When I first got into teaching, I wanted to learn about every existing tech tool to find out which would best meet my students’ needs. I would hear of an app, play with it outside of the classroom, and then plan a small activity to introduce it to my students.
Other teachers asked me why I used certain applications, whether I could visit their classrooms to teach them the programs, and which software or learning management systems I thought they should use with their students. These conversations led me to think more systematically about how to make educational technology recommendations that best align with the learning objectives of a given lesson to support and expand student learning.
Now, I’m ready to pass those suggestions along to other technology coaches looking to collaborate with teachers to integrate new programs into classrooms.
Reflection Questions for EdTech Use
When I talk to teachers about technology, I ask the following questions: What are your objectives for the lesson or thematic unit? How long is the lesson or thematic unit? What activities and assessments are you currently using in your lesson or thematic unit? What more would you like your students to be able to do? How can you help students connect curricular activities to their lives or the lives of those around them? How familiar or comfortable are you with technology? What applications have you used in your classroom so far, and how did those opportunities go with your students? What do you want the timeline to be for learning a new application?
By asking these questions, coaches gain information about what a teacher’s overall lesson will look like. This information allows you to tailor your consulting work to an individual teacher’s objectives and to gain a better understanding of the teacher’s current practices and the classroom activities they are using to build background knowledge, encourage student interaction, and facilitate practice of techniques or concepts taught.
Building on Background Knowledge
According to teachers’ answers about current practices, consider, as a coach, what options might exist for building upon existing curricular strategies to deepen student learning. For example, a video app that allows comments or questions, such as Edpuzzle, might make a particular unit more dynamic.
Or a teacher might consider creating a story on a storyboard or Google Slide to make their instruction more multimodal, then encourage their students to compose a narrative with the same programs. In these instances, teachers maintain their existing lessons and activities but supplement existing content with educational technology recommended by you, their coach, to facilitate deeper student learning.
Speaking with the teacher about the student interaction that already occurs in a given unit will shed light on opportunities for integrating technology into existing classroom communications or inserting into curricula additional opportunities for connection. A teacher might want students to ask questions or provide options, for example, which might lend well to the use of Mentimeter, an application that allows for in-the-moment polls, Q&As, and more. Or a teacher may want students to collaboratively generate ideas or work on an activity, so that an app like Jamboard, an interactive sticky-note board, would be a good fit.
Write down all the ideas you have for technology programs that can supplement classroom activities. For assessment, consider what the teacher is trying to have students demonstrate. This is important, as the answer will determine whether you recommend a program such as Google Forms or Formative, for multiple choice assessments, or a rubric-based assessment app such as those offered through Google Classroom and Rubric Maker. Once you have asked your intake questions and generated your list of possible programs, it’s time to discuss options with the teacher.
Collaborating With Teachers
Because your questioning will shed light on a teacher’s current comfort level with technology, you can think accordingly about what the teacher wants to focus on and which applications would be within their comfort zone. If an application is too difficult for a teacher to learn and subsequently teach others (fielding inevitable questions along the way), it can become a source of frustration rather than instructional support.
You can help a teacher with the application and support the students through a gradual release of responsibility, but the teacher should ultimately provide the initial instruction to students and create their own examples utilizing the program. When you share your list of recommended applications with teachers, engage in a discussion with them by providing overviews of each product and choosing together which applications they feel confident learning and incorporating.
The last step in a productive teacher–technology coach collaboration is to review the process for integrating an application into a lesson or unit. Guide the teacher through the application, and allow them time to play with it with your assistance.
Check back with the teacher to see how integration went, or ask to sit in on their class. Observation can provide an opportunity for teachers to ask for help if needed, which might make them feel more confident integrating advanced programs into their lessons.
Set aside some time after their first lesson to talk with the teacher about what went well, what felt challenging, and how they can make any necessary adjustments. Doing so helps foster a truly collaborative dynamic in which teachers, technology coaches, and students work together toward the common goal of deeper learning and engagement—the heart of education.