Friday, March 20, 2015

Free Online Conference - LibrePlanet

Tune in and participate in a live discussion at

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Prevent Click Tracking Tools for Gmail

"Miguel knows when you open your email or read it!" A co-worker thought it was creepy that I knew when people were reading my emails. I found it immensely helpful to know if someone had read my email about a meeting 2 minutes before it started, or several days, as well as whether they clicked the links, viewed attached documents, etc.

It had a coolness factor, but also, it must be acknowledged, a creepy one--should we know when people are reading emails we send them?

Want to know if someone read your email (a.k.a. "click tracking") sent via Gmail? There are several Chrome add-ons you can use, such as the following:

Of course, it can be annoying when someone uses these tools on you, right? Imagine that vendor--yes, this has happened to me--who knows a few minutes after I've opened their email selling their product and requesting a follow-up visit. Technically, their email is spam, but some writing is too intriguing to pass up. They receive a notification that I've read their email, and I kid you not, within 5-10 minutes, I have a follow-up email from them.

Wouldn't it be neat to know if someone was trying to click-track you? These click-tracking tools work because they embed "invisible" images in the email they've sent you. If you use an email client like Mozilla Thunderbird, you can automatically block those images:

 But sometimes, you want to see the images that come with an email, and that lets the "bad images" in that track you.

Two free tools (via LifeHacker) you can use to stop click-tracking include the following:
  1. Uglymail - "Ugly Email is a Gmail extension that allows you to see if the email is being tracked before opening it. It seamlessly integrates with Gmail."
  2. Pixelblock - "PixelBlock is an Gmail extension that blocks email tracking attempts used against you to detect the opening/reading of emails. PixelBlock displays a 'red eye' when it finds and blocks a tracking attempt inside of an email you're reading. "
Here's what UglyMail displays (notice the red eye with a line through it) when blocking a tracker:

If you're concerned about privacy, then you will certainly want to take advantage of one of these two free tools.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Exploring My Leadership Style from an Introvert's Perspective (Updated)

When I read Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, I felt validated in being an introvert surrounded by extroverts. All my life, I've felt the push to conform, to be more extrovert...and, Susan's book helped me accept who I am, who I've always been, and who I can be in the future. Other introverts with whom I've shared the ideas in Cain's book also are gifted with flashes of insight into their lives.

It also helped me appreciate "the talkers" I work with, the extroverts who can't seem to "shut up" about whatever they are trying to say. Of course, I came to realize that they perceive me in the same way--they talk too much, while I write too much.
We...see talkers as leaders. The more a person talks, the more other group members direct their attention to him, which means that he becomes increasingly powerful as a meeting goes on. It also helps to speak fast; we rate quick talkers as more capable and appealing than slow talkers.
All of this would be fine if more talking were correlated with greater insight, but research suggests that there’s no such link.
But what does this mean in terms of who I am as a leader? I've been told that I'm too quiet in meetings. There are so many people who want to talk, while I look for pauses in the conversation, for a silence that will allow me to share that one insight others have expressed. I often identified with the Quakers, who waited for an idea to set them quaking until they broke the silence of their meeting.

In this research study, what a joy to read the following, Introverts, Extroverts, and the Complexities of Team Dynamics:
Extroverts gravitate toward groups and constant action, and they tend to think out loud. They are energized and recharged by external stimuli, such as personal interactions, social gatherings, and shared ideas. Being around other people gives them energy. In contrast, introverts typically dislike noise, interruptions, and big group settings. They instead tend to prefer quiet solitude, time to think before speaking (or acting), and building relationships and trust one-on-one. Introverts recharge with reflection, deep dives into their inner landscape to research ideas, and focus deeply on work.
In my own observations of people who've completed Myers-Brigg personality tests, yes, this is so true. Consider these additional findings about leaders:
The intuition here is that extroverted leadership may drive higher performance when employees are passive but lower performance when employees are proactive
Take-Away #1: If you are an extrovert in a leadership position, it's best if you have "followers" who will do what you say.
Team leaders who are extroverted can be highly effective leaders when the members of their team are dutiful followers looking for guidance from above. Extroverts bring the vision, assertiveness, energy, and networks necessary to give them direction.
Take-Away #2: If you are an introvert in a leadership position, it's best to have "extroverts" who you can empower to speak up.
By contrast, when team members are proactive — and take the initiative to introduce changes, champion new visions, and promote better strategies — it is introverted leaders who have the advantage. Extroverted leaders are more likely to feel threatened, I’ve found. When employees champion new visions, strategies, and work processes, they often steal the spotlight, challenging leaders’ dominance, authority, and status. As a result, extroverted leaders tend to be less receptive: They shoot down suggestions and discourage employees from contributing. By comparison, an introverted leader might be comfortable listening and carefully considering suggestions from below. 
What I like about this information is that there is a need for balance in a team. As an introvert leader, it's important to not be defensive when team members bring up great ideas. As an introvert follower, I would love to participate in a meeting that worked something like this:
How can you get the best from deep, quiet team members during meetings? A look at practices used in some organizations points to an answer. At Amazon, every meeting begins in total silence. Before any conversation can occur, everyone must quietly read a six-page memo about the meeting’s agenda for 20 to 30 minutes. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos instituted this process after recognizing that employees rarely read meeting materials sent in advance. Reading together focuses everyone’s attention on the issues at hand.
The type of clear thinking that these structured memos require also serves the purpose of leveling the playing field for team members who differ in their level of introversion and extroversion. The imposition of writing as a medium turns self-discipline and personal reflection into effective meetings and participative decision making. After devoting time to reading, the group can then focus on engaging in a valuable discourse: reaching shared understandings, digging deeper into data and insights, and perhaps most importantly, having a meaningful debate. 
The process gives introverted team members the time they need to formulate their thoughts and, for some, build up the courage to share them with the rest of the team. It also encourages the extroverted to listen, reflect, and become more open to the perspectives of their more silent peers.
According to this site, the "six-page memo" is structured in the following way:
1) the context or question.2) approaches to answer the question – by whom, by which method, and their conclusions3) how is your attempt at answering the question different or the same from previous approaches4) now what? – that is, what’s in it for the customer, the company, and how does the answer to the question enable innovation on behalf of the customer?

When I reflect on my own approach to meetings, I can't help but notice that I DO write a narrative in the form of an email, plan out the agenda methodically and try to get it out to people ahead of time, but only a few will read it. It may be worthwhile to try this approach to meetings.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Be the CTO They Need

When I saw this earlier this week, it immediately reminded me of a Twitter exchange I had with the incomparable Alice Keeler (Teacher Tech blog) earlier this month.

While I don't remember the exact details of the conversation (wait, a quick google search and voila!), and that was a few thousand tweets ago, I remember that the main problem was simply that technology directors are mired in fear, uncertainty and doubt, keeping people they allegedly serve stuck in static learning environments.
In fact, Alice later tweeted, "Many of them are and there are some wonderful IT depts and others are shivering in the corner with fear."

If one were to make a list of the objectionable actions technology directors make, what would comprise the list?

Here are some ideas:
  1. "Starting with locking down email/youtube/tools teachers want/need" (Alice Keeler)
  2. Locking down social media tools.
  3. Making software and hardware decisions based on their perspective not that of teachers and students
  4. Virtualizing all the desktops so the CTO has absolute control and end-users cannot load software or customize anything
  5. Make getting help or support too complicated
  6. Fear of change
I suspect that the one that scares me the most is choosing expensive solutions over free ones (e.g. MS Exchange/Office365 vs GoogleApps for Education), an inflexibility to try new solutions that may yield powerful benefits.

Some guideposts for CTOs based on my experiences and need to grow:
  1. Plan for what you can, be open to possibilities.
  2. Communicate and build relationships to the best of your ability.
  3. Know what leadership/management style best fits your team.
  4. Read voraciously, throw innovative ideas and solutions out; don't wait for the best moment because you'll be waiting a long time.
  5. Recognize you have a short time (2-3 years) to make things happen before things started happening back. (the power of the system to fight back a la Peter Senge)
What would you add?

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Thursday, March 19, 2015

CTO Wannabee Questions - 5 Unexpected Additions @blueskunkblog @ndmielke

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A few days ago, I sent out an email to my friends, all brilliant CTOs, hoping for their distilled wisdom to a question that I thought amazingly valuable:
What are THE top 5 or 10 questions you would ask a candidate and/or know answer to in a CTO job interview?
My hope was that I could update my CTOWannabe Interview Questions. Here are 10 of my favorites from that list:
  1. What is it that you monitor or assess to determine your effectiveness in the organization?
  2. What are your top 3 priorities for what you must do well in the first 100 days of this position to be an effective leader?
  3. Please describe an issue in the past 12 months that has tested your ethical being?
  4. Describe yourself in the context of being a reflective leader.
  5. Describe how you see "technology" in the broader context of the school's core mission of teaching and learning
  6. What accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
  7. How do you stay current with technology issues, apps, innovations? How do you stay current with educational research, reforms, etc.?
  8. How would you direct/handle/deploy a new district wide initiative?
  9. Discuss how frequently and how comfortable you would be asking, "How can I help? What can I do?"
  10. How do you balance providing the electronic resources needed for the classroom environment while securing the network and related technology that you are responsible for?
Unfortunately, in response to my query, my friends and colleagues, jokingly gave me more wisdom than I was prepared to handle.  Given those questions, I've decided to try to respond to them seriously, even though they may have intended them as a joke.  While I did get some serious questions, like the ones below, I decided to take a shot at the zany ones featured in this blog entry. For now, here are the sane questions contributed by Nathan Mielke (@ndmielke):

  • Have you built a career pitching a product/platform or have you worked to build systems that support learning? If you pitch a product/platform, why?
  • Have you been to Mountain View or Cupertino? If so, how many times and what did you learn/share with others?
  • Were you a business ed teacher? If so, are you over "kids need to know how to use Word to work in a business?"
  • Can you spell TCP/IP?

What would your responses be to these zany questions--contributors include Doug "Blue Skunk" Johnson (MN) and Mark Gabehart (TX)--below?

1) Are you a masochist?
"Did you know that he installed video cameras in the ceiling above the women's restroom stalls?" gossiped a secretary. I had just arrived in the school district to facilitate a workshop and this was her way of introducing me to the school district. Of course, she was referring to the technology director, for who else had the knowledge to setup video cameras?

The word "masochist" is one I've carefully avoided researching for the simple reason that it appeared to have sexual overtones, and as such, not worth investigating since I am an educator. Since my esteemed colleague suggested this question, I am, with some trepidation, looking up the word:
enjoyment of pain : pleasure that someone gets from being abused or hurt; especially : sexual enjoyment from being hurt or punished
But it is an important bit of wisdom to consider. Obviously, human beings shouldn't--and an educator cannot, and it's against the law!--derive any pleasure from others being abused or hurt, or how "sex" might play out in school setting. Consider the cautionary tale of the CTO who would gently caress the back of a female staff member while meeting with her. Sexual harassment NEVER is acceptable. These situations play out in the news every few months, unfortunately.

Of course, this question would never be asked during a CTO job interview. But there are valuable lessons here that any CTO would be wise to heed.
  • Are you willing to endure the pain of leadership to get things done? There can be emotional pain and turmoil resulting from being a leader or being in a management position. I do not believe that leadership is possible without the kind of self-reflection that leads to one colleague put it, "Remember, you signed up for this!" Still, that can be cold comfort in the midst. That's why it's important to reach out to others, build a PLN of leaders. 
  • "No pain, no gain" is a reminder I take to heart when exercising. Pain signals that growth is occurring (or that you're doing things wrong). Figuring out which is a reflective process that must involve those pesky 360 degree surveys, or at least, the ability to ask others, "Am I nuts or what?"
Masochism for the CTO is learning to step into painful situations, have tough conversations and confrontations, even when you know it will be painful. It means working hard to NOT be pain-averse because, as anyone in a leadership position knows, our first instinct is to back away from pain.

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) Can you turn water into wine and sows' ears into silk purses?

"We just need you to setup the district's network, run our phone system, and show everyone how to use technology in the classroom?" There is no doubt that CTOs are expected to be miracle-workers.  But what happens when you can't afford to pay for miracle-workers, and instead have to make do?

"Home-grown" techs often make great additions to a tech team. I still remember the fondness that two fellow technology directors had for high school students that had grown up "techie" and decided to stay in the school district, either with a degree or not.

"Sow's ears" clearly doesn't refer to these folks, but rather, individuals that can be found in any organization who must be helped to work together. I take a particular delight in recent events with the Security Service, the new director being excoriated because he needed to change the culture now...his approach was to build trust and strong relationships with people that now Congress wants to terminate:
"Dude, you don't have to earn their trust. You're their boss. They're supposed to earn your trust," Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, told Director Joseph Clancy.
Stewart was responding to Clancy -- trying to explain why the Secret Service has been caught up in a series of controversies and security incidents -- saying it will "take time" to change the culture and he, as director, needs to "build trust" with the workforce. 
Source: FoxNews 3/17/2015 
The phrase, "Turn sows' ears into silk purses" is particularly relevant for CTOs in small districts where they must depend on staff that lack the professional certifications and/or degrees required in larger organizations. This means finding ways to setup learning situations for staff who may not typically rely on "conventional" learning opportunities, such as university studies. It may mean finding self-paced, just-in-time training well as expensive training that is wholly relevant--which is key for these adult learners who provide service--to to their work.

Sow's ears into silk purses goes to the heart of being a transformational leader. And, unlike what we might imagine from watching fairy tale movies, it doesn't happen in an hour or with a thunderclap. Rather, it is a slow, plodding process that empower people to move ahead one deliberate step at a time. That takes time. Unless you're Miracle Max, you have to nurture those around you.

3) Can you provide tech support to your spouse without losing your patience?
"Honey," my wife woke me up at 5:00am, 30 minutes ahead of my alarm clock. "Can you help me print this out? I can't get it to work!" Boy, was I hot about that awakening. I had stayed up a little later past my bedtime, while my wife dropped off to sleep a little earlier. Why couldn't she have asked me for help the night before? I would have pointed this out to her, but it wouldn't necessarily have done any good--we've had the same situation happen throughout our marriage. She's a morning person, while I'm a night owl. If I had lost my temper, what would it have gained at that moment? I resolved to have a crucial conversation at a time that we were both awake and on equal footing.

Crucial conversations are important, but trying to have them when offering just-in-time, much needed support is a waste of time. The person whom you are trying to have a conversation with doesn't want to listen to why now isn't a good time, and you have to ask yourself what you really want--to be perceived as the person who gets the job done in a time of need, or the person who is going to complain about it while doing it and get people mad at you?

Not surprisingly, I had a situation like this come up recently and I had to deal with it. One set of expectations had been communicated and agreed upon, but somehow, the project was now dependent on me getting things done quickly. I could dig in my heels and complain, or just get the work done, then have the crucial confrontation--since I was disappointed that the expectations had changed or not been met by the other party. Fortunately, the confrontation went well.

It's too easy to lose one's patience. Instead, I ask myself, What do I really want? and when it comes to technology work, it is the good of the organization that trumps all.

4) Mac or PC?
Mac or PC, the age-old debate of which device is the one-size-fits-all. Some of the reasons why folks often pick the PC include:

  • Easy to maintain, reimage and support
  • Easy to update and manage remotely using solutions like SCCM, PDQ Deploy, "FOG," Clonezilla and others.
  • Compatibility with Windows world, especially MS Office Suite, Visio, etc.
The Mac is often selected because it's "ease-of-use" reputation, integrated video/audio and operating system. "Apple does it's own thing," I've heard it said (and said it myself), while PC can be managed easily and cost is lower.

Of course, you can make similar arguments between iPads and Chromebooks and Android devices. And, for fun, I have. The truth is we are no longer stuck with one-size-fits-all tools. Let's enjoy the argument, but focus on the needs we are trying to serve.

Another important point is standardization. Should you standardize technology across a school district? I've often pointed out that you standardize some things (e.g. computer labs, library computers, laptop carts) to ensure equity and ease of support across the District in support of learning goals. However, you must also find a way to allow diversity and individuality. This point of view has been argued against quite frequently by my colleagues.

They argue for standardized technology in every classroom, from ceiling-mounted digital projectors or wall-mounted television screens, the type of operating system on computers/laptops/tablets. The ultimate in this was one district's effort to run Windows OS on iPads they issued to every student and staff member, including custodians. Wow.

The problem with standardization is that a lot of people aren't going to like what you pick. That's why there has to be a committee of stakeholders, a group of people who are going to come together to make that decision...and, own it. Each community, each school district, will have a different take on it and the decision should reflect that. The importance of this can't be under-stated--you can't make that call as a technology director and expect things not to explode in your face.

5) What is your most embarrassing Facebook photo?
"I recommend you block everyone you work with so they can't read or see what you're doing," shared a colleague a few years ago. I found myself disagreeing. In truth, you don't want to put anything out ANYWHERE that couldn't be shown on the evening news.

So, if by embarrassing Facebook photo, we're referring to a picture that shows one in a situation where you're drinking a margarita with a sombrero, you better not be doing so wearing the school district t-shirt featuring the District's logo or mascot.

and, a bonus question,

6) Do eat Thai food?
"Let's go out to lunch," said one boss I worked with. He had a craving for Thai food and I learned that from him. I was a bit reluctant to go out to eat with my boss at the time; he was a workaholic and I knew lunch would be about work. And, I had this new book I wanted to read during lunch.

Believe it or not, I had never had Thai food until that day and I can't imagine what would have happened if I wasn't "open to new experiences." As a CTO, you have to be open to new experiences that will change your perspective...and, perhaps more importantly, you have to find ways to create--or facilitate the joint creation--of experiences for those you work with.

There are many real questions that could be asked when interviewing for a CTO position. I've run into some pretty inventive ones, but I will have to share those at a future date. For now, I'm happy to say that I'm surprised at how insightful my friend's questions were, even though I doubt I would ever encounter them in an interview panel's list!

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

To Connect and Bridge - TEC-SIG Election Results

While participating in an exciting meeting about data warehousing earlier this week, an email flashed on my Chromebook's screen, as well as my Android phone--SIG Election Results. As my Texas colleagues, and regular readers, may recall, a colleague was kind enough to nominate me for the position of Vice-President/President-Elect for the TCEA Technology Education Coordinators Special Interest Group, or TEC-SIG for short. I wrote about my thoughts in Where Our Voices Matter blog entry.

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When I received the email, my thoughts flashed involuntarily to my Can we be better? blog post, where I shared the following:
As a leader, I constantly ask myself, "Can I be better than I was in the past?" I believe we must ask the same question as a learning organization. As I ponder what TEC-SIG might be in two years, I see an organization whose ranks have swelled to include all who labor on behalf of our students, from the technicians who crawl in the ceiling laying cable to the curriculum coach who suggests Google Classroom as an easy way for a teacher to share learning resources in a PBL unit to the Chief Technology Officer who must lead, connect, and communicate to achieve far-reaching results. 
As your Vice-President/President-Elect, I will do my utmost to collaborate with others to connect, communicate, collaborate and create a qualitatively better experience for TEC-SIG members while reaching out to those who are unaware but needful, disenfranchised but longing for a place where their voices...where ourvoices...matter.
As I reflect on this question, I would like to invite fellow TEC-SIG members--as well as reach out to those who are not members, who perhaps have felt left out--and invite them to share their thoughts about improving how we might connect. I ask this outside of TEC-SIG boundaries because I believe it's important to connect and bridge.

Some of the questions--and more are hovering at the edge of articulation--that pop into my mind as a "new" officer (most will probably be answered at New SIG Officer training, what a neat innovation since my previous term!):

  • Are there any set procedures for handling/interacting with vendors? I'm thinking of sponsorships, etc. 
  • Any rules/regulations to where TEC-SIG information is posted? For example, I want to solicit feedback from people--who aren't members--and then point them to the TEC-SIG web site.
  • I'd really like to expand the description on the TEC-SIG web site to be more inclusive, as well as enhance it to reach a broader audience and be more "information-rich" and feature. When I look at it now, I ask myself, "Does this represent all our members and potential members who need support?"
The SIG Results were communicated by TCEA's Chance McKee, Director of Member Services for the organization. I am grateful to Chance for making contact during what, I believe, is TCEA's Spring Break!

The TCEA Special Interest Group results are as follows; I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to those elected to office, as well as my profound appreciation to others who made the effort to run for office!
The winner of each office is written in blue below: 

CAMP-SIG:Communication Liason 2-yearMaria HarringtonPam Cranford
TreasurerVana ShawNina PeeryLindsay Chase 
LIB-SIG:VP-President ElectCarolyn FooteNancy Jo LambertJan Hodge 
TA/CS-SIG:Tech Apps RepresentativeJo Elda CadenaTanya Snook  TEC-SIG:Treasurer:Cori Coburn-ShiflettTonia MeadowsRachel Medrano VP-President ElectMiguel GuhlinTracie SimentalJoel AdkinsMark Simmons

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Annual Used Book Sale - April 10-12, 2015

One of my favorite events every year....
The North East ISD Council of PTAs is sponsoring the 13th Annual Used Book Sale with the help and participation of the local PTAs in NEISD. The sale of more than 80,000 books will be held at Blossom Athletic Center in Littleton Gym, 12002 Jones Maltsberger Rd on the following dates: 
Friday, April 10: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Saturday, April 11: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday, April 12: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Hardbacks and DVDs are priced at $1 and paperbacks at $0.50. Sunday is the ever popular bag sale day where a bag can be purchased for $15 and stuffed to the brim with all the books that can fit. Additional bags can be purchased for $10 each. Cash AND credit cards are accepted. Please, no checks. Admission is free. 
More than 25 book categories are represented including cookbooks, romance, mystery and thrillers, sci-fi and fantasy, classics, health and fitness, biography, business, hobbies, how-to, self-help, religious and inspirational, fiction, reference, western, military, history, parenting and childcare, art, young adult, comics and DVDs, as well as an ENORMOUS selection of children's books that includes picture books, board books, chapter books and series books. 
Used book sale proceeds will fund PTA projects such as the Blossom Scholarship Fund, Arts in Education, Health Education Awareness, Alcohol and Drug Education, Project Graduation, Bike Rodeos and many, many others. These projects benefit students throughout the District. Please support PTA and get some fantastic buys at the same time. 

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Thursday, March 12, 2015

EdTech Coaching Job Descriptions #edtechcoach #educoach #coaching

One of the most intriguing job titles I've seen for this new position of "technology" or "digital" coach is St. Vrain Valley School District's Learning Technology Coach. Consider the summary of the position:
It is the Learning Technology Coach’s task to provide site-based support for high quality teaching and learning through the effective utilization of learning technology. The purpose of the Learning Technology Coach is to increase a school’s capacity to incorporate learning technology and 21st century skills to enhance student performance through systemic professional development support. 
Learning Technology Coaches will provide support to classroom teachers, teacher librarians, school administrators, school leadership teams and other educational staff. In this role, Learning Technology Coaches are agents of change and actively engaged in professional capacity building through systems thinking, curriculum planning, lesson design and instruction.
Another interesting component is the following chart:

How is YOUR district defining the "edtech coaching" position?

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

5 Responses to #EdTech #Coaching Questions #edtechcoach #educoach

Earlier this year, I had a chance to email a few questions to the authors of Naturalizing Digital Immigrants: The Power of Collegial Coaching for Technology Integration, in particular Dr. Dawn K. Wilson and Dr. Katie Alaniz.

Find out more at their web site -

As you know, I've been looking into the role of "technology coach" or digital coach as ISTE refers to it. I really see the role of coach as a natural evolution of the instructional technology specialist position, which in my opinion, has been stymied and hit a dead-end (or a cul-de-sac that involves circling for a way onward! haha). 

Source: Wilson, D. K., & Alaniz, S. K. (2015). Coaching for technology integration: A peer partnership approach. AACE Conference Proceedings. - Presentation
One of the fears I've heard folks express is, "What cultural changes have to happen to make these positions possible in our schools?" I know we have coaches already, but they are seldom required to have technology skills. I explore this in one of my latest blog entries, Through the Neck of the Hourglass: Exploring #educoach and #growthmindset via #edtechcoach

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to chat further with Dr. Dawn Wilson and Dr. Kate Alaniz. Questions appear in bold with their responses as quoted text.

Question #1. What do you think of the role of instructional technology specialists? Should those disappear and give way to digital coaching positions?
In reflecting on this question, we were challenged by a former instructional technology graduate student, who seemed surprised at the suggestion of no longer hiring instructional technologists.  In her thinking, “We worked hard to get these degrees in instructional technology, and now you are suggesting that districts don’t need instructional technologists anymore?”  In reality, our book suggests just the opposite.  We certainly do not suggest that instructional technologists are no longer needed, and we also don’t advocate for combining the role of content specialist with instructional technologists, thereby streamlining personnel into fewer positions.
In fact, we believe there is a need for more boots on the ground, or additional specialists helping teachers integrate technology with greater content expertise.  Schools need to ensure that content specialists and instructional technology specialists are provided meaningful opportunities to collaborate with one another and those teachers they are supporting, thus providing faculty with multiple “digital learning specialists” on each campus.  Their titles are ultimately irrelevant, but what they do is critical.  They must work shoulder-to-shoulder with teachers to focus on effectively teaching content through instructional design and technology integration (when appropriate) that addresses students’ needs.  
2. Do you think we are placing the emphasis on a title rather than what they are doing? Whenever I bring this up to colleagues, people tell me "Technology" or "Digital" should appear  in front of "coach."  To not do that means that technology focus is subsumed into curriculum and lost.  How do you address those fears about recalcitrant school cultures who may not embrace this position and the activity unless it is appropriately named?  How would we change the culture to accept the change?
Some technologists are fulfilling the responsibilities of a tech coach, but not all of them are doing so.  Thus, we think schools must focus on these specialists’ day-to-day activities rather than their title.  Context must also be considered.  That is why the activities that the "learning specialist,” “digital learning partner,” or “digital learning specialist" perform with the teacher are the most important component, not what they are called.  
You asked, "How would we change the culture to accept this concept?"  In addressing this concern, we suggest starting with instructional technologists and having them collaborate with instructional coaches to share expertise in content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge.  By combining knowledge and skills from both perspectives, the technologist coaches the instructional specialist and the instructional specialist coaches the technologist, thus creating a sort of information sharing.  In the end, both groups of people learn and grow in order that they can more effectively perform the work we want these “coaches” to fulfill (as noted in our book) - yielding more boots on the ground.
3.  What are some of the critical elements needed in order for the coaches to be successful?
In our own work, we have experienced that the most important criteria for a digital learning specialist is that they are respected for their own work in the classroom, both as a teacher who uses technology effectively and often, as well as a trusted colleague who will not openly share their teammates’ secrets.  This is important because teachers will want to learn from someone who has lived in their shoes and prompted great achievement among students while using various technological tools.  
One campus we have dealt with quite a bit is structured so that their technology coach teaches a few classes every morning and then supports teachers with their various classroom integration needs every afternoon.  This allows the coach to earn credibility among the teachers while never losing contact with what it is like to be in the classroom.  In fact, at this particular school, even many of the administrators teach a unit of instruction to students for a couple of weeks out of every year.  
We believe that when coaches are seen as “partners” rather than elevated “specialists,” they will garner more cooperation and less resistance from teachers who might otherwise elect not to implement technology tools. This teaching responsibility isn’t required, but in observing experiences of coaches on their own campuses, we believe that part of their success comes because they are first a teacher and co-worker (without any real authority over anyone), and second a partner or peer that has a vested interest in helping colleagues to be successful.
4.  What should be the goal of the technology coach?  How do you know when the goal has been met?

In our book, we refer quite a bit to “ripples.”  We believe the successful integration ripples from teacher to teacher, and these transformations are the most effective way to help other teachers to consider new tools for instruction.  If a campus relies only on just one or two specialists to “infect” the teachers with the “technology bug,” they will probably never reach all of the teachers.  However, when a coached teacher participates in meaningful integration experience and then shares it with a colleague, the ripples begin.  

As Katie was sharing just this last week, such ripple effects have played a tremendous role on her campus in teachers’ willingness to consider new integrational opportunities for iPads.  After she coached one kindergarten teacher in planning and implementing a lesson with the ChatterPix Kids app, another kindergarten colleague happen to pass by and hear of the ideas and excitement surrounding this lesson.  The colleague was impressed to learn that the students would be using this app to create multimedia text-to-self connections after reading a book together in class, and she decided to implement the same lesson the very next day!  The excitement had created ripple effects that will continue to open new doors for meaningful technology integration among this team and throughout other teaching teams in the school.

5. What is the best approach to spreading this type of innovation?
We believe the goal should be to use ripples to “infect” as many teachers as possible, in order that everyone will eventually be in on the “ coaching” activity.  In this way, the entire campus will be transformed into a learning community, with colleagues simultaneously supporting other colleagues.  Success is evident when coaches are coaching teachers who are coaching teachers.  

Special thanks to Dr. Alaniz and Dr. Wilson for sharing their insights and wisdom in writing. This blog entry was written almost entirely by them and any errors are mine alone. Expect a series of podcasts in the future, and you can pre-order a copy of their book!
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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Saying Goodbye and Hello to Cloud Services @dmantz7 @wfryer

Colleague Dean Mantz asks:

The post, "Why I'm Saying Goodbye to Apple, Google and Microsoft," shares the blogger's desire to rid himself of common cloud tools, answering question like the following:
So why am I typing this on a laptop running GNU/Linux, the free software operating system, not an Apple or Windows machine? And why are my phones and tablets running a privacy-enhanced offshoot of Android calledCyanogenmod, not Apple’s iOS or standard Android?
Of course, I have to agree. I have said "Goodbye" to cloud services again and again, but always find myself creeping back to them, unable to escape the convenience Google's suite of apps offer me for work and home. In fact, I run GNU/Linux (my latest flavor is LinuxMint Cinammon 64bit for PC, and 32bit for my aging white Macbook I bought in 2007 at Wes Fryer's recommendation). I seldom use Windows and Mac OS.

In this time of Google Chrome OS, Chromebook, I find myself in an uneasy compromise. As I ponder my next big purchase for technology, especially in light of Macbook Air's switch USB-C, I have decided that my purchases will not be so dramatic:
  1. Acer C720 Chromebook (11inch) with 4gigs of RAM - This is now my preferred desktop, not only because I have easy access to Google's tools, but because with a few key presses, I can easily run UbuntuLinux with LXDE graphic user interface. That's the benefit of light-n-fresh Chrome OS, but also the kitchen sink if I need it. Cost for this is $308 on
  2. Tablet: iPad 3rd gen 64gig - This is my current tablet and I have a significant investment in this OS. If I need to create a high-end preso (much less needed than in past years) with embedded video/audio/images, I can use Keynote on this device. However, I mostly use it for ebook and video consumption (e.g. Netflix, Amazon Instant Video). If I had to replace this device, I'd probably go with an Android tablet at a fraction of the cost (e.g. Samsung Galaxy Tab). $230...I wish one of the open source tablets would work, but...those aren't ready for prime time yet, IMHO.
  3. An external USB hard drive - there are several of these available on Amazon at low cost (<$70).
  4. Samsung Galaxy 4 or 5 Android Phone with T-Mobile - I love T-Mobile's support and customer service, having escaped from AT&T's tyrannical clutches. I've considered getting an iPhone but love the ability to encrypt files on Android, which is great because I can carry important medical files on my device without fear or concern. I've loaded Cyanogen once or twice, but it's not as easy as it sounds.
My total cost for this setup is a LOT less than buying an Apple device. While I wish I could go "off the grid" with my mobile phone, being ON the grid is valuable, too. As a result, I'm sensitive to how to better control my social media content, as well as sharing "private" information. After all, if it's private, it's probably encrypted and unavailable easily online.

I also use Gmail for my public email, but I also have a "private" email, as well as encrypted email accounts. I don't advertise the latter, except to a few friends (all of them law-abiding, American citizens). 

I wish I could leave Google, Apple, Android behind, but the truth is, I need them for my work. I'm not likely to setup an email/web server for my own use to safeguard my privacy, but I do take advantage of other tools to encrypt my data as much as possible. 

The author of the web article Dean asks about is right:
Control is moving back to the center, where powerful companies and governments are creating choke points. They are using those choke points to destroy our privacy, limit our freedom of expression, and lock down culture and commerce. Too often, we give them our permission—trading liberty for convenience—but a lot of this is being done without our knowledge, much less permission.
For now, I'm trying to walk the fine line. If I lived in a country other than America, I might take more dramatic steps. For now, in spite of the NSA's and CIA's breach of American's privacy, I will continue using the tools I must for work, and to a lesser extent, my own.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure