Have you ever wondered what a digital learning coach's day-to-day is like? Lisa Hockenberry, from Frisco ISD in Texas, overviews the rewards, challenges, daily motivations, and the ins and outs of her coaching role.
he Digital Learning Coach (DLC) position has been in my district for years, although gradually transformed from the previous Tech Facilitator role. I've always had an affinity for technology in the classroom, so I was intrigued when a DLC asked if I were interested in that position.
After some discussion, I decided to pursue this next phase in my career while my campus DLC mentored me and helped prepare me for all this job entailed. After two years of working toward my ultimate goal—and succeeding on little goals along the way—I finally became a DLC myself! Read on to learn what the role entails, a day in the life, and the rewards and challenges that make up the position I love.
What is a digital learning coach?
Before stepping into the role, I had done my research about what it entailed, although I still wasn't prepared for the scale of day-to-day adventures I would experience.
As a DLC, I lend support with the curriculum and instruction, and seek opportunities to embed edtech tools along the way. I have to understand the direction of the Future Ready (FR) district framework to help teachers and students move toward being future-ready—with and without technology.
It's not just about the technology and the fun things you can do with it, it's learning the intentionality behind the tool and how it will benefit every student's learning experience.
Our district's current focus is on personalized learning (PL), which gives students the opportunity to grow at their own pace and have a learning experience tailored to their needs, allowing individual differentiation and individualized goal-setting.
Here, it's the teacher's job to provide those PL opportunities and support the 5Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and digital citizenship) throughout their students' day. It's the DLC's role to support those teachers in using the 5Cs and PL in the classroom.
My department is rolling out an updated version of our 5C program this year, focusing on the successes of teachers already doing this work—big and small—in the classroom. When we see a teacher using one of the 5Cs in their classroom, we leave them a note and tweet about them. That's where I come in!
My goal is to leave notes daily across my campuses to showcase and celebrate the work that's already being done. It also gives me an informal glimpse into when and how often each of the 5Cs are being used, while also giving me insight into each teacher's strengths and struggles with them. This knowledge helps me leverage my 5C-expert teachers with others that haven’t arrived there yet.
A significant aspect of my day-to-day is building relationships with teachers and noticing their work in growing toward our campus FR goals. I go on classroom visits throughout both campuses I work at. I like to pop in and hang out with the kids to see what they're working on; this gives me ideas on new ways to support teachers and students alike.
Another part of my day might be spent meeting with teachers one-on-one, partnering with them through a coaching cycle to bring those FR skills into the classroom in intentional and meaningful ways.
I also attend team planning meetings with resources I've already gathered for the concept they're working on. There, I ask questions to facilitate discussion around the FR skills encouraged in the lesson they're planning; I'm a working partner for the campus teams to support their processes. Finally, some of my day might often be spent with my coaching team, thinking through the struggles on the campus, or planning learning opportunities for teachers.
Why I show up
I absolutely love being a DLC, partnering with teachers both in teams and as individuals. I recently had a collaborative meeting with a teacher, where we started with a small idea and grew it together to incorporate a FR skill and an edtech tool. Through discussion and thinking through the content, we arrived at a goal focused on the students' "future-readiness" in becoming proficient through communication in their writing block. The collaboration and partner work are wonderful and rewarding parts of this job.
Serving multiple campuses and the wearing-of-many-hats are two significant challenges I face as a DLC. I struggle to achieve a balance working across two distinctly different campuses. Another challenge, for example, is acting as tech support for the K-5 classroom; there are days when software issues can consume a whole day.
However, I'm continually working to keep balance and make sure that any software challenges don't take up all my time to the point that I miss out on a rewarding discussion with a teacher. To achieve this, I've been working hard to build supports for myself so I can be more successful in my individual coaching and attend to my campuses equally.
A DLC's work is based on a partnership principle to help guide teachers with FR skills in the classroom. We're in a constant cycle of being learners, coaches, and leaders on our campus. Our role depends deeply on our knowledge of pedagogy, coaching, and edtech tools.
We have to partner with teachers and understand the goal of our campus and district to move forward. This is another reason it's essential to always be a learner, not just a coach and leader. We work closely with our coaching team on campus to build capacity for each other and for our teachers. Partnerships and collaboration are key to a successful DLC.
About our Guest Blogger
Lisa Hockenberry is a K-5 Digital Learning Coach (DLC) in North Texas. She received her education degree from the Texas Woman's University and taught 2nd and 3rd grade for a total of seven years.
Lisa has always displayed a passion for technology in building curriculum in the classroom. She works to support future-ready students by collaborating with teachers to embed meaningful technology into their lessons. Discovering new ways to implement technology and generating teacher excitement is one of Lisa's favorite components of being a digital learning coach. She has shared her learning by presenting at District PD sessions, and she had the privilege of presenting at the Teach with Tech national conference this past summer.