Understanding the ISTE Standards for Coaches
What is the ISTE and Why are the Standards Important?
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is an organization with global connections that seeks to "transform teaching and learning" through technology and advocacy for the ISTE Standards.
When you break down the standards, it becomes clear why they are so important. In current practice, teachers often express an affinity for technology but struggle to translate their ability to talk tech into leadership and thoughtful pedagogy. The ISTE Standards for Educators actively press potential teacher-leaders to embrace pedagogy as enabled by edtech and to reflect upon how effective they are in doing so.
In turning educators into active coaches, the ISTE Standards for Coaches describe the skills and knowledge they need to support their peers in becoming digital age educators.
The ISTE Standards for Coaches include indicators related to visionary leadership that dovetail closely with the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (formerly the ISLLC Standards). The phrase "shared vision" reflects the reason this standard is so important. Without shared vision, implementation is fragmented and everyone may be pulling in different directions.
In addition to a focus on shared vision, indicators in this area focus on big picture items such as the development of "technology-infused strategic plans" and ensuring the ability to sustain technology initiatives and successfully navigate the change process throughout.
Example: The coach sits on a strategic planning committee that works to blend technology, teaching, and learning into a comprehensive goal area for the district (Indicators 1.a and 1.b).
Teaching, Learning, and Assessments
Technology should be the means to an instructional end, not an end in an of itself. Technology coaches must go beyond access to technology to actively helping teachers differentiate instruction and properly assess student learning. This standard is the longest and most detailed of the relevant ISTE standards, presumably because teaching and learning is the most important focus of edtech, properly understood.
Each indicator in this area begins with "Coach teachers in and model," as true instructional coaching provides a healthy third-person perspective on teaching and learning and should be embedded and ongoing. The indicators also place their focus on how technology enhances lesson design and assessment strategies. In other words, how technology serves as a tool to help construct the final product, not serving as the final product itself.
Example: A teacher plans to have students create a presentation related to course content. An effective technology coach works with the teacher to not only understand presentation software options as a substitute for traditional analog tools, but also how to introduce, structure, and assess the lesson (2.a through 2.h).
Digital Age Learning Environments
This is another big picture area that addresses the overall classroom environment as one that is technology rich and prepared for local and global communication and collaboration. Indicators generally focus on using, maintaining, and managing digital tools.
Example: The coach collaborates with department chairs and school/district administrators to choose a new learning management system (LMS) provider (3.f.) and then models use the new system for teachers to enhance communication and student learning (3.c.).
Professional Development and Program Evaluation
Effective technology coaches meet staff where they are by ascertaining their needs with regard to technology-related professional development. Coaches also measure and evaluate the effectiveness of the professional learning; in other words, did professional knowledge increase, did teacher practices change, and was student learning positively impacted as a result?
Example: A staff survey is utilized to drive technology professional development needs in the district (4.a.), the coach helps design and implement the resulting professional learning program (4.b.) and then administers a post-assessment to gauge how much teachers got out of the experience (4.c.)
From access and etiquette to security, digital citizenship encompasses "…the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use." Technology coaches are expected to model, facilitate, and promote proper digital citizenship and safety protocols.
Example: A coach works with the special education department to ensure that all students have access to necessary devices during their small-group study support periods (5.a).
Content Knowledge and Professional Growth
Technology coaches live in two worlds with regard to technology integration: content knowledge and pedagogical expertise. Effective technology coaches continually work to master both of these worlds. While doing so, indicators in this goal area also demand that the technology coach engages in self-reflection with regard to practice, so that the coach can ultimately improve upon their performance in helping others to grow.
Example: A technology coach engages in professional development to improve their knowledge of classic Shakespearean drama and also how teachers of English language arts might use a virtual field trip to the Globe theater or a transatlantic video chat with a professor in British literature to enhance a lesson on Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet (6.a).
Coaching, Not Telling
Cyberspace is replete with examples of how coaching is more productive than telling. As hopeful instructional coaches unpack the ISTE standards, they will realize that the main thread that cuts across all goal areas is the ability to work with others, not to mandate approaches or do things to or for them. By focusing on coaching, modeling, and facilitating, coaches can bring the standards to life by helping teachers learn and try new things with an eye toward increased student learning.
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