Questions for Hiring a Technology Coach

Nov 13, 2014 by

I was one of the first Instructional Technology Coaches hired by a school district in my county (usually regional educational service agencies do that sort of thing). That was four and a half years ago, and since then I’ve taken on a much more quasi-administrative role in my district. However, over the years I’ve gotten a lot of questions and requests for help in shaping similar roles in neighboring school districts. I share the original job description for my position, the interview process, and any other questions that come my way. I try to be helpful.

I was contacted by another individual seeking input of this nature this week via Twitter, and was asked a very compelling and unique question. Typically people just want the job description, and a walk through of my average week. This individual wanted to know specifically “If you were on the hiring committee for an instructional technology coach, what questions would you ask?” The first time I was asked specifically about a list of questions about hiring a tech-savvy teacher, David Warlick blasted me for focusing too much on the educational side, and not enough on the technical. I thought I had created a fairly balanced list, which was published in the Winter 2007 issue of Interactive Educator (it’s a small side bar of “Do’s and Dont’s”).

In retrospect, my original list of “do’s and dont’s” may have come down more heavily on the educational side of things, but I was speaking from my perspective then, and quite frankly, the questions that Mr. Warlick provided in return weren’t my cup of tea either.  So, in an attempt to provide an updated list of questions that better reflect my experience, and a more balanced approach, I’ve broken them up into three categories to get a feel for each role that an Instructional Technology Coach must play. Agree with me or not, this is where I would start and most likely would continue to refine the questions with the hiring committee until we felt as though each of these three categories were well represented, and could provide us with some meaningful insight as to who they are as an individual.

question mark sculpture

Questions About Leadership – An instructional technology coach is a leader, first and foremost

  • What experience do you have leading adults?
  • How would you approach a teacher that just doesn’t want to “get on the bus?”
  • An instructional coach needs support, what support would you need from an administrator?
  • How would you help adult learners be accountable for achieving goals?
  • Can you share an example of being a “team player” despite holding opinions contrary to your superior?

Questions About Teaching – An instructional technology coach understands pedagogy and people

  • Who is your educational hero, and why do they inspire you?
  • How do you reflect on your personal beliefs and educational philosophy?
  • A colleague tells you that they don’t believe in a learning philosophy or pedagogical viewpoint that you hold dear. How do you deal with that?
  • What’s the single biggest similarity between adult learners and younger learners? The biggest difference?
  • An administrator asks you to lead a workshop for a group of teachers you’ve never met. What’s the first thing you do when you walk into the room with them?

 Questions About Technology – An instructional technology coach should posses an innate desire to “tinker”

  • What’s the last thing you took apart, just to see how it worked?
  • What’s the last thing you created because other resources out there weren’t good enough?
  • How do you go about troubleshooting a technical problem?
  • What does your digital footprint look like?
  • What framework or set of tools do you employ to narrate, curate, and share your learning process?

 

image – question mark in esbjerg by Alexander Henning Drachmann

6 Comments

  1. Great list of questions! I especially like the “tinker” group and often think questions similar to those should be asked of any applicant about the position that he or she is interviewing for. There isn’t a better way to show your passion for a field of work than to be able to explain how you “dive” into it just for the fun and knowledge that comes from inquiry and exploration. Thank you, Ben!

    • I went back and forth on those questions the most, Rob. There are so many ways to approach the technological aspect of a position like mine. Are you the cheerleader type for learning activities enhanced with technology? Are you a hardcore techie that lives and breathes a particular platform? Are you put of the “cult of new” that always pushes for new shiny? You could put 5 different instructional technology coaches next to each other, and get 5 completely different profiles of a “techie.” I wanted questions that would be proud enough, but allow the hiring team to follow up with deeper questions.

  2. Ben,
    Depending on your definition of an ed tech coach, because that role seems to take on different meanings in different places this may or may not apply to all districts. In coaching teachers to transition to a more integrated approach to student learning I believe it’s important to include parents into that shift as well. I have asked this question when hiring an ed tech coach, “What ideas or strategies could you offer for involving parents in understanding the new ways students are/will be working and learning in a digital environment?”

    • I really like that approach, Jennifer! I made the assumption that most successful classrooms teachers would have a good grasp on the parent/home relationship, but that might have been a significant oversight for me; I taught a non-core class at the elementary level that had minimal contact with parents (I worked with 900 students each week), so That would certainly be a valid question. And you’re right, every district would approach this from a different standpoint, I could only speak from my experience.

  3. As a elementary teacher turned technology integration specialist, I feel that teaching and learning should be at the heart of everything we do in the schools because when you come down to it, that is why we all in education are here. I find that one of my biggest assets in my ability to relate to my staff as a teacher and understand what they do everyday including all the trials and tribulations. In addition to having an exceptional understanding of teaching and learning, a tech coach needs to have solid people/customer service skills. It doesn’t matter how much you know about technology, you won’t be a good coach unless you can build bonds with your teachers/staff/students. They need to be able to trust you and know that it is “safe” to come to you with questions and ideas.

    • I still tend to fall back on prioritizing the educational strength of an Instructional Technology Coach too. Being able to relate to others and work from a standpoint of “how can I help you” with a systematic approach of pedagogy and empathy is essential, and often hard to teach others. The ability to manipulate the technology is secondary, but still must be strong.

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