“Leadership is a choice, it is not a rank. I know many people at the senior levels of organizations who are absolutely not leaders. They are authorities and we do what they say because they have authority over us but we would not follow them and I know many people who are at the bottoms of organizations who have no authority and they are absolute leaders. This is because they have chosen to look after the person to the left of them and they have chosen to look after the person to the right of them. This is what a leader is.”~ Simon Sinek
As I move into learning more about the ISTE Coaching Standards, the question I posed for Standard 2 is:
How can Technology Coaches support teacher implementation of technology and help the school community accept this technology as a way to support student needs and prepare students with 21st Century skills?
Technology Coaches have a very unique role. We are at a time in education where there is fast paced change, exciting new discoveries, a plethora of choices and a growing ability to implement new ideas, structures and strategies from digital education into our classrooms and school communities. Yet, it is also a time of great uncertainty for many – teachers, students, administration, families, school community members – in what the best practices are for involving digital education within the school day. In order to have positive movement around digital education practices and implementation, it is essential for technology coaches to not dismiss the fear and uncertainty around technology use and screen time for students. This connects to Simon Sinek’s quote above ~ remembering to look to the left and look to the right and where the people around you are coming from. The ISTE Coaching Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessments – 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 – I would say if we start strong with teacher implementation, it will better extend positively to the school community, parents and other stakeholders for our students.
Technology coaches help bridge the gap from where we are to where we need to be. The ISTE Standards·C describe the skills and knowledge they need to support their peers in becoming digital age educators.(https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches)
A go-to resource for me around many educational topics is Cult of Pedagogy. Her article, How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Teachers, is packed with suggestions for leading teacher tech trainings and are spot on for demystifying digital education and bringing your educational community together – starting with teaching educators how to move these ideas forward within their classrooms. Here are the key ideas she breaks down for us:
Tip #1 – GET TO KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE:
“Just like knowing our students helps us teach them more effectively, knowing the skill levels, interests, and needs of the teachers will help you better customize training for them. So do whatever you can to get to know who you’re training beforehand. “
Tip #2 – TIP 2: FORCE MULTIPLY
“A force multiplier is something that, when added to and used by a combat force, significantly increases the strength of that force and enhances the probability of a successful mission. In other words, something you add to something else that vastly increases the first thing’s capabilities. When planning a professional development session using technology, there are three ways you can add force multipliers so the impact of the training is increased exponentially.“
TIP #3 – MAKE IT HANDS-ON
“When it comes to technology-based training, letting teachers get their hands on the tools just makes sense. Craig Badura explains it this way: “I guess my biggest piece of advice that I could offer after six years of being an integration specialist is that we need to saturate our teachers with multiple learning opportunities. I try to make anything I create for teachers—my trainings, my sessions—I try to make whatever I create relevant to them so that they can really walk away with that and use it tomorrow. Or that they might say, ‘That really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.’ So I think the sit-and-get form of PD is really useless now with teachers, so we need to start offering them different things that they can do.”
TIP #4 – TREAT IT JUST LIKE TEACHING:
“For some reason, professional development rarely gets the same treatment we give to classroom instruction. Even though the students are adults, they will still benefit from good quality instruction. So when you’re planning a tech training, consider how you can implement these good teaching principles: Differentiate and do formative assessments.“
TIP #5 – STAY CONNECTED
“Face-to-face time is limited in any kind of training, so it’s helpful to leave something with teachers that will allow them to keep learning after your session is over. This should include the trainer’s contact information, along with links to any other resources that were shared during the training. Turner does this with a shared document: “I have a document that they can all see, that they can share, and that they can add on to for later on. And when they do that, they’re able to come back to it and to be able to have that as a resource for themselves. And I say hey, here it is, and if you don’t remember, here’s my information.”
There is another blog post from Cult of Pedagogy, 10 Ways to Truly Lead in Your Classroom, about how to lead within your own classroom that I think applies heavily to how to be a strong technology coach.
- 1. Lead with imperfection. Try things you’re not good at, right in front of them. Demonstrate a spirit of experimentation. Speak of your mistakes without judgment.
- 2. Lead with assertiveness. Show them how a self-assured person says no. Show what it looks like to set firm limits, without apology and without hostility.
- 3. Lead with relationships. Let them hear you laugh with other teachers, prioritize loved ones, and speak respectfully of your significant other. Let them see what healthy relationships look like.
- 4. Lead with language. Use the right words to describe concepts. Avoid dumbing things down. Savor a good word when it presents itself.
- 5. Lead with self-control. When a student makes you angry, think of how you tell students to handle their own anger. Then do that.
- 6. Lead with manners. Say please and thank you. Avoid cutting people off mid-sentence. Have sensitive conversations in private. Respect other people’s time.
- 7. Lead with quality. Take a few extra minutes to get something right. Do what you say you’re going to do. Proofread.
- 8. Lead with humor. Laugh. Be silly. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Avoid mocking or ridiculing your students. Mock yourself instead.
- 9. Lead with enthusiasm. Share your obsessions. Geek out on the things students think are uncool. Show them that it’s possible to fall in love with a forest, a perfect pizza crust, the moment when a song changes key.
- 10. Lead with humility. When you don’t know something, say so. Allow for the possibility that you might occasionally be wrong. Check your ego. Apologize.
Though this post is geared toward how to be a leader for students, I think it absolutely applies to leadership as a Technology Coach for teachers and for bringing the school community into the fold, as well.
The article, Overcoming the Obstacles to Leadership, hits on many key aspects of best practices for moving into leadership roles and how to build and continue leadership once you start. The one that hit home the most for me is working side by side with teachers. Again, I would extend this to families and the school community as a whole. Relationships are at the heart of being trusted as a leader: moving into the unknown together, being revolutionary together, maintaining a growth mindset together, building trust together, navigating the ever changing educational landscape together. With this at the forefront, there is opportunity for everyone to build a foundation that feels safe, comfortable and innovative. Once trust and a working relationship is established, purposeful and relevant PD and/or PLC groups can be established. A model that shows great promise is the Teacher Learning and Leadership Program discussed is the article, Teachers, Learners, Leaders.
“Part of the beauty of this professional learning structure is that it represents a successful joining of the education policy arm and teachers’ unions. The program meshes education research, education policy, and teaching practice and is a prime example of how researchers, policymakers, and practicing teachers can work together instead of pursuing conflicting agendas.”~Ann Lieberman
This video goes into depth about TLLP and the huge potential is has for teachers becoming leaders.
It is an exciting time in digital education and with this comes great successes yet growing pains, as well. As technology coaches become better equipped to handle the uncertainties and frustrations teachers may have around implementing technology and digital education in the classroom, then we will move forward. Knowing the wide range of opinions out there is key. Knowing the pace at which to support teachers is key. Building trust with each other and the technology is key. Most importantly, truly listening to educators about what they need to best implement technology for better teaching, learning and assessments, is the biggest key to unlocking consistent success with digital education and technology use in our educational culture.
- The Brainwaves Video Anthology. 2014, Dec. 20). Ann Lieberman – The Teacher Learning and Leadership Program. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=15&v=UdyDqT850L4
- Gonzalez, J. (2015, June 17). Lessons in Personhood: 10 Ways to Truly Lead in Your Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/teacher-leadership/
- Gonzalez, J. (2016, March 20). How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Your Teachers. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/tech-training-for-teachers/
- ISTE Standards for Coaches. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches
- Lieberman, A. (2010, June). Teachers, Learners, Leaders. ASCD. Good Teaching In Action, Volume 67. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/summer10/vol67/num09/Teachers,-Learners,-Leaders.aspx
- Moore Johnson, S., Donaldson, M.L. (2007, September). Overcoming the Obstacles to Leadership. ASCD. Teachers as Leaders, Volume 65. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept07/vol65/num01/Overcoming-the-Obstacles-to-Leadership.aspx