Instructional Technology Coaching (ITC) is a prevalent method of deploying on-going professional development for teachers, with a specific focus on the integration of technology into both the curriculum, as well as the method of instruction.
Typically, districts have technology offices or departments that then deploy coaches to individual schools and campuses on a scheduled, or as-needed basis. However, more and more schools are opting to have in-house ITCs, to better formulate and deliver on their tech integration programs. Technology coaches usually have a Masters in Education, and are seasoned teachers who have taken their passion for technology to the logical next step, and become specialist coaches for instructional technology.
Despite its “21st Century” sounding name, ITC is (or should be) a component of the professional development programs all teachers are expected to complete annually. Standard professional development courses generate no small amount of eye-rolling from teachers, who typically bemoan its top-down style where trainers train trainers (the PD version of the “sage on the stage” phenomenon).
It’s hardly ironic that teacher PD suffers from the same lack of student-centred learning that K-12 campuses and curricula struggle with. Naturally, as an ITC coach, teachers will expect you to have fresh and different ideas on instruction, and if you are training them to teach differently then it only makes sense that you walk your talk, and teach them, in turn, differently.
12 Rules of effective Instructional Technology Coaching
So herewith 12 rules I have developed, using the resources you will find at the end of the blog, to keep your coaching relevant, interesting and even fun.
- Ensure the basics: Develop an entry-level edtech introductory course to ensure a formal and consistent level of technological understanding across the staff complement. You may even find this is one of your most popular courses.
- It’s not about technology: ISTE calls it “thoughtful pedagogy”, and is an essential, some would say, foundational concept for IT coaches. There will be many, many lessons and teaching methods that work well in your school. Implementing technology for technology’s sake will not only be unpopular with teachers, but quite possibly pedagogically damaging.
- Expect resistance: As a person passionate about education technology, you may be surprised by how resistant many teachers can be to the change. Start slow and focus on the enthusiasts among the staff complement, and work from there — perhaps by presenting your successes at staff meetings and other workshops to entice further interest.
- Mix it up: Try using different formats such as: workshops, individual coaching, just in time, drop in hours, presentations during staff meetings/department meetings, or developing a video library or channel.
- Stay up to date: Many of the teachers will expect you to be bang up-to-date with all emerging edtech trends. Perhaps consider sending out a monthly emerging edtech newsletter to keep teachers engaged in what your role is.
- Encourage collaboration: Teacher-centred professional development is a hot topic, as many teachers grow weary of the same PD workshop circuit. Build platforms where teachers can collaborate and share experiences, questions and ideas.
- Ensure your own PD: Keep learning and reaching out to other coaches in your area; focus on the fact that ITC is a growing area, and that continuous learning is as much a part of your job, as it is the teachers you coach.
- Focus on the teaching, not the teachers: Many PD programs make the mistake of trying to develop teachers, rather than develop and improve teaching. Make sure that all your programs are focused on the ultimate goal: improving students' learning outcomes.
- Align with the school’s mission: You may find that some school administrators consider your role to be “plug-and-play”, a sort of one-stop, all encompassing technology enabler. Making sure that you are part of the development and communication of the school’s mission and beliefs, also ensures that technology is integrated into the teaching culture, rather than an add-on.
- Get granular: You may be surprised by what you can learn from one lesson. In Japan they have a teacher development model called “Lesson Study”; a deep enquiry into one particular lesson, by a study group of a few teachers. Practice-based professional development is quite rare in the US, however there is a tranche of evidence to show that researching certain lessons, as a teacher group, studying its impact and refining it based on the group’s observations is a powerful way to not only improve the lesson, but indeed the teacher.
- Create attractive courses: Use a high-quality LMS to develop a library of attractive courses your teachers can take in their own time. Think of interesting titles such as: Digital Citizenship for Today, Using Social Media to Teach or Mastering Emerging EdTech. And don’t be afraid to use the same LMS teachers regularly use for teaching.
- Try co-teaching: Far from being resistant to having you in the classroom, you may find many teachers will welcome you to co-teach a class that is newly integrated with technology. This is not only a great way to observe how your students (the teachers) are handling the technology, but will also help you to understand the day-to-challenges they face.
Being an Instructional Technology Coach is deeply rewarding, especially when you consider that the systems you are putting in place in the school, will hopefully inspire and support a new generation of teaching that no longer distinguishes itself from technology as being “blended” or “integrated”, but where technology is an accepted and anticipated part of the entire learning and teaching system.
Edutopia: Making Technology Work
ISTE: Standards for Coaches
Edtech Coaching: Let’s Stop Talking about Teaching with Technology, and Start Talking about Teaching
Lesson Study: Improving Teaching Does Improve Teachers : Evidence from Lesson Study
FREE Resource: Using NEO for Professional Development for teachers