Sugar, W., Slagter van Tryon P. J. (2014). Development of a virtual technology coach to support technology integration for K-12 educators. TechTrends, 58(3), 54-62.
This article attempts to offer a possible non-traditional solution to meeting the needs of K-12 districts in their quest to provide ongoing technology integration professional development. The authors explored the development of a virtual technology coach position to help teachers incorporate new knowledge and skills related to technology integration into classroom practice both short and long term. According to Sugar and Slagter, a coach creates a non-confrontational environment where teachers can share their thoughts, instructional practices, and generally learn from one another. Additionally, the article highlights how important continual professional development as opposed to a one-time workshop has been deemed more effective in supporting teachers’ abilities to learn about new teaching strategies, new technologies and other ways to change their classrooms. For the study, the authors created and issued a survey to sixty teachers to find out what benefits and services a virtual technology coach could provide in an online setting. Additionally, the research included teacher prototyping sessions to develop an initial set of virtual assistant qualities and resources. The study analysis yielded seven main themes of need for a virtual assistant support including: collaboration, discussion, learning, news, profile, sharing and technical.
As K-12 school systems continue to purchase large quantities of technology for teaching and learning as well as reshaping/updating instructional strategies, there is definitely a need to develop a learning community for collaboration, sharing, teaching, tech integration, etc. Sugar and Slagter’s thinking about a virtual technology coach is in alignment with the International Society for Training and Education (ISTE) white paper on Technology, Coaching and Community as well as the NETS-C (coach) standards. The authors work does bring value and vision to the possibility of what a next-generation school employee might look like – possibly virtual! The real question becomes, should this new job position be an online tool called a virtual technology coach or an actual person acting as a virtual technology coach on call or facilitating learning communities from a remote location?
The district I work in does not have any instructional coaches. Teachers collaborate, provide training and generally support one another during school hours. The district does provide teachers leadership opportunities and curriculum days to learn or train others, but overall our school system is considered a flat organization structurally. The district maintains a lean organizational structure so that the high-quality and cutting-edge student programming can be offered at the highest possible level. This article really accentuates a potential new future for how to best support teachers in their transformational teaching and learning practices. I feel this concept of virtual technology assistant is just another lever of Clay Christensen’s Disruptive Education framework. Only time will tell if this non-traditional solution can become a reality in a K-12 setting!