Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tech coaching to promote digital age learning environments

Every week I have a meeting with one of the secondary school tech integration coaches, where we practice the various cognitive coaching conversations with each other.  Yesterday I wanted to talk about how best I could support the elementary tech coaches when they coach teachers in a grade that they do not teach.  Basically, as far as cognitive coaching goes, the coach doesn't suggest what to do, but instead empowers the teachers to be self-directed.  Suggesting what to do, or working with a team to create something are other support functions (consulting and collaborating).  We talked about the fact that it shouldn't really be necessary to have a deep knowledge of the curriculum if you are coaching, as the support function is different.

Today I looked again at the ISTE Standards for Coaches, and feel that Standard 3 on digital age learning environments relates much more to instructional coaching than to cognitive coaching.  Some of the support functions mentioned in Standard 3 appear to be very different from our model of coaching.  However some of these instructional coach functions we definitely do get involved in.

For example, as teaching, learning and assessments change, planning and reflecting conversations with teachers can help them.  ISTE-C 3a and b talk about encouraging teachers to move towards more collaborative instructional and learning practices and helping teachers manage the changing classroom environment, possibly by finding, developing, sharing and implementing ideas in a technology-rich learning environment.  3c goes further and looks at online and blended learning - both for students and teachers. Again, our tech coaches can support teachers who want to blend some online learning with what they are doing in class.  At the same time our tech coaches often recommend participating in online PD to our teachers through ASB's Online Academy.

At the start of last school year we informed our teachers that tech coaches were not the same as technical support technicians.  Our tech coaches are focused on instructional approaches, not fixing broken equipment or hooking up devices.  However it's clear that our coaches are often the first point of call for teachers in their grade who are experiencing technical difficulties.  They have stepped up and helped their colleagues to resolve these problems and given them to confidence to know how to tackle them if they occur again.

Our tech coaches are often involved in prototyping new tools and devices in their classrooms.  Some of them have explored apps such as Morfo and Aurasma, some have looked at whole programmes such as using blogging as an ePortfolio, and others have concentrated on things like using mobile devices for formative assessments.  Chatting with a couple of the tech coaches today, they told me that they are constantly scanning for new technologies and evaluating new resources which they can suggest to the teachers they are coaching.

I'm still thinking about how we move between the support functions of coach, collaborator and consultant, and I'll be chatting more with our tech coaches about this over the next couple of weeks.

Do you use a model of tech coaching at your school?  If so I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Photo Credit: zsoolt via Compfight cc

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