days, ed tech coaches are in high demand, thanks in part to the Common Core State
Standards (CCSS), which require educators to integrate technology
into the classroom. Much like the ISTE Standards, the CCSS clearly
link technology with effective teaching, in addition to calling for mastery of
the basics, more rigorous learning and creativity, and more emphasis on soft
skills, such as critical thinking, communication and collaboration.
new set of requirements has some teachers worried. Technology changes fast, and
some fear they won't be able to keep up or do their jobs well if they have to
use tools they aren't comfortable with.
is where tech coaches can help put them at ease. Both the CCSS and the ISTE
Standards emphasize learning and teaching, two issues educators are already very
familiar with. If coaches focus on learning first, they can start the
conversation on the educators' home court â€” not outside their comfort zone,
where technology often falls.
technology to learning
often, coaches focus their efforts on sharing tech tools at staff meetings,
hoping that teachers will make a connection to a learning activity and adopt the
tool. Unfortunately, this is "just in case" learning. Coaches are helping
teachers learn about new tools just in case they might find a use for it
in their classroom. This approach could work if the teacher identifies an
immediate need for the technology, but if not, another dilemma surfaces:
Although the blackboard seemed to have the same half-life of plutonium,
technology's shelf life is closer to that of milk. If teachers don't adopt the
tool instantly, it may not even exist by the time they decide to use
coaches should aim for just-in-time learning, which means the new technology the
teacher is learning about must have a purposeful and immediate link to the goals
of a specific activity.
the ISTE Standards and the CCSS ask students to communicate, collaborate, gather
and analyze information, and express their learning in creative ways. Most
likely, students will be using hardware and software to accomplish these tasks.
Coaches can improve this process by helping teachers first define the skills
they want students to learn, such as communication and collaboration (ISTE Standard for Students 2), and then use that as the
starting point for identifying and using the tech tools that best meet those
should also work with their learning partners to explore the activity they are
trying to improve and identify tasks that encourage creative expression,
communication, collaboration, and the collection and organization of
information. Together the coach and teacher clearly define these and other
educational needs and then determine whether a given technology can meet them
while enhancing learning. If the answer is yes, the teacher, students and coach
can learn just enough about the technology they want to use, just in time to use
it in the project.
ISTE Standards for Coaches call for coaches to help
teachers select technology that students can use for research, collaboration,
and development of creativity and higher-order thinking skills. Let's explore
what this might mean in the classroom.
second grade teacher who wants to encourage her students to use images, video,
sounds and narration to demonstrate their learning may need help identifying
relevant tools to assist with this. The teacher may feel it is important that
her students spend their time expressing their ideas clearly instead of learning
and manipulating complex video-editing
software. The teacher may also need help learning to use the tool. The coach
could suggest that this teacher follow her students' lead, or she could provide
this point, coaches face the same dilemma as teachers: Technology changes so
quickly that they can't possibly know how to use all of the available tools. But
they don't necessarily need to. They just need to know where to find tutorials
that they, their peers and students can use. Internet4teachers.com, Microsoft, Lynda.com, or Google or Apple's
tutorials for educators are great starting places.
strategy of identifying common tasks in the learning activity focuses on the
core of teaching: How will students learn and then demonstrate what they have
learned? When coaches ask if the task requires students to gather information,
collaborate with others, present their findings and get feedback, they are
asking teachers to work in a realm they know and understand.
help teachers determine how to find a tool that will enhance an activity's
ability to support a given learning objective, a coach can begin by asking a
series of questions about the existing task. Then she will have enough
information to provide technological resources and ideas to help the teacher
transform the lesson.
the teacher wants to support communication in the classroom, a coach
- Does the learning activity encourage students to
communicate with peers?
- Are the students reaching beyond the classroom to get
ideas or suggested solutions to problems?
they seeking input from subject-matter experts?
coach could suggest to her collaborating teacher that he use a website such as iEARN, where educators
can find students from around the world who are working on a project similar to
the one the teacher is planning for his students.
the teacher wants to support collaboration, a coach could
- Does the task ask students to collaborate with others
in their local or global community?
- Are students inspired to solve real-world problems?
the students asked to get feedback on their proposed
for example, this teacher's students are studying the impact of fracking in
nearby natural gas fields, the coach could suggest they use Skype to discuss
their findings and solutions with an outside expert, such as a chemist,
geologist or petroleum company executive.
the teacher wants to support information gathering, a coach could
- To complete the learning task, do students need to
gather information to draw conclusions and create knowledge?
will students be assessed on their ability to gather useful, relevant
a project to improve water quality in their own town, the coach could help the collaborating teacher
create a Google Form his students could use to collect water-quality data
from other students who live in cities along a river.
the teacher wants to support information organization, a coach could
- Is the task shaped in ways that require students to
organize the information they have gathered?
- Are they required to analyze the information in any
they report their findings, does the task require them to synthesize their data
into meaningful applications?
coach may help a teacher and students find online resources about
environmentally friendly practices and then design a webpage where they can
organize and share what they have learned more broadly.
if the teacher wants to support student expression, a coach could
- Are students demonstrating their learning by sharing
their solutions with authentic audiences?
- Does the task encourage students to present their
work in creative ways that are meaningful to them?
the ability to include images, video, music or dialogue important to expression?
a teacher asks her students who come from families that recently immigrated to
the United States to draw on their family's experiences to reshape and retell
John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Her coach can help her record a
video of a stage production of the students' story, upload it to the web and
gather online comments from the viewing community.
this way — with learning and teaching as the starting point — coaches can
emphasize how a specific piece of technology might help students reach their
learning goals and perform the tasks their teacher has defined. And coaches who
play this role help meet another valuable but largely unmet need: encouraging
teachers to use technology routinely, so that they become more comfortable with
Les Foltos, PhD, is the founder of Peer-Ed. He served as director of
instructional technology for Seattle Public Schools and helped develop the
Coaching Academy. He is also a co-author of ISTE’s coaching white
paper. This article is adapted from his book Peer Coaching:
Unlocking the Power of Collaboration (Corwin, 2013).
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