School systems around the country are getting on board and seeing the importance of Instructional Technology Departments with "tech coaches" and because I've been doing it for a little bit I get asked quite often "What should it look like?" I believe every school has its own dynamics but after seeing this role in action for a few years now while, watching and hearing other people in this role, I think I can say there are things you should look for in a tech coach regardless of the school dynamics. While I think the role can be slightly different based on each school's needs, the character traits needed for success are closely the same.
Technology Coaches should be:
- Innovative- My definition of innovation is the intersection of "need" and "passion" under an umbrella of creativity. That being said, your tech coach should have the type of personality that is constantly looking for new ways to meet the needs of students. Ways that typically haven't been done in the past. Your tech coach should be a creative soul.
- Resourceful- Your tech coach should be someone that can think on their feet and adjust in the midst of a lesson. They are the ones the teachers are looking at to not feel intimidated by tech. When tech fails in a lesson (not IF but WHEN), a good tech coach has a backup plan and shows teachers that it isn't the end of the world.
- Fearless- Your tech coach shouldn't worry about failure. They should work within a culture where they have permission to try things that might not work. They should be the personality type that isn't so overly perfectionist that they can allow themselves to take chances that might lead to failure. This only works if the administration creates the type of environment that says "just learn from it for next time."
- Tenacious- A good tech coach is much like a salesman. They can't sit in their office if teachers aren't wanting them in their rooms. They must push at times, pull at times, but they can't take "no" for an answer. A tech coach must have the support of their administration to hold teachers and students accountable for technology integration. This is the hardest point for me- to not take it personal when a teacher is anti-tech. A good tech coach can separate themselves from what they do so that they can keep relationships good.
- Diplomatic- A good tech coach realizes you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. They work on being relational with the teachers they support, not dogmatic or dictating. A good tech coach meets the teachers where they are and holds their hand when needed but pushes them out of the proverbial nest when it's time.
- Inquisitive- A good tech coach asks lots of questions of themselves, of their students, and of their teachers. They are in the hallways, listening to conversations, gleaning ways they might be more useful or resourceful. They are reaching out to their professional learning communities to see what others are doing. They are in contact with their professional learning networks to stay on top of the newest educational technology initiatives and innovations. Good tech coaches are connected educators.
- Digital Leaders- The best tech coaches are digital leaders, not digital managers. In a recent post by my friend Katrina Keene, she hit the nail on the head about digital leaders. She says "digital leaders model effective digital tools, have a strategic vision for the digital age, inspire use of digital tools, inspire teachers to own their own learning, shape a new digital age culture" (http://www.teachintechgal.com/#!What%20is%20Digital%20Leadership?/cufo/55675f530cf23d0164c8c2f8). And here lies the line in the sand- to me this is the hardest role to fill. A digital leader is a great tech coach and it is what separates the mediocre, good, and great. I believe you can be a digital manager and be a mediocre/good tech coach but to be a GREAT tech coach, schools should be looking for digital leaders.