By BRIAN COOK
I love working as an instructional technology coach. It’s the opportunity to work with educators on the frontlines where they are trying new tools and implementing new strategies to enhance learning in their classroom that gets me pumped. In my work, my favorite strategy is implementing coaching cycles. Coaching individuals is a methodical process involving inquiring to understand the current landscape of the classroom, planning with attainable goals, acting through co-teaching and modeling, and finally reflecting to identify areas of improvement.
If this sounds right up your alley get ready because it’s that time of year when many schools are beginning to look at their 2022-2023 staffing assignments. That means schools are looking for the next great Instructional EdTech Leader. Schools are in dire need of high-octane, self-drive, as Ron Clark would call them, runners to be the next technology leaders in their respective schools.
As you begin wordsmithing your cover letter and tweak your professional portfolio, take a moment to learn a few tips from individuals who have recently made the transition into a formal leadership position in technology. Our tales are unique and wisdom may help you as you look toward an EdTech position this spring.
Informational Technology & STEM Coordinator
(beginning position in 2022-2023)
Technology has always kind of been my thing. Growing up with two techy older brothers certainly didn’t hurt. On top of that, I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a teacher. So naturally, when it came time to start writing lesson plans, technology played a huge role in my teaching style. For ten years I have taught in a technology-rich classroom, and for ten years, I said I would never leave. Until now. A new opportunity is on the horizon for me, and here are some of the things that I believe helped me score the position.
- A masters degree in Educational Technology. A master’s degree might not be listed as a requirement of the job. However, many employers are looking for candidates with a higher-level understanding of technology in education. A candidate with a master’s degree on their resume will stand out among the rest.
- List technology proficiencies on your resume. Employers will expect that you are up to date on the latest best practices in educational technology. Listing all of the programs that you currently use in your classroom will make a big impact.
- Provide proof of leadership experience. While you might be a rockstar at managing a class of 25 eight-year-olds, part of your new position will involve leading adults. Provide your future employer with reason to believe that you are able to lead adults just as effectively as you are your students.
(began position in 2021-2022)
I have always been an advocate for technology and computer science in the classroom. As a child, I was always interested in how things worked. I went to college as a computer science major and halfway through that program I decided that sitting in front of a computer was not for me but teaching others was more my speed so I moved to Early Childhood / Elementary teaching with my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction in Educational Technology. I began my teaching career in middle school teaching Tech Ed, moved to elementary teaching 4th and 5th grade for 15 years where I was always looking for creative ways to engage students with technology. When Hour of Code came in the picture in 2013 my students enthusiastically participated and I was hooked on their engagement and the importance of teaching computer science in the elementary and middle programs. With the full support of my administration, seeing my dedication and passion for computer science, we began developing a Computer Science and STEM Specials class to bring access to all students in our school PreK through 5th grade. With the continuing support of our library media supervisor, collaboration with Career and Tech Ed and senior leadership, the continued growth of computer science education, and then later, infusing those concepts into our district's essential curriculum has become more of a priority.
As part of an EdTech Coach team, my role is to provide coaching support for teachers in their classroom, plan and execute district-wide professional development, and oversee and develop our big picture development of Computer Science throughout the county. With this continued growth across the district, our Library Media and Instructional Technology Supervisor saw the need to reimagine the aging Digital Integration Specialist role to an EdTech Coaching position which really puts the focus on growing teacher leaders in our schools to use a variety of digital and computer science tools giving them an opportunity to dive deep and enhance curriculum to truly engage and reimagine student learning. With my knowledge of computer science, robotics, my district involvement in the MSDE SCRIPT process, my prior experiences in the elementary and middle classrooms, ability to work with a variety of grade level teachers and passion to drive computer science, this was the perfect role for me.
My biggest piece of advice for those looking for positions such as this is to be an advocate. Advocate for your passion. Advocate for how your students learn. Advocate that education needs to meet their interests and needs. Advocate for being creative with your teaching and helping them find connections in their learning they never thought or imagined.
Instructional Technology & Innovation Coach
(began position in 2019-2020)
Leaving the classroom was one of the most difficult professional decisions I ever made; I loved teaching middle school language arts and always pushed the envelope of technology to enhance learning in my classroom. Sometimes I wonder how I ever made it to my current leadership position as an instructional technology coach.
However, after listening to an episode of the Future Ready EdCast, a podcast hosted by two of my amazing colleagues from my school district, I found myself learning of this concept of having a mentor and sponsors, which might be the most thought provoking professional advice because I truly believe this is what happened to me too.
Let me explain … One of the biggest reasons I managed to move into a leadership role in instructional technology within my district was I was fortunate to have two major pieces on my professional journey, a mentor and numerous sponsors.
My mentor was the guy who listened to me ask questions and listened when I needed to vent about not getting a position after an interview, which sometimes can happen more than we want it to. This person reassured me in time it would work out when the position was right for me.
My sponsors were the individuals who occasionally dropped my name as an EdTech leader when new initiatives were beginning and the district needed volunteers. For instance, I have always been an EdCamp attendee and never knew my knowledge of the events would lead me to helping initiate one in my own district. Another example is being a ginny pig for a learning management system (years before it was required) and inviting district personnel to see my students in action utilizing it.
These opportunities allowed my circle of sponsors to expand before my dream technology position opened up in my district. Like my mentor said would happen, when the right position opened I was ready and fortunate to be selected for the position.
Every school that posts a technology position has a specific need to be filled and you may be the individual who earns that position, but you may not be that person too. There is no magic recipe to guarantee you a promotion into a formal technology leader position. However, a title does not define a leader. A leader is defined by the work he or she does and their willingness to support their colleagues.
Regardless of whether you get the position you apply for or not this spring, there will be other positions in the future available. Your willingness to look forward and have a desire to coach and train others already shows your passion to be a technology leader. Believe me, when the right position comes available it will be yours.
Thank you for what you are doing now to support students and colleagues with technology.
Brian Cook serves as the MSET President. You can connect with Cook via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter at @drbriancook.