ISTE FOR COACHES 3-Digital Age Learning Evironments

Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.

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.

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.

Inquiry Question:

How can encourage teachers to take risks to use new digital technology into class and motivate student lead meaningful learning with digital tools in technology-rich learning environment? Especially for the younger age students

In the digital world, more and more schools recognize the importance of digital technology, which takes the key role in fostering student digital competences for the 21st century and benefiting their sustainable lifelong learning. Also, digital technology can fulfill differentiated learning to improve student engagement, motivation, and innovation. Since technology has been exerting a significant influence on education, teachers need to explore new teaching strategies to build a productive digital age learning environment for students. 

Changing is always being a tough process in which teachers need to get inspired and build up the confidence to look for appropriate digital technology for appropriate ages and implement effectively to scaffold students to achieve learning outcomes. Facing thousands of digital resources, digital tools, and strategies, teachers need a clear direction to guide them to move on positively rather than stopping without motivation. With a clear direction, technology as the vehicle will take education closer to the destination.

Introducing different kinds of digital tools is not the goal for technology coaches. The goal is to provide explicit guidance for teachers to make up the gap which traditional teaching cannot fill in and then achieve learning outcomes meeting the needs of the 21st century’s. One digital tool cannot fit all teachers needs. So the technology coaches should model teachers seek the meaningful ways to integrate technology seamlessly rather than just using it as the replacement of paper or calculators and also keep teachers up to date with the latest available technological tools. It will be a positive circle created while teachers design classes using technology to support teaching and learning effectively, and both students and teachers will get motivated and ready for making efforts on the integration.  Teachers will have experiences of experimentation and trial-and-error in this adventure, but within the bright light (guidance), they will be motivated to take risks.

The Role of Digital Technology in Education

In the developing digital age learning environment, the highest priority is not to have teachers to use technology for its sake, but rather to embed technology appropriately to lead meaningful learning and apply related technology skills to students to benefit their future lives. Technology should facilitate the learning process but not create or control the learning goals.

As the technology coaches, we need to have teachers know how meaningful use of technology works mighty in the learning process, which will help to meet teachers’ different needs to achieve learning goals through productive ways. And model teachers not focus on the endless digital tools more than thinking over on learning to explore appropriate digital tools for reaching the learning goals.

Which Digital Tools Can Be Adapted?

-Keep learning the latest educational digital tools (From Peers, Coach, Online, PD)

It is vital for teachers to keep gaining the latest knowledge of new technologies. They can learn from PLNs (Twitter, EdSurge) to share their experiences and learn from others. The technology coaches also need to provide professional development courses to introduce useful digital tools and successful integration cases to cheer teachers passions.

-Learn from students

We also need to hear from students’ voices, which is essential for leading meaningful student-centered learning. In my iPad class, my students always told me which apps they want to use for demonstrating their artifacts. It is a secret to tapping into younger students’ intrinsic motivation towards technology to help them learn. You will be surprised by their over-expected achievement and enjoyment. I will always be proud of my Kindergarten students when they introduce their favorite digital tools and collaborate with others to lead student-centered learning. I am glad to design meaningful learning activities with their favorite tools to achieve the learning goals.

How to Embed Digital Technology Effectively

-Create meaningful learning activities from four aspects (understanding, communicating, collaborating, creating)

Technology coaches should encourage teachers to find digital tools to facilitate learning activities from these four facets and help teachers to evaluate the effects of technology to achieve the final goals. Technology coaches need to fill in every step of integration to reduce the potential risk of fails.


Research on multimedia learning has demonstrated more positive outcomes for students who learn from resources that effectively combine words and pictures, rather than those that include words alone (Mayer, 2008). Teachers need to think over a meaningful interaction within digital technology involved in learning activities purposefully to improve understanding, especially for the younger students. 


Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural theory argues that social interactions can facilitate the development of higher-order functions when they take place in cultural contexts. Students learn when they interact and communicate with other learners in a positive environment.  This theory provides teachers with guidance on integrating technology effectively in classes that should be used to facilitate communication among learners in the class, within a school, between schools, and around the world. Teachers can adapt meaningful technology-embedded communication learning activities, including blogging, presentation, online discussion forums, and emails. 


Technology can provide an online environment of virtual worlds to increase the possibility of collaborative learning’s occurring. Research with students who have used such virtual worlds have demonstrated that students engage deeply with the content and gain teamwork skills that support them in collaboratively and effectively solving the problems presented to them (Barab, Gresalfi &Arici, 2009). Teachers should integrate the appropriate digital tools to design authentic, collaborative learning activities to prepare and extend student deep learning in the technology-rich environment. 


Students are expected to be innovative in the 21st century. When teachers implement digital learning activities, they need to focus on increasing creation and imagination to scaffold student to have brainstorm and demonstrate their learning outcomes through creative ways.

When teachers integrate technology into above four aspects seamlessly through learning activities, they will scaffold students to achieve learning outcomes through productive ways and also enhance engagement and motivation which will also inspire teachers to explore more effective strategies on technology integration to support meaningful learning.

Teachers should think about following questions before implementing technology into classes:

-Does digital technology improve student understandings, help the student to construct long-term memories to have deep understandings of learning content?

-Does digital technology provide more opportunities for communication between peers, schools, and countries?

-Does digital technology create opportunities for collaboration to lead the student to have authentic learning in a group set?

-Does digital technology lead students to have a brainstorm on the learning process?

-Can the embedded digital technology be replaced by other non-technological tools?

-Does digital technology help to reach learning goals and enhance student engagement and motivation?

Evaluation for the Next Moving On

The technology coaches need to model teachers evaluate all kinds of technological tools, digital resources, and strategies that they used for teaching and learning. The evaluation will help teachers to know the potential issues and results of the technology integration. They need to consider the No/Not sure answers and improve the design through the process of identify-adjust-modify-implement. The process will be back and forth, which will weaken teachers confidence and passion. However, when the teachers see the different levels of learning achievement, their inspiration will be built up.

-Is the digital technology appropriate for the age and year level of the students? 

•   Are there links between the content/functions of digital technology and the expectations of the curriculum? 

-Dose the digital resources focus on schema construction directly?

-Dose the digital resources and learning activities not related to schema construction directly?

-Will technology integration help teach the curriculum in new or different ways? 

-Are digital sources reliable? 

-Does digital content encourage higher-order thinking? 

-Does digital content present multiple perspectives? 

-Will students be actively involved in using the digital tool? 

-Is feedback provided? Is the feedback appropriate and meaningful? 

-Are assessment tasks included, or can the teacher develop relevant assessment tasks that link to the use of the digital tool? 

-Can all aspects of the digital tool be integrated easily into classroom activities? 

-Can the digital tool be used for multiple curriculum units? 

-Does digital technology use to support or distract from the learning activity? 

-Is the digital tool easy to use and intuitive? 

-Does the digital tool work consistently? 

-Are there special technical requirements for using the tool? Does the school have access to those requirements? 

-Does the tool have multiple forms of help (manuals, context-sensitive help, and tutorials)? 

-Are teaching support materials or online resources available to help a teacher embed the tool into lessons? 

The technology coaches need to provide clear guidance from why what and how to pilot digital technology in classes to have teachers understand how powerful technology will be if teachers integrate it in effective and meaningful ways. Teachers will meet their learning goals from innovative ways to scaffold student construct new knowledge and also cultivate digital competences for the digital world. Teachers will get inspired to take risks when they see the destination get closer. They will have full passions to pave the path for students to get more engaged and motivated in learning. Any digital tool cannot replace a good teacher, but a good teacher can get support from appropriate digital technology to empower student learning in a digital age.


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