“Technology coaches assist teachers in using technology effectively for assessing student learning, differentiating instruction and providing rigorous, relevant and engaging learning experiences for all students” (ISTE 2011).
e. Coach teachers in and model design and implementation of technology-enhanced learning experiences using differentiation, including adjusting content, process, product and learning environment based upon student readiness levels, learning styles, interests and personal goals.
A successful school technology program promotes differentiation (ISTE 2011). Technology coaches can support this effort by designing learning experiences that “adjust content, process, product and learning environment based upon student readiness levels, learning styles, interests and personal goals” (ISTE 2011).
Constructivism & Connectivism
In Teaching in a Digital Age, Tony Bates outlines theories of learning – from traditional, teacher controlled to completely open, in which teachers and students interchange roles. Two of the theories, constructionism and connectivism, facilitate learning environments that foster independent and social learning. The constructivist theory of learning views learning as a “constantly dynamic” and “social process,” involving the “learner, teachers, and others.” Teachers and learners “think and reflect on new information” and build a “community of practice” based on “mutually agreed upon conventions.” Bates continues, “This social process cannot effectively be replaced by technology, although technology may facilitate it.” Connectivism holds that “knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks” (Bates).
As a Middle School Language Arts and Social Studies teacher, I had the opportunity to put constructivist and connectivist learning theory to work to enhance the 8th grade independent research project. I piloted Google Apps for Education (now Google for Education or G Suite for Education) and used Google Classroom to develop modules (independent lessons) that focused on skills that were necessary to master each stage of the research, writing, and presentation process. Students were able to move through the modules at their own pace, with one-to-one and small group attention from me, when necessary, and continuous feedback (and modifications, when necessary) from me throughout the unit.
During the research process, students used personal library cards to access Seattle Public Library online resources (databases, etc.). They independently engaged with public librarians through Seattle Public Library’s “Ask a Librarian” feature. When possible, students independently (or with some assistance) engaged with outside experts in the fields they were researching (e.g. a student who was researching green building practices used Skype to interview a local architect/LEED expert and toured the Bullitt Center after school).
During the writing process, we used the sharing feature of Google Docs to create a feedback cycle that included not only me (the teacher), but also peers (other students), as well as other teachers. Early success with document sharing led this to become standard practice in all of my classes and to other teachers beginning to use document sharing with our students.
During the presentation process, students chose their own method of presentation (e.g. PowerPoint, Sway, Google Slides, Prezi), which they learned how to use independently, if they were not already familiar. All students presented at an evening event at the school to an audience that included teachers, parents and other middle school students.
You can read more about my experience in my blog post: Creating Independent & Social Learners
Technology coaches contribute to a technology-enhanced learning environment by being well-versed in new theories of learning, including constructivism and connectivism, so that can apply this knowledge to build learning environments that are differentiated “based upon student readiness levels, learning styles, interests and personal goals” (ISTE 2011).
- Bates, A. W. (n.d.). Teaching in a digital age. Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/
- International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE; 2011). Standards for Coaches. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches