Coaching in a digital educational world

Those of you who attended the 2020 CESI conference might have heard  Darren Ralston and I present as former Albemarle County Instructional and Ed Tech coaches. You might have thought that the concept of educational coaching in Ireland was a bit ahead of its time but some recent movements by the major tech companies and the pandemic have brought the time scale forward.

Google in the summer of 2020 launched the Google Coach Certification based on the Digital Learning Project that they took over. Google launched this programme in UK and NI but not in the ROI last yea,r through one of their ed-tech partners (Canopy I think). I am aware of a couple of primary teachers in Northern Ireland getting the certification already as well as a number in the FET sector in the UK. Apple launched their Professional Coach certification for US and Canada last year and I have noticed that Microsoft has launched two coaching courses that are very much focused on the Microsoft tools rather than a specific coaching model although they do refer to the work of Elena Aguilar. It raises the question of what has the tech giants learned that has made them go down this road that Irish education has yet to figure out.

I am detecting more and more instructional coaching structures emerging in English-speaking locales outside of the US. In one Facebook-based coaching network, there are 25 countries represented predominantly working in state or public schools. Traditionally, International schools tend to have coaching positions but more and more state schools in the same countries are going down this route as well.

Albemarle High School Learning Technology Integrators (ed-tech coaches), hard at work

So do we need to start to have conversations about what sort of curriculum and instructional support we want to see in the Irish education system in a post-pandemic world? Over the years we have seen innovations introduced a few years after other countries have introduced them. Will instructional or learning technology coaching be the next innovation?

While in many school districts, an instructional or ed-tech coach is a formal role, some school districts have less formal coaching positions. A couple of hours on US edu-twitter, you will come across the term TOSA which stands for Teacher On Special Assignment, which allows a school principal to allocate one of their teachers on a year-long focused challenge or initiative, off-timetable within the school. Many educational coaches have started their careers in a TOSA role. Is Irish education ready for a more flexible way of providing support and training within a school setting? Would a TOSA model work?

I know that the argument for ed-tech or instructional coaches will fall on unhearing ears while justifiable arguments for more SNAs, full-time IT technicians, student support staff, school librarians, or even school nurses are all valid. All that I am doing is noting that there is change happening that we need to be aware of. 

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