Ed Tech Explainer
7 Questions with Edthena CEO Adam Geller: How AI Coach Helps Teachers While Providing Autonomy and Privacy
Browser-Based Virtual Coaching Platform Offers Self-Directed Professional Development Focused on Specific Instructional Areas
- By Kristal Kuykendall
Keeping up with the thousands of ed tech solutions available to K–12 schools is challenging; startups and well-established providers alike are frequently announcing new features and integrations, expanding into new lanes, or contracting to focus on the areas in which they see the biggest impact for students. THE Journal’s 7 Questions: Ed Tech Explainer series gives ed tech leaders an opportunity to summarize their solution(s), explain how their product helps educators and schools, and give a quick overview for K–12 decision-makers – sort of an extended (but not too extended) elevator pitch.
For this installment of 7 Questions, THE Journal asked Edthena CEO and Founder Adam Geller to explain the features and benefits of its new AI Coach, a professional development platform for K–12 teachers launched this year. Find more info at Edthena.com/ai-coach-for-teachers.
THE Journal: What teacher feedback or unmet need prompted the development of the AI Coach professional development platform?
ADAM GELLER: I think it’s no secret teachers are stretched thin with the day-to-day demands of teaching. Teachers want – and need – a more flexible way to focus on their professional goals and to continually engage in professional learning.
Teachers tell us AI Coach by Edthena offers them the type of PD they want: It’s personalized to their needs, gives them autonomy as professionals, and is efficient with their time.
The AI Coach platform engages teachers in an evidence-based learning process focused on the actual teaching and learning within their classrooms. The learning is tactical and practical to each teacher’s needs, and teachers interact with the computerized coach when it’s convenient for their schedules. With the AI Coach platform, teachers can schedule coaching in multiple conversations across the week if they want.
Of course, this is all meant as a supplement to any coaching school leaders and instructional coaches are already delivering. The AI Coach platform is giving teachers the benefit of structured, guided reflection in between their person-to-person observations, which might only happen once or twice per year.
THE Journal: How does the AI Coach coaching cycle work, and how much time does a teacher need for the process?
GELLER: The AI Coach platform guides teachers through a self-directed coaching cycle focused on specific areas of instructional practices, such as checking for student understanding, facilitating group discussions, or strengthening positive teacher-student relationships. Teachers get to choose what they’re working on.
First, teachers analyze a video of their teaching guided by the virtual coach’s personalized observation tips. Then they use their reflections to develop an action plan to enact within the classroom. This is supported by curated resources from the virtual coach.
After developing an action plan, teachers go and implement their strategies within the context of a lesson. They collect new data and report back to the virtual coach to document the impact of their action plan on student learning.
The entire process lasts about two weeks. What’s great is teachers can do this work on their own schedule. They can sit down for a deep-dive with the virtual coach for an hour, or they can divide it up into multiple small chunks. The AI Coach process is flexible and efficient to meet their needs.
At the end of the coaching cycle, teachers receive a Reflection Log which documents their written reflections and also includes the documentation for PD clock-hours.
THE Journal: Who can see the videos and coaching conversations inside AI Coach?
GELLER: Only the teacher! The uploaded video is completely private to the teacher engaging in the coaching cycle. The conversation between the teacher and virtual coach is private, too.
THE Journal: What technology and training are needed for a teacher to use the AI Coach platform?
GELLER: To participate in the AI Coach process, teachers use their existing mobile devices, tablets, and computers for capturing videos as well as for completing the coaching process. Everything runs inside the web browser, so there’s nothing to install or special technical permissions required.
We really tried to design the in-app training so a building principal can simply share the login link to a teacher … and that’s it! The process is meant to feel very low-effort from a technical training standpoint.
The virtual coach offers constant guidance on the technology to ensure that even a tech-hesitant teacher feels comfortable. For example, before recording a video, the teacher is offered tips for how to record.
THE Journal: How can the AI Coach platform fit into a district’s established observation and coaching model?
GELLER: Observation and coaching are meant to help teachers get a clearer picture of what’s actually happening in their classrooms. But the reality is there is more observing to be done than can fit into the hours of the school day for coaches and administrators.
The AI Coach platform helps teachers get the insights they need to continuously improve. The twist, of course, is teachers observe themselves using the structured AI Coach process. This is a time savings for administrators and coaches who can’t make it to all classrooms frequently.
One coach told us, “Everyone needs a coach,” and “AI coaching enables more coaching to take place, which is a benefit to all.” It’s so true.
Another benefit to having the AI Coach platform is in-person collaboration and PD days can turn into higher value learning sessions. What I mean by this is teachers will come to those sessions with more (and deeper!) insights about their classrooms having recently collected observational data.
THE Journal: How are districts using AI Coach today?
GELLER: This new technology is leading to lots of interesting use cases.
One district is looking to use the AI Coach platform with approximately 125 teachers as part of an initiative to support math instruction. The platform is helping teachers become more reflective practitioners, build a portfolio of their professional growth throughout the year, and learn how to better reflect on their teaching using data.
Another district has several principals utilizing the technology to support teacher growth in their buildings. The district also has plans to use the AI Coach platform to support National Board teachers as well as its new teachers.
THE Journal: What feedback have you received from educators so far?
GELLER: We’ve received so much positive feedback from both teachers and coaches. For me, this really underscores that AI Coach by Edthena is supporting effective teaching and better student outcomes.
Here’s some of what we’ve heard:
- Courtney G., a learning coach in Colorado, said: “Beyond the emphasis on self-reflection, I’m really impressed by the platform’s flexibility. It provides educators a vehicle to engage in a coaching cycle on their own time.”
- Donna M., a 30-year teacher in Texas, said: “The virtual coach helped me develop my specific goal and reflect on that goal using targeted prompts. This taught me how to better coach myself – what to look for and what questions to consider. Since my principal and in-person coach cannot be in my classroom every day providing feedback, this acts as a great supplement to their ongoing support.”
- Summer W., a mid-career teacher in Texas, said: “The self-reflections and insights I have garnered through the AI coaching process has already helped me in my lesson planning and delivery. Lessons I have (or feel like I have) taught a million times are now looking different and having a stronger impact on my students.”
Teachers interested in testing out the AI Coach platform to improve their teaching in K–12 classrooms are welcome to try it for free here. We’d love to hear your thoughts!