Voices in Tech: How edtech coaches aid classroom instruction
Technology Integration Specialist
Richland School District Two, South Carolina
A technology learning coach is assigned to every school in South Carolina’s Richland School District Two to help teachers select and implement technology in the classroom.
Technology never takes center stage In the coach-teacher partnership. Instead, coaches help teachers examine standards and curriculum, and identify learning goals. They then recommend tools that will facilitate desired outcomes, says Nichole Allmann, a technology integration specialist who oversees coaches at 10 schools.
“Trying to get true, authentic technology integration can be a challenge in any classroom,” Allmann says. “We don’t want to spoon-feed teachers or make the tools available without any guidance. We coach teachers on looking at the content and digging deeper to understand the skills that students must master.”
Technology integration specialists like Allmann work with school-based coaches to develop a professional development plan that models the effective use of digital resources while meeting school or district standards.
Allmann was a 2019 featured speaker for DA’s Future of Education Technology Conference®; the next conference will be held January 14-17, 2020, at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
What are the most significant edtech integration challenges?
We see teachers having to grapple with standards and a lot of information, which they must deliver to students. With that kind of pressure, it’s hard to bring in technology, especially if educators are not truly aware of how it will enhance their teaching and the students’ learning experience.
Introducing digital tools requires a growth mindset. Teachers may feel something has been working, but our students need new approaches. We’re trying to prepare them for jobs that don’t exist yet, and we need to give them opportunities to build skills so that they are better prepared for college, career and beyond.
Are teachers overwhelmed by trying to align edtech with standards?
We try to emphasize a healthy balance. We always ask teachers to look at their content; unpack the standards; and see what skills the students are going to be utilizing during that learning experience and what they should be able to do with those skills after they leave the classroom. When technology is applied, it should make sense.
Another hard part for our teachers is that they get comfortable with one tool, and then something new comes out. It is important to give teachers time to learn how to use a new tool and how to best incorporate it into the curriculum.
Your approach to technology integration relies on teachers getting support from learning technology coaches. Why are coaches important?
Classroom teachers make great coaches because they have experience. Individuals in this role must be willing to coach teachers into looking at their own content and asking themselves the right questions. They must be willing to guide teachers in designing lessons differently than they have in the past.
The goal is to have classroom teachers individualize learning for students while staying within the framework of a school’s or district’s goals.
Following school or district standards, what questions should teachers consider when integrating edtech?
First, when unpacking the standards, identify what each standard is asking the educator to teach and its corresponding verb. Is it about explaining? Communicating? Building a model?
After identifying the verb, determine which technology tool will enhance that or facilitate that outcome. If a student is required to build a model, can Google Drawings be used?
Many of our teachers don’t know what’s out there. If they identify what they want the students to be able to do, the technology learning coach can then offer suggestions.
Depending on the comfort level of the teacher, the coach may co-teach a lesson. A coach can focus on helping the students and the teacher to use the technology tool while the teacher focuses on delivering content.
A coach will also spend 10 to 15 minutes with the teacher afterward to reflect on the lesson and to determine whether students performed as expected while using the technology. This keeps the momentum going.
Once the teacher can look at the content and skills building in that way, they will be able to help students gain a deeper understanding of the content.
Interested in edtech? Keep up with DA's Future of Education Technology Conference®.