Advice to New Technology CoachesAugust 28, 2013 | Mary Beth Hertz
Many schools will be receiving new technology in a few weeks, and they'll need a plan for supporting and coaching teachers through the process of using this new technology effectively in their classrooms. This week I received an email from a friend and fellow educator who was seeking ideas for a new technology coach position at her school this fall. Here are three pieces of advice I gave her.
1. Define the Coach's Schedule
It is really difficult trying to coach teachers in between periods, on your prep time, or before or after school. This can be done, but it cuts down on your ability as a coach to meet with each teacher. I really like being able to sit with teachers and talk about their classroom, their instructional goals, things they want to try, things that terrify them. Then I like to observe, co-teach or just do a quick check-in to see how things are going. Some of this can be done through technology, especially if you have an LMS that allows the technology coach to create a "course" for the teachers.
2. Be a Good Listener
A technology coach is not there to come in and say, "We're all doing this now, so listen carefully." The coach's job starts with listening. Sometimes, he or she will listen to a teacher's plan and say, "You know what? I don't think you even need technology to accomplish that." Sometimes the coach will listen to a teacher's plan and say, "You know what would really take this up a notch? Such-and-such app or website."
3. Learning Comes First, Not Tools
Before everyone goes and downloads a million apps or gets too excited about bright and shiny technology, it's important that teachers really think about whether bringing that app into the classroom will enhance or transform the learning. For instance, just because an app gives kids great practice on their math facts, does that mean that they should be doing it in class? Isn't that the same thing as handing out a worksheet and saying "practice!" instead of making the best use of your in-class time with them? What if they used the iPad to capture right angles in the classroom or to create visualizations of math problems? What if they wrote their own math problems, challenged each other to solve them, and then used an app that allowed them to record themselves solving the other person's problem? Not only could they document that classmate's success in creating a workable challenge, but they could also keep the video for other classmates to view and learn from.
Those three suggestions to my friend aren't the only sources of advice. Some other places to start are the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model, which stresses transformative applications of technology, and the ISTE NETS for Technology Coaches. What advice can you add to this list?