Rethinking Learning
conversations about the future of teaching and learning
Barbara Bray
be creative, innovate, take risks, unlearn to learn
Oakland, CA

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Encouraging Participation
By Barbara Bray    June 21, 2005 -- 03:22 AM

So you built an online course or have a team in My eCoach Online - how do you encourage teachers to login, share ideas, and collaborate?

We built My eCoach Online as a Professional Learning Community focusing on the coaching and mentoring model. However, many teachers are used to the traditional lecture model. Many of us were taught in a traditional lecture mode  providing a syllabus with a timeline of due dates. We only know what we know. Very few of us participated in a coaching situation during our own school situations. We did whatever our teacher asked us to do.

The coaching model in My eCoach was built to be more of a collaborative workspace. Teachers log in when it is convenient for them to review standards, find resources, create projects, and develop collaborative units with another teacher. But why would they do this on their own if there is no incentive and no extra time? Some eCoaches use our program to create online courses that include assignments, discussion topics due on certain dates. Some keep their coaching program more open-ended.

Are blogs, discussion boards, chat rooms, or the ability to co-author enough to encourage participation?

Maybe - maybe not. Each participant has to find the value in the PLC that meets their needs. From day one usually at a face-to-face meeting, I suggest team building activities where participants introduce themselves, share interests and goals, example of an individual activity that could be collaborative, goals for their students, and where they want to be by a certain date.

Why and how would a PLC be a value to you? to others?
Are there icebreakers and F2F activities that would be better if complemented with online activities? Do you have any examples you can share?

Categories: "Coaching" "Community" "Engagement"

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Comments: Add New Comments
By small Gayle Cantrell      July 5, 2005 -- 08:22 AM

To address the ideas of making an online community more successful, I reflect on the information I collected at the NECC conference last week (June).  I listened to a group of online trainers talk about collaboration and how they encourage participation.  I know that sometimes the face to face work is very difficult and we struggle to get teachers onboard.  I am going to start a couple of new groups this fall and am developing ideas that will encourage teachers to work with eCoach.  Recently I found that I need to mail my participants each week and sometimes more often.  If they are working steadily and use eCoach, this gives me more opportunities to reflect on their work and keep them going.  For the teachers that are reluctant, I feel that I need to continue to email and encourage.  I mail them weekly and comment on their most recent work and encourage them to look at others' work as well.  I also like looking at their webpages to get new ideas about projects they can develop with the builders.  Example:  If they have several sites on a particular subject posted, I discuss how this could be an online lesson.  I also have found it VERY successful to list a couple of options on times I could call them and talk with them as a one on one encounter.  This has helped 'kick start' several of the teachers. 


Reply to Gayle Cantrell

By small Barbara Bray      July 20, 2005 -- 07:34 PM
In observing several of the ongoing teams, those that seem to be working more effectively is where participants share ideas, strategies, provide feedback online even though they are meeting face-to-face. There is a fine line between asking teachers to do homework assignments and not asking them to do any research or share online or co-authoring projects. What is the right amount?

  • How many face-to-face meetings are enough to build community?
  • Which online tools do you use during your F2F meetings?
  • Do you give homework assignments? Why? Are they effective?
  • How do you keep teachers coming back and logging in?
  • Why do you want to be part of a learning community?
  • How much online work is too much or too little?
  • Has using discussion boards, chat, or blogs helped encourage collaboration with other teachers?
  • How does co-authoring projects affect collaboration?

Reply to Barbara Bray

By small Linda Ullah      October 23, 2005 -- 10:11 AM
How many face-to-face meetings are enough to build community?
Iím not sure there is an exact answer to this questions. There are so many factors. I DO find value in building a f2f community prior to establishing the online community. However, this is not always possible. Iím using My eCoach with teachers who have met and built a f2f community first. We continue to meet f2f periodically. This is possible because of the nature of the program these teachers are in, and because of the proximity of these teachers to our center, or in the case of the Sonoma teachers, my willingness to drive up there periodicallyf or the f2f meetings. Having said this, I am part of some totally online communities, and have taught online classes where the entire community of learners has been totally online. It both cases (f2f and online) it is critical to build personal relationships between the community members.

Which online tools do you use during your F2F meetings?
I used f2f as a chance to teach the teachers in our program how to use My eCoach. We began using all the tools. I tried to give them tasks to do using each of the tools so they would become familiar with My eCoach while using it to develop their projects, etc.

Do you give homework assignments? Why? Are they effective?
I give homework when we are meeting f2f. Research on online learning has pointed out that online learning is effective for cognitive learning. Iíve found the discussion board effective for discussion and reflection on the "readings" assigned during our f2f institute. This allows us to maximize the f2f time for hands on learning.

How do you keep teachers coming back and logging in?
I post periodic follow up questions. I then email the group and ask them to visit the disucssion board. My experience is that the teachers will use the communication tools they are most comfortable with. Some will respond to my email, some will follow directions and post their responses in the team discussion board, some will go to the message center.. others will phone me. Iím trying to get them to understand that I prefer the threaded discussion for this because this way they can see where there are needs and issues in common and can help each other, and this way I can have a good record of what is happening in their classrooms, and what their needs are. I think there are some learning/working style issues that any coach needs to be aware of and work around. There is also a paradigm shift issue in that we need to help teachers rethink how they work. This will take time. Iím encouraged, however, by the number of teachers who are making this shift, and using My eCoach to communicate with me and to plan, and update their project plans, as well as use the resource library, etc. Slow and steady wins the race.. ;-)

Linda Ullah

Reply to Linda Ullah

By small Leilani Carbonell Pedroni      October 24, 2005 -- 07:11 AM
Thanks Gayle and Linda for sharing. Hoping that other eCoaches and teachers will jump in and respond to Barbaraís questions as well.

I am also really curious to see what others think about strategies to help teachers "rethink the way they work" (taken from Linda Ullahís comment under: How do you keep teachers coming back and logging in?) Weíve built our community so that teachers could collaborate and share ideas. As teachers, we know teachers do this all the time in and outside their classroom. With an online professional learning community such as My eCoach, teachers are able to share with others beyond their classroom walls in a virtual enviroment. This, as Linda suggested, is a whole new paradigm shift. What suggestions do the teachers and eCoaches out there have to guide teachers to move along this shift?...donít forget to address Barbaraís questions too!

Reply to Leilani Carbonell Pedroni

By small Leilani Carbonell Pedroni      November 3, 2005 -- 08:03 AM
I am putting together some tips for ensuring sustainability in a professional learning community. This is more of a brainstorm, but I would like anyone's feedback and input on how to best organize and if I am missing anything or other suggestions.

Tips for Ensuring Sustainability

Environment Considerations

  • Ensure that the PLC environment remains safe, open, and respectful
  • Ensure members adhere to group norms
  • Recognize individual learning styles and group dynamics

Collective Leadership

  • Maintain a shared vision
  • Involve community in key decision making
  • Maintain an Esprit de Corps Ė sense of collective responsibility for the PLC
  • Empower team members

Relevant Content

  • Share new information and updates
  • Encourage collaboration and sharing of ideas and resources
  • Maintain discussion boards and blogs that promote thoughtful discourse
  • Promote for a critical mass of content from community members
  • Review and update resources

Reflection and Feedback

  • Review benchmarks and measures of success
  • Reflect on individual and collective practice
  • Establish a system for ongoing feedback

Ongoing Support

  • Provide ongoing coaching and support
  • Provide ongoing learning opportunities
  • Maintain communication with players through a various avenues
  • Model best practices

Celebrate progress-individual and collective

  • Provide incentives and rewards
  • Showcase community work and communicate results

Be aware of challenges and how to address them:

  • Stagnant discussion boards
  • Unresponsive members
  • Online etiquette issues
  • Loss of focus on purpose/goal

Reply to Leilani Carbonell Pedroni

By Mathew Graham      November 29, 2005 -- 02:47 PM
I have been going through some training over the last few weeks about differentiated instructional strategies. I go again tommorrow morning and will learn some more tips. Baiscally what I have gathered from it is that teachers can multiple techniques such as cubing, jigsaw, and others to engage students in activities in classroom discussions instead of just getting to chapter 8 by Christmas break because that's what the pacing scale says you should do. We had a big arguement however about what students need to know and what do you do about the ones who don't grasp concepts (IE slow learners). Matt

Reply to Mathew Graham

By small Daniel Morgan      July 12, 2006 -- 01:10 PM
In my opinon, the best way to build community is by example, mirroring the old saying, if you want a friend, be a friend. So if you want teachers to participate in E-Mentoring, model to them the benfits of belonging and communicating with each other. Demonstrate the advantages of having an E-Friend contact. In doing this, both the E-Coach and mentored will benefit.

Reply to Daniel Morgan

By small Barbara Bray      July 16, 2006 -- 01:53 PM
Thanks! I agree - modelling is important. It was great working with you and the other teachers this week in Pinellas County. I found that sending email - replying to blogs, message center mail that also sends an email - knocks on their virtual door. It is so easy for teachers to go back to the daily grind and forget to log in. It will take time to build an online community and a little extra nudging in the beginning.

Reply to Barbara Bray


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