Stephanie Affinito, Staff Associate in the literacy department at the University at Albany in New York, showcases three ways to use collaborative whiteboard tool, Google Jamboard, to support virtual coaching.
y personal policy for using technology in teaching and coaching can be condensed down to a short phrase: privilege pedagogy over technology. Those four little words have served me well, ensuring I use my purpose for learning to choose technology tools and not the other way around.
As I've continued coaching virtually, however, I've refined my personal policy further to include guidelines like these:
- Is it intuitive and easy to use?
- Can I use the tools flexibly?
- Is it free?
These personal guidelines have pointed me to consider a newer tool for virtual instructional coaching: Google Jamboard. Jamboard is a collaborative, digital whiteboard to create together in real time. Another way to look at it is like a digital version of a large pad of chart paper that allows us to use colorful markers and sticky notes online. The beauty of Jamboard is that it comes with unlimited pages.
You can curate thinking on one slide alone or assign grade level teams and small groups to individual pages that contribute to a larger flipboard of thinking. And, while I prefer to have teachers share their thinking on the moveable colorful sticky notes, teachers can easily write their thinking using their touch-screen devices instead.
Initially, I turned to Jamboard as an alternative to Padlet so I could offer teachers a free way to curate resources, share thinking, and cultivate collaborative learning. But now that I've been using Jamboard in my coaching, I realize this tool can do so much more. Here are three powerful ways that I've been using it in my coaching recently, and how you can too.
Build connection and community with fun ice breakers
The challenges of quarantine have highlighted our need for human connection and community. While we can no longer pop into each other's classrooms for a quick hello or gather together for social experiences, Jamboard offers a quick and easy way to bring the spirit of collaboration to any learning session.
I like to open a professional learning session with a fun slide that brings a smile to teachers' faces and gives them a moment to connect. Here's my favorite so far:
Stephanie likes to start with a fun question where it's very easy to participate.
Teachers add a sticky note with their name and move it to the location on the image that best represents their preferences. Not only is it engaging for teachers, it's also easy, fun, and flexible, too! There are many other options for creating slides like these: Which meme do you identify with most? Which dinner option represents you most? What's your favorite dessert?
Pro tip: keep a running collection of these images so you can easily copy and paste one into your presentation when you need it.
Create entrance and exit tickets
While I love starting sessions with connection and community, I also want to find out about teachers' knowledge, interests, and needs before we get started with the session. Jamboard's sticky notes and textboxes are a great way to do this.
Here's one I created to elicit my teachers' thoughts on running records to guide our session. Notice how they can share their thinking on a sticky note, move their note around to the appropriate column, and view their colleagues' thinking as well:
Virtual whiteboards are also a great way for teachers to organize thoughts or for a coach to quickly assess interests or needs.
Jamboard keeps teachers' thoughts anonymous, yet offers a window into the shared understandings of the group. It's also something that can be archived and saved to illustrate teacher learning over time through exit tickets.
These tickets can answer a wide-range of questions, but a few great ones are:
- Where are you in your journey?
- What do you need next?
- How are we pushing the boundaries of our own learning?
Questions to both get your teachers thinking and understand where your teachers are in their development.
Curate collaborative thinking with prompts
Our virtual sessions with teachers should be just as interactive and engaging as our in-person ones. We might be on opposite sides of a virtual screen, but we can still collaborate and curate our shared thinking.
I like to use Jamboard to ask teachers to share their own independent thinking, document their conversations in breakout rooms, contribute a resource to share, and more.
Here's an example of a Jamboard asking what teachers felt mattered most in virtual instruction:
Specific questions or prompts can help direct your collaborative sessions and drive deeper engagement at the same time.
If you haven't given Jamboard or other collaborative whiteboard tools a try to support your virtual coaching, I hope this offers a few ways you can do just that.
And if you're still on the fence, here's one more reason to consider: they offer teachers a powerful model to bring these tools into their own virtual classrooms, too!
About our Guest Blogger
Stephanie Affinito is a Staff Associate in the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning at the University at Albany in New York. She has a deep love of literacy coaching and supporting teachers' learning through technology. Stephanie creates spaces for authentic teacher learning that build expertise, spark professional curiosity, and foster intentional reflection to re-imagine teaching and learning for students.
Additionally, she presents regularly at state and national conferences on literacy coaching, teacher collaboration and supporting teachers' reading, writing, and learning through innovative technology.
Be sure to check out her recently published book with Heinemann Publishing, Literacy Coaching: Teaching and Learning with Digital Tools and Technology.