Skilled.space | January 12, 2021

The Unanswered Email Effect

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“Coaches have to start by listening,” one skilled.space coach told us recently. Many teachers, however, feel like they aren’t being heard.

A tech-forward elementary school teacher ran into a familiar problem with virtual learning. Her kids would go into one piece of learning software on the school-provided iPads or Chromebooks, and she would lose the minimal amount of context that the Zoom classroom provides–what is the kid doing with their hands? Are they paying attention? Are they typing away?

“I’m not a person that waits – I’m like, let’s do this, let’s learn about this,” she explains. So she went looking for answers. First, she looked to her district for help, but her email, to this day, remains unanswered. Her colleagues told her she was already more advanced than they were, so they would not be much help. Silence.

Without a commitment to help from her own network, she hacked together a solution. In order to have some insight into what students are doing, she would ask each student to write answers on a piece of paper and hold it up to the device camera. A quick-fix? Sure. A 21st-century solution? Definitely not.

One thing we know about coaching is that it’s a journey and not a destination. Eventually, this teacher turned to skilled.space, where she was matched with an experienced coach, but he too was stumped. She once again tapped the skilled.space network of skilled educators and was matched with another coach who had been working with much older kids for many years.

With a couple of deep conversations, the teacher gained clarity on how to start moving forward and solving the problem. For her, it wasn’t so much getting to an answer as it was about truly understanding the context and the problem: something YouTube videos are terrible at providing. The experienced skilled.space coach led the teacher towards a software solution that better met her and her kids’ needs. She went back to her administrator with a clearer understanding of her own context and needs, and requested a license to software that would finally let her keep tabs on her students’ engagement. This story is an example of how edtech challenges are multi-faceted and deserving of multiple approaches that every school system has the resources to provide.

Swivl has proven that technology can provide new opportunities for meaningful coaching. We have helped teachers overcome their fears, empowered them to take ownership of skill development, and provided nurturing, positive feedback through the programs we support.

Our aim in creating skilled.space was to continue this journey, and never have anyone struggle alone with technology again. And while this is still our goal, we now see the possibilities beyond just problem solving: we can nurture quality connections between educators, and provide a space for them to talk about how they use technology, ultimately leading them to better teaching. Skilled.space is forging connections in a world of too many unanswered emails.