I’m starting COETAIL. What the heck is COETAIL?

The Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy Cohort 2 starts tomorrow at Yokohama International School. I will be blogging plenty about it here because that is going to be a significant part of the coursework, but I thought I’d get started with a few points, thoughts, ideas before things get rolling. Partly to inform the throngs of regular readers and commenters here on ye olde blogstead, but mainly to do a little concrete thinking to set a baseline of my own expectations to look back on later. So, some background and some predictions.

What is the what?

From the COETAIL/YIS website:

COETAIL is a 5-course (15-credit) certificate program designed by, and for, international school teachers interested in developing their technology skills in an authentic, project-based environment. All courses include specific skills and concepts essential for the 1:1 classroom – including blogging, understanding copyright and Creative Commons, digital storytelling, and building a personal learning network. Each class includes time to develop technology-rich projects to implement in your classroom.

Cohort 2 will run from Jan 2013 – Mar 2014. Each course will run approximately 6 weeks and include:

2 weekday afternoon sessions (4:30pm – 6:30pm) and 2 Saturday sessions (9am – 4pm) or 1 EARCOS weekend workshop.

The five courses (descriptions here) are offered through SUNY Buffalo for 568 USD each. Quite cheap for three graduate school credits. And, yes, it is too late to sign up.

Most of the other participants are K-12 subject area teachers from Tokyo area international schools. I’ll be in there mixing it up with art, chemistry, and history teachers; kindergarten teachers and teachers preparing high schoolers for the IB. There will be a few other EFL people, but not many, and a very few other university staff. Only 3 or 4 people are Japanese and the rest are expats or foreign residents. This will be very different from my usual work environment and from other PD stuff I do through JALT.

How did I get here?

This is way outside the usual daigaku thing. The international school world and the university world in Japan don’t intersect much. But, one thing led to another…

A few years ago, a good friend and coworker, Damon, suggested I join him on a trip to a 1-to-1 conference at the American School of Bombay. His brother is an ICT guy at a school in Europe and he would be joining us. I had a nice fat research budget, the timing was right, and 1-to-1 looked really interesting. It was light years away from what we were doing in uni programs, but you could see the pieces converging. Why not get ahead of things? We had a great trip, even though Damon’s brother couldn’t make it. The conference was a real eye opener. And, I met a lot of people. That was February 2010.

Around the same time, I was tweeting about related stuff, editing a column in The Language Teacher about tech for teachers, and trying to organize to PD for my then-university, Obirin. I dropped by Bar Camp Tokyo around this time too. Somehow or other I crossed paths with Kurisuteen who was at YIS then. She didn’t make it to the Mumbai conference, but we kept running into each other online until one day she suggested I apply for the Apple Distinguished Educator Program. I did. I got in. The 2011 Japan Cohort for ADE was a great experience and I met more great people. I started seeing weird hashtags pop up in their Twitter streams like #earcos, #myp, #pyp, and then #coetail. It was all kind of hard to follow ata distance, especially since it was a different alphabet soup from EFL, but it looked interesting. By the time I saw the announcement for COETAIL 2, I had changed jobs, been trying to get more into doing ICT training and workshops, and was at a point I had some time and the need to do a more structured round of professional development. So, I signed up.

What am I getting into?

To be honest, I still don’t know exactly. Yes, I read the syllabi. But we’ve all had the experience of taking (or teaching) a course with one syllabus, but experiencing something completely different. And sometimes that is OK.

I do know the following:

  • Several of my ADE peers did COETAIL 1 and raved about it.
  • I will be doing a lot more blogging for a change.
  • I have the option of adding a research/project/thesis at the end for another Master’s degree.
  • There is a distinct possibility that I will have to start using Facebook again.
  • The results from Cohort 1 looked awesome.

On December 1, I went along to the final presentations at the end of Course 5 COETAIL Cohort 1. [Ustreams here, here, and here.] It was basically a full-day miniconference where a really connected community all showed each other their teaching and how COETAIL changed it. Coming from a teaching environment where observation is generally non-existent and my current uni where what happens in class and how you do it often seems to be a closely guarded secret, this was very interesting.

What is going to happen?

I really like the blended delivery approach as an instructor, but also as a student/participant. Online is great, but it goes better if you can interact in person too.

I’m a bit concerned about how some of the tasks will work, especially in the later courses. I will be teaching very different students, in an essentially anti-technology-in-the-classroom institution, and on very different schedules. When it comes to integrating COETAIL into practice, my situation is going to be really different. Wish me luck, and I hope those differences will mean we get a good dialogue going.

Speaking of dialogue, I’m going to have to learn another language. Those K-12 teachers sure talk funny. In December, I kept whispering to a neighbor “What does $TLA mean?”

Blogs, Twitter, LMSs, are all pretty much normalized for me, or so I think, so why do I need a course on educational technology? For years I’ve always been the guy in the office that people come to with their tech questions. Well, Japanese universities are pretty much in the bronze age and my campus is neolithic. I’m expecting the firehose at some point. Stuff like Nings, Edmodo, Minecraft, and G+ are either new to me or things I haven’t really explored. Skype meeting? Sure. Google Hangout? Never done that. (Mostly because my G+ environment is a barren desert. Nobody to hangout with. That will change.) But technology use will change with the different perspectives, past experiences, and goals. All of us in this cohort (and the instructors, too) should be able to supply each other with plenty of new takes on all of the above.

It has been ages since I’ve had any meaningful feedback on my actual teaching techniques or approaches. That will probably shock many people, but it is pretty common in universities here. Getting that feedback will be … um … bracing? This will be hard. I’ve gotten very used to being left alone.

I also want to look at COETAIL from a faculty development perspective. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to show a group of instrcutors how to use Moodle, when half of them cannot even really use a web browser naturally or effectively. How do COETAILers teach teachers technology? I plan to steal all their secrets.


4 responses to “I’m starting COETAIL. What the heck is COETAIL?

  1. “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso

  2. Hi Aaron, thanks for stopping by. These were some of my pre-Saturday thoughts. I’ve already had to re-evaluate my expectations a bit. But in a good way. There will be plenty for me to steal in these classes. Hope that will then make me, and my colleagues, “great artists” but not yet.

  3. Kayo Ozawa

    Hi Ted, I’m sort of the same, being in low-tech environments in a Japanese high school and uni. The only difference is that I’m probably the average low-tech Japanese faculty mentioned above who doesn’t know where to start!

    • I think the technology is moving closer to the teachers and students at the same time as teachers are approaching the technology. Many of my students enter university with few or no skills using a desktop computer, but students and more and more teachers know their way around their phones. Phones used to be more of a distraction, but not anymore.

      Also, look at things like Dropbox for sharing files. Setting up and using a fileserver on a network used to be a serious amount of work. Now it isn’t. Google Docs used be really fiddly and not very useful, but now it’s pretty slick and relatively easy.

      I guess my point is that it is never too late, and in some ways later is actually better. Less time feeling frustrated and more time doing something.


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