“Technology use must, first and foremost, be designed to support learning goals, not the other way around.”
This insight, penned by Peggy A. Ertmer and Anne T. Ottenbreit-Leftwich in their 2013 study of authentic technology-enabled learning, highlights the main challenge coaches face when trying to support teachers using technology.
It’s easy to let technology take center stage. When we first began coaching, we would get really excited about sharing cutting-edge technology tools. It was tempting to let that excitement get in the way of what really matters: learning. We had to deliberately remind ourselves that the learning goals must come first, with technology second in a supporting role. We needed to find ways to use technology to make standards- and curriculum-aligned learning experiences more effective and powerful.
Students need technology that will help them meet their existing learning goals. They don’t need new learning goals that rely on a fancy new technology tool the coach or teacher wants to use. What teachers need most from coaches isn’t adding more tools; it’s meeting all of their students’ needs.
Digital Promise’s 2017 report, Exploring Coaching for Powerful Technology Use in Education, talks about what this can look like in classrooms. Picture teachers fully integrating technology into their classrooms through authentic learning experiences that include collaboration, creativity, and innovation, and preparing students to be productive digital-age citizens. Technology can also support educators in affirming and advancing their relationships with students, shrinking equity and accessibility gaps, and adapting learning experiences to meet the diverse needs of all students.
This is especially important for teachers working with underserved communities. Research has shown that in schools that serve low-income students and students of color, technology use still primarily looks like completing digital worksheets. The Dynamic Learning Project, a national program led by Digital Promise and supported by Google, aims to provide training to educators at low-income schools to help them learn how to use technology effectively.
So what do instructional coaches need to do to support teachers in this work? We have identified four elements of instructional technology coaching that coaches must put into action to accomplish this goal:
We’re excited to launch a new stack of Digital Promise micro-credentials designed to teach coaches how to master these four elements. Coaches can choose one of the four areas to engage with or earn all 12 micro-credentials across all four areas. Each of the 12 Technology Coaching Micro-credentials provides coaches with the background, strategies, and tools needed to achieve the most important aspects of coaching for powerful use of technology. They also align with at least one of the ISTE Standards for Coaches, which define the aspects of technology that coaches should focus on, and one of the Learning Forward Coach Roles, which define the different hats all instructional coaches must wear in schools.
Technology coaches can do so much more than introduce teachers to cool new technology tools. Keeping learning at the forefront and applying coaching roles to technology use will enable coaches to support teachers in creating more powerful learning experiences for all students.
If you’re a coach who wants to support teachers to use technology in more powerful ways, check out the Technology Coaching Micro-credentials. Coaches, how have you helped teachers use technology to support their students’ learning goals? Share your thoughts in the comments below.