When Shannon Churchill signed up for coaching from Sarah Wright, a coach with the Dynamic Learning Project (DLP) which helps educators access the training and hands-on support they need to bring technology to life through personalized technology coaching, she expected to master a few unfamiliar tools and start using them in her classroom at Emerald STEAM Magnet Middle School. Sure enough, after several sessions with Sarah, Shannon deepened her knowledge of educational software, like Google Slides, the video discussion platform Flipgrid, and the video tool Edpuzzle.
But to her surprise, Shannon quickly discovered that the DLP was about so much more than new digital tools. Her meetings with Sarah focused on how to solve problems, such as increasing engagement, improving efficiency, and implementing differentiated instruction. At one point, when Shannon expressed interest in trying a new activity to illustrate the skeletal system, Sarah even helped her dry out chicken bones, expose the marrow inside, and take pictures and videos to present to students. This one-on-one support helped Shannon embrace more innovation in her classroom.
“Sarah has been a sounding board for my ideas and has helped me brainstorm future lessons,” Shannon says. “She's been an amazing teaching partner.”
Heather Pentico, who teaches sixth-grade math and science, also worked with Sarah to tackle a specific challenge: achieving greater individualization within the classroom. She developed interactive lesson plans that enabled her to focus on smaller groups of students while their classmates learned at their own pace. Using tools like Google Forms and Flipgrid, Heather could easily conduct formative assessments of her students’ progress and understanding in real time.
“I’ve tried out so many things this year that have made my teaching so much better,” she says. “The coaching has helped me teach the kids to be more responsible for their learning. It allows me to assist and guide them rather than telling them what to do.”
Along with Shannon and Heather, more than 20 other Emerald STEAM teachers have worked closely with Sarah since the start of the 2017—2018 school year. Together they’ve launched a wide range of new projects and activities, from digital badges and portfolios to student videos of guitar practice and fraction lessons in the form of cookie baking.
With a background in both teaching and technology coaching, Sarah emphasizes the importance of building relationships and fully understanding each instructor’s needs and those of their students. “It’s been helpful for teachers to know that I will listen to their stories and not just say, ‘Here, use this tool,’” she explains. “As a DLP coach, I feel that this is one of the most important pieces, before the technology and instruction come into play.” Sarah’s personalized support helps her teachers envision new digital skills for not only their students, but also now for themselves.