Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Learning To Be An Instructional Coach

The roles of EdTech Coaches have evolved. The early generations of EdTech Coaches primarily focused on finding and teaching the tools. This was a need since "educational technology" was not integrated into mainstream education. Our early goals and projects focused on finding a tool and showing teachers how to use it. Sometimes, we even took the easier path and did the work for the teachers instead of teaching them how to do it themselves. The questions we most often answered were “how” questions. “Why” questions were rarely part of our conversations.

In the past, effective  pedagogy and best practices were almost always secondary to the shiny new web resources or devices. Many of us put the carriage before the horse and failed to bring real changes to how we teach and learn. A WebQuest, after all, is really little more than a digital worksheet. Using technology to provide students with worksheets on a computer screen is not listed as innovation in any book about educational innovation.

Times are changing. Technology has invaded the classrooms across the country. Even our job titles are changing. The word Technology is missing from these titles. We are becoming Innovation Coordinators and Instructional Coaches.  Our jobs are about instruction, enhanced by technology. Technology is too integrated into many classrooms for our focus to just be on the tools.  Today's instructional coach cannot just be an expert on how to use different tools. We must become experts on instructional practices supported by technology. We now focus on technology to enhance good teaching. Powerful pedagogy now comes first, and the technology tools are added to enhance the learning environment.

In my school, we've tried to model how technology enhances good teaching and learning practices. Pedagogy comes first. Our planning and support focus on these three principles: 
  • First, we focus on the why before the tool. When a teacher is looking to get something done, we first ask about the essential student skills connected to the task. The 4Cs of education (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity) take center stage in most of what we do. 
  • Second, we look for tools that can be used for students across content areas. While there are many great subject specific resources, we prefer tools that support students throughout their day. Instead of focusing on tools that only support a specific subject, we instead look first for tools that can support different activities connected to essential skills across the curricula.
  • Finally, we try to always emphasize that technology alone does not have the power make a bad lesson great. Technology at its best only enhances what is already there. Strong teaching and learning practices must be established before the tools are added to the mix. 
As  instructional coaches, we also try to focus on these 5 pillars as we plan support our teachers and students: 
If your staff is still looking for you to teach the tools, or even create something for them using the tools, it is time to flip the switch. Don’t just teach. Instead, learn from the great teachers around you. Maybe even start with a change in your title?

Here are a few resources we use to plan our professional development activities: 

Want to learn more about what we do? 
Contact us: @rechargeedu and @MrsWilsonNV