Monday, April 25, 2016

Building Capacity: Instructional Coaching and Office Mix

When I signed on to become our school's only instructional coach (part-time), I knew that training staff members on new strategies and tech tools was going to be a large part of my new job.  Quickly I realized that within the 4 hours I had to "coach", I couldn't possibly address all of my teachers' needs for help with curriculum, teaching strategies, technology help, therapy sessions, etc.  Forty-two teachers were relying on me to deliver information to them quickly and efficiently, but they were all at different points in their use of technology, their experience in the classroom, and their desire to try something (ANYTHING) new.  After being overwhelmed for a short time, I quickly realized that adult learners are just learners.  They need hand-holding, drive by face-to-face interactions, and lots and lots of encouragement partnered with enough scaffolding that they could each be reached at the level of expertise they were currently at.  Differentiation, friends.  It is not just a skill for the K-12 classroom.

On the technology end of things, I had teachers everywhere from proficient and innovative with their use of technology to teachers who still used the ancient (and I thought extinct) overhead projectors.  Teachers who had never even heard of creating file folders to organize their documents or who just stuck with the default title of the document when they hit 'save as'.  And I needed to teach them all and prepare them for the 1:1 digital initiative that will befall our school in a little over a year.  After deep consideration, I discovered my tool of choice: Office Mix.  I've listed the reasons below in true listicle style because, let's face it, things just seem easier in a numbered list.

1.Familiarity and Buy-In 

Office Mix is run through PowerPoint and who doesn't love a good ol' PowerPoint at the end of the day?  I've been using PowerPoint since my 10th grade business class and consider it a trusted friend.  Offering my professional development in a package that isn't too shiny, looks familiar to teachers, and is easy-to-use was key to getting buy-in and support from my teachers.

2.  Self-Paced PD

Office Mix allows me to record myself going through something (screen recording) so that my teachers can play it over and over again until they understand.  When I am introducing a new way to do something or a new tool, teachers are able to go at their own pace through the tutorial and often pause and resume when they feel that they are ready.  This self-paced PD has allowed me to reach more teachers, especially those who feel insecure about using technology.  If we were in a room with them, they would likely just sit and pretend to follow along for fear of looking too lost.  Now, they can work through a tutorial or a technique at their own pace and on their own time.

3. Inking and Practicing What I Preach

By using the inking features of Office Mix, I can help teachers really dive into a strategy or tool while demonstrating good teaching practices.  Teachers like to see handwriting (especially those in the older generation).  Why not show them that it is not dead?

4. PD for Now and Later

I can publish my mixes and share the links for future viewing.  This has been imperative for my work this year.  I often refer back to tutorials that I've used so that teachers are in the practice of consulting them before they email for help.  Teachers are learning to help themselves, which is completely empowering, even in an area (like technology) where many feel that they are unable to help themselves.

5. Analytics, analytics, analytics! 

I love being able to utilize analytics in my presentations.  Adding interactive elements is a quick way to make sure that my audience is engaged in the content, so I love adding them to my mixes.  It gives me valuable data that helps me plan future training sessions.

6. A Personalized Voice

I, like most human beings, hate hearing my own voice on tape.  However, my teachers say that they love hearing ME explain things to them.  There is something reassuring about having the voice of someone you know and trust walk you through a complex task or idea.  I could find YouTube videos on all of my PD topics, but I've found that my teachers love hearing from ME.  It seems more personal and teachers feel a little more compelled and invested in what is being said/demonstrated when that person is familiar.