Towards a #EdTechCoaching Model

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Earlier this weekend, I had the opportunity to chat with a Texas school district--which I'll call "Ardent ISD" for fun--that's already put a "digital coaching model" into place. Approximately 3 years ago, Ardent ISD decided that Curriculum and Instructional Technology were working in separate silos. Their efforts at bridging the silos had not proven as successful as hoped. What to do?

At that time, Ardent ISD leadership decided to re-organize their department, streamlining the 16 Instructional Technology positions it had into 6 digital coaches. In some ways, this makes sense. There's not enough funding to keep all curriculum and instructional tech specialists employed, but also, the truth may be that some staff may not want to embark on a digital coaching journey. This also involved the District's Curriculum Department creating positions for 14 coaches that would work throughout the District.

The planners relied on ISTE's Digital Coaching approach which highlights the following 6 standards:

  1. Visionary leadership - "Technology coaches inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment."
  2. Teaching, learning and assessments - "Technology coaches assist teachers in using technology effectively for assessing student learning, differentiating instruction, and providing rigorous, relevant and engaging learning experiences for all students." This is big section in the ISTE standards and covers quite a few things that coaches are expected to do.
  3. Digital age learning environments - "Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students."
  4. Professional development and program evaluation - "Technology coaches conduct needs assessments, develop technology-related professional learning programs, and evaluate the impact on instructional practice and student learning."
  5. Digital citizenship - "Technology coaches model and promote digital citizenship."
  6. Content knowledge and professional growth - "Technology coaches demonstrate professional knowledge, skills and dispositions in content, pedagogical, and technological areas as well as adult learning and leadership and are continuously deepening their knowledge and expertise.

Based on feedback from Ardent ISD's technology executive director, there was still a need to have someone at each campus who could provide support for devices...essentially, how-to rather than pedagogy. For many instructional technologists who started out as "how-to" folks, this is a sobering realization. Funding was set aside for campus technicians, essentially paraprofessional staff, to do this work with device support. That's important given the total number of mobile devices pouring into schools.

If one key concept was switching to digital coaches, another was a joint commitment between Curriculum (boasting technology-enhanced coaches for curriculum and technology) and Technology (purely technical now without instructional technology) to embrace the "digital classroom" concept. This means that every classroom embraces culture change represented by every student having a device. Students are not allowed to take devices home, but they always have one available to them in the classroom. "Teachers," reported the tech director, "said that this was a fundamentally changed the culture of the classroom."

In regards to infrastructure, putting a wireless access point--perhaps, even more than 1--has shown itself to be necessary prior to deploying devices. A final component - the Technology Department maintained a Software Specialist position, essentially 6 staff who focus on "how to use apps" like Google, digital video distribution systems, district electronic gradebook, and develop video type trainings.

"If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are ... a different game you should play."
--Yoda, Star Wars

EdTechCoaching Model
So, in studying Ardent ISD's approaches, the EdTechCoaching Model for a school district includes:
  1. Adoption of a district-wide technology focus or strategy that says something like this: "We will blend technology, including student mobile wireless computing devices, into every aspect of the student academic experience to accomplish the Ardent ISD mission and strategic goals and objectives."
    1. ¿Qué significa? Nuestros estudiantes tienen Chromebooks o iPads para usar todos los días para aprender. Tenemos los recursos de un salón tipico pero los niños pueden usar otras tecnologias también. Los estudiantes van a investigar, resolver problemas y crear usando sus útiles nuevos.
    2. What does this mean? Our students will each have Chromebooks and iPads available to them as a learning tool in the classroom everyday. They will still have access to all resources previously used in the classroom with the extra bonus of technology. Students will research, problem solve, and create using their new learning tools.
  2. Transitioning from Instructional Technology Specialists to Digital Coaches housed in Curriculum
  3. A commitment to a vision of a "digital classroom." In these classrooms, the following is true:
    1. students utilize digital tools necessary to approach learning in a whole new way.
    2. every student is issued a Chromebook to use in class (the devices stay at school) to use while in class.
    3. students will each have their own Google email address and Drive storage space to facilitate collaboration.
    4. teachers employ Google Classroom (e.g. GoogleApps) to manage learning activities
    5. teachers employ project-based learning and flipped learning approaches
    6. collaboration, critical thinking and communication are key expectations for teachers and students
    7. teachers and students practice digital citizenship while using social media tools (e.g. Twitter) to communicate about academic topics
  4. Campus technicians who provide device support
  5. Software Specialists who provide how-to support on core district systems but not "technology integration into curriculum."
Digital Coaches adopt the following model:
Source: Alaniz, K. & Wilson, D. new book, Naturalizing Digital Immigrants)
  1. Coaching Model for Technology Integration
    1. Establish the need.
      1. Is this a goal shared by only certain members of the administration and faculty or is this something that every school leader earnestly desires? Is the school community seemingly open to change and innovation, or are there those among the administration and faculty that unreservedly (and even loudly) oppose such transformation?
      2. When involved in collegial coaching for technology integration, once the teachers to be coached were identified, the coaches planned to individually meet with these teachers for an initial diagnostic interview. During the interviews, the coaches guided the teachers in exploring their fears, hesitations, insecurities, and overarching goals.
      3. One requirement for coaches was supporting each of their 3 coached teachers through the process of implementing at least 3 new tools.
    2. Create Partnerships.
      1. “We started with what they did in the past, and then talked about how we could tweak their already great lesson or unit to include technology to either deliver content or allow students to demonstrate their learning."
      2. “Frame conversations with ‘We are learning together!’"
    3. Differentiated Technology Projects
      1. Coaches and coached teachers should consider questions such as:
        1. Can this project be completed within a reasonable amount of time?
        2. If not, can this project be divided into smaller, more manageable components?
        3. Once completed, can this project realistically be incorporated into the coached teacher’s professional activities?
      2. When beginning the coaching process with a teacher inexperienced in technology integration, coaches should first focus on goals related to personal productivity.
      3. As an initial integration piece, coaches should seek to focus upon a project that can be accomplished somewhat easily and within a relatively short amount of time. This will assist coached teachers in quickly realizing the benefits of technology integration, and it will most likely provide them with a boost of confidence and increased motivation to take on more challenging projects.
      4. Once coached teachers have achieved small successes, coaches can play an integral role in helping them transition from teacher-centered to student-centered technology use:
        1. “Content is king!"
        2. Focusing on content provides greater purpose and meaning behind the integration process.
        3. Utilize modeling whenever possible.
    4. Assess the Progress
      1. Coaches need to ask these essential questions:
        1. Am I teaching what I intended to teach?
        2. Is my coach achieving the goals and completing the projects upon which we agreed to focus?
        3. Is there a better way to teach this concept, thereby promoting higher achievement by students or more effective integration of technology?
    5. Reflect on the Integration
      1. Reflection “converts action that is merely appetitive, blind and impulsive into intelligent action" (Dewey, 1933).
      2. Questions to ponder:
        1. What parts of this experience went well?
        2. What did not happen as intended?
        3. What should be tried next?
        4. What changes need to be made to the situation?
      3. Questions regarding student learning:
        1. What did the students learn from this activity?
        2. Did they learn any more or less than they have in the past without technology integration?
        3. Was the best tool applied in this particular circumstance and setting?
        4. What should be adapted for next time?
        5. What was the best part about this integration piece?
        6. What was the most challenging element of this integration piece?
        7. How might this same tool/application be applied to another unit/lesson?
        8. Did the students demonstrate higher levels of thinking?
        9. Did the students achieve the levels of knowledge and comprehension required?
        10. Were there any changes in student motivation?
More Information appears below:

Letter to Parents from a Teacher who has embraced the Digital Classroom
(modified to protect District's and teacher's identity)
Dear Parent(s) and Guardian(s), 
While all of the teachers in our community’s schools utilize technology in their instruction, there is a privileged group of educators in the Ardent ISD who have been selected to participate in a groundbreaking “digital classroom” program.  
I am pleased to share that I am entering my first year as a member of this pioneering initiative. This is an exciting opportunity that will provide my students with the digital tools necessary to experience learning in a more engaging and innovative way. My participation in Ardent ISD’s digital classroom program will not change the content and learning objectives of my courses. However, it will change the manner in which students access information and construct meaning in my classes. Each of my learners will now have a Google Chromebook to use daily in class.  
My learners will be using this digital tool to access various websites and Google applications that will aid their achievement of our learning goals. We will rely less on print resources, such as textbooks and worksheets, and the work your student produces will often be in an electronic format. In an effort to provide you with as much information as possible, I included a list of websites and applications that we will be using throughout the school year on my Technology User Agreement portion of my course syllabus.  
I have also posted a more detailed and comprehensive list of our potential learning sources on my website. I encourage you to look over this information with your child to gain a more complete understanding of the ways in which learners will be engaged in my classroom this year. 
My commitment to you and your student is that I will utilize all of these digital tools to enhance the effectiveness of my instruction. As it has been in the past, my ultimate goal is equip all of my learners with the skills necessary for success in the 21st Century. I truly appreciate your patience, flexibility, and support as I continue to work with our district leaders in this transition from a traditional classroom to a digital one.  
If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other issue related to your child’s progress and/or participation in my digital classroom, please do not hesitate to contact me. I look forward to working with you and your student as we travel on the exciting path towards digital citizenship. 
Another Letter to Parents about Digital Classroom
Welcome to the 2014-2015 school year. For the past three years, I have been one of the many digital classrooms throughout our district.  This year, our campus will move to a BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) campus which mean your student is encouraged to bring their own electronic device for class (Please see acceptable devices in the Student Handbook).  Additionally, my classroom utilizes the Flipped Classroom and Problem/Project Based Learning methods.   
1)   What is a Digital Classroom?
A Digital Classroom is one in which students have access to, and are expected to utilize, iPads, tablets, or laptops (cell phones are not considered a digital device for the classroom) as a means of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creating course work. Almost every aspect of our course will utilize and require technology usage. The Digital Classroom is part of Ardent ISD’s strategic plan.

2)   What are Problem/Project Based Learning (PBL) and 21st Century Skills?
In our digital classroom, we will be utilizing PBL, as well as other strategies, in order to teach content and reinforce the 21st Century Skills every students needs. “In Project Based Learning (PBL), students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Rigorous projects help students learn key academic content and practice 21st Century Skills (such as collaboration, communication & critical thinking)” ( I encourage you to visit the Buck Institute at the previously noted website for more information.

3) What is a Flipped Classroom?
A Flipped Classroom is a reversed teaching model that delivers instruction at home through interactive, teacher-created videos and moves “homework” to the classroom. Moving lectures outside of the classroom allows teachers to spend more 1:1 time with each student. Students have the opportunity to ask questions and work through problems with the guidance of their teachers and the support of their peers - creating a collaborative learning environment.  To learn more about the Flipped Classroom, please visit

4)   Will my child need access to technology at home?
While your child may have access to technology at school (I will have 8 iPads and 8 Macbooks in class for use),  all Ardent ISD technology will remain in the classroom for classroom use. We also have three computer labs available for student use. While there will be homework assigned, students who do not have access to technology at home can utilize one of the three computer labs to complete assignments during stretch or after school. Students are also welcome to come to my room before school to work on course assignments.  For students without Internet access, a flashdrive or DVD with flipped classroom assignments may be provided.

5)   How will my child be graded?
All students will be graded based on content specific criteria in addition to 21st Century Skills, such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, digital literacy, etc. Please refer to the class procedures for more details.

6) What I need from you, the parent: (This is very important, please read it thoroughly)

As a member of a digital classroom, your child will be utilizing many applications, as well as free Internet based programs. I will not be responsible for maintaining passwords or usernames for any of your child’s accounts.  We do not want students using their full name on any Internet account and it is impossible for me to determine student names from “nicknames” on accounts.  Therefore, please use your child’s first name and the first two letters of their last name when establishing accounts.

7) Digital Responsible Use Policy

In addition to the Digital Acceptable Use Policy provided in the Student Handbook, as a campus, this Digital Responsible Use Policy was issued during registration:

As our campus moves toward fulfilling Ardent ISD’s Strategic Plan, GoogleClassroom will serve as the campus communication network between administration, teachers, students and parents.   GoogleClassroom is a free and secure social learning network for teachers, students and schools.  It provides a safe and easy way for us to connect, share content and access homework, grades and school notices. Along with this opportunity comes responsibility.

School Responsibility
 As per Ardent ISD policies, Internet safety education is included as part of introducing new technologies and Digital Citizenship.  Teacher supervision, school filters, and spot-checking student accounts will be used to ensure the student’s use of digital tools follows school/district policies and good on-line etiquette.

Student and Parent Responsibility
Students agree to use digital tools for school related purposes and agree to follow Ardent ISD responsible use policies as outline in the Student Handbook and/or digital responsible use policies issued by digital classroom teachers.  Students also agree to follow parent/guardian guidelines for use of digital tools in and out of school.  Parents agree to monitor Internet use outside of school and ensure their student follows the Ardent ISD responsible use policies outlined in the Student Handbook.  Students and parents must maintain their own usernames and passwords.  The school and/or teacher will not maintain a list of usernames and passwords.
Please visit the Classroom Policies and Procedures page and utilize the two Google Doc links at the end to indicate you and your student have read and understand the Digital Classroom Policies.

Disclaimer: Ardent ISD is a fake school district I made up when discussing BYOT/BYOD Case Study. I like to imbue it with all the possible best practices (and worst ones) for the purposes of ideation and reflection. Have fun with it.

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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


Unknown said…
Hi Miguel-I wondering about the decision not to allow the devices home. Would you share your concerns/beliefs?
Unknown said…
This is informative, Miquel. What I would LOVE is to see a visual of this drawn up. My questions are: where do the librarians fall in this? Is the Technology Director and the Curriculum Director(s) separate in their roles? Would the digital coaches move from Tech Director (boss) to Curriculum Director (boss)? Is ISTE's recommendation for schools of all sizes?
@Karen Justl, the main concern I've heard expressed for not allowing devices home is the District's unwilligness to allow all that "money" to go home with students to be lost, stolen, damaged, whatever. Also, the issue of device insurance and requiring students and their families to incur the cost of that. That's why you typically see this option as being chosen along with deployment of BYOT/BYOD.

Districts are willing to provide devices for use in the classroom, and allow students to BYOT/BYOD, but justifying the cost of sending devices home, replacement, etc. is problematic. Also, iPads can be managed rather than granting students the permission to use their own Apple ID. It's a tough issue and the decision typically springs the culture of the community the District is embedded in.

In regards to MY concerns/beliefs, I'm leery of releasing tech for home use for those reasons, but I would certainly consider it in light of the community dialogue and leadership. In other words, whichever way the wind blows.

Hoping this is helpful,
Miguel Guhlin
@Peggy Hale, good question. I haven't seen any mention of librarians but that's probably because I ran out of time while researching this. In Ardent ISD, the Curriculum and Tech Director are separate roles and peers on equal footing with the same supervisor.

Not sure about ISTE's recommendation, so that's something to dig deeper about!

Great questions!


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