“Write what you live,” were the powerful words from Dr. Dawn Wilson. Dr. Dawn Wilson, Dr. Katie Alaniz are authors of Naturalizing Digital Immigrants: Collegial Coaching for Technology Integration.

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In this 40-50 minute podcast–scroll down–Dawn, Katie and I explore a variety of questions relevant to what is known as “edtech coaching” or “digital coaching.”

Announcement: Be sure to stay tuned for an interactive conversation that will occur one Sunday evening in the future! That will be announced soon!


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Naturalizing Digital Immigrants

The Power of Collegial Coaching for Technology Integration


Effective educational leadership entails continuously seeking and implementing innovative professional development opportunities for teachers and support staff. In today’s age of rapid technology expansion within educational settings, professional development targeting technology integration remains an area of tremendous need. This guidebook details the process of collegial coaching for technology integration within educational environments and is intended for use within a variety of settings, from primary classrooms through high schools to graduate educational leadership and instructional technology courses and beyond.


Alternate Link: Download & Listen to Podcast
(Note: This is a Dropbox link to download MP3 Audio File; Size: 21megs ; Length: 60 mins)

In this podcast, we explore collegial coaching for technology integration with the Drs Dawn Wilson and Katie Alaniz, authors of a just published book available in print and ebook formats, Naturalizing Digital Immigrants.  You can find a link to the book in the show notes.

Podcast Guests: Dr. Katie Alaniz (& Dr. Dawn Wilson (@doctordkwilson)

Below, please find the “Podcast Planner” we put together. Of course, while we touched on the questions and responses represented below, we also covered various other questions such as:

  • How do you embed coaching in the school organization?
  • What does your day as a collegial coach look like?
  • What does the conversation between edtech coach and instructional coach involve?
  • Should edtech coaches be district or campus-based in the collegial coaching model for technology integration?

Interviewer – Miguel
Guest(s) – Dawn and Katie
As someone who long-served as an instructional technologist at the campus and District level, I’ve recognized an increasing need to transition from traditional professional development to a coaching model. In fact, reading research earlier this year, I was astounded to discover that coaching can make a difference, even more so than the F2F professional development sessions I spent most of my career facilitating!

Over the next few weeks, Dr. Katie Alaniz and Dr. Dawn Wilson will be sharing their vision, their research and practical rubber-meets-the-road tips for something ISTE calls “digital coaching,” while others call “technology coaching.”
Q: Tell us a little about yourselves, please.
Katie:  I am an instructor of graduate education courses at Houston Baptist University, and I am also a digital learning specialist at an independent school in Houston.  In this role, I support fellow faculty members in incorporating educationally enriching technological tools within their classrooms.  I also teach third and fourth grade students in educational technology at our school.  Prior to taking on this position, I taught for more than a decade in public and private school settings as a first and second grade classroom teacher.  

Dawn: I am a professor of instructional technology at HBU and this is my 15th year teaching graduate courses to both educators and pre-service educators. I lead a program that prepares teachers with 3 years of teaching experience to take the Texas Master Technology Teacher certification (which includes standards for coaching as well).  Before I moved to HBU, I taught middle school Math for 16 years in districts across Texas.
Topic #1 – Emancipation
In your book, you speak to the isolation teachers experience in their classrooms. The right conversations can, as you point out, “emancipate teachers from their islands of remoteness.
Q: How do you see your work about coaching as accomplishing this?
Katie:The implications of teacher isolation coupled with the rising necessity of 21st century instruction have generated increased attention to the importance of non-traditional strategies for professional development.  Rather than attending one-size-fits all professional development sessions, teachers need more strategies for joining with colleagues in supporting one another’s growth.  When implemented effectively, such approaches unite teachers in hands-on, authentic working relationships.  A huge focus among today’s school administrators involves creating professional cultures more responsive and receptive to technological innovation and its implications.

One means of facilitating hands-on, authentic working relations among teachers is the process known as coaching.  Several types of coaching models have existed within various parts of society for decades.  For example, in the business sector, executive coaching now represents a booming industry.  Co-active coaching involves coaching a person beyond the borders of work to include facets of their entire life.  Cognitive coaching focuses on shifting an individual’s perceptions and patterns of thought.

Many school districts employ literacy coaches to assist teachers in student reading goal achievement and implementation of literacy-focused strategies.  Such instructional coaches typically occupy full-time professional development roles, working onsite in schools to support teachers in incorporating research-based teaching strategies.
Collegial coaching differs from many other coaching models primarily in that it takes place between colleagues or peers rather than involving someone with administrative and accountability authority.  Coaching can very effectively benefit teachers in meeting the demands of their occupation.  In fact, researchers have found that the addition of a collegial coach in a similar field to that of the teacher is one of the most powerful predictors of educator retention.  
Topic #2 – What is collegial coaching?
In your book, you define collegial coaching as bridging the divide for teachers, “professional relationship between a “coach” who has experience in the role or concepts being learned by a colleague who essentially “work together for a specific, predetermined purpose in order that professional performance can be improved as well as validated.”
Q: Could you share what experiences led you to define collegial coaching in this way?
Dawn: In one of the classes I teach at HBU, my students are required to coach three colleagues on their own school campuses – in order to help them integrate three different technology tools.  As I have seen this take place each spring for the last 5-6 years, I came to realize how important the collegial part plays.  

When these teachers work alongside their colleagues, they are seen as partners, not evaluators.  Both teachers are able to be more honest with each other about their weaknesses and fears (without worry about condemnation).  Every semester, both the coach and the teachers report (through surveys and feedback documents) growth while integrating technology. It was always hard for the coaches because they had to do the coaching outside of their contract hours and ask the teachers to work with them outside of the teaching day as well.  It still created benefits.  If administrators allowed teachers to work during their workday to coach, there is no telling what would be accomplished.

Occasionally the “collegial coach” is able to effect great change based on their experiences.  For example, several times, principals hired technology coaches just after the HBU student completed the coaching experience (this has happened at three different independent school, and two different school districts.  Even more important, thy hired the HBU student who performed as a coach.  The principals saw the benefits that collegial coach performed and they found a way to fund that position on their campus. It has been exciting and rewarding to watch!
Topic #3 – Research
Coaching may be seen as just another way to facilitate professional learning opportunities for teachers. What research and experiences do you have that get at why coaching might be the best way for teachers to learn?
Katie:The non-judging and non-evaluative atmosphere of collegial coaching programs set them apart from other formats of professional growth, such as more formalized teacher appraisal methods.  Collegial coaching focuses on the collaborative sharing, refinement, and expansion of professional knowledge and skills.  Currently, a wide variety of collegial coaching terms and models exist in professional settings, and all of these models share a common goal.  Ultimately, they exist to enhance professional practice through the collaboration of colleagues.

Dawn:  The other things that sets this model apart, is that the teachers work together on creating technology lessons, and then implementing them.  In normal PD there may never be implementation or application….in this model, there should always be implementation or application.  It is a no brainer.  

I realized that after teaching graduate students over and over again, the advantage I had with my teachers is that I was giving them grades on their plans to implement.  Of course my “over achieving teachers” wanted A’s and so they worked really hard on creating excellent technology-rich units, and with all that work, came implementation.  Again, much more powerful and effective than normal sit and get PD. At least that has been my experience.
Topic #4 – Culture Change and Job Preservation
In one school district I know of, 16 Instructional Tech Specialists were consolidated into 6 technology coach positions. As you might imagine, there is a bit of fear about districts switching to coaching and taking the opportunity to down-size their teams. Since I heard about this district, I’ve heard of more districts seeing the role of instructional technology as less essential, even though there has been no corresponding rise in teacher technology efficacy or proficiency.

What is your perspective on the changing role of Instructional Technologists, perhaps the perception that they aren’t needed anymore as technology gets easier to implement?

What advice do you have for instructional technology specialists who may be facing these situations?
Dawn:I Of course I believe this is a huge mistake. If anything, you shouldn’t hire instructional specialists unless they are also extremely proficient in the use of technology.  

I do think that we don’t need just a bunch of techy people, we need incredibly talented and flexible coaches who can help teachers get the best instructional outcome for their students – and if there “is an app for that” or a great tool they can use, then great.  If there isn’t a technology tool that can help them teach the topic better (or help the students learn the topic better), then don’t use technology.

I guess what I am promoting is that we need more flexible and talented people helping our teachers (coaching them) to use “best practice” tools and techniques.

I’d ideally love to see minimum of one per school at the elementary level – and that person would quickly train some of the additional best and brightest to help “spread the good news”.  Then if some teachers could get a release time or period to work with other teachers on their own campus then we might really see some effective change.

Links to Share with Listeners:

  1. Interview with the Authors: 5 Responses to EdTech Coaching Questions
  2. Visioning: District EdTech Coaches
  3. Jim Knight’s book, Instructional Coaching
  4. Lew Smith and Michael Fullan’s book, Schools that Change

For Fun:

SkypeChat Icons that Dr. Dawn Wilson and Dr. Katie Alaniz used…had to share these, especially Dawn’s!!

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure