Last week, Chrissy and I were invited to give our presentation from ASB Unplugged, Hardware is Not Enough: The Teacher-Facilitator Partnership, to our Headmaster, Dr. Bill Gerritz, and Deputy Headmaster, Andy Davies. Bill and Andy had heard a brief overview when we reported back about the conference, and wanted to get a deeper understanding of how Chrissy and I see the relationship between teachers and technology facilitators. Our presentation went over well, and Bill asked us to put together an article for the TIE Newspaper.

Here’s what I have so far for the article, I would love to get your feedback before I send a finished draft off to Bill:

Creating a Culture of Collaboration Through Technology Integration

For many years technology was treated as a discrete subject to be taught by a technology teacher. Classroom teachers, administrators, and parents expected that students would learn any and all relevant technology skills (usually related to word processing) in those classes. However, over the past decade or so, technology has moved out of the computer lab and into the classroom as a more fundamental tool for demonstrating student creativity and understanding.

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Now the expectation is that classroom teachers will authentically and appropriately embed technology into the learning experience. In an ideal world, this integration would happen seamlessly, but the fact is that due to the rapid pace of change with technology, teachers’ varying comfort levels with technology, frequent turnover in international schools, and classroom teachers’ already extensive list of responsibilities, the majority of teachers could benefit from the support of a technology facilitator or coach.

Bringing together the pedagogical expertise of the classroom teacher and the technological understanding of the coach not only provides consistent embedded professional development, but also makes the most of the extensive resources most international schools have to offer in a way that effectively meets the needs of today’s students.

Why Collaborate?

The most important (and most obvious) reason for the facilitator and teacher to collaborate is to improve student learning. Collaboration allows the two teachers to combine strengths, share responsibilities, and learn from each other, bringing the best of both their experiences together to create an improved student learning environment. When co-planning, both content and technology standards can easily be combined thanks to each partner’s specific focus. Other advantages of co-planning include the sparks of innovation that begin to fly when more than one teacher contributes their perspective to a unit or lesson, and the opportunity this allows to customize the pedagogical and technology experiences for that particular class or grade level.

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Successful collaboration with one classroom teacher begins to create a ripple effect among other teachers at the grade level or division – allowing other teachers to see how one of their colleagues has utilized technology effectively in their classroom. By sharing the results of quality collaboration more teachers may become interested, spreading the effects far and wide throughout the school, helping move the entire school community forward.  Consistent collaboration with individual teachers or teams becomes naturally embedded professional development, developing 21st century skills for all teachers in their regular teaching environment.

Finally, collaboration encourages the breakdown of classroom walls – whether at the grade level, division, school, or the global level – through the use of new forms of communication which creates closer ties with the school community, through the development of authentic audiences on a global scale, and through the connections made possible with technology. Breaking down classroom walls is the first step to truly embracing a 21st century learning environment.

How to Collaborate

Technology facilitation and collaboration, like technology itself, is anything but static. There is not one solution for all schools and all teachers that works all of the time. I have found it most useful to think of collaboration as a cycle that teachers enter and exit based on their individual needs. There is no beginning or end to this cycle, only differing levels of support. Position on the continuum isn’t necessarily the same for all situations – the same teacher could be at different stages for different projects, simply based on his/her experience with the varying tools being used.

The Collaboration Cycle

Full Collaboration: During this stage of the cycle it’s hard to say where the teacher’s responsibilities end and the facilitator’s begin. They work together as full partners, co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessing to develop an authentic, technology-rich learning experience for the students. This level of collaboration doesn’t necessarily indicate that a teacher is a novice with technology in general, but rather that they would benefit from the partnership of another colleague throughout the process of planning, teaching and assessing. However, full collaboration is fantastic for teachers that are new to technology and appreciate the feeling of support throughout the process. Full collaboration continues as long as the teacher and facilitator feel the support is necessary.

Partial Collaboration: During this stage of the cycle, the teacher is feeling more confident with the tools being used in the classroom and requests assistance when necessary. Often the focus is on co-planning an entire unit, and co-teaching for specific lessons within that unit. Partial collaboration is a great way to build teacher confidence, while also modeling effective use of technology in the classroom. Partial collaboration is often useful when the teacher is comfortable with most aspects of a certain technology tool or unit of inquiry, but needs specific help in certain areas.

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Coaching: During this stage of the cycle, the facilitator takes more of a “backstage” approach, supporting the teacher mostly outside of class time on co-planning or brainstorming ideas for projects or lessons. Usually, this is when a teacher is comfortable planning and teaching a unit, but may need some advice or guidance on how to best approach the unit, or in-class support on occasion. Coaching works well when the classroom teacher feels confident about what they’re doing but appreciates some collaborative brainstorming or problem solving.

Mentoring: During this stage of the cycle, the teacher is almost entirely independent in their own classroom, and working towards helping other teachers effectively utilize technology in their classrooms. S/he may still work with the facilitator for advice, but is being increasingly looked upon as an expert by their peers. This is where the cycle begins to create a sustainable model for professional development, because now the facilitator is not the only source of educational technology support within the school.

Who Does What?

Many schools utilize coaches, facilitators or coordinators, but often the specifics of who actually does what in the collaborative relationship are not fully defined. It’s especially useful to clarify the specific roles and responsibilities of both the teacher and facilitator in this partnership for several reasons: first, the role of the technology facilitator is always changing as the technology changes; second, teachers and administrators often have a preconceived notion of what the “tech person” does which doesn’t match the reality; and third, for teachers to even want to work with a facilitator, they need to know what they can expect.

Teacher: the primary focus of the teacher is, of course, on teaching and learning. Collaboration allows the teacher to focus on the learning needs of the students, while also developing a deeper understanding of how technology can improve that experience in the context of his/her own classroom. Therefore, the teacher:

  • knows, understands and shares the learning goals (standards) of a specific unit with the facilitator
  • understands the year-long and subject-specific curriculum
  • is the teaching expert
  • is knowledgeable about the students and the dynamics of the classroom
  • assesses the learning of the students
  • designs the classroom infrastructure
  • determines the level of privacy required for the specific learning experience
  • documents the learning for both the students and the parents
  • shares the results of the collaboration with the team

Facilitator: the primary focus of the facilitator is to authentically embed technology into the classroom experience for all students and teachers. Collaboration allows the facilitator to interact with students and teachers across grade levels, while also developing a deeper understanding of the curriculum and the needs of all teachers and students. It is critical that the technology facilitator be an educator who focuses on pedagogy and learning. Often the facilitator is perceived to be someone who “fixes things”, but that should never be their primary focus (that’s the role of the technician). Facilitators are educators who enjoy working with technology and have the personality traits necessary for training other teachers. Therefore, the facilitator:

  • is an idea generator, developing creative ways to meet the articulated learning goals through the use of technology
  • understands the needs of today’s learner
  • is an educational technology expert and can articulate the school’s technology standards
  • is knowledgeable about technology tools and how they work in a classroom environment
  • models the effective use of technology in the classroom (including troubleshooting and staying confident under pressure)
  • designs virtual learning spaces (including testing the tools needed, creating accounts, and preparing permission slips)
  • is the audience matchmaker, connecting classrooms based on learning goals
  • is the technology cheerleader for the school and tirelessly promotes technology in all areas

Both the teacher and the facilitator are:

  • learning facilitators
  • metacognition catalysts
  • celebrators of learning

A Culture of Collaboration

CC image by "Soggydan" Dan Bennett

Too often the discussions about technology in schools are driven by finances and the technology itself. The advantage to the collaborative approach to technology integration is that it’s not focused on hardware, but rather on teaching and learning. It’s flexible enough to be used in large schools or small schools, with varying levels of technological infrastructure, and can also be combined well with schools that are also offering discrete technology courses. No matter what the situation, it is recommended that the facilitator to student ratio does not go above 1:300. The success of the collaborative model is always enhanced by ensuring that there is enough time to support all students and teachers.

Once a school begins to build this culture of collaboration, it soon becomes second nature for teachers to work in partnership with the technology facilitator, bringing new and innovative ideas into the classroom, learning new ways to meet the needs of all students, and exploring the possibilities to connect, communicate and create on a global scale. This collaborative partnership is a powerful tool to increase student learning by combining the expertise of multiple educators. Opening the doors to individual classrooms is the first step towards transformative use of technology and embracing the changes that technology is bringing to our world.

53 thoughts on “Creating a Culture of Collaboration Through Technology Integration

    1. Brandt,

      Hmmm… no video clips at the moment. I like the idea though. I’ll get working on that! If you find any that seem appropriate, let me know. I’m thinking there could be examples from all sorts of different industries, not just education. Thanks for the idea!

  1. Hi Kim,
    As always you have written a great post that is clear, concise and specific. I am going to email it to my principal, vice-principal, PYP coordinator and curriculum coordinator as we are currently reviewing the integration of technology at our primary campus.
    Thanks so much,

    1. Megan,

      Thank you so much for sharing my post! I would love to hear what your admin think of the idea – would be great to see another international school implement something similar!

  2. Kim, Thorough and concise, as usual. You took a new and somewhat complex position and have described the best way for all in the school/campus to view and engage that person’s talents and skills. Above all, as you’ve written before, it requires a mindset change towards collaboration and removal of walls on and off campus. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Nancy,

      Thanks so much! I’m so glad the description is clear – it really is interesting how many schools have similar positions, but we don’t all view the roles and responsibilities in the same way.

  3. I think this is a fantastic article.

    I particularly like that you recognize educational technology integration as a collaborative effort among teachers with a focus on mentoring and leadership. So many ed tech “revolutionaries” spend a lot of time talking about how all teachers need to be embedding technology if we want to prepare students for the future. The truth is that many (or most) teaches are too scared to technology. Showing them the “vision” without scaffolding the process to achieve that vision will only make them more scared. I like your approach very much.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Graham,

      Thank you so much! I couldn’t agree more with the need for scaffolding – it’s that personal support that helps teachers take risks and try new things, which usually is what tech facilitators really want teachers to do. It’s great to explain something, but so much better to show and then support regularly in the classroom.

  4. Kim,
    Another great, thoughtful post. I have been benefiting from your work and reflections as shared in your posts for a couple years now, and just thought it appropriate to THANK YOU every now and then for your inspiration. If you are ever planning a working vacation in Connecticut, please let me know. I would love to have you speak to my administrators about the value of collaborative teaching and learning! I am a media specialist in a middle school. Last week, I received notice that I won a state-wide Collaboration Grant Award from the CT Librarians Association in the morning and received “my letter” advising me that our LM department is being cut district wide due to budget issues in the afternoon. Geesh…

    1. Terry,

      Thank you so much for your kind comment! You know, I spend almost every summer in Connecticut – I’m from Redding. Where are you? Even if timing doesn’t work, it would be great to connect when I’m in the area.

    1. Elisabeth,

      Thank you! Please feel free to use the diagram with credit! I hope it’s helpful!

  5. Wow! Kim, I have been reading ‘you’ gor a while now. You really do inspire and educate. I value your words and your knowledge! Keep going, you are doing an amazing job!

    1. Neil,

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you’re finding the blog useful. I’ll do my best to keep it up :)

  6. Kim:

    I really appreciate your insight into collaboration and teaching and learning with teachers and technology facilitators. I work as a technology facilitator in my district and truly believe that you have defined my job perfectly. I work with both elementary and middle school teachers to help them integrate technology into their content and provide their students with the most extensive learning opportunities. I really appreciate the collaborative cycle and would love to make this available to our teachers and administration as well. It helps to define what the roles are and how important each of our roles are in the learning process. Thanks for sharing. I think your article is powerful and right on target.

    1. Vicki,

      Thank you so much! I’m so glad to hear that this description fits for your job as well. (It’s the best job, isn’t it?!). Please feel free to share the post and diagram with your teachers and admin.

  7. Hi Kim,
    This is the first time I have read your work and I have enjoyed making some connections with your thinking as we are presently travelling potential ideas for shifting our ICT from the single subject ‘specialist’ model to a facilitation model within our collaborative team structures.
    Your emphasis on the cyle of collaboration and linking in both mentoring and coaching in this cycle acknowledges the reciprocal responsibilities of all parties to access the cycle to suit their particular context. The resciprocity of the relationship and contributing responsibilies is a key element that is highlighted in your article and your emphasis on role clarity is vital and supports this.
    You have made we think of an additional connection under the sub heading ‘Both the teacher and facilitator are…’ with a dot point – ‘critical friends’ .
    My thinking is that it would highlight a respect for the process of contributing and sharing expertise to a learning partnership and create a ‘lead learner/learner leader’ model by providing an explicit opportunity for valid reflection of joint learning.
    Any thoughts? I guess I am trying to acknowledge the continuous learning educators do and support that by breaking down the often self imposed restrictive barriers associated with perceived ‘hierarchies of expertise’.

    1. Bev,

      Great idea about adding the Critical Friends piece – that is so important – not only to the learning in the classroom, but also the the growth of both educators. Thanks so much for the insight!

  8. Hi Kim,

    Great article and an interesting model! I also really like your reference to how this sort of activity can really move a community forward.

    The only thing that springs to mind if you are looking for feedback ahead of publication is to consider including in the lists of ‘who does what’, some reference to the attitudes and traits necessary to make it happen. My sense of it is that everyone could do everything on the list and yet not collaborate if they aren’t in the right frame of mind – or don’t have a positive working relationship with the other individual. This is so true of so many things in a school, but probably is at least doubly so when it come to technology integration.

    Really looking forward to working with you next year!


    1. James,

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback! You have given me an idea for another post now: Committing to Collaboration. This could be a more detailed look at the collaborative mindset and all of the critical facets of relationship building. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Dear Kim,
    I was introduced to you Blog through a teacher who attended a recent workshop of yours in Manilla. I have been following you writings ever since. I work at a small school were ICT is still in its infancy. I have been lucky enough to be given the green light to hire an ICT facilitator for the coming year. I am currently working with this person to outline their roles and responsibilities. Previously, I was at a larger school and taught fifth grade in a one-to-one program so I am well aware of the trials and tribulations that teachers and facilitators encounter in their roles when they are not well defined.
    I look forward to reading the above article in its completion in the TIE. It is clear, informative and provides an excellent landscape for schools beginning or needing to revamp their technology focus. Thank you.
    I know that on your website you allow people to share your ideas as long as you are given credit for the origin. Does this hold true for your Blog articles as well? I would like to share with the rest of my admin team and the technology department.
    Keep those inspiring articles coming.

    1. Krista,

      Thanks so much for reading! Glad to hear at least one person from one of my workshops enjoyed it enough to pass on my blog :) Please feel free to share any of my posts with your admin team and tech department, I would be flattered! Best of luck in your new role next year!

  10. Hi Kim,

    Thank you so much for sharing what you are doing in school. I too sent the link to your blog to the teachers at my campus. It gives us lots to think about and discuss!

    1. Thanks for sending my post around Lindy! I would love to hear what your colleagues think :)

  11. Kim,

    Thanks for your insight and I really like your idea of collaboration. I think it is the ideal way of success in technology integration, especially when we have so many non-tech savvy teachers. Our role as tech facilitators should be to provide support 100% of the way as needed.
    I am currently working for three schools as a tech integrator. My question for you is how do we even begin the process of collaboration between teachers and tech coaches? I have been working for about 3 months and have not been successful in getting one project off the ground. I have met with teachers one-on-one, held technology training sessions, and we even had a facilitated discussion about being technologically literate and whether or not it is necessary and important. I have found that the HS teachers I work with are very reluctant to having someone else work with them as they are very ‘independent.’ It seems to me as thought they do not think that they need to innovate and to grow and learn and be better teachers. Any suggestions on how I can move forward and even get to the full collaboration stage you talk about in your article?

    1. @Francine,

      I do think it takes time to work towards full collaboration – especially if teachers are resistant. I also think HS teachers tend to be the most resistant because they often consider themselves expert in their field (and therefore do not need help).

      My first task is always to start working with the teachers that are interested (I like to refer to that as “Working with the Willing“), and then allowing them to share their experiences with their colleagues. It always seems to be the best way to “sell” my services is not for me to do it, but for other teachers. I would see if you can target your services to at least one teacher in each department and see if you can have some success that way.

      I also think it’s worthwhile to try to build personal relationships with as many people as you can. It’s seems like a strange way to get started, but once you have a certain level of trust, teachers will usually be willing to try other things with you.

      Often it feels a little bit like we’re tip-toeing around the real topic, but I always try to put myself in the other teacher’s shoes and think about how I would want to be approached. You might also like a book we’ve been reading in our coaches group, which I reference in this post: Difficult Conversations.

  12. Hi Kim and Francine
    I’ve read your comments about teacher collaboration on technology issues. In my school there is the same problem, some teachers are resistant. The reason most teachers are resistant is because they are not comfortable with technology. Some fear it, find it complicated, others don’t understand it, and there are other factors. So, what I do to lower the force field that teachers have built around them is that giving them some insight about how technology is impacting everyone around us. Kids today are coming up technology literate, and teachers have to be one step ahead of them. This I tell told to my fellow teachers. I’m sure they don’t want to be left behind, and teachers would not feel comfortable if they have their students teach them how to use technology. I talk to a lot of my co-teachers and they listen, and then they realize that at least they will have to try. I also teach them one-on-one which is much better for some teachers, since in a class of more than 25 people, it’s kind of hard for everyone to understand what’s going on! And most get lost in the process! So, the tech on our campus, in the afternoons, gives classes to at least 5 people, and it works out pretty good. So, everyone gets an opportunity to get ahead in technology. I also am a teacher that helps other teachers by teaching them how to integrate technology into their classroom, and I can teach them one-on-one, which is so much easier for them. I also write down simple step by step instructions for them to work a program, and they get it. Technology is fun! I tell the teachers that, and I try to make the complicated look simple. When that is done, teachers I work with begin to get into it, and then they begin to love it! So trying to change someone’s attitude has to start with ours, and even if we are technology literate, we have to be sensitive to others, and understand that some teachers are not technology literate, and we have to get them to that point, and fast! So, I look for solutions that will make them feel comfortable towards using technology, and letting them know it’s fun, just try it, you’ll like it! Love your work!

    1. @Solana,

      I think you’ve hit on 2 very important points: the fear factor and the importance of 1-on-1 instruction. Lowering the barriers by making technology approachable and fun is so important. Once teachers realize that they can’t break anything they are more willing to try something new! That 1-to-1 time is also critical to build relationships and trust. Without trust between teachers it’s awfully hard to get them to try something new.

  13. Wow! This was a great post! Our district is really moving toward having “technology coaches” instead of the “on site computer fixer”. This post really reflected what I feel my role will be as the technology coach at my school next year. I love the collaboration model- what a great resource and structure for me to follow in that role! Thanks!

  14. After taking off only 1 year from teaching to stay home with my daughter, I was amazed at all of the new technology that was being used in the classrooms. I expected to come right back and jump in where I left off. However, I was amazed at all of the new things I needed to quickly learn. Having a tech coach as a member of the intervention team is a great idea expecially for people who want to integrate technology into their lessons but need advice on how to do it.

    1. @Alana,

      It’s amazing how quickly the world is changing isn’t it? Things that were impossible a year ago are almost expected today. If it’s the coaches job to keep up with all of those changes, I think it helps teachers feel more comfortable knowing where to go for support.

  15. Hi, Kim,

    I’m working on my capstone project to fulfill a degree requirement for a Masters in Educational Technology over here at the Harvard University Extension School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    One of the things I’ve been working on this semester is figuring out the collaboration process that goes on in schools between classroom teachers and technology integration specialists. I stumbled across your “Collaboration Cycle” while searching for resources about collaboration. I like it because it shows the different types of collaboration and how one type leads to another type. Your cycle has made me think differently about professional development and technology integration.

    Have you shared this cycle through ISTE or other educational organizations? Are you on twitter?

    Thanks again,
    Rosie Delacruz

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