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COVID-19 Pandemic Lessons Learned From Educational Technology Coaches, Coordinators and Specialists

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Dr. Natalie Milman  
Jessa Henderson  

Educational technology leaders — technology coaches, coordinators and specialists — play key roles supporting the use and integration of technology by teachers, students and staff. Learn about the findings of a qualitative study of P-12 technology leaders and their lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Audience: Chief technology officers/superintendents/school board members, Principals/head teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Topic: Leadership
Grade level: PK-12
ISTE Standards: For Coaches:
Visionary Leadership
  • Contribute to the planning, development, communication, implementation and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels.
  • Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms.
Digital Age Learning Environments
  • Coach teachers in and model use of online and blended learning, digital content, and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators.

Proposal summary

Framework

The study is grounded in a social constructivist worldview and the digital divide as its conceptual framework. As Eubanks’ (2011) asserted, ‘the relationship between inequality and information technology is far more complex than any picture portraying ‘haves’ and have-nots’ can represent” (p. 23). This view is echoed by Bach, Wolfson, and Crowell (2018), as well as Dolan (2016) who contended:
research reflects the actual use of technology is heavily influenced by the socioeconomic status of both the individual and the school they attend; the chasm between students’ out-of-school and in-school use of technology; the knowledge and influence of the teachers…and the physical limits to the technology constrained by funding, scale of bandwidth, and security concerns of school districts.” (p. 31)
This study also incorporates Hohlfeld, Ritzhaupt, Barron, and Kemker’s (2008) “Levels of the Digital Divide in Schools framework” (p. 1649). The framework consists of a pyramid representing three digital divide levels. The bottom, first level of the pyramid is “School Infrastructure” (i.e., hardware, software, internet access, support for technology). The second level is the “Classroom” and use of technology by teachers and students. The third level, “Empowerment of Students,” involves the individual student (p. 1649). For this study, it has been expanded (see Figure 1)—Level 1 also includes “technology maintenance” (Gonzales, 2016, p. 234) and Levels 2 and 3 involve other stakeholders (parents/guardians of students) whose technology use, knowledge, and skills are critical for ERTL.

Methods

This qualitative study consists of semi-structured interviews of technology coaches, coordinators, and specialists from urban, suburban, and rural school districts in the United States. The sample for this study will be elementary, middle, and high school level K-12 technology leaders (Drennan & Moll, 2018; Peterson, 2015; Sugar, 2005; Sugar & Hollman, 2009; Sugar & van Tryon, 2014) who have a direct role supporting teaching and learning with technology in rural, suburban, and urban school districts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals in these roles have various titles such as “technology coordinator,” “technology coach,” or “educational technology specialist.”. Participants were selected from a convenience sample of technology leaders distributed evenly from rural, suburban, and urban settings, as well as from elementary, middle, and high schools. (NOTE: The study is still in progress and still seeking participants). All qualitative data will be analyzed using analytic induction (Erickson, 1986). Analytic induction calls for the generation of empirical assertions which are then warranted through a search for instances of confirming or disconfirming evidence. Through the analysis of data and the questions that originated the study, a set of empirical assertions will be formulated and warranted through a search of confirming and disconfirming evidence. The study’s research questions are:
1. What lessons did P-12 technology coaches learn while supporting students, their students’ parents/guardians, faculty, and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic?
2. How did P-12 technology coaches support digital equity (e.g., how did they support students’ access to devices and reliable, high-speed internet)?
3. What policies and practices were used, created, adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic?
4. What supports (e.g., instruction or professional development) were needed, implemented, and planned for stakeholders to support them during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Results

This study substantiated, as well as provided more in-depth findings from Bakhshaei, Seylar, Ruiz, and Chou Vang (2020)—a Digital Promise survey that examined the roles of educational technology coaches during the shift to emergency remote teaching and learning during the spring of 2020. Major lessons learned involved synchronizing technology systems, building trust in a non-evaluative role, and flexibility responding to a variety of ever-changing needs. Technology coaches’ roles shifted from being primarily instructional to being more of a technical support role which fostered digital equity via school infrastructure (level 1) and “classroom” use needs (level 2). Technology coaches implemented a variety of policies and practices that promoted standardization and seamless use of the technologies used/adopted within their schools. Technology coaches provided emotional support, technical support, and professional development to teachers to learn how to use technology and noted their own PD and network of technology coaches within their schools and districts were the greatest sources of support to them.

Importance

There are very few published studies investigating mid-level educational technology leaders (i.e., technology coaches, coordinators, and specialists). This study will contribute to the gap in the literature of lessons learned from individuals in these very important, front-line roles. Moreover the findings will provide empirical data about how what they did and how they did it during a pandemic, across grade levels and content areas, as well as to support students, their parents/guardians, faculty, and staff. These findings may also help schools, districts, and policy makers better comprehend mid-level educational technology leaders (i.e., technology coaches, coordinators, and specialists) staffing needs.

References

Afshari, M., Bakar, K. A., Luan, W. S., Samah, B. A., & Fooi, G. S. (2009). Technology and school leadership. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 18(2), 235-248.
Bach, A., Wolfson, T., & Crowell, J. (2018). Poverty, literacy, and social transformation: An interdisciplinary exploration of the digital divide. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 10(1), 22 – 41.
Davies, P. M. (2010). On school educational technology leadership. Management in Education, 24(2), 55-61.
Dexter, S. (2011). School technology leadership: Artifacts in systems of practice. Journal of School Leadership, 21, 166–189.
Dolan, J. E. (2016). Splicing the divide: A review of research on the evolving digital divide among K–12 students. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 48(1), 16-37.
Drennan, G., & Moll, I. (2018). A conceptual understanding of how educational technology coaches help teachers integrate iPad affordances into their teaching. The Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 16(2), 122-133.
Glaser, B. G. (1965). The constant comparative method of qualitative analysis. Social Problems, 12(4), 436-445.
Gonzales, A. (2016). The contemporary US digital divide: From initial access to technology maintenance. Information, Communication & Society, 19(2), 234-248Hofer, M., Chamberlin, B., & Scot, T. (2004). Fulfilling the need for a technology integration specialist. T.H.E. Journal, 32(3), 34.
Hohlfeld, T. N., Ritzhaupt, A. D., Barron, A. E., & Kemker, K. (2008). Examining the digital divide in K-12 public schools: Four-year trends for supporting ICT literacy in Florida. Computers & Education, 51(4), 1648–1663.
Karlin, M., Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A., Ozogul, G., & Liao, Y. (2018). K-12 technology leaders: Reported practices of technology professional development planning, implementation, and evaluation. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 18(4), 722-748.
Kemper, E. A., Stringfield, S., & Teddlie, C. (2003). Mixed methods sampling strategies in social sciences research. In A. Tashakkori, & C. Teddlie (Eds.), Handbook of mixed methods in social & behavioral research (pp. 273-296). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
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McLeod, S., & Richardson, J. W. (2011). The dearth of technology leadership coverage. Journal of School Leadership, 21(2), 216-240.
Milman, N. B. (2020a). Pandemic pedagogy. Phi Delta Kappan: The Professional Journal for Educators. Retrieved from https://kappanonline.org/pandemic-pedagogy-covid-19-online-milman/
Milman, N. B. (2020b). School leadership of a one-to-one laptop initiative. Journal of School Leadership, 30(4), 356-374.
Milman, N. B. (2020c). This is emergency remote teaching, not just online teaching. education week. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/03/30/this-is-emergency-remote-teaching-not-just.html
Morse, J. M. (2003). Principles of mixed methods and multimethod research design. In A. Tashakkori, & C. Teddlie (Eds.), Handbook of mixed methods in social & behavioral research (pp. 189-208). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
ParentsTogether Foundation. (2020). ParentsTogether survey reveals remote learning is failing our most vulnerable students. Retrieved from https://parents-together.org/parentstogether-survey-reveals-remote-learning-is-failing-our-most-vulnerable-students/
Peterson, L. R. (2015, March). Technology coaches: The heart of technology integration. Proceedings of the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 1392-1395). Waynesville, NC: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.
Sugar, W. (2005). Instructional technologist as a coach: Impact of a situated professional development program on teachers’ technology use. Journal of Technology & Teacher Education, 13(4), 547–571.
Sugar, W., & Holloman, H. (2009). Technology leaders wanted: Acknowledging the leadership role of a technology coordinator. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 53(6), 66–75.
Sugar, W., & van Tryon, P. J. S. (2014). Development of a Virtual Technology Coach to Support Technology Integration for K-12 Educators. TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning, 58(3), 54–62.
Trust, T. (2020, April 2). The 3 biggest remote teaching concerns we need to solve now. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2020-04-02-the-3-biggest-remote-teaching-concerns-we-need-to-solve-now
Yin, R. K. (2017). Case study research and applications: Design and methods (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Waring, S. M. (2010). The Impact of a Technology Coordinator’s Belief System upon Using Technology to Create a Community’s History. Computers in the Schools, 27(2), 76–98. https://doi-org.proxygw.wrlc.org/10.1080/07380569.2010.483458

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Dr. Natalie Milman, George Washington University

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