COVID-19 and the Value of Edtech Coaches - Digital Promise

COVID-19 and the Value of Edtech Coaches

August 11, 2020 | By and

A 2018 PwC survey reported that many U.S. educators do not have enough experience, resources, or training to use technology in the most effective ways, with teachers at low-income schools particularly ill-prepared. As the coronavirus pandemic challenges schools around the world to keep students engaged in remote learning and to use technology in new ways, many have turned to instructional technology coaches (also referred to as edtech coaches) for support.

As we learned in our research on the Dynamic Learning Project pilot coaching program, instructional technology coaching can help teachers integrate technology tools and strategies into their teaching in meaningful ways that improve teachers’ instructional practices and advance students’ engagement and learning.

Given the positive impact coaching can have on powerful teaching and learning, we hoped to better understand the role edtech coaches played during the transition to home-based instruction due to COVID-19. Our new report presents findings from a survey of edtech coaches in the U.S. this spring and provides district and school leaders with insights on the value of edtech coaches in moving instruction online in effective ways. From the survey findings, we have identified reasons for school and district leaders to harness the power of edtech coaches.

What did we learn about the role of edtech coaches during COVID-19 school closures?

Survey results show that administrators and teachers valued the role of edtech coaches more during the pandemic than they did prior to school closures. More than 90 percent of respondent coaches reported that their teachers reached out to them more frequently during school closures than they had previously. Teachers saw their coaches as more than providers of IT support and referred to them increasingly as an instructional resource.

Similarly, a majority of respondents reported that their school and/or district leaders reached out to them more frequently than before because of the shift to remote learning, and that district leaders understood the value of technology as an avenue for providing equitable learning opportunities.

Coaches reported that they provided significant support in ensuring learning continuity during school closures by providing teachers with professional development (PD) on effective practices, strategies, and technology tools for transitioning to online instruction. They also helped teachers in identifying, implementing, or expanding different tools to organize online/blended instruction.

Most respondents reported that they supported more teachers than before closures and stayed connected with them on a regular basis during and after school hours. Edtech coaches also supported families by assisting with the use of technology, providing information around appropriate home environments for learning, and serving as a liaison between families and the school/district.

Preparing for the new school year

Coaches reported varying levels of preparedness in addressing the challenges they may face as the 2020–2021 school year begins. While coaches felt prepared in many areas, including providing digital teacher PD sessions and supporting teacher collaboration, fewer coaches felt the same about adapting the content of pre-service PD days, providing deep coaching digitally, or helping teachers differentiate to meet the needs of diverse learners.

Coaches need frequent learning opportunities as well as regular, dedicated time with their administrators to seek constructive feedback. These meetings help coaches keep their practice aligned with school and district goals. Regular coach-administrator meetings also help administrators gain valuable insights on the actual needs and challenges of their teachers.

COVID-19 has forced a lot of changes in our formal education. Technology use is now widely considered indispensable. Therefore, edtech coaches should be seen not just as specialists in one aspect of instructional improvement, but as a core asset that is essential to sustaining quality at the heart of every district’s instructional program.

Read the full report to learn more about our findings on the valuable role of edtech coaches during school closures, then check out our Instructional Coaching Playbook for guidance on building a successful classroom coaching program in your school or district.

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