50 Underserved U.S. Middle Schools Gain Coaches to Optimize Tech in Classroom

“What are the necessary approaches, attitudes, atmosphere and actions for effective coaching to foster powerful use of technology for teaching and learning?” That is the central research question that Digital Promise, EdTechTeam and Google hope to answer with a new coaching pilot program launching at 50 underserved middle schools in the United States.

Unlike a single day of professional development, instructional coaching “involves a sustained collaborative relationship between coach and teacher,” according to a recent study helmed by Digital Promise. To this end, Google for Education is providing a $6.5 million grant through to support the pilot program, known as the Dynamic Learning Project.

Each of the participating schools will gain “a coaching fellow who will offer personalized, classroom based coaching to help educators in their community leverage technology in transformative ways,” Digital Promise President and CEO Karen Cator revealed in the announcement. Coaching fellows are current staff members at the 50 schools who were selected by their principals to take on the year-long responsibility.

Digital Promise selected schools based on the following criteria:

  • Need (measured by percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch);
  • Existing infrastructure; and
  • Innovative leadership committed to helping teachers succeed.

Professional development specialists from EdTechTeam will offer mentoring support and ongoing coaching to teachers as well as principals at the middle schools. EdTechTeam worked with Digital Promise and Google to research and explore existing coaching models. The network of education technologists is comprised of many former educators, including Chief Program Officer for EdTechTeam Jennie Magiera — an experienced teacher, administrator, speaker and author who recently joined the company to help build equity in education.

“Ultimately, we determined that because each of our 50 schools is so unique, and comes with such diverse needs, we didn't want to subscribe to any specific coaching model,” Magiera told THE Journal in an e-mail. “Instead, we built a support structure to guide the coaches along our program philosophies. This is centered on empowerment: empowering the coach to support their colleagues, empowering the school community to positively transform teaching and learning and empowering the world to see the impact a school-based coach can have on innovative instructional practice. Our goal is that by empowering the local coach, we can acknowledge and embrace each community's needs to create positive school change.”

Magiera noted the program is “platform agnostic.” Therefore, the coaches will be going over how to implement more than just Google products. “We aren’t focusing on one tool program of device, but rather the mindset that powerful pedagogy combined with powerful tools can lead to new and better opportunities for students.”

Still, for Google — a company whose apps for education are used by half of all primary and secondary American students — the Dynamic Learning Project furthers its “commitment to help underserved communities deliver on the promise of technology, both in the classroom and afterschool,” according to the Google blog post announcement written by Liz Anderson, head of social impact programs at Google for Education. “As technology continues to play an important and inevitable role in education, we want to help make sure that more teachers and students can benefit from it.”

To learn more about the program, visit the Dynamic Learning Project site.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].