Google and Digital Promise Reimagine Teacher Tech Training with New...

Professional Development

Google and Digital Promise Reimagine Teacher Tech Training with New National Program

By Jenny Abamu     Jul 28, 2017

Google and Digital Promise Reimagine Teacher Tech Training with New National Program

While the government might be pulling funding from teacher training programs, private organizations are stepping up to fill the gap. This week, Google, in concert with Digital Promise and EdTechTeam, announced the start of the Dynamic Learning Project (DLP), a national program to help educators in low-income communities build advanced classroom technology skills.

Google is giving Digital Promise a $6.5 million-dollar grant to research and implement a professional development model that uses coaches to help teachers optimize the use of technological resources in classrooms. Digital Promise will monitor and evaluate the project’s implementation and execution, while the EdTechTeam, a global network of education technologists (many of whom are former educators), will lead the coaching program through ongoing mentorship and professional development.

The year-long DLP pilot will begin this fall in 50 schools in five states: Alabama, California, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. According to a blog post by Liz Anderson, head of social impact programs at Google for Education, the coaches are expected to personalize learning for teachers by helping them optimize the technology already available in the classroom.

“For years, we’ve worked hard to help more classrooms access technology,” wrote Anderson. “Making our products free or affordable doesn’t make usage truly equitable, and quality training is critical to ensure that technology is used in effective and meaningful ways.”

Unlike Google’s educator certification program, these coaches do not solely focus on training teachers to use Google products. Instead, they hope to help teachers discover new ways to work with the software and hardware of their preference.

“A more basic use of technology might be students writing book reports using a word processor,” explains Karen Cator, president and CEO of Digital Promise, in an interview with EdSurge. “A more powerful use would be students conducting research towards solving a problem in their local community, collaborating, finding experts, and leveraging the power of multiple media types.”

Cator says the new training programs will be coupled with monitoring and evaluation, so Digital Promise can identify best practices and discover powerful uses of technology in classrooms that other teachers can learn from. The Redwood City, Calif.-based nonprofit selected the sites for the pilot, based on the interest shown by schools, observed needs in terms of the number of students on free-and-reduced lunch, and the lack of digital learning coaches.

“We wanted to select schools within regions where teachers could potentially share their knowledge within their regions,” says Cator.

Jennie Magiera, chief program officer at EdTechTeam, notes that this is the first big equity and diversity project that her team has taken on. She admits that, at least for now, there is no single approach or method to how her team provides the coaching, given the diverse needs of different schools in varying regions.

“We want to be careful not to say that we have a specific coaching model, but what we wanted to do was really think about how we are going to empower school-based coaches to create a model that best fits their individualized needs,” says Magiera.

Magiera says EdTechTeam's coaching philosophy is based on three tenets. The first is localization and empowerment of coaches, communities and teachers. She hopes to create a network of people who support each other so that the teachers can reach out to coaches and the coaches will have their own mentors. The second is an emphasis on pedagogy over technology so that teachers and coaches understand the classroom challenges first—before thinking about how technology can support their work. The final pillar is basing all practice in research. Magiera is hopeful that by taking this loose philosophical approach to coaching as opposed to a strict model, that her team will be able to consider unique school circumstances.

“If we want to bridge the equity gap we really need to be supporting teachers in the highest need schools,” says Magiera.

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