Feeling the Love (of a Tech Coach)


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?  


Working with a Tech Coach in Small Groups (copyright R. Barber)

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.

ticklingtech - flocabulary

Practicing with Flocabulary(c) (Copyright R. Barber)

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:


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

4 thoughts on “Feeling the Love (of a Tech Coach)

  1. Mike Karlin says:

    Nice post Robbie! I’m a big fan of technology coaching as a PD strategy and I think it can be really beneficial! I’d be curious to hear more about what you think this coaching implementation might look like, and how you think teachers who are reluctant towards a 1:1 roll-out might interact with that coach? From my own experience, I know it can be tough for coaches to get time with more reluctant teachers, and I also know having a coach in a school can also be tough if they’re stretched too thin (i.e. there are so many teachers that there isn’t enough time to meet everyone’s need). I’d also recommend checking out:

    This ISTE Whitepaper on Coaching: https://www.iste.org/resources/product?ID=2157

    Kopcha, T. J. (2010). A systems-based approach to technology integration using
    mentoring and communities of practice.

    Sugar, W., & van Tryon, P. J. S. (2014). Development of a virtual technology coach to
    support technology integration for K-12 educators

    And I’ve got a bunch of other articles if you’re interested!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Janet Liao says:

    Great post, Robbie! In your specific 1:1 school setting, what barriers or challenges to technology integration the teachers in your school have faced? Are they similar or different from what research articles say? Based on Straub (2009), how can a technology coach tackle teachers’ reluctance of change in their teaching practice with technology?


    • Ms. Barber says:

      The barriers to 1:1 are huge. Self-efficacy will be a real issue as many adopt the attitude of “I don’t understand” or “tech always breaks” instead of feeling confident in themselves to fix what goes wrong. The Straub article has a number of features from the different adoption theories. Roger’s emphasis on change over time is important. Hall’s CBAM reemphasizes that with “Change is a process, not an event.” It’s important to note that since individuals do the changing (not admins, not depts), there has to be a way to touch individuals. For a tech coach, taking on all 90 teachers in the building, all at different stages of experience in the classroom AND with technology, cannot be accomplished in one swoop. I recommend that a tech coach choose people in different grade levels and curriculum areas and focus on them first. Then they can have others come observe their classes with successful implementations. One of the best successes I had was showing a teacher’s movie lesson (flipped class) to other teachers. Suddenly, it wasn’t me – it was one of us.


  3. Ms. Barber says:

    Thank you Mike! My personal experience is that most teachers respond to seeing other teachers actively use some technology in the classroom. Therefore, the tech coach needs to focus on making sure to engage with teachers at each level and physical area of the building but NOT every teacher. Helping some teachers achieve success in their classroom will build energy for others to see it, mimic, and then seek out help implementing. At that point, you’re in a different relationship with the teacher and your potential for success is much higher.


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