Monday, November 3, 2014

What is the role of a technology integration coach?

My blog post entitled What is the role of a technology integration specialist? is the 3rd most read post that I have written (coming only just behind 2 posts about the SAMR Model).  However, at my new school having a tech integration specialist is something we have moved away from, and instead we have introduced a system of technology integration coaches.  As such I thought it was time to update my writing to include this new model.  At ASB we have adopted the ISTE Standards for students, teachers and coaches.  From the point of view of coaches there are 6 standards:
  • visionary leadership
  • teaching learning and assessments
  • digital age learning environments
  • professional development and programme evaluation
  • digital citizenship
  • content knowledge and professional growth
I wanted to dig a bit deeper into these and also think of them alongside educational coaching roles in general and recently I read a chapter on coaches' roles, responsibilities and reach by Joellen Killion, in the book Coaching Approaches and Perspectives edited by Jim Knight.  Joellen starts off with an excellent description of what a coach actually is:
Coaches are master teachers who participate in explicit professional development about coaching to become skillful.  In professional development, they examine their fundamental beliefs about student learning, teaching and coaching; acquire deep knowledge about adult development and change; and acquire skillfulness with a broad range of strategies to use in their new role .... [They are] school-based professional development specialists who work with individuals and teams to design and facilitate appropriate learning experiences, provide feedback and support, and assist with implementation challenges.  Their work centers on refining and honing teaching, and their indicator of success is student academic success.
I found this description of how a person becomes a coach and what they then do to be particularly apt in the light of the fact that all of our tech integration coaches are undergoing cognitive coaching training at school this week.  The intention of cognitive coaching is to transform the effectiveness of decision making through facilitating reflection.  The idea is that all behaviour is produced by thought and perception, and so the goal of coaching is to mediate thinking in a way that builds capacity. Joellen describes 10 different roles of coaches, and I thought it useful to reflect on the extent to which these roles are the focus of our tech integration coaches.  I like the emphasis on narrowing the focus:  Joellen points out that coaches who take on too many roles dilute the impact of their work.

1.  A Data Coach
Joellen writes that a data coach assists teachers to examine student achievement data and to use this to design instruction and to make curricular decisions.  At ASB we are now in the 3rd year of a tech audit of student artifacts.  This audit is based on the ISTE Standards for Students.  Teachers are able to enter artifacts that students have produced in their classes into a Google Site template based on each of the ISTE Standards for Students.   The artifacts are then discussed and ranked according to where they fall on Bloom's Taxonomy.  Once all this data has been collected and visualized it's clear to see which standards are being covered at which grade levels, and also what type of thinking the students are engaged in as they create their artifacts.  From this is has been possible to target whole school professional development for the standards that are weaker, and to target individualized PD for teachers who see the need to grow in certain areas.  More about this PD role later.

2.  A Resource Provider
Our tech integration coaches are now the first port of call for tech resources in the grades that they are supporting.  Teachers expect the coaches to be knowledgeable about what is available.  This role also aligns with the ISTE for Coaches Standard 3 where coaches maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teaches and students to use in technology-rich learning environments.

3.  A Mentor
ASB does a particularly good job of mentoring student, novice and new teachers to the school.  The April before the school year starts, all new teachers are brought to Mumbai to orientate them to both the school and India, and to let them see the expectations for technology integration.  Following this visit, teachers can start to prepare for their arrival with a variety of online courses offered through ASB's Online Academy.  Joellen writes that coaches need to have knowledge about the stages of teacher development and the coaching skills specific to novice teachers.  The coach needs to acclimatize new teachers to the school's norms and practices so that the new teacher quickly adjusts to the expectations of the school.

4.  A Curriculum Specialist
In this role, our tech coaches are expected to be familiar with the ISTE Standards for Students:  this is the what of teaching and will include students using technology for creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, research and information fluency, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making, and will include students understanding digital citizenship and technology concepts, systems and operations.  Since we do our tech audit based on these standards, coaches help teachers to understand what successful learning looks like and how technology can be used for learning and assessments.

5.  An Instructional Specialist
A tech integration coach also needs to focus on how to teach using technology.  Here we use the ISTE Standards for Teachers.  Although there are 5 of these standards, our main focus to date has been on Standard 2, designing and developing digital-age learning experiences and assessments.

6.  A Classroom Supporter
Joellen describes how in this role a coach works alongside a teacher to model effective teaching and/or observing and giving feedback.  This role requires co-planning, co-teaching, observing, giving feedback and engaging in reflective conversations about teaching and learning.  In my role I am able to do this quite regularly, however all of our tech integration coaches are full time teachers who have less time to be able to work with another teacher in his or her classroom.  In fact our coaches do have a lot of input into the co-planning and reflecting on the student work for the grade they actually teach, but less when they are coaching the grade that they don't teach (each of our elementary tech integration coaches is responsible for 2 grade levels).  This role is also seen in the ISTE Standards for Coaches - Standard 3 requires coaches to model effective classroom management and collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources.

7.  A Learning Facilitator
Joellen writes that learning facilitators "organize, coordinate, support, design, or facilitate learning among adults within the school".  This aligns with the ISTE Standards for Coaches Standard 4 where technology coaches design professional learning and evaluate the impact of this on student learning.

8.  A School Leader
Tech integration coaches are seen as leaders, and together can contribute to schoolwide initiatives and assist teachers in implementing them.  Again, this is a role mentioned in Standard 1 of the ISTE Standards for Coaches, as coaches inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment.  Recently one of our tech coaches has led his Grade in prototyping connectivity devices such as Apple TVs.  Joellen writes that coaches may lead task forces and that they "work to create a healthy, collaborative community of learners among the adults in their schools".  She cautions that there is a delicate balance between supervising and supporting and that coaches should have no supervisory responsibility so that their allegiance rests with teachers.  At ASB although coaches do help teachers to set their professional goals and support them as they work towards reaching these goals, they play no role in the evaluation of teachers.

9.  A Catalyst for Change
Joellen writes that coaches frequently initiate change.  This is one of the outcomes of cognitive coaching where a coach "intervenes in such a way as to enhance another person's self-directed learning".  Through asking questions and making observations, a coach can help a teacher to inquire into his or her practice, which can lead to analysis, reflection and change.  What I found really interesting was that Joellen pointed out that schools that made the most improvements in student achievement were those with teachers who were dissatisfied with their work; conversely schools that showed limited improvement in achievement had staff who were satisfied with their work.  Coaches, it seems, through provocative questions, can "generate the dissonance essential to promote change."

10. A Learner
It goes without saying that a tech integration coach needs to also engage in continuous professional learning.  This can involve attending conferences and workshop, reading widely, networking and talking, writing or blogging about their own experiences, insights and discoveries.  Recently we have been trying to identify (or even to start) Twitter chats focused on coaching as well as exploring online communities such as Google+ for our tech coaches to get involved in.  Three of our coaches have also applied to present at the 2015 ISTE Conference.  Being a learner is also seen as important in the ISTE Coaching Standards.  Standard 6 refers to coaching as "continuously deepening their knowledge and expertise" and to "regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology enhanced learning experiences".

Are you a tech integration coach?  How many of these roles do you have?  Do you agree with Joellen that having too many of these roles can dilute your work?  I'd love to hear about your experiences - please leave me a comment below.

Photo Credit: liquidnight via Compfight cc


  1. Totally agree with these roles, sometimes forgotten. Mainly the last one is essential to make it possible.

  2. By reading the post I felt that I was ticking all the boxes along the text.. and yes, I feel it dilutes my work, as I feel pulled in lots of directions, plus teaching my MYO Design classes... stressful!