun one though, and I did learn quite a lot from folks. This is definitely something I want to keep attending in the future, and I do encourage others to give it a try as well, especially if you’re in the Richmond area!

The final session that I attended was Dynamic Coaching Models: Helping Teachers Navigate Uncharted Technology Waters. This session was presented by Rebecca Fox and Althea Hudson. Both ladies can be found on Twitter- @foxteaches and @altheadespina. Be sure to give them a follow and check out their work!

The ideas in this session really support the work presented in the Bite-Sized Professional Development session, so if you weren’t sure about Bite-Sized PD before, attending this session would help to persuade you to change the ways of professional development in your own district.

Does this sound familiar? You attend PD as required by your district. Nothing is differentiated so folks who are new to the topic and folks who are very familiar with the topic are all thrown together. You had no say in the topic that was presented, and you were often given an overload of information. By the time you made it back to your school, all of your notes couldn’t help you remember everything you learned on the topic, and there was never any kind of follow-up to make sure that you were implementing correctly.

One of the few benefits to this kind of professional development is that everyone is up to date on the tool or topic, and the same information is pushed out to everyone at the same time. Great!

However, the cons outweigh the benefits. Because everyone got the same information, there wasn’t any differentiation. Sounds great to the folks on top, but if one looks more closely, those who already knew a lot about the topic were bored, and not paying close attention.They were just warm bodies filling seats. Those who were able to keep up found things okay, and remembered most of what they learned. Then there was the group that couldn’t keep up, got frustrated, and basically tossed aside everything once the training was over, never to be used again.

This is not the kind of professional development that is ever going to be successful or worth the money spent, if any was spent. Fox and Hudson presented the case for discarding this type of professional development. It was time for a change, they argued. Change would allow teachers to develop a growth mindset, take risks and try new things, build teacher confidence, and meet teachers’ needs.

One book that was pushed as a “must read” was Elena Aguilar’s Art of Coaching. This book doesn’t pertain only to edtech, but to any teacher, instructor, or coach who finds themselves working with teachers. I have this book, but have not had time to read it. This is certainly not the first time it’s been recommended to me, either. This book is meant to help coaches grow, self-reflect on their current work, and to help them embrace change.

After reading the book, coaches can then work on changing how they design professional development and trainings for their teachers. Once coaches begin to move in this direction though, they still have a lot of work ahead of them. They need to get administration to buy in to this different method. They’ll also need to seek teacher buy in, as well as teacher feedback on the topics they feel need covered to best support their teaching. Administration will also need to hold their staff accountable. Coaches will need to make sure they know what’s going on in the building with their staff, and adjust accordingly.

From this point forward, it’s up to all parties- teachers, administration, and coaches to keep each other posted and communicate needs and wants and any issues that may arise. By using different methods, districts can work to make professional development worthwhile and meaningful to their staff.

That’s it for EdtechRVA folks. The next recap round will come after March 25. I’m excited to attend my very first edcamp in Yorktown, VA. I hope to learn a lot of new ideas and make new connections with folks. If you liked this round of recaps, stay tuned for future ones!

EdtechRVA Recap: Plotting, Programming, & Printing in the ELA Classroom

It’s a brand new week, and definitely time for another Edtech RVA Recap. There’s only one more to do after this one. So far, previous recaps have included Getting Interactive with Google Apps and Bite-Sized Professional Development. If you’ve not had a chance to check them out, definitely do so, as they are worth the read.

This particular recap focuses on some different ways to engage students in the ELA classroom. My schools do not have the resources to implement what will be discussed here, but I was fascinated by how they were used to engage students in new ways, while still meeting the ELA standards. This session was presented by Colleen Casada, Gillian Lambert, and Emily Roberts. Gillian is @GillianLambert and Emily is @Connor6307 on Twitter. I do not have a Twitter for Colleen, but if anyone does, please let me know and I will edit this post to reflect it.

These ladies brought some new tools into the ELA classroom- 3D printers and Sphero robots. In addition, TinkerCAD was used to create the items for the 3D printers. When you think of ELA, these certainly aren’t the tools you think of seeing in the classroom.

To convey their ideas, these ladies gave examples of projects that had been completed with these tools, which is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate to teachers how the tools can make a difference in the curriculum. They also made sure to convey how the tools enhanced lessons and how they engaged the students. Typically, they tried to focus on lessons that normally would be challenging for students, and ones that often found students disengaged from the content.

One lesson example focused on Charlie from Flowers for Algernon. In the book, Charlie has an intellectual disability, which causes others to take advantage of him, though he doesn’t realize it. He is selected for an experimental surgery that will help correct his disability, but ultimately, the effects are not permanent. After reading, students are asked to do research on intellectual disabilities and make connections to Charlie. Then they spend time talking to folks who develop assistive technologies. Finally, they use TinkerCAD to design a device that would help aid Charlie in his daily life.

2017-03-08 13.39.07

Flowers for Algernon example, photo is my own

Another lesson example, Project Runway, focused on the novel Shakespeare’s Secret. After reading, students would be asked to research families in the British monarchy. Using this research, they design a collection of jewelry for the family. Each piece must have reasons based upon research, so students must use their persuasive writing skills to demonstrate that each piece suits the chosen family.

A final lesson example that I’ll share here focused on the play The Merchant of Venice. After reading the play, students would discuss direct and indirect characterization. They would then be asked to design a ring to symbolically represent the characters and plot. In addition, students learned how to find their ring size and how to measure for it. One of the presenters mentioned that for this particular project, some of the rings had flaw designs when printed. Students were given the chance to redesign and reprint their work, but it had to be on their own time. She said that 100% of the flawed rings were redone and reprinted.

Moving on, the presenters discussed how Sphero could be used in the classroom. There were not as many examples here. Sphero was used with The False Prince. Students learned to code Sphero to represent the journey of the Sage. Sphero was ran on a green screen, and then students edited in the music and images to match Sphero’s movements.

The presenters also gave some pointers and tips for getting started. I’ve put them in a list format for easier reading:

3D Printing/TinkerCAD

  • Explore databases of 3D models for ideas
  • Learn the basics of TinkerCAD (free online)
  • Identify a lesson for students that is challenging
  • Due to costs, not every design can be printed on the 3D printer typically


  • Learn the basics of Sphero and making him move
  • Make sure to chunk the learning as students want to go, go, go
  • Consider using an online learning platform to help provide the material
  • Only give 25-30 minutes of class time to students to discover how to work Sphero

Even if your school does not yet have the capabilities of these tools, consider how something like these tools could change how some of your students engage in their education. It might just be the spark that one student needs.

EdtechRVA Recap: Bite-Sized Professional Development

I’m back again with another EdtechRVA recap! My previous post focused on Getting Interactive with Google Apps, which I highly recommend that you check out if you are a GSuite school! Now onto another session that I thoroughly loved- Bite Sized Professional Development: What Busy Teachers Need for Success. If you are in a position where you must provide professional development to teachers, you know that often it can be hard to find something that “works” for your district. The bad news is that based on all of the different PD sessions I’ve attended at conferences, NO ONE has the right answer to how to make professional development better. Different districts have found methods that work for them, but they are also not a magic band-aid to get high numbers of staff through the doors. Each solution still boasts a low number of attendees in comparison to the number of total staff in the district or school. However, that doesn’t stop these folks from continuing to make headway and find ways to get more professional development to their staff. You certainly shouldn’t quit either. Take the risk and try new things, even if others discourage you based on past experience.

Our presenter this round was Diana Campbell. You can find her on Twitter as well- @dlcamp007. Definitely check her out, especially if you’d like to start conversations on professional development and bounce ideas. Did I mention in previous posts how much I love promoting Twitter?

The session began with a simple poll on PollEverywhere. It focused on the frustrations that teachers faced with PD, and as attendees answered, a word cloud was generated. See for yourself:


Image credit: Althea Hudson (@altheadespina)

If you’re like me, this word cloud was not something unfamiliar. We’ve seen all of those reasons before. We’ve heard the stories from staff members. We’ve even experienced these ourselves when we attend PD for training. So what is another solution?

Campbell suggested bite-size PD instruction- PD that lasts for only 15-30 minutes and covers one or two items on a topic matter. Take Google Classroom for instance, as a PD instructor, this topic is huge and takes a long time to cover. To actually give a full session on everything takes at least 2 hours. However, in that 2 hours, attendees will experience a brain overload explosion. They will take in so much information that it will overwhelm them and by the time they get back to their classrooms they won’t know where to begin.

Bite-size PD works to avoid that. It is based around research that shows that we can only take in so much information for so long before time is needed to process and work through the new information. Without that time, much of the new information will be lost and forgotten by the time the teacher returns to the classroom. The research also reminded us that we implement this type of practice with our own students, but often we don’t with adults. Though we learn about differentiation for our students, as adults, there’s typically only one size fits all when it comes to professional development sessions.

Based on this, Campbell presented a PD model for bite-sized PD. From my understanding, here are 7 steps to implementing this particular model with any tool:

  1. Demonstrate the tool in action OR if doing a follow-up session review material from previous one.
  2. Explain the benefits/positives of the tool
  3. Explain potential issues and possible solutions
  4. Show 1 or 2 items to get attendees started with the tool
  5. Ask for ideas on how it might be implemented in their classroom
  6. Instructor provides ideas on how to use in classroom
  7. Call for questions

After implementation of the first round, make sure to follow up in a timely fashion. Try jumping from a week to week basis or every other week. Either way, don’t let it go so long that attendees forget what they learned in the first session. Make sure attendees are also aware that they can work 1:1 with the instructor if they feel they need even further instruction.

Once Campbell finished providing the research and her solution, she then showcased her model in action. To me, this was the best part. It’s one thing to simply tell about a PD model, but it’s another thing to implement it entirely. PollEverywhere was her example, and in 15 minutes, she had shown us the tool and the most basic use for it. If she were giving it as an actual professional development session, she would then follow up with another session in another week or so to review the concepts from the first session, and then add one or two more uses to the first. The cycle would continue until she had thoroughly explained the tool.

If you have a chance to see Campbell present this session, definitely attend because if nothing else it will get your gears spinning. It certainly did mine, and I’m ready to redesign the way I do PD at both of my schools for next year. Thanks to Campbell, I have a way to improve and hopefully my staff will find it more to their liking as well.

EdtechRVA Recap: Get Interactive with Google Apps

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend EdtechRVA in Richmond, VA. This is hosted by the Greater Richmond Area Education Technology Consortium (GRAETC), and is a one day conference for folks interested in educational technology. It was hosted at Virginia Commonwealth University this year, and quite a variety of passionate educators showed up. It was my first time going, and I was able to pick up quite a bit. I also talked about hyperdocs to some folks, and saw familiar faces from VSTE.

There will be a few blogs that recap the sessions I went to, and these will be denoted with “EdtechRVA Recap” in the title. I can’t say how long it’ll take me to get them done, but when I finish the last post, I’ll make readers aware.

The first session I attended focused on Getting Interactive with Google Apps. Being new to Google this year, and a lover of hyperdocs, I was hoping to find some new tips and tricks for myself. By the end of the session, I’d found both. This particular session was hosted by Wendy Seger from Chesterfield County Public Schools. She works with a K-5 population, but you can certainly take her ideas here and modify to meet the needs of older students as well. She can be found on Twitter as well: @WendySeger.

She focused on taking ideas from interactive white board apps, and integrating them into Google Apps, particularly Slides. The idea itself seems like it should have been pretty obvious, but it was not. Just like with PowerPoint, Google Slides allows you to edit a master slide template. What this means is that you can use the master slide template to create slides that have locked down features that students cannot move. This is helpful when creating an interactive sort. Presentations that utilize the master slide template will only have certain pieces that can be moved, which means students won’t mess up the entire layout.

Students cannot complete activities like this in presentation mode, however. They must be in the regular editing view. The best part is that sort activities can be combined with other lesson activities, and I’m sure it would marry well with hyperdocs, especially the ones created in Slides from the beginning.

Teachers who create activities in Slides can send out the work via Google Classroom, and have set the assignment to make a copy for each student. Students can then complete the work and turn in to the teacher for grading or comprehension.

The best part was that Wendy shared many already created resources for K-5 classrooms. There are instructions to explain how to create an interactive Slides, templates, and sample activities ready to go. I mean, it’s pretty crazy the amount of stuff that is in this folder for teachers to use.

Check it out for yourself. Remember if you do use though, please give credit where credit is due. After all, she did make this whole folder free and I highly support the free sharing of resources.

Keep an eye out for the next update on EdtechRVA!