Highlighting the Technology Coach



For the last decade or more, educational technology continues to be one of the hottest trends in American education. With the constant introduction of new tools, devices, and applications, schools continue to look at technology as a way to increase student engagement and lead to deeper learning. A little over a year ago, the New Media Consortium released this report, a detailed look at what technology in the schools will look like over the next five years. To arrive at their findings the group pulled together both research and advice from 56 experts from 22 countries. They concluded that over the next year, schools would see a rise in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and Makerspaces. Over the next two years, the focus would be on 3D printing and adaptive learning technologies. In the final two years, the trend would be with badges/microcredits and wearable technology. In presenting their report to the world, they opened their presentation with a quote from science-fiction author William Gibson: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

For teachers in the classroom, this news comes with mixed reviews, and for some it is daunting. While teachers are eager to make use of technology tools that can help them engage their students at deeper levels, it can be stressful to keep up with all that is happening in the ed tech world. As a classroom teacher, how do you decide what technology tools to use? When will you find time to learn how to use them effectively? How will you know if these tools are having an impact on student learning? Teachers cannot and should not be left to answer these questions on their own. For this reason, many schools are turning to the assistance of technology coaches.

The International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) has long advocated for the inclusion of technology coaches – professionals who help educators “bridge the gap from where we are to where we need to be” and who “support their peers in becoming digital age educators.” To help school leaders make the most of this kind of a position, ISTE has developed a set of professional standards for technology coaches that include the following:
  
Coaches act as a visionary Leaders, helping schools navigate the change process and develop a strategic plan to make use of technology. 

  • Coaches assist teachers in using technology for assessing student learning, differentiating instruction, and providing rigorous, relevant, engaging learning experiences for all students.
  • Coaches create and support digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students. 
  • Coaches develop professional development programs and evaluate the impact on instructional practice and student learning. 
  • Coaches model and promote digital citizenship. 
  • Coaches demonstrate professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions in technology education and continually work to deepen their knowledge and skills.

Technology coaches can help ease the stress and burden that a classroom teacher faces in their efforts to keep up with the educational technology trends. Recently, Education Week’s Robin Flanigan noted that schools around the country have seen a rise in the use of technology coaches. While there is wide variation on how schools use these coaches, there is no doubt that their impact can be profound. "The teachers who have someone there to be their cheerleader and coach them through their failures, those are the ones we see transforming their teaching practice," said Heather Zeigler, a district digital-literacy specialist and supervisor of technology coaches at Arizona’s Flagstaff Unified School District. "We find so often that teachers who try a new technology lesson or integration strategy without a coach are reluctant to ever try it again."

In Richland County School District Two in South Carolina, a district which serves 27,000 students, school leaders discovered that when professional development was provided by a technology coach, teachers reported higher satisfaction. According to Flanigan, “the teachers cited more opportunities for personalized learning, authentic real-world applications, student collaboration, and technology integration.”

In a world of constant change and rapid acceleration, technology coaches can provide a school with a stable footing to support teachers in their efforts to make the most of the technology that is available to them in an effort to impact student engagement and student learning at deeper levels for all of their students.

This article was written originally for MultiBriefs Education.

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