Coaching All: Thinking about the whole school community – educators, parents and caregivers.

ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership 

d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms 

My question: What are best practices for establishing trust with teachers and families at our school and guiding our school community towards a positive digital education perspective.  (versus just telling them the positive ways students can use digital tools in the classroom) 

Gaining the trust of the whole school community to implement educational technology in classrooms is tricky because there are many preconceived notions around screen time and a variety of perspectives and backgrounds that everyone (teachers, parents, caregivers) comes to the table with. As I prepare to lead a Digital Education Presentation for the PTA at my school, I have been looking at the ISTE Coaching Standard 1, Visionary Leadership, and more specifically the ISTE Coaching Standard 1d – Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms to better prepare for this presentation by using a coaching mindset to find best practices for gaining this invaluable trust.  

When it comes to the whole school community, there are 3 main takeaways from my research that I believe will help to alleviate some of the fear or nervousness around using digital education in the classroom. In the article, Engaging Families as Learning Partners Using Digital Tools by Matthew Lynch, there is a breakdown of how to teach families what it means to use technology in the classroom.  These same suggestions apply to fellow teachers, as well. He has 5 suggestions to engage families but the first 3 are what I am focusing on to first build the trust needed for support of digital education implementation. The first suggestion that Lynch makes is to Teach the Parents How to Use the Digital Tool.  If we take the time to give families hands on experiences with the tools and platforms students are learning, they are more likely to see the active role students have in their learning when engaged with digital tools. If teachers take on a coaching role with parents (and invite other teachers to join in on this as learners) then it moves away from the teacher trying to solely make a case for why educational technology is great and instead puts the experience directly in the hands of the adults to see for themselves.  This is more likely to shift perspective because it is a hands on experience for them versus a lecture trying to convince them.     

The second suggestion Lynch makes is to Explain the Importance of Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship. Students are growing up in a digital age and there is no getting around that. Coming at this reality with a digital citizenship focus in order to better teach how to manage our online and offline lives helps families to see that we have the chance to teach mindfulness and awareness of navigating the digital world AND how we can influence the use of digital tools as a way to enhance learning versus passive consumption.  When a student learns how to create their own digital portfolio highlighting their learning, this is powerful and stays with them as they move through their K-12 education and beyond.  

A third suggestion from Lynch is Using Digital Tools for Communication.  Highlighting the way digital tools and platforms can strengthen home to school connections and making these connections personal and meaningful for parents and students helps teachers to build strong relationships with families. Megan Ryder writes about the importance of not just building relationships with others but also maintaining them in her blog post, Strategies for Building Relationships as an Instructional Coach.  Though she is talking specifically about relationships with staff, this is crucial for families, as well. Communication is what maintains relationships so using easy platforms to keep communication alive, relevant, timely and positive can slowly shift negative perspectives of using digital education in the classroom when parents see a benefit for themselves, as well as for their child. 

Through all of this, there will be hiccups, missteps, technology that doesn’t work like you hoped and a learning curve for how to find and use the best digital education tools and platforms in your school and classroom. Two of my favorite suggestions for building trust with those you are coaching (whole school community) was from Ashley Paschal, 5 ways to Build a Trusting Coaching Relationship.  She speaks to the importance of listening without judgment and to laugh.  Parents and other educators are looking to coaches to feel safe in how the uneasiness they may feel about the fast paced and always changing digital education world.  My own perspective has shifted immensely since staring the SPU Digital Education Leadership program but that has taken a lot of research, conversation, patience and time.  Remembering to accept where parents and educators are at in their journey with digital education and truly listening without judgement to understand where they are at in their journey (and WHY!) is the only way to start forging a pathway of trust that can enable you to guide towards a shift in perspective.  

Here is a great resource from Common Sense Media to start engaging your community! Learn how to make parents and caregivers an integral part of your digital citizenship program 

Resources: 

Cogswell, Ben. (July 11, 2018) Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/engage-your-community-with-parent-digital-citizenship-academies 

Lynch, Matthew. (Feb. 8, 2019). The Tech Advocate. Retrieved from Engaging Families as Learning Partners Using Digital Tools.  

Paschal, Ashley. (Fed. 28, 2018). Education Elements. Retrieved from 5 Ways to Build a Trusting Coaching Relationship. 

Ryder, Megan. (May 8, 2017). TeachBoost. Retrieved from Strategies for Building Relationships as an Instructional Coach.