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Follow-Up: Teachers as Tech Coaches

Nancy Gardner

As I read the initial Teaching Ahead posts, I kept thinking of how sports metaphors can help us understand what happens when we integrate technology in our classrooms.

Teachers become coaches.

In a truly tech-rich environment, teachers provide input, evaluate effort, and encourage critical thinking and creativity.

Meanwhile, students can take a more active role than ever in their own learning. They can "write in their books" by making comments beside key words and passages. They can collaborate using Google Docs or Lino.it. Every student can take pictures, create movies and podcasts, and Skype with schools in China or South Africa. All students can create digital portfolios with samples of their "best work." They can see the streets of Paris even if they never get to travel there.

And, as coaches, we're available to them in new ways. Students can communicate instantly with adults on their support teams, asking questions they might be to shy to raise in person. Teachers and students communicate in live chat rooms to ask questions before a test or during a seminar.

Students are on a level playing field.

With the 1:1 laptop program in my district, every student has the same portal to information (text, visuals, sounds) in cyberspace. Although we have to reinforce information literacy, the access and information is immediate and global.

All students have "notebooks" to record assignments in calendars, or keep folders for classes, even if they are homeless or live in their cars. All students have electronic texts, so they rarely leave their books at school or at home. (Somehow, they manage to keep up with their laptops!)

And the tools available on students' computers can give them just-in-time help in areas that are challenging. Apps can help them practice grammar, organization, citations, and spelling. Their computers can read difficult texts to them if they struggle with reading or are second-language learners. And students can practice speaking skills in English and other languages through Voicethread.

But is the playing field really level?

The equipment doesnʼt guarantee success, but it certainly helps fill in some of the gaps. School-provided laptops are the first and only computers in many homes in our district.

Our program doesn't just distribute computers. We provide backpacks and chargers. The town has installed wireless Internet access at the parks and libraries, and a local Internet provider has partnered with the district to offer families a $10 monthly access rate.

Game on!

Sometimes I have to call a time out or play the referee. Students may need more teacher direction and input. I may require "screens down" to help students. And I occasionally ask students to print copies because my eyes just canʼt read anything else on that screen. But most days, it is simply "game on" in my classroom!

A renewed National Board-certified teacher, Nancy Gardner teaches senior English at Mooresville High School in Mooresville, N.C.

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