One of the best ways a tech coach can reach teachers is to stop talking about technology.
It may seem counterintuitive, but focusing on technology can be alienating, especially for the skeptics and reluctant adopters.
"Sometimes when tech coaches step in to help, they'll start with the technology — and they're not speaking the same language teachers speak when they start talking about technology," said peer coaching expert Les Foltos.
As tech integration specialist Krista Moroder pointed out, most teachers don't care about technology — nor should they. Teachers care about creating authentic learning experiences, and it's up to coaches to show how technology can help them do that.
"We've brought technology into schools, but there is still a really significant number of teachers who don't use it. And if they do, they're not integrating it into the kinds of learning activities that are going to help kids prepare those 21st century skills that are so important," Foltos said.
To encourage more teachers to use technology to its fullest potential, he recommends allowing pedagogy to drive tech integration within your school or district. He offered the following tips for taking a pedagogy-based approach to coaching.
1. Start by asking questions.
Many tech coaches feel pressured to be the expert in the room, especially when it comes to technology. However, it's often more effective to approach teachers as learning partners. By asking questions about specific learning activities and areas where a teacher might be interested in collaborating, coaches can provide a more personalized learning experience.
"My experience is that teachers who work with coaches say, 'I don't want an expert, I want someone I can learn with and from,' " Foltos said.
2. Uncover the instructional goal.
Once you pinpoint a specific learning activity to work on, find out what the teacher hopes to accomplish with the lesson. Then work with the teacher to identify which tools best meet that goal.
For example, if communication and collaboration are an important part of the lesson, you might guide the teacher toward a blog or video production app, Foltos said.
"Coaches need to learn how to peel back the onion to look for the instructional goal, then pair the technology with that goal," Foltos said.
3. Consider how class time will be spent.
Another important factor to address is how the teacher wants students to spend their time. In the example above, if the teacher opts for video, ask how much time students should spend focusing on writing versus developing their technology skills. If the focus is on writing, look for a simple tool that doesn't require a lot of time or learning to use.
Most coaches naturally find it easier to talk about technology than pedagogy. But to meet the Common Core, teachers and coaches need to find the middle ground between the two.
"Most state standards previously didn't talk about technology," Foltos said. "The Common Core at least is explicit about technology, so it opens the door for that conversation."
Want to learn more about helping fellow educators integrate technology? Take the self-paced ISTE Coaching Academy.