Coaches’ Corner: “Half my job is sales”

A recent conversation with a friend, a K-6 teacher recently hired as a technology coach for K-12, shown some light on the challenges with moving the needle for technology integration in the classroom.

“Dream job.”  That is how my friend describes his new assignment…and of course he does.  He is a mentor and coach by nature, loves technology, and is a passionate teacher.  Now, instead of teaching students, he is honored to support his colleagues as they implement new technology tools with their students.

“However,” he reflected, “Half of my time is spent in ‘sales.’”  Meaning, that coordinating time with colleagues to “fit” technology into a lesson is a bit of an emotional and logistical barrier.   Depending on the explicit curriculum mandates in the district and the perceived permission (or lack of permission) to try new things, teachers do not always feel comfortable “fitting” technology into a lesson.

Technology integration is an all-hands-on-deck, transformational change, that necessarily intersects with all major systems in a district, including scheduling, curriculum, how learners are grouped, culture, communication, and so much more. Therefore, leaders have an important mandate to thoughtfully consider technology’s impact on these systems.

Scott McLeod is an internationally recognized educational technology advocate with a resonate message and clear strategies for managing the changes necessary for technology integration.  Read his article, written for the National Association of Independent Schools, which explains the importance for creating and communicating a clear and compelling vision for technology in the learning experiences in a classroom.

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Technology Innovation and Effectiveness

Innovation is almost always good, right?  When a business innovates, we might think of old processes becoming streamlined or new technology making old processes obsolete…resulting in a competitive advantage, a method of differentiation.

In classrooms, differentiation is a must.  Diverse learners require diverse strategies and conversations to learn new skills.  Technology has played an integral role in differentiating teaching strategies to reach students more effectively.

There are many advantages to effective use of technology in teaching and learning.   There are also some seemingly innovative, yet ineffective uses of technology.  How do you tell the difference?

Alan November with November Learning offers some simple and effective questions to determine how much value technology is adding to a lesson.  I highly recommend reading his findings which also discuss the popular SAMR model for integrating technology.

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Help with evaluating technology tools

Technology can add loads of value to a learning experience.  Choosing an app or service can be a bit overwhelming when it involves weighing several options to use in your classroom.  However, it’s super when someone has already done this for you.

Check out Richard Byrne’s collection of spreadsheets that compare technology tools by function i.e. best webpage creation and multimedia quiz tools. He even includes links to tutorials for some.  Add it to your Google Drive and share with others.  Happy evaluating!

Here is a link to Richard’s website, packed with free technology ideas for the classroom.

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Choose Ship Influence

Day 7 in the Your Turn Challenge

Winnie J. Kao, thanks for throwing down the gauntlet this week.  It was a great call-to-action signifying a hero’s journey of sorts.  Hopefully many emerge from the journey like all heroes…with a new mindset and a few new tools with which to make change.

Shipping a blog post each day reminds me that the mindset of aware and active choice is essential to making a difference.  Since it was your call to action that I answered, one must ask, what call to action did you answer with your choice to throw down with #YourTurnChallenge?  You shared your own failure that led you to make this challenge a reality.

Therefore, one of the tools I take from the journey is a new habit.  Making the habit of asking myself tough questions, then choosing to leap again.  An initial failure to write a post resulted in thousands of posts from co-shippers and many more connections and conversations along the way.  Great work Winnie!

The choices we make and habits we practice are the evidence of the mindsets and tools of influencers.  Choose, ship, influence!


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Day 6 in the Your Turn Challenge

There was no doubt that we were going to lose a client.  A good client.  The reasons were both justified (I thought the client had some valid complaints), and entirely avoidable (there is no doubt that my team could have done a better job delivering the kind of service we were paid to deliver).

As the account manager, I decided two things:  I would begin building a relationship with the client the way I should have done all along and I would speak the truth.  The truth part is a no-brainer.  The difficult part of telling this truth was that it included insisting that the client double our contract time.

After a six month crusade of conversations and healing…the time had come to present to the board of directors.  My presentation was to be either a farewell or the largest single contractual increase in our company’s history.

I had a great team who deeply desired to take responsibility for our actions.  When we did that, we were able to engage in other necessary conversations that included demonstrating how the client’s need for services vastly outweighed our ability to meet the demand under the current contract.

The client agreed with the assessment and doubled the contract despite cheaper options from the competition.  This truncated version of events doesn’t do justice to what, at the time, seemed to me a surprising outcome.  The experience taught me a lot including the importance of doing the hard work of facing reality even though it might result in losing business.

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Getting Unstuck

Day 5 of the Your Turn Challenge

The heavy laden truck with a flat tire has little chance of overcoming the muddy rut without help.  Successive attempts to move forward and backward make the predicament worse.

I finally realized that too much reflection on a problem can serve to deepen the rut.  But I also know that learning happens through reflection and dialogue.   I’ve learned that the sooner I start dialogue with someone the better.

A former boss would tell me, “Someone has the answer; go find him/her.”  Though I might not find a person with the complete answer, it has always been true that dialogue moves the needle for me.

I’m always a finite number of conversations from the answer to any problem.  How many conversations?  Don’t know.  Better start now.

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Day 4 in the Your Turn Challenge

Invariably, there are two groups of people that I seem to encounter.  I run into them; they run into me.  I’ll call one group, TEAM, and the other, green.

TEAM always seems to have the talent…the very best.  Green, as expected, has the money.  Also as expected, TEAM and green find each other…talent and incentives seem like a natural fit.  Interestingly, they’re not…at least not always, and not always for as long as one would think.

TEAM values its autonomy and creativity.  Green …well… wants to keep its green, or at least wants it back within an appreciative and acceptable time.

As for me…well, I’d find myself wondering about the status of my bank account.  Once in a while I’d criticize myself for not taking that class in “talent”.  And so I’d become frustrated, seemingly never having enough TEAM or green of my own.

Until one day.  I began to notice things.  TEAM and green are really a good fit.  They just need to see a few things differently.  An adjustment in vision.  That is what I do well.  I notice things.  And I help TEAM and green to see what was there all along:AgrEeMenT.


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Learning Organizations

Day 3 in the Your Turn Challenge

I appreciate the connectors that have a knack for bringing businesses and K-12 education together.  Each has much to offer the other.   Learning and development is expected to continue growing and be an integral human resources function for the modern organization.

Despite the many challenges that K-12 faces, the disciplines present in teaching and learning transfer to the business world i.e. gap analysis and curriculum design.   This is why many excellent teachers find a second calling and are recruited as corporate trainers.

On the flip side, to be a successful business now requires one to be a learning organization:  nimble, adaptable, possibly employing principles of self-management…qualities that, for the most part, do not characterize K-12 education.

Let’s continue to find opportunities to raise learners that can give back and make our public learning systems into learning organizations.

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Forging Integration

Day 2 of the Your Turn Challenge

Forging integration is important to me.  Forge Integration is the name of my business, and before that it was an ideology for me (and still is).  It is an honor and privilege to serve students and teachers in K-12 education by pairing the promises of technology with new learning and teaching habits.

Disruptive technologies are described as disruptive for their innovative and transformative qualities.  Disruptive technologies need to be integrated….eventually, or they become distracting and debilitating.

Think about mobile banking technology.  Paying bills online works because a choice is made to stop writing a check to send in the mail and instead login into an account and transact digitally.

Similarly, educational technology provides new tools for accessing content, practicing skills, and sharing what we know….if we choose to engage differently with the learning process.

How can we know if something has been integrated?  When we stop talking “it” and start talking about the result from integrating technology with new choices.  Instead of saying, “YouTube will transform education,” we say things like, “My students just taught those students how to build a website…this time they used YouTube to post their tutorial.”

My thanks to the hundreds of teachers who have taught me to be a better teacher.

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Participating in the Your Turn Challenge is the culmination of a selection process.  I’m looking for something akin to a comma in my shipping process.   Blogging is the lead contender.

A while ago I began thinking about my days as if they were well-constructed sentences…making sure the requisite nouns, verbs, and direct objects were present.  In other words, was I doing the right things for the right people, and were my actions resulting in the right change?

The problem with this management-by-grammar approach is that it lacked an appreciation for punctuation.  I didn’t practice habits that provided pause, reflection, and perspective for the times I was stuck in a creative endeavor.

Commas support integration principles as well (at least in this analogy).  Integration includes design thinking and participating in new habits and workflows.

Like a well-place comma, the Your Turn Challenge provides me with timing and emphasis….time to emphasize some desired habits.  Thanks Winnie J. Kao!


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