Two years ago, we set out to better understand how technology coaching could move us closer to bridging the digital use divide in the classroom. The Dynamic Learning Project is a classroom-based coaching program in which participating teachers are coached to use technology to support student engagement and promote the development of agency, as well as skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.
During the 2018-19 school year, the Dynamic Learning Project worked with coaches in 100 schools in 18 districts across seven states—Alabama, California, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. Each participating school received a grant which included tools, resources, professional development and mentorship for coaches, and support for administrators and their goals.
Dynamic Learning Project coaches, supported by mentors from EdTechTeam, provide individualized support to teachers to help them select, tackle, and then reflect upon a classroom challenge and implement strategies using technology. The coaches, as well as school and district administrators, receive sustained mentoring and ongoing professional development throughout the school year.
Support for the Dynamic Learning Project is part of Google’s broader commitment to helping underserved communities benefit from the power of technology and their belief that everyone deserves access to a quality education.
Last year, in the pilot year, our findings showed that teachers who participated in the Dynamic Learning Project used technology more frequently and in more powerful ways with their students. This year, we turned our attention to how coaching improves teacher practices and student engagement and learning.
The Dynamic Learning Project is unique in how coaches support not just more technology use, but impactful technology use—the ability of educators to use technology to develop their students’ skills in six imperative categories: agency, collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, and ability to select relevant technology tools. The second year of the Dynamic Learning Project saw almost 2,000 teachers across all grade levels improve their impactful use of technology.
At the end of the year, more than 70 percent of teachers reported feeling more confident in their ability to use technology to engage students in developing those skills, and nearly 60 percent of teachers saw a positive impact on student engagement and learning. One Dynamic Learning Project teacher noted, “I like the fact that we are focused on authentic learning with technology as the vehicle, not using technology just to use it.” Moreover, participating teachers overwhelmingly reported improvement in a number of teaching challenges as a result of working with their coach.
In addition, last year we identified the core attributes of an effective coaching program. Building on these findings as the program doubled in size in year two, we determined five cornerstone components that account for much of this success: coaching is a partnership; it promotes active learning; it’s personalized; it’s sustained; and it’s content-flexible. Further, participating teachers reported that Dynamic Learning Project coaching provided more meaningful professional development (PD) experiences than other types of PD.
We launched the Dynamic Learning Project in 2017 to further our efforts toward closing the Digital Learning Gap and to improve teacher effectiveness and student engagement and learning. Overall, our findings from the second year suggest that the Dynamic Learning Project is more than just a promising intervention—it is producing research that can inform ongoing conversations on teacher professional development, coaching, and technologies for learning.