Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Characteristics of a Good (Implementation) Coach...and Educator

When you think of a "coach", what comes to mind? I think of an athletic coach. But what about coaches in context of literacy instruction or fidelity of implementation? This past week, I participated in training new implementation coaches who were recently hired to oversee schools implementing the Reading Horizons program. At the beginning of the training, we discussed the implementation coach vision by identifying characteristics of a good coach. Note how these characteristics apply to both athletic coaches and implementation coaches in educational contexts.

Characteristics of a Good Coach

A good coach…

…takes you back to the basics. A good coach knows that the best way to learn and improve is by doing.

…knows that if you want to get better at something, it takes practice…a lot of it.

…breaks the process into steps, and then pinpoints specific areas needing work.

…focuses on proper form early on to ensure the development of good habits.

…helps you master one thing at a time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Online Learning Guidebook

A colleague invited me to post a link to a new Online Schools Guidebook. This resource provides information about popular online resources, including Khan Academy and MIT Open CourseWare, as well as provides helpful guidance when considering various online programs.

The introduction paragraph provides a good synopsis of the value of the resource:
"Online education has come to an interesting point in its over three-decade-long lifespan. No longer seen as a passing fad or novelty, it has gained widespread acceptance and credibility, not only by the general public, but from those in the field of education as well. As attitudes have favorably changed over the years, so too has the state of educational options online; thanks to this widespread acceptance, there are more choices than ever before for potential students. That’s where this guidebook comes in: we analyze the current state of online education, where it stands and where it’s heading. We’ll take an in-depth look at the benefits and experience of an online education; choosing an online school or program; the methods, technologies and resources employed by schools in program and course delivery; online learning and students with disabilities; tips for student success; and many others. You’ll also find helpful observations and advice from online education professionals."

The guidbook can be accessed for free here

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blended Learning Resources

Blended learning employs an appropriate balance between—and implementation of— technology and face-to-face teacher/student interaction to maximize a student’s learning experience. Blended learning is generating interest and gaining increased attention in K-12 and higher ed contexts. Although blended learning is gaining popularity in classrooms across the country, there are still many teachers who are just beginning their quest to learn what blended learning is and how to best implement it in their classrooms. There are several resources available to assist with meeting this objective, some of which are listed below.

Resources Available to Learn About Blended Learning:

Khan Academy, the Clayton Christensen Institute, and Silicon Schools have teamed up to provide a Blended Learning 101 course, which shares a myriad of resources to promote and implement blended learning. The course takes participants through a five part course with resource guides and over 40 videos that teach different models and how to select resources. View the course here.

The Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation is a non-profit striving to solve problems related to health care and education through research. Learn more about blended learning on their website here.

The Blended Learning Universe (BLU) provides several resources to inform and instruct on blended learning implementation, including videos, guides, and a directory of blended learning sites world-wide.

Aspire Public Schools has produced a Blended Learning 101 Handbook to guide teachers through the orientation and implementation of blended learning.

I recommend reading the book Blended, which provides a practical overview of the what, why, and how of blended learning.

I recently wrote a white paper on blended learning that explains what blended learning is and the models associated with Blended Learning.

My colleague, Tasi Young, recently conducted a webinar on blended learning. The recording can be viewed here. Tasi is also featured on a recently-produced blended learning video which can be viewed here.

Dr. Charles Graham, professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University, has published several articles on blended learning. Video demonstrations of blended learning are available here. In addition, Dr. Graham discusses the six P's of blended learning, which can be viewed in the video here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Literacy Training in Zimbabwe

One of my job responsibilities includes traveling to various locations to train teachers in literacy strategies. My objective is to empower teachers with additional tools for their teaching strategies toolbox. I’ve traveled to urban middle schools and high schools, community colleges and universities, literacy centers and libraries, and a myriad of other sites to train teachers, paraprofessionals, and tutors. I’ve met hundreds of teachers and students, and in the process, I’ve witnessed a variety of different backgrounds and needs. Once in a while, I have experiences while training that teach me life lessons, whether it be a lesson learned about how literacy strategies unlock a struggling student’s world of learning, or feeling inspired by a teacher’s passion.

This year I had a unique training opportunity. I traveled to Zimbabwe to provide literacy training for people in various remote villages where such services had never been provided. During this experience, I learned life lessons about individual dignity and the hierarchy of needs—physical, social, and educational. We drove on long, bumpy, dusty roads without air conditioning and proper suspension, and we traveled with little water and food. We traveled through and camped in wild game parks, witnessing rare sightings of wild animals and waking up to the sounds of the competing roars of lion prides. Although the conditions were not ideal, I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to interact with teachers and students that few people will ever get to meet.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Should Handwriting Be Taught?

Is handwriting an important component to literacy instruction? Is it really necessary to teach handwriting, especially when keyboarding skills are so requisite with the rise of technology in education and the use of technology in everyday life?

The Common Core State Standards prescribe that legible writing should be taught in kindergarten and first grade only. Then in subsequent grades, the emphasis shifts to keyboarding proficiency. 

According to recent research, handwriting versus keyboarding may affect the brain and benefit specifically those who struggle with reading. Children who learn to write by hand at a young age learn to read more quickly, as well as retain information and generate ideas. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Literacy Training in India at Pathway

Last month, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to visit Pathway India, a non-profit organization located in southern India that serves underprivileged and handicapped children. Pathway educates, empowers, and enlightens the students they serve by providing vocational and academic training, rewarding students for their contributions, and sustaining an environment in which the students feel safe, loved, and confident in their abilities to contribute using their knowledge and talents.

We had an opportunity to train the teachers at one of Pathway's schools located in rural Chennai. We also had the opportunity to conduct a training for English teachers in the surrounding area and were privileged to have Dr. Swaminathan in attendance.

Pathway India recently published their latest newsletter article which documents our recent visit. It can be accessed here. To learn more about this organization, visit their website at http://pathway.org.in/, or visit their Facebook page: Pathway India.

Monday, March 31, 2014


I've written a blog post before about the difference between the acronyms ESL, ELL, ESOL, etc. (It can be accessed here.) This particular post has proven to be one of my most popular posts, standing as one of my most-accessed posts found organically via internet searches. Having a background in linguistics, however, I'm not naive to the fact that with time, terminology trends change. So, I'm curious: Which acronym/s do you use most often to refer to your non-native English speaking students? Take my poll at the right to share your opinion! I'll post the results after I close the poll at the end of the month.