Future of EdTech Coaches

Last night I participated in the #EdTechChat on Twitter, in which the topic was Ed Tech Coaches. As a full-time Digital Instructional Coach, the topic obviously intrigued me.

Given the content of the chats, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about it a little on here. Huge thanks to Susan Bearden for moderating and asking the questions.

My role has changed significantly in the last two years of this process. When I started out, it was entirely about running in a thousand directions at once, trying to get a one-to-one program off the ground. In any given day, I was fixing dead access points, troubleshooting student account issues, explaining where the power button was, training students to do tech support, handing out 4000 laptops, one-on-one training with teachers, training teacher groups, recording voice-over presentations to send out, sending and answering hundreds of emails a day on any or all of these. And then the next day I would do it again. This made perfect sense, because it was essential to be everywhere and make sure my staff got whatever support it was they needed.

This year though, as we are finishing year two, my model has completely changed. I now work on an appointment basis, where teachers request for me to come to them for whatever they need. I can then spend an entire period walking them through their issues and what they need. It personalizes the experience for all our teachers, and makes my day significantly more predictable.

My first response to this was that twitter chats like #edtechchat and #edchat are a great way to interact and build a PLN. Last night was my first time participating in #edtechchat, and I was surprised by how many people were Instructional Technology Coaches or Technology Integration Coaches, etc. (we really need a more universal title, but then again, this is education, so why would we do that?).

I, of course, also felt compelled to include that podcasts are a great way to build ideas. I recommended @mrnesi House of #EdTech to the group. As a heads up, episode 3 of my podcast will also be very EdTech centric.

Overwhelmingly, the answer to this question seemed to be trust. I said basically that we need admin to get out of our way as tech coaches and let us do our thing. Sometimes I am amazed that they put us in these positions, presumably because we are experts in technology instruction, and then we are questioned at every step. Give us the space and trust it took to hire us to actually let us do our job.

The other thing I suggested is that it would be nice if administrators had a little more teeth in enforcing expectations, especially with heavy resistors. I will say, this could easily be a double-edged sword, but it would be nice if those who completely, and stubbornly, refuse to even try technology integration had some kind of administrative follow-up.

This is one space where I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job. I have created a Google Appointment Calendar, with available slots by period. All my teachers have to do is go to the link, and click the period they want me. They add their room number and what they want to talk to me about and I come to them at that time. I then built a Google Sheet and VBScript combo that imports the calendar each day, and after each appointment, emails them a follow-up email to say “Thanks, please take this survey and tell me how I did.” It even goes further, and since the feedback survey is a Google Form, it imports those results and checks those against those that have been sent the survey. If they haven’t filled out the survey in 4 days, it sends a follow-up email reminding them. In the future, I will probably share a tutorial on how to make this happen for yourself too.

As change agents. I like to believe that having an Ed Tech coach gives teachers the confidence to try something new, knowing they have the support to make it work. I’m not 100% sure I accomplish this goal every time, but a boy can dream, no?

This one has been on my mind for a while. What I honestly believe is that we should be actively working ourselves out of a job. Early on, we can make it possible to try new things and teach tech. As a one-to-one initiative reaches maturity though, we need to stop focusing on tools, and instead focus on instruction. For me, this means transitioning into a CRT role, in which instructional support and PD always assumes everyone is using and knows how to use technology. In order to fully immerse our students, this is the essential next step.