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ISTE Standards for Coaches 4: Professional learning

By Kara Gann
February 17, 2015
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Think back to your last professional learning opportunity. Were you anticipating innovative and fresh ideas? Or feeling trepidation because the training was mandatory? In either case, we have all received PD that was energizing or less than engaging.

Professional learning is the heart of an effective technology coaching program. Standard 4 of the ISTE Standards for Coaches focuses on PD, program evaluation, content knowledge and professional growth. It is based on the idea that, to remain effective, we must continually evaluate the PD we provide.

How does a team of coaches determine if they are effective? There are a variety of ways, such as analyzing data, looking at trends, receiving feedback from the users, and even noting appreciative smiles from our administrators, teachers, staff and students.

The technology coaches in Laramie County School District 1 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, have evaluated their PD program regularly since its creation more than 15 years ago. The program has evolved as administrators and coaches examined data from student and staff technology assessments, student projects, surveys, and logs of the coaches' time and effort.

In team meetings, the tech coaches have conversations about how they can change their practice and the program's strategic planning to be more effective. This past year, other departments within the district have replicated the coaches' data collection methods for program evaluation. It's been exciting to see how much they improved their program by participating in celebratory and critical reflective practice.

Laramie's PD is data driven. For example, they developed a two-hour university-approved course with the help of surveys, end-of-course evaluations, and conversations with teachers and students. This 18-hour class includes an additional 12 hours of individual and group coaching. The class is popular and fills up within the initial day of posting. The course covers use of interactive whiteboards, document cameras, video and a variety of storage methods. It also teaches participants how to convert files from paper to digital format and many more all-inclusive topics.

As a direct result of this coaching program, Laramie has seen noticeable change within teaching pedagogy. Principals noticed and requested that the coaches offer the course onsite during school hours. During the classes, teacher cohorts developed within the schools and began to collaborate on curriculum and explore how to incorporate technology, such as whiteboards and video, into their instruction. Students also began to notice a change in the delivery of their content, and teachers who were considering retirement decided to remain in the classroom because of their students' improved engagement. Laramie now has entire school staffs complete this program.

Technology coaching is not about knowing everything about technology or content. It is about growing as an individual professionally, creating a community, analyzing data, supporting curriculum ideas, and doing this in a strategic and systematic manner. In my opinion, it's the best job around!  

Interested in learning more about how to coach teachers to use technology effectively to improve student learning? Sign up for ISTE's self-paced Coaching Academy to get step-by-step instruction that will help you help your colleagues embrace digital age teaching.  

Kara Gann holds a M.Ed. in administration and is the strategic integration director for Atomic Learning. She was a member of the ISTE Board of Directors (2008-12) and its Executive Committee. Gann has received a Presidential Volunteer Service award as well as the ISTE Making IT Happen award. 

This article is an updated version of a column that was originally published in the October/November 2012 issue of Learning & Leading with Technology.