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Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration

Mary Beth Hertz

HS Art/Tech Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
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As schools bring more technology into their classrooms and teachers strive to put more technology in their students' hands, schools are also planning more and more time for teacher training and ongoing professional development for implementing these changes. It is common knowledge (or at least it should be) that one-and-done professional development (PD), especially one-and-done PD that is centered around tech integration, is ineffective. So how do schools ensure that their staff has the ongoing support that they need to be successful?

Here is where schools can use the experts in their buildings to their advantage. Any teacher, whether novice or seasoned, requires time, support and reflection to successfully integrate technology into his or her classroom. Too often, the responsibility for that support lands on an IT department or a single Technology Integration Specialist. The former is a complete mismatch of expertise, and the latter often cannot possibly support an entire school of teachers unassisted.

So what's the solution?

Two Functions, Two People

Schools need to ensure that they have a network of mentors and can provide an adequate number of coaches to support teachers' technology integration efforts. Mentors and coaches, you say? Isn't that redundant?

As I've been learning recently (thanks to ASCD and some wise colleagues on Twitter), the two roles are very different and serve different purposes.

Imagine that you are a classroom teacher who wants to begin blogging with your students. You approach your colleague who has been blogging with his or her students for the last three months to get some advice and throw some ideas around. Voila: mentor.

Imagine that you are a classroom teacher who has just received a laptop cart in your classroom and received a three-hour training on how to turn them on, plus a quick overview of programs and applications, basic care and your personal responsibility for the machines. You are also told that a colleague will be working closely with you to help you implement this new technology successfully. This colleague will meet with you once a week, model lessons, share resources and reflect with you as you set goals for yourself. Voila: coach.

The Technology Integration Coach

Based on these descriptions, it may be easier now to see why it is necessary to have both roles in a school. Many schools already have Professional Learning Communities in place, which encompass this kind of support. These communities provide a place for teachers to air their frustrations, look for solutions and share resources. They also provide a space for reflective practice. The important aspect of these communities is that neither a coach nor a mentor is an evaluator of performance.

This kind of community also shows why, depending on the size of a school, a single Technology Integration Specialist cannot play the role of coach for the entire staff. Many schools already have Reading Coaches and Math Coaches, and it is definitely time for the role of Technology Integration Coach to be brought into the mix. Just changing the name from "Specialist" to "Coach" can do wonders for the relationship between teachers and the person in place to support them as they integrate technology.

However, it is also necessary that teachers work with and support each other through the process of mentorship. In every school there are teachers who are early adopters with technology, or those who are a little less leery of taking risks in the classroom. These teachers are a great resource to their colleagues as mentors -- someone to go to when you need ideas and resources. However, for the deeper reflection and support, teachers need the guidance of a coach, someone who is not also burdened by the day-to-day responsibilities of teaching a class.

Where to Go

For more on coaching, check out October's issue of Educational Leadership.

To learn more about the difference between mentoring and coaching, check out this article (please note that the author lists this as for individual use only):

The Center for Coaching and Mentoring also has a wealth of resources in their newsletter articles:

A big thanks to Kent Manning for sharing these resources with me on Twitter.

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Comments (11) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
HS Art/Tech Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

That's a huge job, Jo! The main reasons for separating the two is that often a mentor is more available than a coach. I'm not sure it's possible for a coach to be available to all staff members at all times. This also depends on the size of the school. In a tiny school setting, then perhaps one person can do both, but also, a mentor, in my mind, should still be teaching or in some kind of role that is still "in it."

That said, a coach can also serve as a mentor, but I don't think it works the other way. If what you're doing works, then if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

I'm curious, how big is your school?

JoHart's picture

Hi Mary Beth

We are a Regional Vocational Education College in Western Aus. Very small compared to most public voc ed providers. We have several campuses and aproximately 60 lecturers (a lot are part-time). Most students are external because of the size of our catchment area (around 150,000 sq km) - we have mixed delivery modes including online blends - I teach literacy/numeracy entirely online.

I certainly can't reach everyone directly as a mentor - even using Elluminate, but I work on being as available as possible (around my teaching) - for people to bounce ideas off, to help with problems & to raise awareness of new e-"stuff" & its potential for use & teach colleagues how to use. There are a couple of others who do some informal mentoring.

I must admit I often feel like the guy in the circus who keeps all those plates spinning. Uptake of tech is quite slow here - for lots of reasons including resistance, because lecturers travel a lot to workplaces and so have less time to learn new "tricks", and also because there is only one of me.

Sorry this got a bit long!

Jo Hart (@johart)

Jennifer Newitt's picture

To help foster faculty mentoring as you describe, I recently set up a Google form for faculty in our school to fill in tech tools they've used and liked, with a description of what they used them for. I'm calling the spreadsheet "Tech Tool Knowledge Pool.". Hope to see faculty using each other as resources more.

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
HS Art/Tech Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

I definitely stress sharing with my staff. I like the idea of a Google Form and spreadsheet!

mrstbrowning's picture
Technology teacher, Central Illinois

Thank you for sharing ideas about a different approach to professional development. As you mentioned, the one-and-done method has proved ineffective. Are you aware of any research articles related to this, or the effectiveness of coaching and/or mentoring for teacher professional development?

Jason Markey's picture
Jason Markey
Principal, East Leyden High School

For the past few years, our district has used a model of Literacy Coach and Liaison model in much the same way you have described the coach/mentor model here. We are planning on next year implementing this same coach/liaison model for tech as well. The key is the formal training of the liaison in our model has really given confidence to those individuals as leaders in their departments. At this point we have multiple Literacy Liaisons in each department and we will start building the same capacity with tech next year. Great post Mary Beth!

David Loertscher's picture
David Loertscher
Professor, San Jose State University

You might consider the teacher librarian as the second person who often has vast knowledge about the world of informaiton plus the technology expertise to boost learning when co-teaching alongside the classroom teacher. If the teacher librarians and a teacher technologist team in a learning commons that combines the old library and computer lab, they make an great addition to the school.

malynmawby's picture

I agree with you about the efficacy of coaching - and also in calling tech integrators coaches if that's the role most required to be filled.

Here's my reflection on peer coaching as an approach to tech integration - very much along the line of what you said above


Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
HS Art/Tech Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

What a great story, thanks for sharing! I think the key part of your approach is how closely you worked with the teacher in getting to know the students, the classroom environment and TeacherB's teaching AND learning style. I think coaching is key to being a successful teacher. I wonder if your school also has a Reading and Math coach and how their roles do/might overlap or integrate into a tech integration coach?

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