"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where."
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go."
-- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865
I can usually relate most of my career in integrating technology to a quote or character from Wonderland, such as the role of the Technology Instructional Specialist (TIS) as the Cheshire Cat who asks Alice (the teacher) the questions about her instructional goals for the classroom. Then I use those goals and the teacher's personality to tailor the assistance we give and the devices and programs we integrate. To do all this, the TIS needs to be reflective in their own practice and ask themselves certain questions at the beginning of the year before the integration planning can even begin. We have to know where we are going, or it doesn't matter which way we go.
During a yearlong study of my actions as a campus TIS, I developed a list of ten reflective questions that I ask myself before I enter a new school year. These questions have helped me become more reflective with my actions, have allowed me to focus on the teacher I will be coaching, and assist in planning the differentiated, classroom-embedded, technology staff development of which I am an avid proponent.
Most of my work revolves around my relationships with the teachers, the administration, and my directors. However, the teacher/coach relationship is what I chose to focus on for my reflective questions:
1. How can I build my working relationship with the teachers I serve to become collaborative and trusting?
2. How can we (the teacher and I) work together to create a technology integration goal based on his or her students' needs?
About the Teacher and the Class
The teacher's personality, teaching style, classroom management styles, and even way he or she arranges the classroom or his or her daily schedule are all important indicators to help find the right kind of technology and the way it should be used in that classroom. I try to think of the teachers as customers of technology integration to help me decide which technology ideas I want to propose to that teacher. I use these questions to harness those reflections:
3. How can I take into account teacher personality and instructional style when coaching the integration?
4. What instructional problem is the technology integration solving, or what problem does it need to solve based on these students' needs?
5. How can I use scaffolding techniques to work toward a level of independence for this teacher and class?
I wish that, as a campus TIS, I could just work on one implementation or one change every school year, but technology integration is constantly growing and changing. To accommodate these changes, my schedule changes every year. From the beginning, I try to build in time for reflection and discussion with teachers so that it does not become an afterthought. For example, this planning allowed me to schedule one day a week to sit in the teachers' lounge during every lunch period so that teachers could come talk to me about technology. This was a plan I never would have considered without asking myself the following questions first and being purposeful about allowing for this time:
6. How can I plan time to have quality discussions about technology integration?
7. How can I plan time to observe teachers and listen to their needs?
With a renewed interest in reflection, I cannot always ask questions about those around me without stopping to consider how my own personality plays a part in my coaching and the integration process. I also want to make sure that I am leading technology and challenging the teachers to integrate technology in new ways that they can maintain without my guidance:
8. How can I ensure that my role as a TIS should be a leader of integration and not just a teacher assistant?
9. How can I plan to constantly reevaluate my coaching strategies throughout the year and not just set a plan in place at the first of the year?
Creating a Plan with my Answers
10. How can I take all of these questions and use the answers to differentiate technology integration coaching so that it is the most effective for each teacher that I serve?
When I first started this reflective study of my actions as a TIS, I thought I would discover universal practices that I could share with other TIS to make our coaching more successful. However, through the study, I realized these questions had no universal answers that would work for everyone. Instead, I realized that the most easily generalized advice I could give was the understanding that we need to ask these questions in the first place.
Using these ten questions as a guide to focus the beginning-of-the-year planning sessions, a TIS can decide which program or technology device to suggest for classrooms and how to go about coaching the teachers with this goal in mind. Then the teacher and the TIS should collaborate to decide how the technology will be implemented and how it will best meet the needs of the students -- or where we want to go with the technology we integrate.