Creating & Supporting Digital Age Learning Environments

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 provides seven benchmarks for creating and supporting effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students. My focus is on benchmarks a & c:

a. Model effective classroom management and collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology-rich learning environments

c. Coach teachers in and model use of online and blended learning, digital content, and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators (ISTE 2016).

My Question

How can I help teachers to develop routines that facilitate the use of digital tools for collaborative learning while maintaining effective classroom management practices?

My Resolution

Engaging Teachers in Building Technology-Rich Learning Environments… for Students

Regardless of whether decisions about classroom technology adoption are being made at the district level, by the administration of a small private institution, by the administration of a college or university—or even, ideally, by a “technology task force” comprised of administration, teachers, parents, and students—it is imperative that all teachers (ground-level users and facilitators) feel involved and supported in decision-making and roll-out. The time budgeted for professional development needs to allow for more than the basics of how to use the new technology. Teachers need built-in time to:

  • Discuss how a new technology will be integrated into their current practice
    1. Integrating new technologies with current curriculum
    2. Cross-curricular collaborations
    3. Reviewing or updating curriculum maps to include:
      1. Technology standards
      2. Digital Citizenship lessons
  • Discuss how the physical space of their school/classroom will or may need to change
    1. School design
    2. Classroom design
    3. Infrastructure (power outlets, etc.)
  • Create a common language and common practices around technology use
    1. Development of or possible updates to the acceptable use policy (AUP)
    2. Classroom management practices
    3. Digital Citizenship curriculum
    4. Changes in parent communication tools and protocols
  • Discuss how information will be shared in the building/district
    1. Good ideas/practices/outcomes
    2. Expectations and evaluations
    3. Coaching/support opportunities

Resources for Engaging Teachers in Planning for Classroom Technology

  1. Common Sense Education 1:1 Essentials – Phase 2 – Communicate
  2. Common Sense Education: Digital Citizenship (curriculum + PD)
  3. Flexible Classrooms: Providing the Learning Environment That Kids Need
  4. 21st Century Learning Environments
  5. How To Manage A Digital Classroom
  6. Classroom Management in the Digital Age
  7. 10 Rules for a Successful One-to-One Classroom

Building Technology-Rich Learning Environments… for Teachers

new-piktochart (1)Learning Forward, an organization with expertise in designing effective professional development recommends that “school districts dedicate at least 10% of their budgets to staff development and that at least 25% of an educator’s work time be devoted to learning and collaboration with colleagues,” and, “that at least 30% of the technology budget be devoted to teacher development” (Mizell 2010). That said, what professional development looks like and feels like is just as important as how much money is devoted to it.

The intention behind adopting new technologies is positive: a desire to help teachers and students to move beyond the “isolated classroom,” to “flatten classroom walls” in order to allow teachers and students to have collaborative, creative, “real world” learning experiences. It follows then, that adopting new technologies should be an opportunity for teachers to emerge from the isolation of their classroom and collaborate with their colleagues in using available technologies to create a connected learning environment also for themselves within their school, district, and community. According to a study published by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,

“When asked what effective professional development looks like, teachers describe learning that is relevant, hands-on, and sustained over time. Teachers also suggest that the ideal professional learning experience should focus less on presentations and lectures and more on opportunities to apply learning through demonstrations or modeling and practice” (2014).

Technology coaches should design professional development activities that use available technology tools and methods as the means of delivery and engaging with the material. Available technologies can be used to store session content for future access by participants, or even by teachers who could not attend a particular session. If a new technology is being introduced, a blended session could allow teachers to engage with the technology as a learner (student lens). Flipped learning could be used as a time-saver, as well as to introduce this style of instruction, and increases the amount of face-to-face professional development time teachers will spend in active and collaborative learning. All of these ideas still have the technology coach as the primary content creator and facilitator. But, what if the technology coach becomes one resource among many?

To further illustrate collaborative learning, the now popular “ed camp” style of professional development could be used, in which participants determine the topics and then move fluidly between the roles of teacher and learner, depending on the topics of the sessions they choose to attend. If used at the school or district level, the “ed-camp” style of professional development promotes a team-based approach to skill development. “In team learning, less experienced educators interact with and learn from more experienced educators on the team. As all educators on the team become more skillful, they reduce or eliminate variations in performance and begin to take collective responsibility for the success of all students, rather than just their own” (Mizell 2010). This idea does not diminish the role of the technology coach—there is still much work for them to engage in as an advocate, coordinator, participant, and documentarian—but rather elevates the role of the teacher, giving them greater agency in determining the course of their professional learning and engaging them as an essential member of a collaborative learning team.

Works Cited

  1. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2014, December). Teachers Know Best: Teacher’s Views on Professional Development (Rep.). doi:10.4324/9780203797044
  2. Mizell, H. (2010). Why Professional Development Matters (Rep.). Retrieved


  1. Engaging with the material- yes! This is why a more flipped approach to PD is so valuable. I have been to many trainings and Ed Camps where I just want to play with the resource and gain experience on the student side of it before jumping in.

  2. I agree. If we are really going to “maximize teacher and student use of digital tools” we need to listen to what teachers are saying. If they want less lectures and presentations and more demonstrations, modeling, and practice that is what every PD sessions should provide and promote. From experience, I know that teachers LOVE to take on the student lens. I also agree with what you said about teams. I feel like I have a greater effect when the grade level or content area team attends the professional development session or online course together. In this way, they can collaborate on how it fits into unit plans and daily lessons. As you alluded to, it also creates the guaranteed and viable curriculum from classroom – to – classroom.

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