Through the Neck of the Hourglass: Exploring #educoach and #growthmindset via #edtechcoach

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As I've explored the idea of "coaching" as an evolution of the role of Instructional Technology Specialist, I've stubbed my toe on what to title such a coaching role. Does such a role even need to be called out as a "coach?"
Coaches, technology facilitators, technology integration specialists and others who help classroom teachers integrate technology into the classroom are instrumental in the effective implementation of the ISTE Standards for Teachers. With the guidance of a coach, teachers can leverage the power of technology to engage students in their learning and help them develop digital age skills. Source: ISTE Standards for Coaches
These kinds of descriptions like what ISTE shares create, perhaps, yet another dichotomy between what curriculum folks do and instructional technology specialists do. Can we just STOP splitting these roles?

What's more, artificially insisting that job titles include the words "digital" or "technology" are also problematic. I shared my concerns with a colleague, a long-time Instructional Technologist who works at the State level.
"Why don't you like the idea of digital coach?" she asked me.
"I don't like it because it forces the word 'digital' into the equation. We shouldn't have to force 'digital' or 'technology' into the title of this role. Curriculum includes technology as a core's like saying that this is an aspect of the role that shouldn't be included but has been shoe-horned in, so to speak, because, duh, we're all too stupid to figure it out!"
"But if you create an instructional coach position without technology or digital in the title," she responded, "then people won't know technology should be a part of it."
"Exactly," I said back to her. "We have to change the culture, the expectations for the role of curriculum coach that those aspects--data, instructional, technology, resource--are all a part of being a coach. I'm just not sure that curriculum coach or digital coach is the right title. Both over-emphasize one aspect over the other."
What if, I have wondered, we just called it a learning coach? Shouldn't that be title enough to get things done? Or, maybe, with our focus on growth mindsets vs fixed mindsets, maybe it is time we saw a significant transition. What if we reconsidered our whole stance in regards to coaching from this perspective?
In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong. 
In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities. Source: Mindsets
When we approach technology from a fixed mindset, technology isn't something teachers and curriculum specialists can learn how to do because their technology aptitude can't be is fixed. "I'm just not all that good with technology," they'll say, and that immediately excuses them.

I don't need to learn anything about technology because:

  • "I'm just not all that good with technology" 
  • "I have a lot on my plate right now, and I have a finite amount of time and energy to learn how to use technology when my school has more pressing concerns."
  • "I've completed some technology assessments and I'm a digital immigrant. Those kids, now, they're digital natives, so they can just get to town. Not me, uh-uh."
  • "Look at this iPad I have. Isn't it cool?"
  • "Have you downloaded the latest app? It tutors kids in math and I don't have to do anything but set them up on it!"
Am I stretching this approach? Probably so. What about growth mindset?

When we approach technology from a growth mindset, technology is something that teachers may NOT YET know about. It's not about their intelligence or a mystical aptitude that makes technology work for them. Rather, given time and support (a.k.a. "coaching"), teachers and district specialists find themselves able to learn.

I may not yet know how to teach with technology, but I know:
  • "I can develop my technology skills. I'm not sure how to design PBL activities that blend technology to address curricular goals, facilitate communication and collaboration."
  • "I can learn to use technology to help students anytime, anywhere with increased access to resources."
  • "I can teach anytime, anywhere with technology."
  • "Yes, I can use technology quite well, but I am planning to learn how to use it in more, exciting ways that facilitate deeper relationships with my colleagues and students."
  • "I don't know everything, that's OK because I'm willing to learn and share!"
  • "Did you see how this app can be used to create and get kids talking about what they are doing?"
  • "We have some new Chromebooks and iPads in class. I'm not sure how we're going to use them to enhance student learning, so I've setup a few experiments with students and waiting to see what they come up with! Each class will share their ideas as a presentation online and post it to our YouTube channel."
When I started down this road many years ago, I started blogging because it enabled me to take control of the torrent of information, ideas that were washing over me. Over time, I found myself struggling to keep going. Then, as when I struggled, I found that daily reflection had grown to be a chore. I didn't want to learn anything new, I felt battered and tired.

Re-cultivating a growth mindset, in essence, finding a way ahead for Instructional Technologists through coaching has been liberating. Much in the same way classroom teachers "re-discover" themselves as learning professionals when they are introduced to technology, I have found myself exploring new ways of using technology.

I have reflected that these "pauses" in learning are natural. Each of us sleeps daily and pauses in learning allow time to process. Blogging allows me time to process, to allow one grain of sand through the neck of the hourglass.

Think of your life as an hourglass. You know there are thousands of grains of sand in the top of the hourglass; and they all pass slowly and evenly through the narrow neck in the middle. Nothing you or I could do would make more than one grain of sand pass through this narrow neck without impairing the hourglass. You and I and everyone else are like this hourglass...if we do not take [tasks] one at a time and let them pass...slowly and evenly, then we are bound to break our own...structure.”
― Dale CarnegieHow to Stop Worrying and Start Living

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Dr. Wilson said…
While I know that titles are important - and especially when it describes the role the position will carry - the most important thing about this thinking is the role the person plays. Coaching means side-by-side planning and working together with the same end goal in mind - Learning!

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