Coaching the Coaches, with a “Magical” Twist

The eighth annual Coaching Digital Learning Institute (CDLI), organized by the Professional Learning and Leading Collaborative (PLLC) team, in partnership with the Golden LEAF Foundation, was unique: the facilitators leading the capacity building sessions and hands on learning activities were all volunteers who have previously attended past CDLI events or other Friday Institute capacity building trainings and cohorts. This year, the students truly became the teachers.

30163336762_571722285c_k-1“It’s absolutely, 110 times different… These are people that work with children, they work every day with elementary, middle school, high school students. They work with the teachers that are working with the kids. So you know they’re not going to encourage you to use something that’s not effective,” said Beth Davis, an academic coach at Graham High School in the Alamance-Burlington School System.

The CDLI is designed to support K-12 instructional technology facilitators, those taking the lead in implementing digital transitions in their schools and districts. CDLI builds capacity and enhances professional development, practice, and adds mobile and digital tools and resources to expand learning and teaching environments.

This year’s theme centered on a quote by Sir Arthur Charles Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” As the ones charged with assisting the growth of digital learning and teaching in North Carolina schools and districts, these educators aren’t just coaching and supporting technology, they are coaching and supporting magic. This doesn’t mean pretending to saw students in half; educational technology provides and supports “magical” experiences to all stakeholders in schools undergoing digital transitions.

“I often have people come into my office, or I’m in their classroom when they’ve called for help… and they say, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re magic’,” said Tracey Patterson, a librarian at Graham. “They literally say things like that to those of us that work with [tech tools] all the time.”

Watch the video below to see what participating coaches had to say when we asked them about this year’s theme.

Not every attendee this year was a North Carolinian. Because of a previous partnership between the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation and Ohio’s Trailblazer Teachers program, sponsored in partnership with Battelle, five coaches traveled from Ohio to participate in the training so they could give back and share their work with others.

“Honestly, the Trailblazer program really ignited something in me to push forward and to really just try and get the word out on how to integrate technology and blended learning. We all feel the same way, that’s why we’re all here,” said Casey Clark, English teacher at North Canton Hoover High School in Canton, Ohio.

30165825332_f92cc68c1f_kThis annual professional capacity building opportunity is designed for instructional technology facilitators, media coordinators, instructional specialists, and technology-driven educators and mentoring staff, positions that are often overlooked in traditional professional development offerings.

“It seems like all the [professional development] is tools, there’s not a lot about coaching,” said Clark. “No one really talks about coaching technology. It just doesn’t exist. It’s kind of a shame.”

Clark noted that, in a district of 300 teachers, he is the only person learning how to coach others to implement blended and digital learning practices. He said training, like that offered by the CDLI, helps coaches learn not only how to use technology in the classroom, but also how to get tech tools to teachers and students effectively and with purpose.

“I don’t know why [coaching professional development isn’t available], and that’s a problem,” said Clark. “It’s a need that needs to be filled, right now.”

Through providing professional learning programs, developing educational resources, conducting research, and advocacy, the PLLC team and the Friday Institute are working to address this immediate need.