May 24, 2016 by Dr. Robbie Barber
As our school starts its journey to 1:1 devices, we begin a process of planning for the devices. There is an 18 month process which includes working through how the devices will be used and what support needs to be in place. We can choose from five options for devices for the school. We have not even begun to ask the first questions, but we have unofficially made a decision. We will choose either the Chromebooks or the laptops for one reason. If we choose one of these two options, we automatically get a technology coach for the school.
Why is a technology coach so important to the school? What does this person do for administrators, teachers and students?
A technology coach becomes a significant tool in the toolbox when we recognize that we need to change the pedagogy to “emphasize how, not what, technology should be used to achieve meaningful learning outcomes” (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2012, p.1). As our school begins its 1:1 journey, the expectations of the technology coach grow to unimaginable proportions. The administrators need someone to translate what they are getting with technology. The parents want someone who can explain how it will effect their child’s learning. Each individual teacher wants a technology coach to come into their personal classroom and work with them individually to use technology with the students seamlessly. While this mythical creature does not exist, the technology coach does touch on all of these facets.
In my role as a part-time technology coach, I know that simply adding the technology does not make it automatically useful in any way. The reality is that teachers need time to absorb the new material and learn how to use it (Hew & Brush, 2007). Teachers need to practice, try, fail, and try again to work with a tool before they truly own it. The role of the technology coach is to introduce ideas or subjects, critique the results AND act as a cheerleader. The focus is on how teachers use technology and how this is supported (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2012). The technology coach can be a key to this required support.
According to Stanhope & Corn (2014), teacher commitment and behavior was significantly more positive with a full time technology coach. The struggle to teach teachers technology is not only a matter of internal pressures like knowledge or even willingness (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2012). It is also a matter of time where the teachers feel they receive expert help, suggestions, practice and an opportunity to fail (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2012). As a part-time coach, I can share all of these features, but in a 1:1 environment, my best efforts will fall short of the need. The goal of coaching is not to show lots of different things (technology) but instead to work with teachers to use some new technology and hopefully gain the skills to do some of their learning and exploring on their own. In the end, the teacher’s willingness to explore will completely change the classroom and the students’ learning. A full time coach, dedicated to the school and its teachers, can make the difference.
The reality is that simply exposing teachers and students to technology does not automatically confer the necessary skills (Ruggiero & Mong, 2015). Teachers need to be exposed to the technology in the same manner that we expect them to use it with students (Ruggiero & Mong, 2015). Teachers, like students, need to spend time using the new material to own it. If time is the only issue, why do you need a coach? Adopting a major change into your teaching style takes more than time. Change is essentially a complex social and developmental issue (Straub, 2009). The technology coach is part of this social network, encouraging and showing examples. Adopting technology is possible at any age, if we just provide the tools, the challenge, and the help to overcome the obstacles.
A couple of quick links to help understand the role of a Technology Coach:
- ISTE Standards for Technology Coaches The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) provides a two page set of skills and knowledge that all technology coaches should have.
- Advice to New Technology Coaches (2013 article) This provides 3 basic rules of good coaching: set a schedule, listen well, and learning is the most important thing. For anyone moving from teaching to coaching should take a look.
- Using Coaching to Make Teacher Training “Stick” This article provides six tips for professional development with teachers.
- Empowering the Teacher Technophobe (TEDx YouTube) In this video, Kristin Daniels talks about her work as technology coach and what teachers need and should expect.
Ertmer, P. A., & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. (2012). Removing obstacles to the pedagogical changes required by Jonassen’s vision of authentic technology-enabled learning. Computers and Education, (May). http://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.008
Hew, K. F., & Brush, T. (2007). Integrating technology into K-12 teaching and learning : current knowledge gaps and recommendations for future research, 223–252. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-006-9022-5
Ruggiero, D., & Mong, C. J. (2015). The teacher technology integration experience: Practice and reflection in the classroom. Journal of Information Technology Education Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 14(14), 161–178. Retrieved from http://www.jite.org/documents/Vol14/JITEv14ResearchP161-178Ruggiero0958.pdf
Stanhope, D. S., & Corn, J. O. (2014). Acquiring teacher commitment to 1:1 initiatives: The role of the technology facilitator. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 46(3), 252–276. http://doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2014.888271
Straub, E. T. (2009). Understanding Technology Adoption: Theory and Future Directions for Informal Learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 625–649. http://doi.org/10.3102/0034654308325896