Sunday, June 9, 2013

What is the role of a technology integration specialist?

Yesterday I met up with some wonderful friends from a school where I used to work.  There were lots of hugs and tears and without fail everyone told me that they missed me and how since I left there has been a decline in the authentic use of technology to support student learning.  Roles have changed and it seems there is not so much "hands on" support for teachers now, which means they are less confident and less willing to try new things with technology.  This prompted me to consider the multitude of things that I did that were not "officially" part of my job description, but which were vital elements in helping teachers to integrate technology into their teaching and into student learning.  Here are a few of them:

  • I was a collaborator:  collaborative planning is at the heart of the PYP and I worked with teachers to plan, teach and evaluate student learning.  My job had to start with being a collaborator - without this I couldn't do any of the rest of it.
  • I found resources:  often as a result of the discussions we had during collaborative planning sessions, teachers came to me with questions about how to do things and I tried to find resources to help them.  As well as this I helped them find resources to support student learning.  These could be YouTube videos, websites, Web 2.0 tools or apps.  Then, as now, I published all these links on a website, providing students with a "one stop shop" for resources that supported their inquiries.  
  • I was an innovator:  as a way of carrying out the previous role, I often tried out new things.  If teachers wanted to do something, I would ferret out a few different tools or apps, try them out and report back to the teachers on which ones I thought would be best suited to their needs.  I was constantly looking for better ways of doing things.  I liked finding creative solutions to problems that the teachers had.
  • I was a learner:  I love to learn.  Technology is constantly changing, and as I'm always saying "even if you are on the right road, if you sit down in the middle of it you will get run over".  I like to learn about new ideas, new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking.  I believe teachers should model lifelong learning for their students, and I think that technology teachers/integration specialists/coaches should in turn model it for the teachers they are supporting.
  • I was a provider of professional development:  almost every lesson that I taught or modeled provided professional development to the teachers.  If the technology or the tool or the app was something they were already familiar with then they probably didn't need me in their lessons, except to support their pedagogy.  Actually when I reflect on this I think that the most important thing I did was to inspire teachers to find different ways to use the technology to support higher order thinking.  I was there to push the learning forward.  I tried many different models of professional development, but the one that made the most difference to classroom practice was one-on-one coaching.
  • I was a teacher of digital citizenship and information fluency:  Together with the librarian I worked with students in their classrooms, in the lab and in the library to help them become digitally literate and responsible digital citizens.
  • I was a communicator:  I talked with, emailed, blogged about and used social media to share with teachers, students, and administrators about how the technology programme enhanced student learning.  I was an ambassador for the integration of technology - hundreds of thousands of educators around the world read my blog, which led to the growth of my own learning community as well as invitations to present at conferences, run workshops and online courses, mentor teachers virtually through skype and more.  Communication was a way of amplifying what I was doing so that I could learn from others and they could learn from me.
Are you a tech integration specialist, a tech teacher or an information coach?  What do you think are the most important things you do in your job to support teachers and students?

Photo Credit: Helene Iracane via Compfight cc


  1. Great overview of what a great Tech Integrator does!

  2. Couldn't have said it better! Great summary to review our job description tomorrow with out EdTech team! Thanks Maggie!

  3. Great list. One that's embedded in others you list but not explicitly stated is "I built relationships". As I have focused my professional responsibilities on being an instructional technology coach over the past few years (having been primarily general IT staff prior to that), I have found that taking a real interest in what teachers are doing with students beyond just technology-related activities was key to building relationships. One of the most important things a teacher can do to leverage digital technology to improve teaching and learning is to take risks. Teachers are more likely to take risks when they have trust and comfort with the coach/facilitator with whom they work. The collaboration and one-on-one PD you mention are also an important part of that.

    On the communicator front, I would also add that being a bridge to share ideas between teachers face to face within a school or district is also valuable. Full-time classroom teachers have less time to meet with other teachers than I do. Therefore, if I see an exemplary practice by one teacher that relates to something another would find useful, I can connect those teachers or be the conduit to share experiences and practices from one to another.

  4. Thanks for these extra suggestions Bill. I agree, I did work hard on building relationships. Also like the idea of being a bridge. Perhaps I should also have written that I was a cross pollinator, able to take ideas from one teacher to another.

  5. I like the cross pollinator label and will use that again if you don't mind.

  6. Feel free to use anything you like Bill.

  7. Thanks for this Maggie! I have been thinking about my role here in my work space too in light of your list and have to add being a very patient listener and Socratic questioner.

    I find that in most instances where staff are stumped it is due to their perceived lack of self-confidence exploring and experimenting. Time is always an issue to be able to build on this confidence. I think that as I find moments to explore and play so I become more confident = increased knowledge base to pull from = able to provide more support.

    The key for me as a student learning tutor and digital literacy support person to staff is to find the balance between making suggestions - not doing it for them and modelling techniques of problem solving so they can do this for themselves. I'd love to Tweet this and re-post you on my Google+ too!

  8. Fantastic suggestions Maria: being able to listen deeply to both what is and isn't being said, and being able to ask the right questions are so important. You also identified several other important factors. I know many teachers do lack confidence, so it's wonderful that when I do model a lesson and a teacher says afterwards "I could have done that!". I also think teachers need to have confidence in their students, who may know more about the technology than they do. For some this is really uncomfortable. I think time is an issues for all teachers everywhere. I love the way you mention playing with the technology in order to learn and become more comfortable with it. Thanks for sharing all this thoughts and for reposting to your social media.


  9. My personal opinion is that the role of a Tech Integrator is over rated. Any person who is not severally lacking technical skills can collaborate, find resources, learn, help others with tech issues, set up a blog (includes Twitter). Please correct me if I'm wrong, I could be biased by what I see where I currently work and I honestly want to have an open talk. I agree with few of your points although I believe that the key function should be "Implementation". I would like to know what you think is the role of the help desk team is in this area. I work as a member of the help desk team in an International school similar to yours. Sometimes its frustrating when the Tech Integrators just sends a link about a new software or an app (from the App store) and says “I would like this setup” and shows no effort in knowing the process behind it. So now, to quote your own words, “ This prompted me to consider the multitude of things that I did that were not "officially" part of my job description, but which were vital elements in helping teachers to integrate technology into their teaching and into student learning’

    Everyone is looking ahead, no one wants to look around and absorb where they are at. Doing this we fall blind to the basics of what Technology actually is.
    I don’t have the privileges of attending conferences as you folks do (maybe its just a school policy) but the tech integrators do often go for such holidays/trips to learn example“managing iOS devices” and never actually do because we do it for them. Do you submit a report on your learning(s) to share with the help desk team in order to update or upgrade the existing processes?
    Your views on this will clearly help me out with a lot of things.

    1. Dear Anonymous - I really wish you had put your name so that you could have a more personal reply (was there a reason why you didn't? Do I know you or your school?)

      I am the Tech Coordinator at my school. Each cycle (8 days) I attend a PYP Meeting with each grade level so that I understand what is happening in the curriculum, and the following day I have a tech meeting with the teachers so that we can discuss how they will use technology to support student learning. It could be that they want to use technology for tuning in (investigation) or it could be that they want to skype with an expert or with students in other countries (communication) or it could be that they want the students to collaborate and create something that shows their understanding. I help them find ways to do these things.

      At ASB we have a wonderful group of people who are educational technology specialists. All of us are totally focused on student learning. The help desk people are not curriculum experts, so they generally deal with students and teachers who come with problems with their laptops or the network or who have questions about our online resources. Just like everybody else, they have a budget for PD. In fact in the past 2 years 4 of these people have been sent by the school from India to the USA to participate in the ISTE conference. Last year 2 of these presented alongside myself and the Middle School Tech Coordinator about our BYOD programme. They are a vital part of our R&D team, our focus is on the future and how we can get the school ready for it.

      If you think in terms of the TPACK model, I would say the Tech Coordinators are right at the centre of the 3 circles as we have technological, content and pedagogical knowledge. The help desk people have more technological knowledge than I do about systems, networks, hardware etc. I have a much better knowledge than they do about the PYP programme, Web 2.0 tools and so on. However one of our Ed Tech Specialists is also very hands on with students, teachers and assistants. She is a "bookable resource" so can be booked by a teacher to come into a class, support small groups of students, lead the whole class in doing something such as setting up their ePortfolios and so on. She does a lot of work with supporting the use of iPads, including using them for Green Screening, and in supporting many of our younger students in using various apps. She also runs training for the assistants every week, so that they too are upskilled and able to help the students in their classes.

      From what you say it seems as if you work in a school where there is a big divide between the "techies" and the "educators". This isn't true in my school, though of course I have worked in schools like this. What I find works well is when both are on the same side and attend conferences together. These are definitely not "holidays" as you write. We present about what we are doing, and we take what we learn back to school. We use this with teachers and we also present frequently to parents (approximately twice a month), and as mentioned earlier we run weekly training sessions at school, we write blogs about what we do, and we update Haiku with online resources for both teachers and students. Basically I would say we work very much together, for example just this week we jointly produced a document for parents about child safety. The Tech Coordinators wrote parts of this, the Tech Specialists wrote other parts (about installing software on the home computers).

    2. Part 2 (the first part wouldn't post as it was too long)
      I do know of schools where the help desk doesn't work as well as this and where teachers feel that they are treated as idiots when they go for help. I think in these schools it is because the focus is not on student learning. I tell everyone that the whole reason for our existence is the students - everything we do, every decision we make, should be to improve their learning experience. I don't believe it when I'm told "it can't be done" for technical reasons. I think if we all consider student learning we find a way together to make it happen.

    3. Hello Maggie,
      Thank you for taking the time to reply to me. It means a lot. You have helped me in better understanding the role. We the help-desk team have a policy of not saying "can't be done" and I truly love my job and being part of the team to help out people. We manage to keep calm and help out when a teacher comes in screaming because she doesn't know how to use the formatting option in Word and says its an IT problem. We understand and appreciate these people because this is why we have jobs (if you like to look at it that way :-) Yes, I do feel bad for those teachers who are treated as idiots. We have zero tolerance towards Unprofessional conduct(Even when a parent drops multiple F bombs because we charged her child for breaking his computer we just remain calm.
      I will say that your blogs and effort in infusing technology at every level is commendable and surely a great example set for others. I also appreciate that ASB finds it in their interest to send help desk personnel overseas for workshops/training. I'm not sure if there is a divide but surely there is a notion that the help desk is below in ranks (if I may say so)
      PS - No, we don't know each other. We are just two professionals sharing thoughts and ideas :-)

    4. Perhaps this might help you. Today Gary Stager posted on his blog about the ASB IT Team. He called it One in a Million:

  10. Hi Maggie,

    Thank you for this post! It embraces and clearly explains the role of the Technology Integration Specialist.

    I am the MYP Technology Teacher for The Overseas School of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and the school is opening the job for the new academic year.

    I understand you are in the Primary School, am I right? Do you also teach?

    I would like to have a conversation with you if possible, of course!

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Maria,
      I do not have a teaching schedule, but I do sometimes go into a class and teach. For example in the past week I have taught SketchUp to a class of 5th Graders, discussed copyright and creative commons with 4th Graders, worked with 1st and 2nd Graders on animation and been involved in a "research party" with 2nd Graders as they are working on their Curiosity Project.
      I'm happy to skype with you. Please let me know your skype contact and a good time to chat.
      All the best,

  11. Thank you Maggie!

    It will be great to have a conversation with you. You are in India, which makes this even better!

    I see you work for ASB. My daughter was there for the SAISA Swimming Tournament last October.

    My skype is majo_morag. I will be waiting for your invitation, any time that is good for you is good for me.

    Thank you again!

    Majo Mora

  12. I love this post. This job description is very similar to my daily roles plus the function as owner.

  13. Dear Maggie,

    Wonderful description of a tech I. Please may I have permission to use some of your material from you site. At the moment 2014 sept. All grade 5-6 and 7 will have an ipad for MYP. I am choosing TI form each department and would like to apply you ideas to them for ways forward.

    Keep up the great work

    best regards


  14. Hi Julian, you are free to use this. My blog has a Creative Commons license:

    Tech Transformation by Maggie Hos-McGrane is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

    Thanks for your comments.

  15. This was interesting reading, Maggie. There is an on-going discussion in the IB about the role of technology (and technology "integrationists"), with the goal of creating a guidance paper on the same. The discussion is currently open to practitioners, teachers, and others interested.
    I think you could add much to the discussion, please do join. (The link is on OCC)

    I have posted a link of this page to the discussion there, already. I hope you don't mind.

  16. I am sort of new to the role of integrationist. When I did it 6 years ago, it was a combination of teaching & integrating technology in the curriculum. Since then I was only teaching.
    However I am back to being an integrationist...and I am confused because I feel that most of my job is focused on getting technical issues sorted out, such as getting email passwords reset & so on. I do understand that it is sometimes part of the process, but it appears to be at least 30% of what I do.
    Can I request that you guys share some actual examples of what you do, and how the IT support/helpdesk functions in your schools?


    1. I think it is important to distinguish between tech integration (which is into the curriculum) and tech support (which is more troubleshooting issues that arise). We employ people who are not teachers for tech support, and only those with teaching experience to be tech integrators or tech coaches.
      My job involves meeting with each grade and talking with them about what they are doing with each unit. It may be that tech is mostly used for investigation/inquiry - so I give support with searching. It may be that teachers mostly want tech to be used for students' formative or summative assessments - there are many tools I can suggest for that. Often in these meetings I will simply be asking questions so that the teachers themselves are empowered to come up with the answers - that's the difference between coming in as a coach and coming in as a sort of consultant (telling them what to do/what tool to use - which I try not to do).