Week 7 of the school year starts tomorrow, so I thought now would be a good time to give a quick update on my job, and what it actually means to be an Instructional Technology Coach (or, Digital Instructional Coach as we call it at my school).
Student Tech Support
For the first 3 or 4 weeks, this was pretty much all I did. Despite the best laid plans, there was just no way to avoid this. My days were filled from first bell till 2 or 3 hours after the day ended trying to help students with everything from batteries that wouldn’t charge to not knowing where the power button was (despite it being clearly labeled and explained in the video they had to watch before getting the device). We were able to hand out nearly 3000 of the approximately 4200 laptops we needed to get in student hands before the school year started. If we hadn’t done that, we would have really been in trouble. Even still, that left 1000 students needing to pick up their laptops during the first couple weeks of school, a process that involves multiple steps, including account creation, a short intro video, and basic explanation of how the device works.
Thankfully, our medium-term (I can’t call it long-term, because it isn’t really scale-able on a district level, but whatever) plan of training a group of students to run student tech support has worked out. My group of student assistants are pretty fantastic, and they’re getting really good at helping students with their issues. As an unexpected consequence, what they are learning a lot about is customer service. I didn’t realize how badly students treat each other sometimes, especially students who perceive themselves as being intelligent dealing with students they don’t think are intelligent. I’ve spent a fair amount of time correctly HOW my students tell a confused student the information they need than the information itself.
Teacher Tech Support
As the initial frenzy of the students’ confusion died down, I hoped to get to move into what my actual job was in my mind. I was not so lucky. Instead, I moved into focusing on helping teachers with technology that was not installed, not connected, or just not working. We have actual tech support people for that, but given the sheer volume of problems, they needed more help.
The larger issue that caused much of my job to become teacher tech support was the inherent problem of a massive school district, which is at its heart a bureaucratic government agency, trying to implement a multi-school 1:1 program rollout. Despite what you may be thinking, that inherent problem is not just the wordy-ness of that sentence. What happened with our rollout is that the whole process involves no less than 4 large departments downtown, who apparently all work in silos that are incapable of communicating outside that silo, and each department contracts out the actual work to outside agencies. It is a mess. Much of the first weeks was trying to get comprehensive lists of what wasn’t done right so that the people that didn’t do it right would come back and fix it. Why it became our job (as a school) to tell the people what they did wrong when they were widespread issues is beyond me. It also wouldn’t be acceptable behavior in any other industry or work environment.
This has become a surprisingly large part of my job. The measurement plan that they are using at the district level is based on the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) built by the University of South Florida (which, as a UCF alumni, hurts to my soul every time I use it). In addition, as we are an Office 365 pilot school, those TIM scores make up 1/3 of the overall pilot score, and I really want Office 365 to be the choice for my county.
The bright side here is this is actually part of my job. I really enjoy doing classroom observations. For one, it gets me out of my office and into classrooms (ignoring the fact that my office is technically a classroom with students every period). It gives me a chance to see how the technology is actually being used by teachers, and not just the ones that are unhappy and emailing me regularly or my friends. It also lets me give them feedback on what they are currently doing and suggestions for how to take it to the next level. It is, generally speaking, the best part of my job currently.
This part of my job doesn’t look quite like I want it to yet. Much of the PD I have done for our staff so far is done digitally. I use a lot of OfficeMix screen captures with voice-over to show the staff how to use basic tools and features of the programs we use. This is a really useful tool for them and me. For one, I can quickly send it out to the entire staff. More importantly, the staff can refer to it when they need it, and rewatch as much as they want.
In the future, I really want to be able to focus more on this. Regular workshops run during planning periods would be great (optional of course). I’ll get there.
Oh yeah, I still do that too. I have 7 periods worth of students, with an average of 3 students or so a period. Granted, that is no where near a full load, but I do have to make sure they know what they should be doing. Much of that was training them on the technology so that they could teach the other students. Once that part was done, and things started to slow down, I got on to thinking long term with my students. So I assigned them the TEDx project. To me, that project is a great lead-in to the 20-time model that class will eventually get to. It gives them a chance to find out what topics or areas they are interested in. It is running a little slower than last time, but we’re working on it.
So that’s the look of it. The goal now would be to write longer posts on each of those topics. Because I have all that extra time…