Monday, March 20, 2017

Technology Coaches vs Technology Coordinators

The faculty in National Louis University's Technology in Education program (AKA "Learning Technologies") have recently revised our course sequence (and the courses themselves) to better reflect the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Technology Coach standards, which were revised from the previous Technology Facilitator standards in 2011. (Yes, it took us a while.)

In addition to the ISTE standards, our program is also aligned with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Technology Specialist standards (hard to find on the ISBE web site, but available in legislation originally passed in 2002). The ISBE Technology Specialist standards are much older, and are currently under revision. The faculty specifically aligned our program in 2004 with both the ISBE Technology Specialist and the (then new) ISTE Technology Facilitator standards, which was a prodigious task, but it ensured that we would be accredited by ISBE to offer the Technology Specialist certificate/endorsement to those who completed our program (and passed a content-area test), and also accredited by ISTE (through NCATE, now CAEP) as a program aligned with their Technology Facilitator standards.

As I mentioned, the ISBE Technology Specialist standards are a bit long in the tooth, and need revision. I am not personally aware of the direction that this revision is taking. However, I have noticed that the evolution of the Technology Facilitator standards into the Technology Coach standards has taken the direction of more emphasis on the Technology Coach as a mentor to teachers and less emphasis on administrative tasks. (The Technology Coach standards still include such things as contributing to a shared visions, but do not include purely administrative tasks such as budgeting, break-fix, networking infrastructure, or life-cycle planning.)

With the revision of our program to align with the Technology Coach standards, we have also evolved our program to focus much more on the Coach role and less on the administrative aspects of a Technology Specialist (as envisioned in the current ISBE standards). During this revision, we did align our courses with the Technology Specialist standards, but I'm not sure how well prepared our graduates would be for a largely administrative role (rather than a coaching/mentoring role), unless they had previous training in technology management or educational administration.

This issue came to the fore for me today, when I received an email from ISTE with a promotional flyer for the 3rd edition of their Technology Coordinator's Handbook, by Max Frazier and Doug Hearrington. I was interested to read through the Table of Contents and the supplied sample chapter. Illinois is specifically called out for having been in the forefront of the licensing of technology coordinators, I assume because of the longstanding Technology Specialist certification. This calling out made me think about whether Illinois' certification is a "technology coordinator" endorsement or a "technology coach" endorsement.

In the sample materials I reviewed from the Technology Coordinator's Handbook, I noted a couple of things. First, the word "coach" only appears twice in the "Introduction," in both cases only in reference to ISTE's Technology Coach standards, which are described (along with the ISTE Administrator standards--on which more, below) as "important guides for those who aspire to work as technology leaders and facilitators at the school and at the district level" (p. 3). And, the word "coach" doesn't appear at all in "Chapter 1: Qualifications and Expectations."

Interestingly, the ISTE Technology Coach standards don't seem to receive much additional attention in the book (although I only saw the Introduction and Chapter 1), but the ISTE Administrator standards are actually included in the book as "Appendix C." In addition, the structure of the book reflects the "Technology Coordinator Issues Model" (TCIM), a five-part organization of the types of issues that a technology coordinator might face. These five areas are:
1. Teaching and Learning;

2. Supporting Teaching, Learning, and Computing;

3. Network Operations;

4. Administrative Computing;

5. Planning and Budgeting
Area 1 is clearly related to the Technology Coach role (and includes instructional support for teachers as well as planning for professional development of teachers), but the other areas are clearly framed as administrative or technical rather than pedagogical, and would seem to be more closely addressed in the ISTE Administrator standards.

I need to see the entire book in order to make a final judgment about this, but it seems to me from my review of the materials I received that the book doesn't believe that a person who is prepared to be a Technology Coach would be necessarily qualified to be a Technology Coordinator. Rather, it seems to me that the preferred route would be for someone to add an administrative certification to their teaching license, and somehow to gain (through their teaching experience or otherwise) the technical skills and knowledge necessary to run the technology operations of a school or district. And, if the envisioned Technology Coordinator position is equivalent to the certified Technology Specialist role as described in the forthcoming revised ISBE standards, I wonder if our Technology in Education program is going to need some major revisions if we hope to maintain our accreditation as a preparer of Technology Specialists in the State of Illinois or elsewhere.

(See this old but interesting discussion of one person's disappointment at the expectations of a technology coordinator, as well as this more recent and more upbeat narrative.)

I'm curious if anyone else has thought much about the differences between the Technology Coach and Technology Coordinator and how these differences pertain to a graduate program aligned to the ISTE Technology Coach standards as well as state standards for a similar, but more administrative role. Please comment below, or contact me at