George Lucas Educational Foundation

No Teacher Left Behind: The digital classroom revolution

No Teacher Left Behind: The digital classroom revolution

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Teachers are valuable. Educational trends may come and go, but one thing remains constant: teachers are the necessary navigators to guide student learning. This is why it is so important that we support each other in the current tech revolution happening in classrooms all over the world. For teachers my age, the graduates of Facebook’s original college-only site, it is a natural change to embrace. For more experienced teachers, who have seen two-decades plus of educational philosophies come and go, the tech revolution can be harder to sell.

Schools can offer all the full-staff professional development that they want, but it’s not enough to make it stick. Would we toss a textbook at a student and say, “Learn that." No. We can’t expect the one-and-done approach to work for teachers, when we shudder at the thought of teaching students that way. Walk the walk. Practice what you preach. Whichever cliche works for you, it’s true. We need to meet teachers where they are with their tech skills, the same way we are expected to differentiate our classrooms.

Many schools have already figured out that the solution to this need for differentiated professional development is the coaching model. For an experienced teacher who isn’t sure how to best organize their own digital lives, trying to show them how to organize their classroom’s digital life is like putting the cart before the horse. Here are the steps I have been following this year when working with teachers new to the tech generation:

  1. Make it relevant. As with any educational program, pedagogy, or philosophy, there needs to be buy in from the stakeholders. I start by sharing a Learning2 Talk from Jeff Utecht. In 20 minutes, he manages to paint a very clear picture of why incorporating technology into our curriculum isn’t a trend, it’s a necessity. Here's the link:
  2. Make it personal. What tech things have they personally been struggling with lately? Organizing their computer files into folders? Navigating Pinterest? Understanding the 1,098,087th rumor about Facebook’s privacy settings? Spend time working through some of these issues. When teachers feel confident using tech tools in their daily lives, the transition to their professional lives will become a more natural process.
  3. Make it safe. I just learned about Google’s awesome reading level search option last week. It made my day, and my students now love it. Yes, I, the tech coach, am constantly learning new things. I’m never afraid to admit when I don’t know something, and I am always happy to share when I find new things. No one likes a know-it-all. Showing teachers that you are also constantly learning and trying new things will hopefully make them feel more comfortable doing the same. The other important thing to note here is that the coach or mentor is NOT an administrator. There’s no “Do this or it will be reflected on your next evaluation.” The coaching sessions should be a safe environment where teachers are comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, hesitancies, and questions.
  4. Make it logical. Oh, you are getting ready for a unit of inquiry about silk manufacturing in Madagascar? I wonder what the difference would be in a silk community if they were able to set up their own Etsy shop and directly sell their silk products to people around the world? That unit on inventions? I just saw the coolest thing on Kickstarter where someone made a suitcase with a built-in luggage scale. (Genius, by the way!) Tech integration should not be some sort of awkward activity forced randomly into a lesson plan to meet the tech requirement. It should naturally reflect how technology is being used in the world today to solve actual problems. 
  5. Make it a success! Follow-up with people. This is what traditional professional development is missing. How do you know how it’s going if you never ask? Sure, we may evaluate our workshop presenters at the end of PD day to tell them how they did, but where’s the survey from them two months later asking how it’s going in our classrooms? Checking in with people also creates accountability. When the topic of authentic tech integration is being brought to their attention on a regular basis, they can’t run away from it. This is why regular meetings with a coach or mentor are vital. 

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (13) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

KatieVis's picture

Thank you all for the comments. I work at a small school. I am a full-time grade 5 teacher with an interest in technology integration. Colleagues were coming to me, asking questions and seeking ideas on how to use technology more effectively in their classroom. I volunteered to take on a tech coach role for the early childhood and elementary teachers. (That is about 7 teachers in total.) I attended some workshops for tech coaches and teacher leaders and read up on current models of effective coaching. I started with a short workshop introducing the teachers to the coaching model, emphasizing that coaches are NOT administrators. I felt that was an important point to help build trust. Teachers then signed up to participate in our coaching program. I meet with each teacher twice per month.

I work with a technology integration rubric developed by the American International School of Johannesburg to guide teachers in their goal setting. (I also attended a couple of workshops led by the leaders of their Teaching and Learning Institute -- these folks know what they are doing!) They have done a really fantastic job of implementing a coaching model at their school. Their rubrics can be found on their website, which is also a treasure trove of resources and ideas. Check it out here:

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

You are so right about not leaving any teachers behind! In my 25 years of teaching, new technology is the first change that I have seen lead to huge gaps in teacher's familiarity with and expertise in what is becoming the biggest revolution to hit our profession. We are able to go out on our own and learn all kinds of fabulous ways to improve our instruction and our students' learning, and many schools and districts can't keep up with us. But I caution you in assuming we older teachers are not the ones leading the change! You youngsters aren't all so tech-savvy, and we decades-in veterans aren't all digital immigrants. The internet is an equal opportunity classroom kickstarter! ;-)

KatieVis's picture


I absolutely agree with you! Please rest assured that I don't think that all experienced teachers struggle with technology. In fact, some of the most tech-savvy teachers I know have 20+ years of teaching experience. And growing up with this technology doesn't mean you know how to authentically integrate it, either. I'm with you 100%. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to clarify that very important point.

Lissa Layman's picture

Thanks for sharing Katie! It sounds like Learning 2 was 100% worth it for you and your school.

Strongly agree with this: "And growing up with this technology doesn't mean you know how to authentically integrate it, either."

SuperFrenchT's picture
French E-Tutor and K-12 Teacher.

Thanks for Sharing Katie! Really loved your post!
Tip #4 Make it Logical is something really important to me "Tech integration should not be some sort of awkward activity forced randomly into a lesson plan to meet the tech requirement. It should naturally reflect how technology is being used in the world today to solve actual problems. " Valuable words here! I am sharing your post ;-)

Alyssa's picture

Great post! This is exactly the steps for support that teachers need for class-wide tech and development. I see these steps as I plan lessons, so transferring that routine to technology can be easier. Although I am in the age where technology is innovating and fun to navigate, I can understand the frustration if it's just tossed to the staff or students to "get familiar with." One simple question...what's Google's reading level search option?! Sounds helpful in my ELA class...

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi Alyssa,
Reading Level Search is great and easy. After typing in a search term, find the button labeled "Search Tools" right above the search results. Click on it, then on the button that appears called "All results." You'll be able to choose Reading Level as a filter. Then you can click on one of the three levels to filter further.

Here's an example:

Shibi Anand's picture

Hi Katie,

Thank u so much. U r doing an incredible work of helping out your fellow teachers in implementing technology in class rooms. I am an educator and a computer science teacher. Ours is also a small school. I would like to help my colleagues in implementing technology in their classrooms. As u call it a "Tech coach" ,can u guide me as how can I go about it. Any suggestions are welcome.

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct Faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

Shibi, Welcome to Edutopia! See this link for additional ideas.

Be sure to read through all the comments section in the above link because I gave some ideas about how we helped eductors integrate technology in our very small school.

Good luck and let us know if you have more specific questions.

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

You made a good point in that previous discussion, John, about providing a way for teachers to visit other teachers' classrooms so they can see the tech in action. I think teachers are much more likely to respond positively to "Would you be willing to observe my class next week? I'm trying something new and would love to hear from an observer how it seems to be working," than, "You should try this with your class!"

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