Tech Coach: your skills and experience alone are not enough to be Awesome.
I am currently a technology coach at Singapore American School and I work with elementary school teachers, counsellors and leaders. In many schools, both my previous and current schools included, there are thinkers imagining the future role for the Technology Coach.
It all made sense back when 1:1 programs were being rolled out . Adopt new technologies and scale it so that all students have their own device…there needed to be an investment in continual training and support. Where this investment was made, 1:1 programs are evolving and maturing, which means that the role of classroom teacher is too. Many teachers have committed themselves to professional growth and using technology more thoughtfully, confidently and therefore more frequently. There are even teachers in the profession who themselves were part of early 1:1 programs while they were at school. In environments where opportunities for professional growth exist and there is experience with 1:1 learning – do we actually need as many Technology Coaches anymore?
What we always want of course is for technology to be integrated into the curriculum and for classroom teachers to become more empowered in the process. As coach, we are engaged in a campaign to do ourselves out of a job. And by and large we may well succeed unless we get a handle on what our role is becoming and learn to communicate that more effectively: certainly beyond the usual chorus of ‘it’s not about the technology’.
With all the usual jargon aside, the sun is not quite ready to set on the era of the Technology Coach. In fact the rationale for arguing as such may never have been more urgent, but to do so we must be clear about our message and vision. There are opportunities that offer exciting potential for the future of this role that I personally love. Here’s what I challenge myself with Technology Coach:
1) Collaboration: who is emerging as a natural ally? Right now, those people in my school are the Librarians and Instructional Coaches. Our mutual direction is a move to integrating ‘inquiry’ based learning experiences, offering more opportunities that leverage each of the respective types of support we offer to teachers.
2) A Flag: Your EdTech department needs a flag to rally around. Coaches each working on their own projects with their own teachers is necessary, but equally so is a common project. A common and ongoing project assists a team to collaborate beyond the project itself, and to in time develop a common vision that strengthens the overall mission of the department. In my current (as well as previous) school our department’s flag is:
3) …Professional Development: the idea of professional development needs to become an idea of professional learning. A solid program lends visibility to the coaching role and from experience does act as the flagship of your department (See – sastheloft.blogspot.sg). Professional learning that can do some value-adding such as offering graduate credit is something not everyone will take up as an option, but gives strong credibility and more tangible reward to what you are offering.
4) Kids and learning: Your role is about impacting on kids and learning. Stay focused. The Tech Coach should not be worried about boxes and cables. It’s easy to get caught up in the IT field because it means you can feel highly productive at your desk and on the phone. But try not to. It’s unlikely to actually be your job and people only care about their printer issues when they don’t work. A coach’s work is appreciated when it does work.
5) You are a technology coach, not teacher: if you are, or see, a technology coach getting into the technology teaching caper: stop it. Your days are numbered because you are in the wrong role. (I’m not a technology teacher. I am however an English, History, Media teacher. This helps keeps me safe).
6) It’s about relationships: Any teacher not assigned kids is seen as having an easy ride. When teachers see you in the trenches you are instantly positioning yourself to be more widely valued (…and respected). Drop in to see teachers. A conversation about the weekend can turn quickly into that lesson about an idea that has been on the teacher’s mind. You’re in!
7) Knowledge creation over skill consumption: Use slide-decks and closed-projects in the classroom very thoughtfully and ideally sparingly. Use lots of different types of materials and construction. Be open ended. Tinker with projects of your own and use them to spark inspiration rather than words, slides and enthusiasm. It wears thin. Refer to point 5.
8) Be available: open your calendar and allow teachers to fill the empty places in your schedule. https://youcanbook.me/ is a great (and free) service.
9) Transparency: set measurable goals and publish the. Actually, publish everything you do that highlights your work, your successes and your failures. Be reflective.
10) Solidarity: Be part of the team and contribute towards shaping learning. You don’t need to be on the agenda for a teacher meeting to be worthwhile attending. Taking part in team meetings gives you more familiarity about what is going on day to day in the classroom and is an opportunity for insight you might not otherwise get.
11) Innovate (because that’s what’s expected of you): technology is challenging not only the way we learn through pedagogies that have opened up, but changing to the physical landscape of classrooms. Currently the team I’m working with at Singapore American School is working on a prototype classroom that is a collaborative teaching space for up to 45 students at a given time, and centred on hands on learning experiences. Don’t wait for the change. Be the change.
12) Challenge yourself: to develop new skills remembering that this is what we ask of most teachers that we work with. My goal this year is to really get my head around the Python coding language and to in turn develop some ideas about how to engage elementary students in coding. As a home brewer I want to hack my fridge with a Raspberry Pi. A hobby is a good place to start.
13) Be passionate, share your expertise, and learn from others: …because your technology skills and experience alone are not enough to be awesome.
The writer is Ben Summerton, ES Technology Coordinator at Singapore American School
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