What Qualities does an Effective Digital Trainer Have? To Name a Few…..

I recently had an very rewarding and thought-provoking conversation with one of my colleagues who is our Digital Education Coach for the secondary school where I am currently working.  She and I meet periodically to discuss topics related to the intersection of digital technology and pedagogy.  As I strive to increase both the use and effectiveness of digital technology in my classroom, she is an invaluable resource for me, and I am grateful that she takes the time out of her schedule to meet with me.  On this occasion, we met to discuss the possibility of starting a Google Educators Group for Zurich and/or Switzerland, as there doesn’t yet appear to be an existing one. (yet! Stay tuned…)

During this conversation, I asked her about some of the approaches and techniques that she uses to help guide and educate the secondary faculty in the successful integration of digital technology into their curricula.  This was a question that I had specifically wanted to ask her, as I have recently been reading about some of the differences between adult and child/teenage learners.  I left the conversation pondering the differences in approach one must take in teaching/guiding adults, versus teenagers.  Indeed, many of the principles of good teaching are universal to teaching all age groups, but adults as learners do indeed differ.

Malcolm Knowles, pioneer in the field of andragogy, defined four principles governing how adults learn.  Quoting Richard Culatta (cited author of this webpage from the site www.instructionaldesign.org) they are:

  1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  2. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities.
  3. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life.
  4. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.

My conversation with my colleague, as well as the readings for week 3 of the course, have provided some excellent perspectives on what qualities an effective teacher of adults must have.  I have summarized some of my thoughts about this below, specifically in the context of a digital technology trainer guiding other teachers/colleagues.  

An effective trainer must have an adept command of a number of interpersonal skills.  Trainers often may have to give delicate feedback to colleagues, and perhaps work to guide others who are not fully convinced that they need to change their teaching approach at all.  I imagine that one of the most difficult aspects about being a trainer is having to convince reluctant adopters of otherwise widely accepted and utilized technology to change their approach.  Indeed, this was verified by my colleague as well, who has years of experience in this field.  So, how does an effective trainer successfully guide sometimes-reluctant colleagues toward the effective use of digital technologies?  

The answer may be related to empowerment, and personalizing the process specifically to the perhaps-reluctant-teacher in question.  This idea is wonderfully articulated and explained by Kristin Daniels (@kadaniels), in her story about “Stacy”, in the video below.  

Another skill that Kristin Daniels also exhibited in her story regarding “Stacy” was her ability to really listen to her colleague.  A good trainer is a good listener, who is there to support their colleagues, and acknowledge concerns that they may have about having to learn a new skill.  In helping to guide a teacher who may have some trepidation before fully embracing a new technology, it is important to really hear their concerns.  By doing so, a good trainer can balance their approach and response appropriately.  For example, it may be that a reluctant teacher needs to simply feel comfortable in a digital environment, learning about things the trainer may think are “basic”, such as shared files, creating/curating a YouTube channel, understanding “the cloud”, etc.  A trainer who is not really listening may inadvertently jump in with their own agenda, and this could potentially be quite intimidating for the teacher.  

I also believe that an effective trainer approaches interactions with colleagues in a non-judgemental way.  Trainers should give advice on how a technology may be utilized, but also recognize that there is no “one way” to do things.   A digital technology trainer can learn from the colleagues they are training as well, provided they have an open mind that is receptive to innovative ways to use technology that they may not have envisioned themselves.

There are more qualities that a good trainer must possess, and a majority of these qualities are not unique to technology integration in education.  However, as I have been pondering this topic for the past week or so, I feel the ones highlighted above have stood out to me the most, as they were not entirely obvious to me at the outset.  

If you have any further links, ideas, or thoughts you would like to share about this, please do so in the comments below!  Thanks for reading!

One thought on “What Qualities does an Effective Digital Trainer Have? To Name a Few…..

  1. Hi Brian. I really enjoyed your post. At my school, we had a “technology coach” last year, however, the superintendent decided that we didn’t have the money to have him continue with us this year and I can see that our technology department is really feeling the pain this year without him. It’s great that your school has a digital education coach (and I actually like that title better than “technology coach”). Our schools really need someone who can help us implement technology in meaningful ways – especially for those teachers who lack confidence. They can have one-on-one meetings and the digital education coach can help each person meet their needs.

    I also enjoyed your the video you posted because I can totally relate to what the speaker was saying. I have been to so many workshops and what she says is true. Usually, we leave with a bunch of ideas, but no time to actually put those ideas into practice. I’ve been in the position so many times in which I’m thinking, “Ok, this is great, but when do we get time to practice and get feedback?”

    My school has a “Tech Ambassador Team” and this year I have become a new member. The team tries to plan “Speed Geeking Sessions” and different workshops for teachers when they have time. However, I do see that the team’s efforts need to be improved to become truly effective. We need to have follow-up sessions or we need to schedule more times in which teachers can share new ways they are integrating technology into the classroom. I have tried to express some ideas of coming back to something we started with the tech ambassador team, but perhaps I can be more persistent and now that I’m on the team, I can try to become more helpful. Furthermore, perhaps I can convince our new superintendent to hire a new “digital education coach” for the following year. It’s really important and I know that the current technology team spread very thin trying to do their jobs plus help teachers.

    One more thing. I like your idea of starting a Google Educators Group. I checked out your link and found that we have a group in my city. In fact, our technology staff plus a few teachers are all members. I sent a request to join, as well.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas. Your article was very organized and enjoyable to read.


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