Emergence of the Technology Coach

The SAMR Model

The SAMR Model; License: CC BY-SA 4.0

I’m a technology coach. Well, I’m not sure what my official title is. When I started at my school almost four years ago, my official title was Digital Learning Facilitator, DLF (almost an ELF but not quite). Apparently, the title of IT Coach had been considered and discarded.

Fourteen years ago, I started out as a computer teacher at an international school in Bangalore, India. This involved me teaching high school and middle school Computer Science courses in the Ontario curriculum, IB Computer Science, and a weekly class to students at every elementary grade level. I was the department head for Math and Computer Science, and taught one semester of Data Management, MDM4U. In addition, I was the computer support person. We had a network manager, but teachers saw me for all their problems from logging on, to printing. During my two years in that job, there was no concept of co-planning or technology integration.

In Khartoum, Sudan, I was the technology coordinator. My first year, my  responsibilities were similar to those in Bangalore. Every child had a computer class with me once a week. I campaigned to change this process and developed an IT curriculum with two prongs: technology integration at every grade level, as well as dedicated computer science course offerings. This was a substantial shift for me, and for the school, but grounded in educational research as well as my beliefs. Elementary teachers started co-planning and co-teaching classes with me. Those classes happened in the computer lab, but the content and activities were governed by classroom goals. We also did some computer science activities with the children, particularly from CS Unplugged. In middle school, I taught programming classes, mostly using Logo, and some technology infused financial math courses. In high school, I taught photo editing with GIMP, web design, and programming. I later taught Adobe InDesign and Photoshop Elements for creating the yearbook. I was employed as a teacher, but did the job of a Tech Director. We redesigned the computer lab during my third year, and I led the research and decision-making about the new equipment. I worked in Khartoum for four years.

In Nagoya, Japan, I was once again the technology coordinator. I led the curriculum through the same process of redesign and change as in Khartoum, from weekly classes to trimester-long or semester-long classes in Middle School and High School. I worked much more closely with elementary teachers in curriculum planning and co-teaching. I consulted with middle school and high school teachers about using technology to augment, modify, and redefine their teaching. In addition, I lead the technology committee and the technology planning for the school, and managed the WordPress server. In my third year, I learned about TIM, and TPACK, and improved my approach to working with teachers. Before this, I used to focus on the technology, but then I started to focus on the curriculum, and how technology works within particular contexts and curriculum areas. I started looking into the affordances of different technology tools. We diversified our technology tools beyond desktops, and added some Macbooks, iPads, and Netbooks. We also invited high school students to bring their technology devices from home, and gradually implemented a BYOT program. I worked in Nagoya for four years.

I’m now in Prague, Czech Republic. One of my intentions in moving to this school was to be in a bigger school where I could grow with colleagues. It was my first opportunity to be in a school with more than one person in my position. Over my four years here, I’ve seen a shift in my job responsibilities, and the expectation of the job. I solve problems for teachers regarding the use of iPads and laptops (tech coach as expert), do some professional development, and am involved in planning meetings. This is the first job where I haven’t had my own classes, and that sometimes feels strange to me, but I still get to work with students through co-teaching, mentoring groups of students, and leading lessons in various grades. I have more time for leading professional development, and for preparing professional learning material than I did in any of my other jobs. That has been great because we’ve more than doubled the number of devices at the school, and I’ve been able to work with individuals and teams to decide how best to use iPads and laptops for learning in different units, and with different children. The major shift for me in this job, is that the job of tech coach seems to be morphing to include being the expert/guide for STEAM, Robotics, design thinking, and for using laser cutters, and 3D printers. I’ve been involved with teachers in design challenges such as Scribblebots, Makey Makey projects, copper tape projects, etc. I also coach a middle school FLL robotics team, host after school robotics activities for elementary school students, and work with teachers to integrate robotics into the curriculum. There is a Tech Director, who I report directly to. I’m not sure what my official title is, maybe Tech Coach, maybe DLF, but the job looks very different than it did 14  years ago. Part of this change is due to location and context, but some of the change is due to changes in education.

After 14 years, I’m aiming for a (bigger) change. I don’t know what I’ll be doing next year. I feel, in some ways, like I did in those days when I just finished receiving my certification from the Ontario College of Teachers, and I had no job and wasn’t sure what I would be doing next. Yet, it’s nothing like those days because I have a wealth of experience, a growth mindset, and an attitude of adventure.

 

This post was inspired by the Edublogs Challenge prompt to write a post related to the constant changes and the pendulum effect in education. 

9 Common Problems and Solutions when using iPads

I used these cases with teaching assistants at my school in August, 2016. I hope that you find it useful. If you have any examples or questions, please post a comment.

I had been meaning to write this blog post. I finally got inspired to create a slide show from the original Google Document handout by this prompt for the #EdublogsClub challenge. The prompt was to “write a listicle”.

Making Technology Integration Awesome

It’s a challenge to make effective, transformative use of technology in the classroom. This year, I’ve been working with a small group of teacher representatives from various grades to curate/create a list of skills for every grade level that are realized through the integration of technology. We’ve looked at the ISTE Standards for Students, and lists of benchmarks and standards from other schools. We’ve also explore the Technology Integration Matrix from Arizona and will look at the (more mature) one from Florida. We’ve talked to teachers, and explored the landscape of technology integration at other schools. We’ve discussed how technology is used in our world, and how it is used outside of school by our students. I’ve come to realize that the particular skills on the list by grade level are a direct result of our approaches to teaching and learning, our beliefs and our local context.

We’ve collected a list of skills where students use technology that teachers at each grade level think are important for students to enter a grade with, and leave the grade with. Next, we will build on those lists, taking other sets of internationally renowned standards like those from ISTE and AASL into account. We will use feedback from teachers, and consider the coherence from K-5 to refine the lists. Finally, we will decide how to share the list with teachers in a way that’s user-friendly and dynamic. We have other documents that have been created in the past, but they are outdated and never referred to during instructional design meetings. One approach would be to categorize the skills by the phases of inquiry that we follow in our classes. Another would be to group the skills by the units of inquiry. We will get feedback from teachers about this. Might there be a third approach that we haven’t considered?

As part of this work, I will engage teachers in thinking about their vision of students who’ve experienced successful technology integration during their K-5 experience of school. I’m also interested in knowing your ideas.

Made with Padlet

 

Note that this post is written for my participation in #EdublogsClub challenge. The prompt was to “write a post about challenging situations”.

Three in One Office and Classroom Space

When I started working at ISP in August 2013, my office was in a small room in the elementary school, between the PK3 classroom and the elementary staff room. I shared the room with a library assistant/teacher assistant and a lot of books as it was the elementary school book room. It felt like we were in the basement because we had one tiny window that reminded me of a basement window. Our door led into the hallway, right opposite a door to the inner courtyard, which helped us remember that we were not in a basement, even though it felt that way.

As part of a school and department wide reorganization, I was moved to a different space. All three of the IT coaches now work in the same space. Our office is part classroom/part office, and called the Idea Lab.

My desk is the one with all the water bottles/travel mugs. The table behind it is part of the classroom furniture. I usually keep my water bottle a bit farther away from my computer, on the side cabinet.

As the elementary coach most responsible for elementary school, I generally attend meetings and support classrooms throughout the elementary school. I am usually welcomed into other people’s spaces. When I’m in my office, I’m usually doing desk work, which includes e-mail, blogging, working on presentations, preparing resources for teachers and classrooms, testing resources, conducting research, etc.

The desks for the IT Coaches are all in a line at the back of the room. It is a bit like we’re three judges, but it’s the most efficient use of the space.

My desk is at the back of the Idea Lab. The other two coaches and I have our desks all lined up to optimize our limited space. Most of the room contains moveable desks and chairs. The tables flip up, and the chairs stack, for added flexibility. A green screen is mounted at the front of the room. Along the sides, we’ve set up a laser printer, a laser cutter, and other maker space resources. The room is scheduled for classes taught by my colleagues, and available to be booked by other teaches. Sometimes, elementary classes come to the Idea Lab to work on creative projects, or middle and high school students come to work in a quiet space, or to use the resources available.

The worst part of my office is that it’s far from elmentary school. Since I moved, I have fewer spontaneous visits by teachers, and more email requests for help. I am often stopped when I walk around the elementary school, even if I have not received an email request for help.

The best part of my office is the proximity to my colleagues. This new office arrangement with all three coaches in the same place makes it easier to collaborate. We can help each other, share ideas, and plan events more easily than before. Often one of us is here to help colleagues even if the IT coach for that section is busy elsewhere. One of our collaborations is in designing the space. We identified the need for personal storage space, storage for consumables and tools, and storage for work in progress. We also determined the importance of flexibility in the space so that it could be use in many different ways. This room is still taking shape. One of our challenges is organizing all our resources, especially the robotics kits. We’re going to continue organizing the place over time to meet our needs, and the needs of each of the three sections of the school.

ES Robotics Kits: Dash, Wedo, and Lego Mindstorms NXT

 

Note that this post is written for my participation in #EdublogsClub challenge. The prompt was to “write a post that discusses your classroom or place of work”.