A Day in the Life of a NISD Academic Technology Coach
In order to support technology and digital resources integration district-wide, Northside ISD has designed a robust professional development plan that includes bi-weekly Ed Chats, a 3-day Camp Tech each summer, an Administrators Institute in July, an annual Library Palooza in February, a team of Technical Support Specialists who provide how-to training at all campuses, and a team of 20 Academic Technology Coaches.
What do Academic Technology Coaches (ATC) do?
To find out exactly what ATCs do and how they instill passion in others, we interviewed three of them. Francisco has 21 years of experience - six as a bilingual teacher, 13 as a Campus Instructional Technologist (CIT) and two as an ATC, and supports seven elementary campuses. Elizabeth's background includes 10 years of classroom experience in Bilingual PK-K, 10 years as a CIT, and this is her first year as an ATC. Elizabeth support seven elementary campuses. Matthew is also in his first year as an ATC. He used to teach an advanced geometry class to middle school students via distance learning and later served as a Math Support Specialist in Central Office. Matthew supports three high school campuses. Follow their work and successes at #NISDtechie.
They all agree that the first and most important step is relationship building. In late summer the coaches meet with principals at the campuses they will be supporting each year. They discuss their role in helping achieve campus vision and goals, and ensure buy-in. Soon after they meet with teacher teams and share their willingness to work as partners, thus establishing a trusting rapport.
Because of the number of campuses they each support, ATCs are masters at time efficiency. Their flexible schedules allow them to visit classrooms at times that are convenient to teachers. Since campuses are in proximity of each other, they may travel to two or even three campuses in one single day, yet making each visit very productive.
On "anchor days" when ATCs are at one campus, they meet with teachers to plan curriculum units, provide just-in-time training and support as needed, eat lunch with teacher teams, and make appointments for their next visit. They coach, co-teach, model, check on teachers who are ready to share ideas, and then repeat at a different campus. On many occasions they also teach short workshops after school. By being on campus on a regular basis, ATCs are seen as part of the school staff.
How to coaches build momentum?
Coaches are in the business of "selling" the idea that technology integration has an important place in modern education. They meet with teachers every 9 weeks for planning purposes and for sharing ideas. When teachers do not ask for support, coaches are proactive. They provide ideas, offer suggestions and work directly with students in the classroom to provide alternative ways to address and facilitate student learning, such as the day when Elizabeth helped Kinder students create videos at a digital center. Coaches help implement Northside ISD's KUD -knowledge, understanding, doing- strategies and address the standards, thus demonstrating not only competency but how technology enriches the lesson and motivates students to learn. Teacher excitement generates more requests for in class support. Teachers share experiences with other teachers and create some sort of competition. Next, reluctant teachers start asking for the coach's help. The possibilities are endless and celebrations happen.
ATCs have little time for planning and have to be extremely well prepared to ensure their time on each campus is well spent. Planning and preparation is crucial to make every classroom experience a great experience. A rule of thumb is to always test lessons with each other, modify as needed and have a backup plan. Their years of classroom experience come into play to ensure that not only the content is well received but the classroom management is effective. Coaches know what to do and what works.
Each day in the life of an Academic Technology Coach is intense, productive, fulfilling, impactful. Francisco, Elizabeth and Matthew conclude, “We get to work with teachers, students and technology. It cannot get any better." Our warmest wishes to all coaches in leading the path to modern education!