Creating Opportunities for Paraprofessionals to Explore EdTech

I began this school year with the intent of supporting other teachers with technology integration.  However, my intentions were put on hold as I became aware of a greater need, supporting our paraprofessionals in digital education through peer coaching. As I look back to Fall quarter, I was inspired by Les Foltos, author of Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. In my blogpost Visionary Leadership and Peer Coaching, I set out to find how coaches can successfully inspire and assist peers with planning and implementing technology integration. 

The key principles that stood out to me were:

  • Willingness
  • Personal Relationship
  • Trust and Support vs Judgement
  • Understanding of the Education System
  • Time
  • Reciprocal Communication


Initially I found teachers who were willing to collaborate, yet time seemed to be the biggest barrier in collaboration.  Perhaps one of the greatest assets to my ability to collaborate with IAs this year came from a classroom change. In four years, I’ve had classrooms in three corners of the school property.  My first year was out in a portable, not many people made their way out to my space. Then I spent two years in the main building off of a kindergarten classroom. Not the most convenient to get to, but relatively close to the office, so I would have people stop by each day, typically to discuss students or content support.  This year, I moved to a room near the staff room and playground. Since all IAs have playground duty, I feel this location created more opportunities for collaboration. After offering repeated open invitations for staff to come into my room, I began to get weekly visits from several IAs. In turn, this has strengthened our personal relationships, helped me understand their level of understanding and their vision for the future, and most importantly, reinforced collaboration and a team mentality vs working in isolation.

What I discovered, was a passionate team of bilingual support staff who want to use more resources, but do not have access to the same professional development opportunities as certificated staff (teachers). Unless they seek out professional development, EdTech opportunities are not provided to them. This therefore became my quest, to advocate for and help implement EdTech opportunities for our IAs.

Using Data to Drive Professional Development

Understanding that Professional Development requires planning, collaboration, and support, there are several experiences that have led to the creation of the upcoming PD. These experiences include my Peer Coaching Project, informal collaboration with IAs, teachers, and administrators, my Technology Needs Assessment, an ELL Family Tech Event, and Staff Technology Use Survey.

Peer Coaching Project

For my Peer Coaching Project I worked 1:1 with an IA serving a small group of first grade ELL students. Driven by her interest in using Seesaw, we moved her small group from working on whiteboards and paper to using Seesaw to read, write, record, and share.  The feedback from the project was positive. Here are two of the ten questions I asked of the IA for feedback:

How has using Seesaw changed student learning in your group? I really liked how it inspired students who normally run a little behind the others to step forward and slowly but steadily work towards the finish line seeing their smile of achievement as they heard themselves read is priceless.
How would you like to use Seesaw in future?  What are you comfortable doing without my support? I like the students seeing and saying their sight words. Circling the words they still struggle with.  Taking a book from their book box taking a picture of a page. Circling the sights words and/or words they didn’t quite get to further work on them.

Informal Collaboration

After meeting with several instructional assistants individually, I approached our administration about creating a Technology Needs Assessment for instructional assistants. The IAs did not seem aware of any tech support made available to them, other than troubleshooting software issues. For example, this year all certificated staff were offered an online tech PD with various modules related to new devices and software.  Classified staff however, did not initially receive access to this PD and access was not widely publicized. It was this data the guide of the direction towards our upcoming fall Workshop.

Technology Needs Assessment

The Technology Needs Assessment provided usable data.  By asking 14 intentional questions, I was able to gain insight to how the IAs view, use and envision technology in the classroom. The IAs are interested in learning more about how to use digital tools both professionally and in the classroom. All data for the Technology Needs Assessment through this link.

Staff Technology Use Survey

With the Technology Needs Assessment showing all IAs are interested in learning about apps to use in the classroom and differentiated instruction, I then needed to survey teachers to find out what they are already using. This is also a critical piece due to parent feedback from our ELL Family Tech Event. Many ELL parents are unable to access or understand the purpose of educational programs that teachers recommend for students.  Our IAs are also unfamiliar with how to create an account, log in, or use the programs, leading to lack of enrollment and activity from our ELL students. The Staff survey also asked teachers how IAs could use technology to support student learning in class. Below is a sample of the responses.

Workshop Rationale

To plan a three hour workshop, I consolidated data from the Peer Coaching Project, informal collaboration, Technology Needs Assessment, ELL Family Tech Event, and Staff Technology Use Survey. Wanting to offer intentional, relevant, and personalized PD, I’ve created three segments, all with time to actively engage with digital tools and collaborate with colleagues. I’ve chosen the order based on interest received from both classroom teachers and IAs. Recognizing that several classroom teachers have shown interest in learning more about Seesaw, the Seesaw segment is scheduled first.  The second segment looks at Office 365 and the T-Drive on our district computers, exploring apps IAs are expected to access and use during the year.  The final segment gives IAs and opportunity to explore how to access, log in, and understand the learning objectives of various apps used by classroom teachers.  Having a better understanding of Seesaw, Office 365, and educational apps will also assist IAs when translating for families.  This PD is scheduled for a half day the week before we return to the Fall.  At present, 17 IAs will be invited to attend, serving both our Bilingual and Special Education population.


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