Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ICT in the PYP and the ISTE Standards for Coaches

Way back in 2010 I was lucky enough to participate in curriculum writing for the IBO which resulted in a document entitled The Role of ICT in the PYP.  At that time we identified 6 main areas where we felt IT could be used to enhance the PYP:
  • Investigating
  • Organizing information
  • Communicating
  • Collaborating
  • Creating
  • Becoming responsible digital citizens
As I'm looking forward to starting work with our new tech integration coaches in the upcoming school year,  I've been considering these areas alongside the ISTE standards for coaches.  Clearly the job of a tech coach goes way beyond just integrating technology - which could even involve doing the same things as before but just using a computer.  Often this approach will lead to a focus on using technology to find, record and regurgitate facts.  Going beyond technology as a substitute involves using it to go beyond the facts to create new knowledge, and for our new tech coaches the place where they will need to start is with the pedagogy.

Looking at the ISTE standards for coaching, it is clear that the focus is definitely on teaching and learning.  At the recent ISTE conference I attended many sessions on coaching, but several of these involved the sharing of tech tools.  Years ago at a different school I tried this approach too.  I ran various sessions such as Techie Breakies and after school sessions, but reflecting on these now many of these were "just in case" sessions.  I did introduce new tools such as Blogger and Twitter, and I hoped that teachers would use these both for their own professional growth and also that they would make a connection with what students could do in class, but thinking back I feel that I didn't really help teachers to connect these new technologies with the goals that they already had for student learning.  Five years on, I'm hoping our new tech coaches will take a different approach.

One great session that I did attend at ISTE was by Les Foltos who wrote about coaching in a recent volume of ISTE's Learning and Leading with Technology magazine.  Les writes:
Effective coaches seek a purposeful and immediate link between the goals of an activity and the new technology .... coaches can help teachers first define the tasks they want students to perform, such as communication and collaboration and then use that as the starting point for identifying and using the tech tools that best meet those requirements.
So let's have a look at the areas defined by the ICT in the PYP document, alongside the ISTE coaching standards and see how the two can mesh.  Les Foltos asks several questions that can help us when looking at the PYP's inquiry cycle:

Investigate:  Do students need to gather information to draw conclusions and create knowledge?  Possible tools that tech coaches may like to share could be online survey tools such as Google Forms.

Organize:  Could the task be designed so as to require students to organize, analyze and synthesize the information they have gathered?  Possible tools for this could include wikis, websites such as Google Sites, and various social bookmarking and annotating tools.

Communicate:  Could the activity be designed so as to encourage students to communicate with peers, to gather ideas or suggestions for solutions?  There are teachers around the world who may be designing similar projects and who may welcome the chance to have their students discuss this together.

Collaborate:  Could the task  be designed in order that students can collaborate with others (locally or globally) to solve real-world problems or to get feedback on their solutions?  In this case Skyping with an outside expert could be something suggested by our tech coaches.

Create:  Can summative assessments be designed so that students are able to present their understanding in creative ways and to share their ideas with authentic audiences?  Tech coaches may be able to help teachers and their students to record videos and to create digital stories that can be published and shared with a wider audience.

What is clear to me from reading Les Foltos's article is that tech coaches need to focus on using technology for the tasks that teachers are already familiar with (gathering information, collaborating, presenting their ideas and so on).  What is also becoming clear is that helping teachers to design technology rich activities for students could be at the heart of this role.  My next blog post will consider design thinking and how this fits in with the TPACK model.

Photo Credit: dkuropatwa via Compfight cc


  1. Great post Maggie. However I question this statement "What is also becoming clear is that helping teachers to design technology rich activities for students could be at the heart of this role."

    As a tech coach, when a teacher says to me "I want to do some cool tech activities with the kids", I know they haven't yet grasped the paradigm of an infused technology classroom. By that, what I mean is that our focus must remain firmly on the learning outcomes when planning engagements. From there, I can help teachers find some great tech tools to help them achieve those outcomes - and hopefully even more beyond them - but the focus must remain on the written and assessed curriculum.

    I really think the ISTE standards for coaches are pretty much spot on though. Although as is often the way with these things, that's probably because they line up pretty well with what we do;)

  2. Thanks for your comment Phillip. I absolutely didn't mean to suggest that a tech coach should be simply helping teachers to design "cool" activities that were not connected to the curriculum/learning outcomes. My latest post is about how coaches can help teachers use the TPACK model to design learning engagements and that the pedagogy most definitely has to come first, before even considering the technology.