Apple Launches New Learning Coach Program and Features for Educators
Free Program Trains Educators in Coaching Roles to Learn How to Best Help Teachers Maximize 'Creation, Not Just Consumption' in the Classroom
- By Kristal Kuykendall
Apple today announced the launch of its new Apple Learning Coach professional learning program for educators who coach teachers, to help them get the most out of Apple technology and boost student engagement in the process.
The free program trains instructional technologists, digital learning specialists, and other educators in coaching roles to learn how to best help teachers maximize Apple technology, emphasizing “classroom creation instead of just classroom consumption,” several educators in the pilot program told THE Journal.
Apple Learning Coach includes self-paced lessons and two days of virtual workshops with Apple Professional Learning Specialists, according to the program website.
ALC is open to employees of K–12 schools and districts in the United States who have an iPad and have earned their Apple Teacher recognition, a course in the Apple Teacher Learning Center that teaches foundational skills with Apple technology. Educators wishing to participate in Apple Learning Coach must submit an application and obtain written approval from their school or district administration, Apple said. Applications will be accepted through April 19 for the next ALC program.
The ALC program overview details how participants learn how to coach teachers to creatively integrate technology into learning, using free apps and resources from Apple’s Everyone Can Create guides for teachers; the Everyone Can Create series includes teacher guides for helping students illustrate their learning through creating, using native iPad video, drawing, music, and photography apps.
The ALC program takes an average of 43.5 hours to complete, according to Apple. Four of the ALC program’s six units are self-paced, with units 3 and 4 consisting of two consecutive days of virtual workshops lasting about 6.5 hours each day. A “coaching journal” must be submitted upon completion of each unit; those journals comprise a majority of the participant’s coaching portfolio upon course completion.
The coaching portfolio that ALC graduates leave with is like their own individualized coaching guide appropriate for their district, Apple said: It showcases the educator’s work and results throughout the program, spells out the participant’s coaching philosophy, and includes items such as coaching goals specific to the needs of their school; distinct coaching activities to meet those goals; details on how the success of their coaching efforts will be measured; and a timeline to achieving their coaching goals.
Educators who complete the course can apply for up to 40 hours of continuing education units from Lamar University and may be eligible to receive professional development credits, depending on participants’ district and state policies, according to the ALC website.
The ALC program has earned the International Society for Technology in Education Seal of Alignment, according to its report, also released early today. ISTE said Apple Learning Coach “contributes to the pedagogically robust use of technology for teaching and learning” and said the ALC units “consciously, purposefully and meaningfully support best practices for digital age teaching and learning.” ISTE's review details the ways in which each ALC unit meets each of ISTE's standards foundationally and through instructional applications.
Also announced today is a forthcoming Apple Education Community; Apple said it will launch in the fall and serve as a hub for professional learning resources and a collaborative space for educators.
The company also announced that Managed Apple IDs will integrate with Google Workspace, providing directory sync and federated authentication, and it said new updates are coming to Apple’s Classroom and Schoolwork apps. Details on these updates, expected in the spring, will be posted on the Appleseed for IT website, the company said.
ALC Pilot Participants Describe What They Learned
A pilot program of Apple Learning Coach that recently concluded included educators from across the country, several of which spoke with THE Journal about their experiences with the program.
Jessica Keller, one of four educators from the Berkeley County School District in West Virginia to participate in the pilot, said ALC not only showed them how to use iPad technology to dramatically increase student engagement and motivation, but the accessibility functions and personalization options within the apps also allow teachers to tailor assignments to each student’s needs.
“The iPad has so many built-in accessibility features, for hearing impairment, vision impairment, and so forth; audio recording is also built-in, so a teacher can record their screen to go with their written assignment instructions,” Keller told THE Journal. “Some kids want to type their answers, but some cannot, and they may need to speak or write their answers with the Apple pencil. And when an assignment needs to be tailored to a student with special needs, the other kids don’t have to know their lesson is different. The accommodations within the instructions are already in the app and within the assignment.”
Berkeley County Assistant Director of Instructional Technology Maranda Ralph said that completing the ALC program gave her the “hands-on knowledge and a framework to be able to coach our coaches in their roles of supporting teachers.”
“Our mission is to provide multiple pathways to success, and to give students a voice and a choice in what they’re learning and how they show us what they’re learning,” Ralph said. “It’s not about how they get there, it’s about getting them there. And with the Apple Learning Coach program, we’ve moved our focus to creation, not consumption.”
Another Berkeley County educator who participated in the pilot, John Carper, said the program has changed his approach as a coach when he is working with teachers, and helped them make sure their coaching methods and goals align with their philosophy.
“The questions I ask teachers now, the conversations we’re having are so much more impactful,” Carper told THE Journal. “It’s really helped me get into the classroom and be more effective with teachers and as a coach.”
Keller, who works with all the elementary school teachers in Berkeley County schools, said she learned a more effective coaching model from ALC.
“It really helped me fine-tune the ways I relate with different teachers I coach, how to interact with their different teaching styles and differing comfort levels with technology,” Keller said. “Within the framework of that, I’ve been able to build on my coaching sessions and work on integrating the technology and helping teachers find better ways to use those tools within their classrooms.”
One of the apps Keller learned a lot about during the ALC pilot that she’s since turned teachers onto is Clips; she said younger students are now using them in creating short videos for math lessons, such as “10 more, 10 less” where the completed Clips video challenges other students to try to guess the mystery number based on clues.
“We could have done this with a worksheet, where the numbers are written down, but the confidence students gain from it doing it this way is remarkable,” Keller said. “They work so much harder, and they know they’re going to share the finished video with their peers, so they really want to make sure everything is correct. The engagement when students are using these tools to create is so much higher than when they are just doing a worksheet.”
Another benefit, Keller said, is that behavioral issues in the classroom dramatically drop when students are creating.
“If the class was just using an app the teacher found somewhere, it was more about consumption, and that’s when behavioral issues start popping up,” she said. “When the students are creating — not merely consuming — the behavioral issues are almost nil. And they’re so excited to learn and create, and they want to show you how they did it and explain it to you. There is a lot of change happening here now, and it’s awesome to see.”
Kelly Croy, director of innovation and instruction at Port Clinton City School District in Ohio, also participated in the pilot program. He told THE Journal that ALC’s emphasis on tailoring coaching to each individual teacher’s needs and goals is vital to successful coaching.
“The ALC teaches coaches a four-step process: Inquire, plan, act, and reflect. A lot of school districts don’t do a great job of listening to teachers, there really isn’t time to ask teachers ‘what do you want to do with technology in your classroom?’” Croy said. “But the first step to being an effective coach should be to find out what the teacher’s goals are in their classroom. That already is better for educators than other types of professional learning.”
Croy, who also has hosted The Wired Educator podcast for five years, called the ALC program “personalized professional learning at its very best,” saying he was “incredibly impressed” with the program and its foundations in educational pedagogy and the practice of teaching.
“When we learn directly from someone who is personalizing content and holding us accountable — through step four, the reflect on how it worked part — it’s almost always going to be a transformative success, whether it’s a cooking class or a fitness goal you’re trying to reach. This program teaches coaches how to design professional learning with teachers, not for teachers. It’s a partnership.”
Learn more on the Apple Learning Coach website or visit the company's website for K–12 educators at Apple.com/education/k12/.