Tell me about yourself.
I am an Educational Technology Coach with the Durham District School Board in Ontario, Canada. This means I support 19 schools with teachers and students leveraging digital within their programs. I am a Mom of two kids, aged 7 and 4, and my husband is a Vice-Principal with the DDSB as well. I am also working toward my Masters (currently in the Grad Diploma program) with Ontario Tech University.
I have taught for 13 years through K-8, a little bit of everything, in all different areas of the Durham Region. I went back from a Literacy/Numeracy Coaching position to a lower-economic school that had a reputation for being difficult. This was a poignant experience for me as a teacher, as it made me come to terms with my own trauma that I experienced as a child.
I love reading, writing (I have 2 blogs, though it's been awhile since I have written in either!), and like to pretend I can take good photographs.
You mentioned that you are an occasional blogger. What do you like to blog about?
It started with blogging about Math. Specifically, what would Math Play look like in a Junior Classroom. I was doing my Math Specialist, and I saw so much great information around mathematical play in Primary -- loose parts, drama play with math, etc. I wondered what that would look like with Junior students. This blog sort of sparked me documenting my Math program. I wanted to know if I was making progress with my students -- I wanted to be reflective. Was I getting my students to DO the math? THINK about their math?
However, I've always loved writing. Writing has healing properties for me. Actually, I remember in Grade 2 I wrote a story about a monster -- and I was so proud of it. I showed my teacher, and she looked down at me and asked, "Where did you copy this from?"
(True story! I remember it was about an abominable snowman -- I think I had captured it with a complex trap I had created in my backyard. I remember drawing a diagram of the trap to go with my story. I was so proud, and when my teacher accused me of copying, I think I gave her a very confused/rude look which made her more angry. I just didn't understand her question! Why would I ever waste my time copying? Ha!)
Now I find my blogging is more geared around how we learn -- I am not sure if I want to say this is epistemological thinking or not, and also making sense of who I am in the arena of teaching. How does my past be a part of who I am? How would this affect how I work with and interact with students? Teachers? Blogging to me is a chance to commit and be accountable, it puts my vulnerability out there.
What is a typical day like for an Educational Technology Coach?
I support 19 schools, and spread time over the year as equitably as possible. I use Calendly and send out emails to staff to let them know I am coming a few weeks in advance. Teachers block time off with me either to plan, or we co-plan over email, and then I come and teach with them (which is my favourite!). A teacher may come to me and say, "I'd really like my students to document their math thinking", then I give them suggestions, and we plan through the curriculum, and then we do it with students. Generally, since I am all over, I either get students and teachers started, or come in when a teacher is doing a project and wants the tech support (we have access to WeVideo, a video creation software, and many teachers get their students started, and I might come in and help them film and do colour keying).
My day generally starts at whichever school I am booked at that day, and then I am off to the races. I generally touch base with teachers before schools, then I am in classrooms doing a variety of tasks. Today I did green screening with two different grade 3 classes, worked with grade 6s to use Read and Write tools and researching more effectively (using the highlight/extract function). I met with a Grade 2 teacher one to-one to look at some virtual Math manipulatives, and I helped at lunch with the school's VEX robotics club, and the new VEX block coding software. I also did infographics using Google Drawings -- that was my day! Generally my days are just like that. This week I am working with schools to have students record through numberless word math problems -- we are wondering how we can capture student thinking while they solve the math problems, so that we can truly see their trajectory of understanding.
My team (there are 6 Ed Tech Coaches for K-8 schools in my Board, each school in my Board has an Ed Tech Coach assigned to them) communicates by Slack daily -- just the quick little troubleshooting questions that arise many times during the day. It's great to have that safety net!
About once a month, my team meets at the Board Office to share ideas, collaborate, and ask questions.
You’ve gone from being a classroom teacher to a literacy/numeracy coach to an educational technology coach. What advice can you offer to teachers in making the decision of whether to leave the classroom for roles where they can have a larger impact?
Ha! I jump around a lot. I have taught at 3 different schools, too. I like to move, meet new people, hear new ideas, and push myself in different avenues. I value(d) my time outside of the classroom because I learn so much, I get to see the bigger picture, and I get to meet so many different students. However, teaching in the classroom, to me, is the larger impact. Being a part of those student's lives, and a part of your school community, even though you may not see it and feel it everyday, is where I walk away feeling like I have made a difference. A Coaching role is great because you can share your successes with other teachers and students, and you can learn from other teacher's and students. I liked how I went out for a few years, reached out and became a bigger part of the system, then went back to the classroom to try things that I had learned out.
I think it's a great experience to work outside of the classroom if you are interested, and the chance arrives. It stretches your ideas of teaching and learning, and you see your educational degree work in a different way. If you are interested, be open to learning, work and teach with others, offer to share your success at Staff Meetings, share what you are doing by blogging or sharing on social media, and be open about when a lesson failed. If you see a position outside of the classroom and you are interested, apply! Ask questions of those who have been in roles and just apply. Take the whole process as learning.
Final question. What’s your favorite math book or movie?
So, I have a favourite movie clip that is mathematical -- does that count?
It's this scene in Ghostbusters:
I think I love it so much because it's such a good example of visualization that works because of the juxtaposition. It's so ridiculous to imagine a Twinkie so huge you can't help but imagine it!
Having students compare the length/weight to benchmarks would be a phenomenal task -- especially since I find that students have a hard time experiencing weight/size.
(I would challenge that almost every movie has a small math moment in it somewhere...even if it's simple counting, keeping track of time, etc.)
In terms of books, Marian Small's Good Questions is such a simple text full of different math tasks that are open but lead to such good conversation -- literally my copy is waterlogged and coffee stained.