As Spring is upon us, and the weather is beginning to warm up, you may have noticed more and more people taking advantage of the nicer weather. One way in which many people take advantage of this time of year, is they uncover the grill, scrub last year’s food remnants off of the cooking surface, and fire up some chicken, sausage, steak, or whatever delights their palate. Further adding to the enjoyment of the first cook-out or barbeque of the year is the chance to enjoy this time with family and friends. As people open up their backyards to neighbors, loved ones, co-workers, or to someone they just met--- the banter, conversation, and environment is often light and enjoyable. During these social happenings, it is common that someone will ask you what you do for a living. Most people can answer with a word or two, and the nature of the job is understood, (i.e. accountant, doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, waiter, etc.).
However, when I am asked this question and answer “Instructional Technology Coach” must people look at me quizzically or ask me some of the following: Do you fix computers? So you are in the IT department? Or some will ask me questions about their personal computer/wireless network/printer at their home.
In actuality our jobs as Instructional Technology Coaches is very fluid and often difficult (like most jobs) to sum up in a sentence or two. I often wish I could bring people around with me so that they can see and experience the nature of the job. However, since it is highly unlikely that I can bring my neighbors along with me throughout the schools, here is a quick peek into our year that might shed some insight on this subject.
If you travel back in time several months to the end of July and beginning of August you will find Marc, Jenny, Keith, and Doug in the office planning for the upcoming school year. We had recently been informed that our District now has Office 365 and we knew this is something that we wanted to explore and, if valuable, get our teachers and students to utilize. However, none of us knew anything about this new product, let alone, were we prepared to offer professional development focused on it.
Fast forward to now, we have all become very versed in the world of Office 365. We can navigate you to the O365 portal, and the apps you will find there. We can tell you all about OneDrive and the massive amount of storage space it offers. We can demonstrate how to share a document with colleagues and students. We can have you practice editing documents in real-time with someone who is in a different location. We can sync OneDrive to your computer. We can show you how to get 5 installs for the Microsoft 2013 Suite on personal devicesh. We can show you where students can access their email accounts and how they can participate in and contribute to collaborative learning. Most importantly, we can have an educated conversation with teachers and administration about how we can use Office 365 to move learning beyond the walls of the school building
However, this was not always the case. A few short months ago, the tech coaches barely even knew where to go to log into Office 365. Hence the journey of self-learning and discovery began. And yes I say journey-because the hours spent for us to take a massive concept, understand it ourselves, and make it understandable to teachers in a 30 minute professional development sessions was borderline countless.
We started out by reaching out to Microsoft themselves. Through a series of webinars we began to gather information regarding this product. With each webinar we found ourselves developing and asking more and more questions. These questions drove us to the depths of the internet (most notably YouTube) and self-exploration in an attempt to really grasp this concept.
Often times we felt like we figured something out, and then would take a step back. We communicated with one another often, many times calling or texting each other at home to discuss Office 365. We shared what we found with one another and posed questions to anyone we thought could help shed some light on our understanding of Office 365. This process went on for months, and as we kept investigating, our understanding was became more clear. What we discovered is that we have a product here with some awesome educational benefits.
Now, how do we take what took us months and hours upon hours to discover and learn, and be able to teach this concept to others in 20-30 minute segments? To me, this sounds just like what teachers do everyday, right? You have a concept with a large amount of material, you have to sift through it to deem what is most important relating to the objective, and then you have to teach it in an understandable, concise and engaging manner.
Well fast forward to present day, and we have just completed our roll out of this concept to all elementary, intermediate, middle, and high schools in our district. The feedback we have received thus far has been very positive and we, along with teachers, are discovering new uses with Office 365 daily.
So, back to the original question: What does an “Instructional Technology Coach” do; or for that matter anyone involved in education? We continually learn and discover, seek out new knowledge, and share what we have learned. Our focus is always centered on making learning meaningful, engaging, and exciting.