For all of the unknowns that Covid-19 has created, we know for certain that technology will be an integral medium for education, henceforth. Choosing the right technology for any instructor is akin to shopping for a new vehicle. One must at a minimum, consider cost, comfort, function, experience and preference. There are some shiny cars with seemingly unlimited features and options that may be a bit more than necessary, depending on the needs of the driver.
As a virtual coach, I hesitate to share lists of “tech tools” because I think they can be overwhelming for people who do not have enough experience to know what they are skimming. It’s like me looking at the specs of a car engine, I don’t know the vocabulary or the science and thus, it’s just a list of words to me. Instead, I need someone to highlight and translate the key options and then contextualize those to my needs. For instance, I need to get my kids safely to school within a budget and thus, I don’t need a sports car or a Dually pick-up. I need a 4-wheel drive, dependable car with air bags and air conditioning. Point me in the right direction on the lot and I’ll pick out the color. Then, once I have the vehicle, I may need someone to sit in the passenger seat and show me how to engage the 4-wheel drive or adjust the mirrors and seats. I could sit and fiddle with everything until I’m happy with the outcome, but in the interest of efficiency, having a guide will get me on the road much faster.
Not everyone is like me. I know there are people who like lists. They like to poke around on their own, explore the options, and even translate new nomenclature to make their own choices. They want to be left alone to sort through the options, fiddle with the buttons and then have someone to confirm their findings and assure them that their choices will meet their stated needs. Both of these scenarios require a partner to help sort through the thoughts, needs, concerns, and parameters of a buyer. Same goes for teaching, especially in times of change. Sometimes you need someone to listen to you and the needs of your students and content and be a thought partner as you consider the options and develop your list. You may need someone to sit with you and poke around, figuring out how best to put a new idea into practice. Or, you may simply need someone to review your current practice and confirm your choices, adding suggestions or feedback as needed.
The VECTOR Virtual Coaching model serves as a guide for coaches as they partner with their coachee to make instructional changes. They get to know you and your preferences. They ask questions to verify perspectives and ensure that they are offering the right degree of support, depending on the situation at hand. They then examine influences and ensure that you both know what aspects of change you have power over. This foundational work creates a certain level of trust, and they can then work with you to commit to change. VECTOR coaches will ask about a goal that is measurable, so that you know if you are making progress and when you accomplish it. They will then work with you to determine how you want to take action. They will help you determine what strategies, interventions, tools, and assessments do you need to meet your goal. Then, it’s time to operationalize performance. In this phase, the coach and coachee work to implement the intervention, gather data, and iteratively refine practice, over time to ensure progress toward a goal. Once the goal is reached, a good virtual coach will work with you to reflect on the process, determine what may need to be done differently in the next iteration of VECTOR, and recommit to a new goal. The VECTOR model helps guide the coach and coachee on the journey of instructional change. It is flexible and inherently designed to be personalized to individual educators. There is no one size fits all. VECTOR coaching cannot be done in a day of sit-and-get. It is not linear. Indeed, coaches and coachees will loop in and out of each phase, depending on the demands of the coachee and the story the data is telling them. It is ongoing, job-embedded and every iteration will be unique to the coachee and their context.
With that in mind, there are numerous websites with extensive lists of technology tools and solutions for education. Educators should take time every once in a while to skim the lists and see if anything pops out at them; however, VECTOR Virtual Coaches can help make the hunt more efficient and effective. They will get to know you, your students and your classroom so that when choices in technology solutions need to be made, you can feel confident that you are choosing the tool that meets your desired instructional outcome and a tool that is safe space for your students.