I’ve often said that technology instructional support is different than any other content area support. I learned these lessons in my role as a technology integrator, and working closely with the wonderful math and literacy instructional support teachers. While I feel like all instructional support should work in tandem, sometimes, in order to move teachers forward, I needed to provide them with different types of support that may not have been necessary in the other areas. I narrowed them down to three main ways I provided support.
Tech Services: Can you fix this? I was not tech services, but sometimes I needed to provide technical support when the technology was needed for the lesson immediately. Not only did it work toward cultivating relationships and building trust with the teachers I worked with, but as a professional, my job was not to dissuade the use of technology by leaving the teacher hanging if there was a quick fix in an emergency. Therefore, I did what I could if the situation warranted it. It was often the first contact with a teacher who would end up working with me later. While this was my least favorite role, I knew that some support of this kind was a necessary part of keeping a classroom comfortable with technology use, and in watching me problem solve, I was modeling some of the skills that I would like to see from teachers and students.
Training: Where do I click? I’ve always said that the main difference between literacy/math support and technology support is that literacy support teachers, for example, don’t need to teach teachers to read in order to teach them reading instructional strategies and best practices. However, in order for teachers to effectively integrate technology, they must have at least a baseline knowledge of what they’re using. For example, in order to use Google Classroom with students, teachers really need to understand Drive. Training is the foundation for technology integration. Not only do you provide teachers with the skills they need to try new ideas in technology, but you also show them HOW to learn a technology. As technology continues to change and grow, we often say that we want students to learn how to learn as much as we want them to learn the content. This is what we are doing for teachers when teaching them the skills they need. We are providing them the content as well as the confidence to learn in the future when the technology changes.
Infusing Learning & Technology: How do I empower my students? Even though it’s difficult to get away from utilizing the term “technology integration”, I feel like technology should be something that is so seamlessly infused in learning that it is difficult to separate the two. Integration sounds like it is something extra piled on top of the curriculum that is already there. This is often how technology is viewed, but my job was to support teachers in how they could look at their lessons from a new, more innovative angle, and how technology could empower their students to problem find/solve and show their learning. Ultimately, this is typically where the other content areas reside. They are supporting teachers in working with students and how to help them grow.
Oftentimes, the amount of professional development in the area of technology is significantly less than in other content areas because it’s seen as an extra. When speaking with other technology integrators or coaches, their frustration is the lack of time given for professional development. I believe this is because when they do get time, it needs to be focused on training, so they never feel like they can move into the third category of learning.
However, if we truly believe that curriculum and technology should mesh seamlessly, it’s reasonable to create learning opportunities for teachers where all of the instructional coaches are involved. If a presentation is being created on math strategies, for example, it could be done in Nearpod and modeled for teachers on how Nearpod could be used in the classroom. The teachers are then immersed in the technology that they could be using, and learning the math strategies at the same time, therefore fusing the two together. Not only does this benefit teachers by introducing them to ways technology can engage and empower, but there should also be a reasonable expectation that Math and Literacy instructional coaches have some tech knowledge, and that technology integrationists have general background knowledge in Math and Literacy strategies. Creating a team of instructional coaches to play off each other’s strengths allows for professional development that is useful and relevant, and models the kind of collaboration that we want to see.