What kind of hypocrite would I be if, as an instructional coach, I pushed teachers to effectively use a variety of instructional technologies in their classrooms but I did not use some in my own work?
Certainly, I would not be leading by example. And, personally speaking, I feel like I would be letting everyone down. I would compare that kind of hypocrisy to a sports coach who wants to keep his or her team competitive but does not know the fundamentals of the sport or the current trends and topics that rule it.
One of the philosophies of coaching that I constantly keep in the back of my mind is that I do not need to know everything in order to train someone else, I simply need to have the necessary skills to make them better. That is why I (who holds teaching certifications in English and music) do not shy away from coaching teachers who teach subjects that I am not qualified to teach or consider myself to be an expert in.
So, as it pertains to the effective use of technology, here is how I use a wide variety to be a better instructional coach and to make my job and my life as easy as possible… and, as one of my supervisors defines leadership, help make everyone else’s jobs easier as well.
Google Apps (Note: I work at a “Google Apps For Education” school)
I have been using Google Drive for the better part of a half decade now and it does not disappoint. This cloud-based storage app allows me to keep track of all of my files, documents, data, etc. The most useful feature of Drive is how I can share work and collaborate with my colleagues. If I have a file that I think will benefit them, or if I create a file so that we can share editing rights, I simply share it with another teacher and the file now appears in their Drive as well.
In order to share editing rights on files with teachers as I mentioned in the paragraph above, I find Google Docs to be the easiest way to do it. Sometimes I will assist a teacher with planning a lesson or unit, or I may be asked to look over a lesson plan before I or administrators visit a classroom. When teachers and I can share editing access to a document, we can add, remove or change anything in it, or simply leave comments for each other right in the document itself.
The Google app that has become surprisingly essential to my work as a coach has been Google Forms. I have used this survey-creating app for multiple purposes. For one, I created this form to distribute at the beginning of the school year to help generate some data and establish an early focus for my work with the teachers. I also use Forms to track my interactions with teachers – I use this form when I visit classrooms and this form when I meet with teachers outside of the classroom. The coolest feature of Forms is that you can set each form to have its responses automatically inputted into a spreadsheet to keep track of the data they provide, which gives me a nice segue into my next Google app.
Whether generated automatically from Forms or created independently, the spreadsheets from Google Sheets allow me to keep track of survey responses and data that provides a foundation and vital feedback for my coaching relationships/cycles with teachers. I keep these sheets in my Google Drive of course, and use their data before, during and after I meet with teachers to follow up on a classroom visit or help them tackle a particular area of instruction they are concerned about.
Finally, another amazingly important Google app for me is Google Calendar. I am in no way saying that classroom teachers are not very busy people. However, upon leaving the classroom and trying to be available to all of the teachers in my building, I realized I needed to be on top of my task prioritization and time management games. It was so hard to keep up with where I needed to be and when until I started using Calendar religiously. At the end of each week I set a schedule for the following week. I make sure to start with the highest-priority events, which for me at my school means duties. From there I will schedule time for important meetings and then time spent with individual teachers, either in their classrooms on their duty or prep time. Great features that I use in Calendar are creating and accessing multiple calendars all in one place, adding people to the events I create, and syncing my calendars with Outlook – still being used by the school as the main email client.
Social Media and other forms of community collaboration
My use of these tools is largely for the purpose of bettering myself as an educational leader and coach so that I am more capable of supporting the teachers I work with.
Twitter – Since the fall I have been using Twitter so much that I am now following approximately 1,100 people and have at least tripled my number of followers to nearly 600. Not all of them are fellow educators, but the ones who are probably do not even know how much they have meant to my development and the development of the staff I work with. I have used this platform to expand my personal learning network (PLN), participate in various chats, and even create unique hashtags to connect teachers I work with and other educational and instructional coaches in my area.
Voxer – I began using this push-to-talk, walkie talkie app on both my Android phone and on my work computer to be able to join groups and connect with other educators across the country and across the globe. Educators have taken to Voxer to use it as a way of connecting groups of people with similar interests to continue and enhance Twitter chats, ask and answer education-related questions, share ideas and collaborate on projects, and in general, simply shoot the breeze with others in the same profession. I have yet to introduce it to my colleagues, but I can even see this as a useful tool that we can use as a staff to be able to help each other since everyone always points out that a lack of time is their number one concern.
Slack – This thread-style productivity tool is the one I have used the least but would like to use more. I recently invited all the teachers in my school to join me on slack. On there you can communicate and share with everyone in the group or create multiple channels or individual messages. For example, you can share with only the math teachers or just the teacher whose class you will visit the next day. What I like best about Slack is that it seems very laid back and informal versus annoying company-wide group emails.
I am probably even forgetting some other useful tech tools that I use as an instructional coach, but these are my go-tos, the ones I use the most and the ones that I consider to be most useful for my needs and the needs of the teachers I support. I have always and will always push myself to be skilled in technology and this is no different, except that now I am also using it as a way to lead by example and set a tone for continuing to bring the teaching and learning process into the 21st century…
“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow” – John Dewey
About our Guest Author: Dan Kreiness serves the Derby (CT) Public Schools as a secondary level Instructional Coach based in the middle school. Before taking over this position in the fall of 2015, Dan helped create the intervention program at Derby Middle School as the Reading Interventionist. Dan began his teaching career spending nearly eight years in the New York City Department of Education at two intermediate schools as an eighth grade English language arts teacher, interventionist and middle level literacy coach. Dan holds Masters in Adolescent Education and Educational Leadership and has specific interests in school administration and leadership, educational technology and student engagement. Connect with Dan on Twitter at @dkreiness or his blog at https://leaderoflearning.wordpress.com/.