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Coaching Teachers Toward Effective Technology Use: SAMR & TPACK

I began my journey in Instructional Technology as a child. My parents always had a

computer in the house. In fact, we always had the newest Apple computer starting with the

Apple IIe.

I was fortunate to be a student in a small district in Central Illinois where technology was always a priority. I wouldn’t say it was integrated, however teachers used technology to the best of their ability and I was at the least, exposed to current software and hardware. Giant floppy disks, Oregon Trail, Reader Rabbit, and joysticks, were all a part of my everyday as a child.

During my undergrad as an Elementary Education major, I was asked to work in an Apple lab on campus where I found myself exposed to the latest Apple Operating Systems and software. I took a strong interest in technology and branched out into learning web design (including writing html and flash code), video editing, video conferencing (back when See-U-See Me was all the rage) and was asked to begin training the professors on technology integration.

In 2001, I graduated and became a Kindergarten teacher. I was so excited to begin using technology in my own classroom. But the brakes hit hard when I found myself teaching amongst educators who found no interest in technology. In fact, I was in a county where technology was hardly even supported. I found work arounds by asking for ports to be open and new IP addresses so I could video conference with other classrooms around the county.

Over the next 10 years I taught 3rd, K-9 computers, finished my Masters in Instructional Technology, and became an Instructional Technology Facilitator. Within every school, I ran into the same barrier; teachers who wanted nothing to do with technology. What was I doing wrong? My frustrations soon turned into motivation and I started my Ed.D. in Instructional Technology & Distance Education and later went on to become a Director of Innovation.

Throughout this massive journey, I identified 1 common tie to all these schools. It wasn’t lack of motivation on the teacher’s part and it wasn’t the infrastructure in the schools. What I found was that there wasn’t anyone leading the way.

Over the last few years, I have visited dozens of schools. The schools making the biggest impact and using technology effectively, have administrators in place who are models for the teachers. Upon further inspection, many of these schools also have technology coaches in the classrooms supporting the teachers on a daily basis. And often times, it was the school administrator who wrote the grant or made the push to get those coaches. Technology integration is second nature to teachers in these schools and they strive to transform their classrooms through the use of technology.

I have since taken this information and embedded it into everything I do as an administrator of Instructional Technology. Whether meeting 1 on 1, in teams, or as a full staff, I strive to empower teachers to be fearless, and take technological risks in the classroom. Technology integration is not just about the physical hardware and software. Teachers need to feel supported. Educators require a “digital model” to go to for ideas, collaboration, sympathy when a lesson fails, as well as someone who is able to take a step back from the “tools” and look at the pedagogical components of every classroom. According to principal Jimmy Casas of Bettendorf High School, “What we model is what we get” (as cited in Murray & Zoul, 2015).

This is a powerful statement as we look at how to coach teachers towards better use of technology.

Whenever I come across a new tool, I find myself beyond anxious to get the message out to teachers. What I’ve learned over the years, is the importance of sharing the information with administrators first and teaming up to get the exciting news out to the teachers. I enjoy challenging administrators to use that new and exciting piece of technology in their next staff meeting so teachers see the benefit of the tool. During those staff meetings, I see the minds of the teachers start to churn and soon enough, I’ll see that tool embedded in a future lesson of theirs.

When it comes to “coaching” teachers, it is important for administrators to always keep in mind

that no two teachers are in the same place in their journey toward transformational teaching. Administrators should differentiate with teachers just as they did when they were classroom teachers themselves. Interactions must be personalized and meaningful in order to make an impactful effort toward better use of technology. One model that is available for impacting technology use in the classroom is the SAMR model.

  • Substitution- Tech acts as a direct substitute but with no functional change through tasks such as mind mapping, note taking, photographing, and word processing.

  • Augmentation- At this level there is a level of productivity added through tasks such as drawing, graphing, presenting, illustrating, blogging, or diagramming.

  • Modification- At this level we are using technology to slightly modify the initial task through charting, producing, reflecting, and collaborating.

  • Redefinition- At this level we use technology to totally redesign the task through Animating, publishing, Storytelling, creating podcasts, or perhaps creating movies.

Another well known, and widely used model is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge

or TPACK. TPACK is the basis of effective teaching with technology, requiring an understanding of the representation of concepts using technologies; pedagogical techniques that use technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help redress some of the problems that students face; knowledge of students’ prior knowledge and theories of epistemology; and knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge to develop new epistemologies or strengthen old ones” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009).

While no model answers every question there is to know about coaching teachers towards better use of technology, it does however, create a common language amongst educators in an effort toward identifying transformational tools for the classroom. Administrators and teachers alike, should have a


working knowledge of models such as SAMR and TPACK in order to effectively progress towards better use of technology in the classroom. For more information on SAMR please visit Bam! Radio EdTechChat.

So much of our focus over the years has been on identifying teacher responsibilities in regards to technology integration. But what we have failed to do, is look to the leaders as models of technology integration and effective use. If we expect better use of technology in the classroom, let’s “coach” our teachers into fearless use of technology and as administrators, demonstrate use of those technologies on a daily basis.

I challenge all educators, including administrators, to read 2 books. Not only will these books empower you to become a leader of technology integration, but aid in finding ways to coach teachers towards better use of technology in the classroom.

  • The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning by Tom Whitby and Steven Anderson

  • Leading Professional Learning: Tools to Connect and Empower Teachers by Tom Murray and Jeffrey Zoul

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