“Technology coaches inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment” (ISTE 2011).
d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms (ISTE 2011).
A successful school technology program needs a change agent: a visionary leader who will build an environment that thrives on innovation and who will create a sustainable plan for “managing the change process in schools and classrooms” (ISTE 2011).
Building an Innovative Learning Environment
As a Technology Integration Specialist, I worked to build a learning environment that was constantly in a state of innovation and change. For me, innovation came about as a result of helping teachers and students to change the way they thought about the learning environment: from one of static place, time, and tools, to one of flexible place, time, and tools as a result of technology integration.
One of my earliest experiences with managing a change process came with the move to a 1:1 laptop program in grades 6-8. At the time I was a teacher leader on the school’s Technology Task Force. In developing a plan for rolling out the program, one important aspect was overlooked: teacher professional learning. Although teachers were invited (and offered a stipend) to take a summer badge learning course in technology integration in order to prepare for the new 1:1 laptop environment, the course was not required. To this day, I am certain that completing that course was critical to my success when my students showed up with laptops on the first day of school.
As a result of this experience, as well as my participation in a school technology leaders’ professional learning community (PLC) and my coursework in the Seattle Pacific University Digital Education Leadership Master’s Degree program, I now know that innovation and change at a school is successful only if a significant amount of time is devoted to professional learning. After a shaky roll-out and first year of the 1:1 laptop program, the Technology Team surveyed the teachers and hosted focus groups in order to learn how to best support teachers and help them to make plans for growth.
At this time, I was also transitioning into the Technology Integration Specialist role. In order to create a thriving, innovative learning environment, I knew we would need to dedicate time for teachers to engage in professional learning at school. I successfully advocated for time built-in to scheduled professional learning days, and planned professional learning sessions that showcased classroom success stories, and were hands-on and designed to give teachers the time to investigate and plan for technology integration. Initially, the professional learning sessions focused on one tool or application; however, by the end of the year, we were able to plan an Ed Camp-style event, with concurrent sessions on a variety of technology integration topics, with teachers at all levels of expertise sharing ideas with each other.
Often, teachers are familiar with the Common Core Standards for their grade-level or subject, but are unaware of the crosswalks that have been developed to align Common Core Standards with information literacy and technology standards. Furthermore, teachers may be unaware that their district has adopted ISTE standards for technology integration and that they should be integrating technology skills with their academic curriculum. Technology coaches can initiate innovation by making teachers aware of organization and district crosswalks and help teachers to plan for sustainable integration. You can read more about my experience with standards crosswalks here: For Every Standards Intersection: A Crosswalk.
Peer Coaching: Creating Sustainable Plans for Change
The most important skill a technology leader must have is listening. My peer-coaching experience gave me the opportunity to hone my questioning and listening skills while helping a teacher to create a sustainable plan for changing the information literacy program (including using technology tools to assess and share student progress) at her school.
Several resources were indispensable. My colleagues in the Seattle Pacific University Digital Education Leadership Master’s Degree program recommended the book titles below, which now reside on my new “Peer Coaching” Goodreads bookshelf. Also below is my new “Peer Coaching” YouTube Playlist. You can read more about my research on questioning strategies and listening skills: Peer Coaching: Researching Questioning Strategies & Listening Skills.
Before initiating change, successful school technology coaches ask questions and listen to stakeholders (teachers and students) in order to gather information that is critical to building an innovative learning environment and developing a “sustainable plan for managing the change process” (ISTE 2011).
- International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE; 2011). Standards for Coaches.