Thoughts on the Digital Program Consultant Role

The work of the Digital Integrated Program Consultant should be to ensure the integration of digital tools is always done as a means to improve student achievement, in coordination with curriculum aligned, pedagogical best practices. Although there are other facets to the role, the primary focus should be on professional development , and fostering the growth of our teacher colleagues in classrooms.

We must ensure that technology is being used as an effective lever to accelerate pedagogy. Product in the classroom should become secondary to process. For example, using an online post-it program, if that collection is never re-visited, is no more efficient than using a paper version, and may actually introduce other facets that further complicate the work (connectivity issues, passwords, etc). This is where substitution — although a necessary first step — is a step backwards if we linger there for too long. It is the additional process digital uncovers, when used effectively by teachers, that makes the task more relevant, more rich, and more engaging. Having the “post-it” board available online after the class has been dismissed — provides opportunities to consolidate thinking, to share outside of the confines of class schedules, and with external community members. We should always be measuring our usage of technology by whether or not it provides a functional improvement over analogue processes.

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As we assess our efficacy in the classroom, we need to ensure we aren’t getting carried away with shiny new tools that merely substitute for more traditional tasks (the app trap). Technology use that isn’t modifying and redefining what is possible, is missing the point. A key function of the Digital Integrated Program Consultant is to ensure technology is being used effectively to change pedagogy: to connect with external expertise, to amplify student voice, to provision authentic learning opportunities, to differentiate for different learner profiles, and to empower students to recognize their power as agents of change in society.

TPACK Venn Diagram, showing the connections between Technological knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and content knowledge.
http://tpack.org/

The Digital Integrated Program Consultant should operate within the centre of the TPACK diagram, which positions Technology Knowledge, Content/Curriculum Knowledge, and Pedagogical Knowledge, as the three necessary components of a master teacher. The more time we spend on the outer edges of that model — rather than aiming for Professional Development that addresses all three areas simultaneously — the more we risk being ineffective. For example, in PD sessions regarding Google Forms, one could simply address the creation of a questionnaire, or one could explore the deeper facets of assessment triangulation, effective questioning, and the ways in which technology can assist us to better know our students. Math PD that neglects to integrate technology effectively misses out on an opportunity to model effective blended learning practices. Our focus should always strive beyond teaching the tool, and our curricular instruction should strive to model better practice through the tool. What does this mean then for staff professional development opportunities:

  • There is a need to differentiate for individual strengths and needs
  • There is a need to avoid “whole class” instruction in similar ways that we recognize is ineffective when teaching children
  • There is a need to contextualize learning about technology, and effective pedagogy, using the context of the specific curriculum being delivered by each learner
  • There is a need to offer choice, so learners can address individual deficits, and explore personal growth targets

The Digital Integrated Program Consultant should ensure that the entire organization is practicing 21st Century Pedagogies to transform how our classrooms operate, in response to a digital world that demands different skills from our students than those imbued in traditional 20th century models of education.

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