May 15, 2012

A New Role: Tech Coach

As the 2011-2012 school year winds down, I am already looking forward to next year and my new role as PHS Tech Coach ! 

Technology plays a central role in the lives of today's students.  They use technology seamlessly to acquire information, to organize, to collaborate, to create, and to communicate. I am proud to be working in the Pewaukee School District where we are committed to leveraging technology to enhance student engagement and learning. I have been teaching in Pewaukee since 1994, but I have never settled for what I have always done.  I am passionate about learning through experience, travel, and connecting with people around the world, either in person or via technology.

Why technology? In his work Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (2001), Marc Prensky assigns the term digital native to students who grew up with the technological advances of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. The term draws the analogy to a country's natives for whom the local language and customs are natural, compared with immigrants who must adapt to a region's customs. As a teacher of a "foreign language", this concept of digital native vs. digital immigrant is very interesting to me. I have been fascinated by the ways that people learn world languages. The "old" method of repeating words and phrases, memorizing passages and conversations in the target language is no longer viewed as effective. In fact, as of the mid-1990's, non-native-speaking world language majors who aspire to teach are required to complete at least six weeks of residency in a country where the target language is spoken. Personally, I can attest that this residency, further travel, and immersion in the language and culture were the key to developing my skills and confidence in speaking French.

Our students are certainly digital natives, accustomed to being connected at all times, but do I consider myself a digital native or a digital immigrant? Like much of my generation (Gen-X), I did not grow up with a computer. It wasn't until I signed up for my first computer class that I was truly exposed  to this foreign culture. My first (and last) computer class attempted to teach me binary code (or whatever those 0's and 1's were). The final exam for this course was to write a program to center my name in all caps at the top of a page. Why did I need to learn this when I could simple press "Caps Lock", center my carriage, and back-space once for every two letters in my name? So, I blissfully buried myself in French, British, and American literature for the next nine years, writing all of my papers, even my substantial master's thesis, on a typewriter. I was content and had no desire to change my ways when I began my student teaching in 1994. My cooperating teacher challenged me to invest the five minutes that it would take for me to learn to use MS Windows, and although I was apprehensive, I've never looked back.

Eighteen years of teaching have passed since I finally accepted the role of technology in my own life, and more importantly, in the lives of the "citizens" of my classroom. Today, in this digital society, I view myself as quite "proficient" in technology. I use computers and mobile devices daily in my classroom and in my personal life. My iPhone has replaced my agenda, post-its, land-line, cds, dvds, photo albums, recipe books, etc. I carry e-mail and Internet browsing capabilities with me everywhere I go. Facebook has become an easy way to keep in touch with friends and family, while LinkedIn and Twitter have become integral to my Personal/Professional Learning Network.  My lessons integrate technology through use of videos, podcasts, Skype, Web 2.0 applications,  mobile apps, etc. 


Although I have embraced this digital culture wholeheartedly, I still feel fundamentally different from my students in the way I view technology. I have grown to appreciate and even love the capabilities that technology offers in my personal and professional lives; however, like an immigrant, I still tell stories about "the old country" where I might not have walked five miles to school in the snow, but where I still get excited about new notebooks and pens as a school year begins.

I realize that the time I spend in France is vital for improving my proficiency in the French language.  I continue to grow and love its culture, its language, and its people. However, I also recognize that I will never be French. Likewise, although I love technology and continue to learn and embrace its possibilities, I will never be a digital native. Yet, I know that as a non-native speaker of French, I am a highly-effective teacher of the French language and culture; as a digital immigrant, I am a highly proficient user of technology and am easily able to communicate with the natives.  I empathize with my fellow immigrants, and am eager to help them to assimilate and thrive in this new culture. I have never liked the term "foreign language", preferring to refer to French, Spanish, Chinese, etc. as "world languages."  In French, the word "étranger" can refer to someone who is either "foreign" or "strange". We are all members of a global community, and it is important to view our diversity not as "strange", but as an asset, a way of expanding our own existences. Technology is no longer a foreign concept. Those of us who were not born into this society can view ourselves as fortunate to have had our own unique experiences with technology while being open to the wonderful potential that immersion in this digital society provides.

I am confident that teachers want to use technology to enhance their lessons and to enrich their students' educational opportunities.  However, I have observed that teachers can be easily overwhelmed by the volume of tools and options available, as well as by the time it takes to explore and try new technology. For several years, I have been a go-to person for my colleagues who have questions about technology or who want to brainstorm ideas about integrating technology into their lessons.  I am certain that teachers would be more willing to use technology in their classrooms if they had a coach who would not only answer their questions, but who would also help them to explore and implement technology.. I recognize that teachers need a technology coach who will work with them to co-create lessons and to support the use of technology in their classrooms.  I envision meeting with individuals and/or departments to support their curricular requirements by co-planning and even co-teaching lessons.

WHY ME? "If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle... Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." - Steve Jobs

Qualifications: résumé  As a professional educator with over twenty years of experience in secondary and higher education, I have committed myself to continual improvement and enrichment.  As an 18-year veteran of the Pewaukee School District, I have embraced the PSD Core Competencies, integrating them into my lessons and my professional practices.
  • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving: All of my course projects and assessments have been revised to challenge students to use the French language in contextual, relevant ways. French I and II students are participating in a simulated residency in Paris: Une Année à Paris. Students are also encouraged to use strategies such as circumlocution to express themselves when specific vocabulary is unknown, and to evaluate technology for its reliability, validity, and relevance. 
  • Creativity & Innovation: Creativity and innovation are some of my strongest attributes as a teacher. Although I have been teaching French for many years, I have never settled for what I have done previously.  I constantly reflect upon my lessons and strive to improve the quality of  the instruction and materials that I provide.  I have explored tools that are available (including Web 2.0, mobile applications, and Livemocha), and when I haven't found the ideal tool for the task, I have made my own materials and websites.  I also encourage my students to express their own innovation by creating videos and multimedia presentations that go beyond PowerPoint.  The ability to create with language takes learning  to a much higher level of critical thinking, and elevates students’ interest and enthusiasm for the language and culture.
  • Collaboration: "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." - Helen Keller.  In addition to collaborating with the rest of the World Language department and with other teachers in the building, my own collaboration has extended beyond the Pewaukee campus.  This year, I collaborated with a superintendent/PhD candidate as an example for his dissertation on how teachers leverage technology to connect with their students 24/7.  I have also developed a Personal Learning Network (PLN) by using social media.  I participate in #langchats on Twitter, and have shared ideas and materials with World Language and Ed Tech colleagues across the country and abroad.  My students are also encouraged to collaborate with their peers on projects, in daily class conversations, and by using social media.
  • Citizenship: All World Language courses strive to help students become global citizens by comparing and contrasting world cultures. Students of languages become increasingly more aware and respectful of global diversity. Last year, I encouraged my Current Issues students to work on a service project for Healing Haiti.  Their contribution of $300 purchased four beds in a new orphanage for victims of the 2010 earthquake. My students are also taught to view the Internet as a global connection, and are therefore expected to display respectful global cyber citizenship.
  • Communication: Communication is the ultimate goal of any language. Coursework, activities, and assessments challenge students to develop all four modes of communication.  Technology such as Skype and other social media have also played a key role in providing students with opportunities to communicate, not only with their teachers and peers in Pewaukee, but with professionals, alumni, and French-speakers around the world. I will encourage  my colleagues to communicate with other experts in their disciplines by helping them to set up their own Personal/Professional Learning Networks.  Social media has revolutionized the way people connect with each other.   I have made a concerted effort to explore a variety of social media platforms, and to model appropriate content and responsible use.  I have come to appreciate how Facebook allows me to stay in touch and reconnect with family and friends, as well as with former students and PHS alumni.  LinkedIn and Twitter have been valuable tools to connect me with like-minded professionals, to collaborate and share ideas.  I have connected with over 600 world language teachers and educators who are using technology, as well as with leaders in the field of education (Robert Marzano, Ian Jukes, Ken O'Connor, etc.).  I would like to help my colleagues set up their own Professional/Personal Learning Networks to share ideas with fellow educators in their own disciplines.  I am also willing to set up Twitter lists by subject so that teachers don't have to seek out their own experts and professionals.  
  • Information Technology:  I am a risk-taker and a trail-blazer in the use of instructional technology. I experiment with different media, learning management systems, and tools for creating with technology. I encourage my students to evaluate the best tools for their intended purposes. Students have used numerous Web 2.0 tools. Technology such as mobile devices, cell phones, laptops, and mobile applications change the way teachers teach and students learn. Technology has become portable, allowing learning to occur anywhere, any time.  Students read, write, create, collaborate, research, and practice. Technology helps provide differentiated instruction by motivating reluctant learners, supporting struggling learners, and challenging advanced learners. I created a Google Doc and a website to share ideas about mobile learning (http://www.ipodsforeducation.com), and have presented at local, regional, and national conferences.  I have taught Moodle and Google apps courses for the PSD Academy of Excellence, and continue to be available to my colleague whenever they need technical advice. I will continue to assist teachers in their own professional development and to collaborate with colleagues to brainstorm ideas and to troubleshoot technology issues.
  • College & Career Readiness: The ability to communicate in languages other than English empowers students to be more marketable in the workforce. This has been the focus of all of my classes, including the Business French class.  Professionals from various career fields who have Skyped or visited our students have universally affirmed that knowledge of languages makes a candidate more successful.  Students have recognized that speaking multiple languages saves companies’ money and allows for opportunities for travel and advancement. Another vital skill for all students to master is the effective and responsible use of technology.  Students need to learn how to acquire information from reputable sources, to evaluate information and tech tools, and to leverage technology to communicate and create content.
By helping educators leverage technology and optimize our Pewaukee 1:1 laptop initiative,  I hope to further empower teachers and students to authentically meet the PSD Core Competencies.

In addition to my degrees and experience, all the credits that I have taken to renew my teaching licenses since 1994 have been focused on technology and differentiation, including courses in blogging, Moodle, Assessment for Learning, virtual teaching, and Google Apps. I have also attended and presented at several state, regional, and national conferences: 
  • Technology in Education Symposium (TIES) - Minneapolis 2009  
  • Wisconsin Association of Foreign Languages Teacher (WAFLT) Summer Leadership Conference -  Madison 2010  
  • Milwaukee Digital Media Conference - Milwaukee Art Museum 2010  
  • Great Lakes 1:1 Conference - Milwaukee 2010 (presenter)  
  • WAFLT Annual Convention - Appleton 2011 (presenter)  
  • Central States Conference for Teachers of Foreign Languages (CSCTFL)  - Milwaukee 2012 (presenter)  
  • American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) National Conference - Chicago 2012 (presenter)
Future Plans: I am interested pursuing a graduate degree in instructional technology. Cardinal Stritch University offers an  Instruction Technology Coordinator Program:  http://www.stritch.edu/ITC/. This program requires a Cornerstone/Capstone course to evaluate proficiencies. The rest of the program is combination of proficiency demonstrations through portfolios and online coursework, and leads to an administrative license of Instructional Technology Coordinator. 

I am eager to begin planning for my new role next year.  It will be important to find a balance between teaching my regular classes (French I-V) and serving as PHS Tech Coach, but I'm up for the challenge!  I hope to live up to the words of another Wisconsin coach, Vince Lombardi: "Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen.  The ones who win get inside the players and motivate!"