Category Archives: Digital Education and Leadership SPU

The First Impression of a Digital Instructional Coach

As an educator I find myself saying “In our jobs, we are never bored”. I mean this as a complement to the profession; it doesn’t matter if I am in a room full of young students, college students, or adult learners, I am never bored and plan on keeping it that way.

Often the cost of this mindset comes in the form of overwhelmed educators who mean well and do not know where to begin when they look at the changes they want to make to the instruction they are providing each day. Add in the extensive needs of students, the chaos of the world we live in and the impact this has on our students and classrooms leads educators to feel overwhelmed.

Many schools and districts are looking to the Instructional Coach to support educators and ease the pressures of the classroom and daily reality. “A Peer Coach is a teacher leader who assists a peer to improve standards-based instruction by supporting the peer’s efforts to actively engage students in 21st-century learning activities. Coaches help colleagues improve teaching and learning by assisting them to develop the necessary lesson-design skills and instructional and technology integration strategies needed to prepare their students for college and careers”(Foltos, 2013, pp. 18). How these coaches begin the relationship can be a ticket to the success of the classroom teacher application; first impressions really do matter.

Often times coaches are put in schools where the needs are so dire that school leaders do not know where to begin. I would argue that good coaching needs to happen in all school settings to set the tone and value the partnerships that are anchored in the intent of student growth and success. Digital literacy coaching is connected to this mindset. Throwing laptops and technology at a problem is not going to solve the problem and magically create 21st-century leaders and creators out of today’s students. Coaching needs to be anchored in a common pedagogical practice to support learning through practice and alignment to a set of goals; coaching is learning for the educator.

I have had the pleasure of coaching educators for several years. As a peer coach, I worked with teachers to anchor learning objectives, course practice, and assessment in a standards-based curriculum to grow students and the school as a whole.  I learned early on that in order for theses relationships to work I had to take time to anticipate what the student and the school leadership was expecting out of the partnership. The most successful coaching relationships in my experience have always been one with trust as a foundation; first impressions really do matter.
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(Hyman, 2013) illustrates how a coach can actively anticipate what the teacher is going to need. In order to support the educator the Instructional Coach must always move the mindset within the following:

Patience: With students, the teacher, the technology, and the curriculum. In short, a coach must look at what is going on in the educators’ world and be willing to make suggestions without judging. This supports the research behind peer coaching to be free of evaluation to maintain peer relationships and trust.

Observation: As humans, we experience our worlds through our lens. The does not turn off when we enter the workplace. It is important for a coach to understand that they are not there to judge a peer but rather support the inquiry needed to get to the goal. “Effective coaches try to emphasize inquiry over advocacy in their coaching work. In other words, they rely on questioning strategies rather than advocating for any particular solution to the issues facing their peers” (Foltos, 2013, pp. 18). The questions coaches can anticipate the peer needing answered should come from observation.

Awareness: I would argue that one cannot anticipate the needs of others if they are not aware of the environment the peer lives in. This mindset extends to the 21st-century skills and technologies graduates will need to master in order to demonstrate success in a rapidly changing world. Park of the trust a peer puts into a coach is to stay relevant and offer a perspective with the same goal in mind.

With digital coaching, we cannot look at the tools as shiny new toys that are to be played with for only a little bit of time before the user gets bored and moves on to something new or more tried and true. Digital coaches must observe the learning environment, while being aware of the realities and patiently allow for the peer to come to a conclusion about how a tool can support learning for students in the educational setting. The tools, apps, and websites are always going to change, but the pedagogy should consistently support the learning of the students who are living and will be working in the present.

Once a peer coaching relationship has been established it is important to plan out the discourse to maximize the growth and keep all parties on track. The Coaching Plan is driven by a SMART Goal but often the coaching needs to take other factors into account.

“The GROW Model is a coaching framework used in conversations, meetings and everyday leadership to unlock potential and possibilities. GROW was first published by our co-founder Sir John Whitmore in 1992. It has become the world’s most popular coaching model for problem-solving, goal setting and performance improvement”(GROW Model | Sir John Whitmore’s GROW Coaching Model Framework – Performance Consultants,” 2019a; Hyman, 2013).

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The realities of today’s educators are often times desperate realities. In order to grow the peer coaching relationship needs to focus on a specific goal, the realities of the environment, the realistic options, and most importantly what the individual is willing to commit towards. The GROW Model supports  ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership as it “Contribute(s) to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels” (ISTE-C 1.b), while implementing “strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms” (ISTE-C 1.d).

Now the fun can begin, with the intentions of all parties clear, the real learning and growing can start to happen. The coach and peer can explore the models of digital instructional integration, together they can discuss the current state of the learning environment, the standard and assessment realities, what they hope to see from the students while learning together, and how to utilize pedagogy like the SAMR, TPACK and The Four A’s. With the clarity of the intent, the coach can start anticipating the needs of the peer and create a positive lasting impression that will lead to first impressions that really do matter with other peers in the educational setting.


AVID CENTER. (n.d.). AVID’s Digital Learning Framework. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

GROW Model | Sir John Whitmore’s GROW Coaching Model Framework – Performance Consultants. (2019a, October 11). Retrieved October 11, 2019, from
Hyman, A. (2013, April 25). the-art-of-technology-anticipation [Blog post]. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from

Hyman, A. (2013, April 25). the-art-of-technology-anticipation [Blog post]. Retrieved October 10, 2019, from

ISTE | ISTE Standards for Coaches. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2019, from

Koehler, M. (2012, September 12). TPACK.ORG. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from

ProTips. (n.d.). SAMR Model: A Practical Guide for EdTech Integration. Retrieved October 13, 2019, from

Yourcoach. (n.d.). S.M.A.R.T. goal setting | SMART | Coaching tools | YourCoach Gent. Retrieved October 14, 2019, from


Digitizing Your Favorite Lesson

I hear from educators all the time that they cannot find the time to practice using all the new technology tools available, let alone collaborate around ways to utilize these tools in the learning environments they support.

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As educators, we are masters at making the most out of  ‘our 24’, but for time and sometimes sanity we revert back to using the same lesson we know works year after year. Yes, we want to use the new technology, yes, we know it will help our learners prepare for the 21st-century workplace, no, we aren’t out of touch with the realities of the digital revolution. Educators I know you are all planning, grading, coaching, teaching, communicating, for your students each and every day. I designed my 90-minute workshop for The ISTE 2020 EdTech conference with you in mind.

New systems, tools, and strategies of education have always excited me. I remember when a math teacher once shared with me how she removed all her desks and chairs. Students had to move around the room and work out math problems on dry erase boards. At first, the students gave her a piece (or two) of their minds when the test scores came back no one questioned her system. Her students were doing all the work in the math class, they were moving bodies and brains and guess what, the math stuck.  I love when a teacher comes back to me after trying a new strategy or tool with a sparkle in their eye. I have been known to literally jump with joy when a flipped classroom brought about deep student engagement others through would never happen. The digital tools in my workshop are meant to engage and support learners authentically. The digital tools in Engaging Your Learners Through Digital Tools  (YouTube video submission link) is designed to support teachers as they facilitate learners to collaborate, communicate, and create within learning communities.

This submission is designed around the ISTE Coaching Standard 3a-3g Digital Age Learning Environments. These standards are specifically connected to the learning in the workshop by:

  • 3a: 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.
  • 3b: Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments.
  • 3d: Select, evaluate and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning.
  • 3f: Collaborate with teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning and are compatible with the school technology infrastructure.
  • 3g: Use digital communication and collaboration tools to communicate locally and globally with students, parents, peers and the larger community.
    • During the workshop, all participants will be exploring and practicing with different digital tools. They will collaborate in Face-to-Face and digital format to expand the learning while taking into account the learners they have in each unique setting. Digital communication and collaboration outside of the 90-minute workshop will be encouraged. 
  • 3c: 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.
  • 3e: Troubleshoot basic software, hardware and connectivity problems common in digital learning environments. 
    • As the facilitator, I will be focusing on the coaching of teachers to use digital tools as a way to maximize the learning objectives for all learners. By anticipating the common problems of a digital environment and communicating how these problems can be solved with ease,  I will empower teachers to take risks and use these powerful tools. 

Participants will move to between three stations in 15 minutes increments to foster engagement while taking on a collaborative learner role.  

Soine and Lumpe (2014) provided a researched anchor in Characteristics of Effective Professional Development that grounded the creation of this workshop.

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This workshop supports active and engaged learning that can support the assessment of student learning. The tools support students who learn content in different ways; student choice opens up when these tools are used. By providing time to get your hands dirty during the workshop educators are able to start connecting the tool to lessons quickly. To meet the teachers’ needs and circumstances, time is spent on the exploration and application of the tool, not listening to how someone else used it. Collective participation is at the heart of this learning opportunity. Participants will collaborate with each other in stations as well as intentionally during reflection. The duration of the 90-minute workshop can be replicated with different tools and learning objectives during short and longer professional development opportunities. This workshop system is easy to replicate at other locations and with different digital tools to maximize the learning of educators at the workshop and beyond.

In short, your time is valuable. Trust me when I say that we appreciate a polite group who pretends to be listening at yet another conference. Thesparticipantsts are comfortable clapping politely and leave with a kind smile but I would rather you make a connection to the learners you support today and give you some time to practice using the tools we all know are important. I promise to jump for joy when you share how the shift towards using digital tools engaged your students and flipped your classroom.

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Soine, K.M. & Lumpe, A. (2014). Measuring characteristics of teacher professional development. Teacher Development: An international journal of teachers’ professional development. DOI: 10.1080/13664530.2014.911775

Tools Used in the 2020 ISTE Submission as of September 2019*

*modifications will be made to this workshop to meet the needs of digital educational support as technology tools emerge and evolve.

Curating, Managing, & Selecting Digital Tools to Support ALL Learners.

“Instruction should have clear goals that are separate from the means for completing the task, and these goals also should be thoroughly understood by the teacher and clearly communicated to students” (Basham & Marino, n.d., pp.11). This is what we hope for daily. We spend hours designing lessons, reviewing curriculum and examining formative assessments to support the clear goals that will propel our students to the finish line of learning. If our students learned the same way, we would be able to formalize this process within a cookie-cutter approach; our students may enjoy a cookie but they are not cut from the same mold.

Baham and Marino continue to anchor us in the educational needs of our students with the statement “Instruction should be intentionally planned so that it is personally challenging for all learners” (Basham & Marino, n.d.). Educators will wax and wane about the time it takes to create learning experiences like this; when the topic of a lesson plan enters the conversation they get tight-lipped about sharing a comment along the lines of knowing material and content, to a level that a lesson plan can not match. In short,  a teacher’s brainpower and instinctive understanding of what their students need to master the learning outcome should not be challenged but rather built upon.

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Facilitating learning takes time, and yes even the teacher who chooses to not plan may have a wonderful day or two in the classroom. But our learners are complex human beings with needs to be met. As educational settings and the workplace require complex thinking skill sets, we can no longer assume students have learned the material by grading a vocabulary test. In the spirit of a creative, student learning-centered classroom out compliance-based lessons will no longer cut it.

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 speaks to the instructional planning needed to support our diverse student populations within the Digital Age Learning Environments that mirror the working lives they will lead. 

  • 3B – Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments.
  • 3D – Select, evaluate, and facilitate the use of adaptive and assistive technologies to support student learning.
  • 3F – Collaborate with teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning and are compatible with the school technology infrastructure.

A theme emerges within these standards. Teachers are given the control to manage, evaluate, and select the proper tools to support today’s student. How do we go about doing this if the technology is changing at such a rapid pace?

Wakelet is a free digital tool that supports the curation of tools for use tomorrow, next week or next year. Instead of trying to file the ideas away in our head we can now organize our resources, articles, and tools to support today and tomorrows student. The lesson plan may not always work but Wakelet provides flexibility and categorization that teachers can easily ” maintain and manage” (ISTE 3B), evaluate and make not of how to use the tools (ISTE 3D), and finally, collaborate with other educators to “enhance teaching and learning”(ISTE 3F). The values of Wakelet support the students we are growing in our classrooms; empowering readiness behaviors that will create and  empower the future leaders and creators we facilitate.

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If Wakelet is going to organize the tools for us, how do we know the tools will support our students?

The Tripple E Framework provides a model to intentionally support teachers as they look at tools for the classrooms they teach. One tool may not work year after year, as different learners need different supports in order to be empowered to grow outside the mold of compliance.

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The framework model can be applied through the use of a rubric to check the applicable practice for your current students through a stop light rubric assessment.

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The intentional assessment of  tools coupled with a formative assessment of student learning has the possibility to maximize student-centered learning opportunities we know engages all of our learners. The Triple E Framework Rubric, is supportive of the teacher who works from instinct and data to support the learning.

If I could turn back the clock and utilize these tools with the teachers I have coached I would do so in a heartbeat. The use of The Triple E Framework combined with Wakelet and the anchoring ISTE Coaching 3 Standard, provides a rich learning opportunity with check points that will enhance your lesson plan.  May we all be empowered to grow within the digital world and utilize theses tools in the classroom.