I absolutely love my job, and I love being able to have meaningful conversations with teachers about creating a culture in education that inspires students to think, innovate, and create. It is my calling, and it took me some time to figure out “what I wanted to be when I grow up.” I have taught a multitude of courses thus far through my teaching profession, and have run the gamut of ages taught from 6th grade to sophomores in college. Particularly I have been reflecting on one of these experience more than others. In the previous K-12 school district where I was employed, I took on a position as a technology integration coach part-time throughout the day. I was excited, at the time, to take on the position and felt with my background in technology as well as an understanding of great instruction practices in regards to technology integration that the position is what my building needed to take authentic learning to the next level. However, what I took away most from this position was that titles were more important than I initially realized. My title was “Tech Coach.” This title was detrimental to the success that I would have with teachers in the classroom.
What I found is that teacher were more than willing to seek out my support in regards to tools to use within the classroom; however, as soon as I began to discuss with them what technology integration looks like in regards to instructional design I was held at arm’s length. For teachers who hadn’t been adequately prepared for what a coaching process looked like, this was a violation of trust. With lack of a transparent vision, teachers having no clear understanding of the position, a lack of communication as to the roles of each stakeholder, and an already volatile cultural climate this was a breach of their trust. With the strong-armed attempt to forcibly get teachers to adopt new instructional technology integration practices from the top-down rather than through instructional support, teachers viewed me as no more than a puppet-agent of the administration to report back on the progress of individual teachers. Teachers held the belief that discussing instructional strategies shouldn’t be my role, and with the way that the position was rolled out, they were right. Therefore, my role in this position declined into being an extension of the tech department, in which teachers called on me to recommend and teach the utilization, not the application, of a new tool or to fix technical issues as they arose.
In the meantime, I continued to enhance my craft promoting technology integration. My next position was working as a Tech Integrationist and User Services Specialist at Knox College. I then took on the role of Director of Technology at Carl Sandburg College. Now that I have left that realm and found my home at UJH, I can integrate such discussion in my coaching cycles. Teachers at UJH have a firm understanding of the integration support that I can provide to them. Moreover, with being an instructional coach, such conversations are embedded in the coaching cycles and the natural progression of goal setting within the classroom. Because of my strong belief that quality integration practices can redefine the student learning experiences, integration comes out organically when working with teachers and serves as a means for a teacher to reach there cycle goals or professional goals.
So, how do we get to a point where classrooms adopt meaningful integration practices? The next step for our building is the focus of moving beyond the tools. The administration can purchase all the tools that teachers want, but if it’s not redefining the learning experience for our children then what is the point? It is a mistake to throw money at a problem in the way of technology to attempt to change the way students learn. We have to be grounded in the understanding of what we want our students to be able to do, how our teachers can help our students achieve this, then developing the support needed to reach such a goal. Our building needs applicable professional development on a more global scale of what quality technology integration would look like to them. Our teachers have explored many different tools. They have a firm grasp of GAFE, and moreover, are innovative and resourceful enough to find the tool that will fit their need. They all do it on a daily basis, and it is quite impressive.
The work that needs to be done now is looking at these resources to create authentic learning experiences for our students. To do that, we need a clear understanding of how different models for technology integration can guide both reflection and planning. Whether it be TPACK, SAMR, or perhaps the 4 Shifts Protocol, they all have their place. What is more important is looking at such a model and an understanding of technology’s place. Using lessons that you already have created, how can the above models guide your lesson through the different hierarchies, or is the lesson you are teaching meeting the desired goals of your students? Is there a greater opportunity for learning out there by modifying your lesson? Is there a way to change what you are currently doing to engage students in learning beyond the classroom walls? This process should be considered during preparation for lessons, personal reflections, coaching cycles, and in personalized or group PD.