2019-2020 Technology Guide for Teachers

MEMO TO: ALL STAFF MEMBERS OF ST. THERESA SCHOOL

FROM: Ken Westgate

DATE; 07/20/19

SUBJECT: My Role as “Technology Coach” for the 2019-2020 School Year

As some of you already know I will be returning to St. Theresa School as a part-time employee for the 2019-2020 school year to assist with the transition of a new principal and new staff to the school that I love and have omitted the previous 12 years to. My role however this year will be different from that of the past. I have asked Deacon Schutzler to play a role that is common among both Public Schools in Pennsylvania and around the nation, and a role that is also a part of the Diocesan School System in the Philadelphia Diocese. That role is the role of a Technology Coach or “Tech Coach”, as it is often referred to. This position is primarily a training and support position for staff and students with the focus being on the effective use of technology tools to enhance instructional experiences for all learners.

While I will still be coming into the classrooms to teach staff and students how to make full use of technology tools the school already owns and new tools that we may acquire this coming school year, my instructing is designed to help you as teachers and classroom aides to take control of those tools so you can function well with them on your own and will be able to utilize these on a daily basis as they may fit into your instructional content. I will be using the STREAM approach to integrated instruction and will be demonstrating how this approach effectively embraces technology as one of the tools in your instructional toolbox. I am not advocating for all day use of technology for any classroom or student. Technology is just one tool in a teacher’s toolbox and I intend to make that very clear to both staff and students. On the other hand, I intend to train both staff and students when that tool should be taken out of the toolbox and how o use it to enhance student engagement and effectiveness in learning and how that tool can provide a platform for true student directed teaching and learning experiences. I will also be emphasizing the use of “Blended Learning” where we use both classroom and online learning experiences to engage and enhance student learning experiences. I will also be emphasizing how the integration of coding into the math curriculum can be an important part of assisting students to learn better sequencing, problem solving, logic, and higher order thinking skills. Most importantly, I will be emphasizing staff collaboration and staff support of each other in the use of these technology tools. In most school settings a “Tech Coach” is not a full-time member of the staff, but actually floats between schools except in very large schools where a full-time person is required; so it is essential that the teaching staff learn to be excellent supports for each other in the use of these tools.

While I will be supporting the physical technology in the school, I will not be around all the time, and may not be able to assist with repairs and servicing as promptly or a frequently as I have in the past. I will do my best to assist within the hours I am slotted for the position this year. I will be available to assist with appropriate repairs for non-warranted equipment, and initial software installations, and will be supporting the eRate, OptionC, Notice Boards, and WEBsite services. All equipment currently under warranty will be serviced entirely through the manufacturer or warranty holder. This means that if a warranted piece of equipment needs servicing it may take several weeks for that product to be shipped back to the manufacturer and returned from servicing. Whenever possible a substitute device will be provided but that may not be available in all cases. I will be training all staff and students in proper equipment maintenance and how to handle regular software updating.

It is probably long overdue for me to make sure all of you understand that a substantial portion of the school’s technology is not owned by the school, but is actually the property of the Pennsylvania Department of Education because it was purchased with state Department of Education and Federal funds. As such we need to exercise greater due diligence in how we handle that equipment and I will be emphasizing that with students as well. While we have been very fortunate to have some very generous donors over the years who have added to our technology resources, these donations and those purchased by the school itself only comprise about a third of the school’s technology resources and much of that is older technology that I have refurbished and re-purposed for use in the PreK classrooms or in the STREAM lab.

At the start of the school year, I will also be working on setting up a new library management system for the school’s library. It will not be operational for the start of the school year. We will be doing a three-month trial period once we have the hardware setup and will be testing that on a limited basis during the trial period. I will arrange for classes to come over to the library to test this system once it is operational. In the meantime I would encourage all of you to use your classroom libraries until the library system is fully up and running. Once it is, I will be training all staff in its use, especially on how to use the Internet based features to access the catalog of materials, how to reserve resources, and how to determine whether a particular student or staff member has an item out and when it is due to be returned. As part of the new library system I am hoping to set up mobile kits of materials and equipment from the STREAM Lab that can be taken out on a library loan basis and used in the classroom. Unfortunately the Lab area no longer has adequate space for student use so using this mobile approach is often quite commonly used in schools today as STREAM and MakerSpace equipment and materials is distributed to classrooms in this way.

I will not be overseeing any after school activities during the 2019-2020 school year. I will be available to assist with any equipment setup for these activities prior to my end of hours on a day when I am at the school. This is not because I don’t enjoy doing those activities, it simply because my position is part-time only and I have other personal matters I need to attend to when I am not working at the school.

I will continue to provide information on new technology products and services as well as educational software. I will continue to provide additional instruction on the setup and use of these resources on my blog pages. I am always available to answer questions or concerns you may have, hopefully when I am at the school in person, but also via email if I am not in school when you wish to speak with me about these things. I can be reached by text message in an emergency, but I cannot promise I can respond to that immediately. As with many of the small Catholic Schools in all Dioceses around the country technology support is often provided by outside contractors who either provide remote management services or provide on-call services with 24 hour notification or a combination of those strategies. When funding is not available these schools often go without technology services at all. I am returning to St. Theresa’s school so that our school does not face such circumstances and we can continue to work toward growth and sustainability for our school. I look forward to working with all of you and hope that we can continue to partner to make our school an outstanding place for learning in a foundational Family Centered Catholic environment.

How the Tech Coach Role will work in the classroom:

Like an athletic coach I will be managing things in the following way:

1. Training Days – These are days when I expect the teachers and students to remain in the classroom to receive the basic training on the equipment and software. All will participate in the instruction on those days. Training days are days when I expect mistakes and failures just like any athlete learning the skills necessary to play the game well. No one gets a failing grade and no one will be criticized for making a mistake or not getting something right. There may be several training days in a row depending on the complexity of the topic I will be teaching. Training days will also be days when I will be doing a pre-assessment of the skills both the students and teachers bring to the lesson topic.

2. Practice Sessions – These are days when I will focus on review and allow the teachers and students to practice the skills being taught. Most of the time will be spent in either guided or independent practice. I will be doing some formative assessment on these days to check on teacher and student skills progress. These are days when I expect to have lots of questions, comments, and a search for a deeper understanding of what we are doing and why we are doing it. Athletes approaching a game day need to know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it, so I expect the same from the students and staff.

3. Game Days – These are days when actual projects will be assigned using the skills already taught. Game days are days on which I expect students and in some cases the teachers to be able to perform the assigned tasks independently just as any coach would expect their athletes to be able to carry out the game plan without a whole lot of extra coaching from the sidelines. That is to say however, that if there are issues with understand the project instructions or not knowing how to begin a project I will certainly step in to provide that initial guidance. Game days will use a Summative rubric so all the participants know exactly what is expected to earn a good score and can choose what level of performance they wish to seek in order to get the score they want to achieve. I am not expecting everyone to want to achieve the highest possible score, nor am I expecting that all will achieve the highest score, I am looking for everyone to be doing their best on the assignment. If a minimum passing score is not achieved, I will ask the student to repeat the project. If a minimum score is not attained by the teacher then I will set up a time to review the skills with them and have them demonstrate those skills with me.

What happens when a student or teacher doesn’t complete an assignment on game days?

      1. If an assignment is not completed like any good coach I will give the students an opportunity to try the assignment again with a specific new completion date required.
  1. If the assignment that has been given extra time is not completed, then like any good coach the student will be “benched” until the assignment is completed. When an athlete is “benched” it means they are not allowed to play. What that means for me is that, if they are benched they will loose the opportunity to use the school technology and/or personal technology in the school. The length of the “benching” is up to the student. As soon as they complete the assignment the benching will be over. Students who are consistently benched (three or more times) will have a conference with the Principal and their parents to discuss what can be done to help focus the student completing assignments.
  2. If a teacher does not complete the project assignment, which will essentially be a test of their ability to use the equipment or software safely, independently, and effectively, then I will set up a time for them to demonstrate that they can adequately operate the equipment or software safely, independently, and effectively in their instruction, Until that demonstration has been successfully completed the teacher will not be allowed to use that piece of technology in the school. This is a means of protecting the equipment. Since our school cannot afford the type of insurance that would adequately protect all of the school’s technology, this method will be used as a means of providing protection until there is demonstrated safe and independent use of the technology.

My purpose here is not to punish, but to focus on responsibility. Each of us has a responsibility to respond appropriately when given an assignment. While we may not always like the assignment or even feel it is the right assignment, as a member of the team, if we want to play and play well, we need to be doing our best with each assignment we are given. Unfortunately today, we sometimes see athletes who refuse to comply with the coach’s assignments, they may not only be benched but they may be cut from the team or be traded to some other organization. Sooner or later however, no matter how good a player may be, if they don’t learn to follow instructions and do the assignments they are given they may be out of the game completely.

Playing Hurt: Growing up and playing competitive sports from the time I was six until I was in my late early 30’s I was often asked by a coach to continue playing in the competition even when I was injured. I played with broken bones, bruises, strains and sprains, and even a concussion or two. None if this was good for me, and in actuality it wasn’t good for the team either. Not being able to play at full strength made me an inadequate player and while occasionally helping add a few points or beat an opponent under those conditions I could have done so much better if I had been allowed some healing time first and would have found myself suffering far less pain then I did by playing hurt.

When I think of playing hurt in our school I think of a student who may be struggling with specific learning issues that haven’t been fully addressed and may need specialized services including but not limited to specific Assistive Technology. I also think of students who may be experiencing significant trauma or stress in their lives and are not able to focus on school due to these significant emotional and mental challenges. If I am aware of these issues I will certainly add more time for completing assignments, allow alternative methods of completing assignments, re-craft an assignment to fit the current situation of the student, or allow the student not to have to do that assignment until such time as adequate intervention has been provided. While this may seem like an unusual approach to dealing with students in our school and to some extent it has been over the years, I am a firm believer that a good coach never lets a player play hurt.

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