Instructional coaching takes investment on many levels. Katarina Schwartz (2019), talks about how to support teachers as they maximize the use of technology in classrooms and how coaches can support the teacher through the process in Coaching Teachers To Become Powerful Users of Classroom Tech.
The success of a coaching relationship is built on relationships and trust (Shwarz 2019). “Great coaches are often insiders. This is related to building relationships because someone who comes from inside the school knows its culture, their colleagues, and the students more intimately than someone coming from the outside. They can gain trust faster and make an impact on teaching and learning more quickly”
I recently had the opportunity to train in a Digital Training Foundations summer course for elementary and secondary educators. The pedagogy for the three-day training is focused on “Learning First, Tools Second”. I am making very clear connections between the coaching standards for ISTE 2e & 2h with the training that supports teachers in the implementation of digital tools that will support students based on where they are in the learning (ISTE Coaching 2E), while modeling “effective use of technology tools and resources to systematically collect and analyze student achievement data, interpret results, and communicate findings to improve instructional practice and maximize student learning”(ISTE Coaching 2E). If we focus on the new shiny tool instead of the learning we want to ignite, explore, and support than we will not be able to push our students to be the creators and innovators of the future. I would argue that our future is dependent on creators and innovators who will propel us to the next level of awareness who will lead our world to better realities.
When educators are focused on maximizing student learning each and every day we can take the focus one step further and facilitate the learning for the world our students will live in. This means that our young creative innovators who try to sit still in class really need to have their thinking and application valued by teachers. How do we coach teachers to embrace the innovations that are at their fingertips and can encourage engagement for the students of the 21st-century? How do we build on the ‘good teaching’ we have had, we see, and we want, using the innovations to drive and grow the learning experience for our diverse learners? What does “Learning First, Tools Second”. look like for the tech-savvy student who needs to be engaged in a different way?
As an instructional coach, My question stems from the need to support teachers and foster the confidence they need to try new things. Teachers are perfectionists, instead, we need to be learners who can take a setback in stride; because that is what we are teaching our students to do. It takes a great deal of reflection, practice, planning, reflection, more practice and planning to design a learning opportunity that is ‘just right’. Once this happens teachers can hold tight to the lesson or unit, they will tell you how much work they put into the learning, how great last years students did on the assignment and lament about the group 5 years ago who really knocked the unit assessment out of the ballpark.
If we are maximizing student learning why are we trying to facilitate the learning of today’s students with tools and lessons plans from 5 years ago? How do we coach teachers to embrace the innovations that are at their fingertips and can encourage engagement for the students of the 21st-century? How do we build on the ‘good teaching’ we have had, we see, and we want, using the innovations to drive and grow the learning experience for our diverse learners? What does Learning First, and Tools second look like for the tech-savvy student who needs to be engaged in a different way?
In order to focus on the learning first and the tools second, the feedback during coaching sessions needs to be focused on the needs of the school, the classroom, and each student. As a coach it is common to think we know the answer, we may have an inkling about possible next steps but then no one would be learning, and voice would not be honored.
I believe that as a coach we must be confident in our own ability to always learn first, tools will just keep coming. When coaches model this for fellow educators they are demonstrating what it means to be a life long learner. Kelly Coons shares her experience as a coach working with teachers in an eight-week cycle. “Coons said she has teachers working on very different focus areas in their classrooms. Some are just dipping their toe into using technology to give students a choice in how they express their learning, while others know far more about technology than Coons”.
This article connects to the Dynamic Learning: Digital Learning Project (DLP). Liz Anderson -Head of Social Impact Programs at Google for Education states “We believe in the power of educators. Technology is just a tool; it can only be transformative when it’s in the hands of an educator who uses it to create meaningful experiences for students” on the DLP website. In order to focus on the learning first and the tools second, the feedback during coaching sessions needs to be focused on the needs of the school, the classroom, and each student. As a coach it is common to think we know the answer, we may have an inkling about possible next steps but then no one would be learning, and voice would not be honored.
“When a gifted team dedicates itself to unselfish trust and combines instinct with boldness and effort, it is ready to climb.” —Patanjali
By focusing on a strategy area of ideal growth the teacher can hone in on the skill set they want to grow in. the coaching cycle can support this goal. With focus and ownership growth in facilitation skills and student engagement is often represented.
I believe that as coaches when we have confidence in our own ability to always learn first, tools will just keep coming. By putting the learning first and the tools second we are allowing for the growth within this digital revolution to continue to grow within our realities. Whether we are dipping our toes into the water by trying a tool or better yet refining our practice by reflecting on how students responded to the activities and the tools instructional coaches and teachers can work together to collaborate and refine the process.
Digital Promise. (n.d.). Dynamic Learning Project. Retrieved May 26, 2019, from https://dynamiclearningproject.com
Schwartz, k. (2019, January 11). Coaching Teachers To Become Powerful Users of Classroom Tech. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/52648/coaching-teachers-to-become-powerful-users-of-classroom-tech
(n.d.). ISTE Standards for Educators | ISTE. Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators