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February 14, 2019
Vol. 14
No. 17

Tech Integration Comes Alive Through Coaching

Teachers and school leaders understand the transformational possibilities that integrating technology can breed. Schools spend fortunes purchasing digital products and programs and expanding internet access and speed. Yet, the ways in which educators utilize these technologies are, on the whole, underwhelming. Chromebooks and iPads are sporadic replacements for paper and pencil, and SMART boards are often left to gather dust in the corner.
That's where technology coaches come in. The research is clear that coaching is critical to the success of new educational initiatives, including tech integration (King et al., 2004; Knight, 2007; Darling-Hammond, Zielezinski, & Goldman, 2014; Dinse de Salas, Rohlfs, & Spannagel, 2016). However, there is a big difference between asking technologically skilled educators to be coaches and having a quality coaching program. If school leaders really want their investments in technology to add up, they must develop high-quality coaching to support integration. Well-trained coaches not only improve the speed at which teachers use technologies in the classroom, they also help educators harness tools to efficiently meet teaching and learning goals.
We encourage school and district leaders to consider how tech coaching can fit meaningfully within current coaching and professional learning structures—not as an additional initiative divorced from larger goals. With that in mind, based on our collective experience as coaches and education technology experts, we believe that school leaders must consider six critical factors to ensure their tech coaching programs are effective:

1. Good coaches are developed, not born.

Just because a teacher is skilled with technology doesn't mean that she will be able to effectively coach other educators. Good coaches must understand their school's context and goals and have the frameworks, language, and tools to create meaningful learning experiences for others—including structuring conversations to grow educators' confidence, knowledge, and skills for integration. They believe that educators have buildable strengths and they seek to understand educators' instructional and technological needs. They also have a plan to provide both tech selection and implementation support.

2. Pedagogy always comes first.

While tech coaches understand the ways technology can support teaching and learning, they are also clear that technology is not the whole solution. Technology integration frameworks like TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) and SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition) are useful to think about the appropriate place of technology in instruction and the right kinds of devices and applications that will help teachers and students reach their goals. Coaches also can discuss how to communicate with parents more efficiently through applications like Class Dojo, Remind, or SeeSaw.

3. Coaching can be more than one-on-one support.

While knowing how to help one teacher achieve her tech integration goals is a critical skillset, coaches also need to facilitate professional learning in groups. Working in teams provides schools with more access to tech coaches' expertise. To make this happen, coaches need an additional skill set—namely, presentation and facilitation skills. Leaders should encourage coaches to grow their presentation skills and offer co-observation and debriefing after coaching presentations with educators.
Additionally, leaders need to work with coaches to create structures for follow-up and support with educators. Setting benchmark goals for integration and metrics for success are critical for any coaching initiative. This kind of accountability system creates incentive for coaches, teachers, and administrators to remain focused on common goals.

4. Tech coaches, and everyone else, must understand their role and value.

Coaches' understanding of their role and the goals for which they are accountable help to sharpen their focus of their work. When all stakeholders—district officials, school leaders, and teachers—are clear about the value of the program and how it can support improved teaching and learning, the work solidifies around a common vision.

5. There must be a plan for continuous improvement and sustainability.

It's not enough to think that coaching is working. There needs to be a plan about what kinds of data to collect and analyze and how to strategically share that data with teachers. We recommend gathering metrics in two areas—implementation and impact. Implementation data focuses on the quality of the coaching. Impact data focuses on the ways in which the work influences teacher and student practice. Collecting and analyzing is important internally for program improvement and externally to help others understand and value the work.

6. Continual learning is key.

To truly help others, coaches must first help themselves. Coaches need to create goals and action plans that ensure they are continuing to grow both their technological and coaching expertise. We encourage coaches to reference coaching standards from the New Teacher Center and Future Ready Schools as well as education technology standards created by the International Society for Technology in Education and Evolving Educators as starting points for self-assessing and setting goals.
For example, a new coach might set one personal goal on coaching language and questioning or integrating equity and access into coaching conversations and one professional goal on deepening understanding of SAMR or TPACK. In addition, coaches need to know how to harness the power of in-person and virtual learning networks to stay current in the rapidly changing world of technology and take time to refine processes. (Our favorite virtual network is Twitter's #SatChat.) When coaches learn, teachers and kids benefit.
School leaders don't have to do the work of tech integration alone. As technology continues to fundamentally transform education, tech coaches can serve as valuable experts. Taking the time to invest in tech coaches—to select them carefully and systematically use data to hone an integration program—can create a cadre of teacher leaders who advance innovation, implement technology in meaningful ways, and deepen teaching and learning.

Darling-Hammond, L., Zielezinski, M. B., & Goldman, S. (2014). Using technology to support at-risk studentsapos; learning. Palo Alto, CA: Alliance for Excellent Education and Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.

Dinse de Salas, S., Rohlfs, C., & Spannagel, C. (2016). Coaching teachers in using technology. In Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology 2016. Vancouver, BC, Canada: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

King, D., Neuman, M., Pelchat, J., Potochnick, T., Rao, S., & Thompson, J. (2004). Instructional coaching: Professional development strategies that improve instruction. Providence, RI: Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

Knight, J. (2007). Instructional coaching: A partnership approach to improving instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books? id=6xhT3r1KERYC

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