Role of the Instructional Technology Specialist

by Jean Tower

Flying Boy Superhero

In Maggie Hos-McGrane’s blog, Tech Transformation, she has a post from 2013 delineating the roles of the Instructional Technology Specialist. I recommend you read the post in its entirety – her descriptions of the roles are drawn from many years of experience and her accumulated wisdom.

2013 List of Competencies

Collaborate, Find and share resources, Innovate, Continue to learn, Provide Professional Development, Teach digital citizenship and information fluency, Communicate

2014 List of Competencies

In her updated recent post, she shifts to a newer incarnation of the role – the technology integration coach – and refers to the ISTE tech coach standards in thinking about the new skills needed.

Maggie selects and describes ten primary roles of the technology integration coach:

Data Coach, Resource Provider, Mentor, Curriculum Specialist, Instructional Specialist, Classroom Supporter, Learning Facilitator, School Leader, Catalyst for Change, Learner


How many are the same/similar to the key roles described in 2013, what has been added or removed?

Collaborator might be seen as having been replaced by stronger more direct-action roles such as mentor and classroom supporter. Find and share resources finds itself still on the list as resource provider. Innovator translates to the more proactive catalyst for change and continue to learn survives on the new list as learner. Professional development provider becomes data coach and learning facilitator. Teach digital citizenship has been dropped, a nod to the fact that the role often no longer includes direct student instruction. Communicator is not explicit in the new list of key skills and proficiencies, but I assume it is included in many of the other jobs in the list, included horizontally across the other capabilities. But the difference between the two lists, only a year apart testify to the evolving role of the instructional technology specialist or coach. Per Maggie’s new list, they must also be able to coach teachers on using data, be specialists about curriculum and instruction, and be school leaders.

My Additions/Deletions

I agree with most of the items in each post. There are a few things I would pull from this framework, having someone else or a team be primarily responsible. For example, in place of data coach I would encourage schools to create data teams led by the school principal. And, while the best instructional technology specialists know curriculum and instruction well enough to do their jobs, there must be others for whom this is primary – math specialists/coaches, for example, or department chairs and curriculum leaders in the upper grades. I agree with Joellen Killion (in Coaching Approaches and Perspectives) that heaping too much on the plate of an education coach diffuses the focus and dilutes the impact. One person cannot do it all.

Once the emphasis on data and specializing in curriculum and instruction in general was reduced, I would also add a few things that focus on learning in a digital environment in a more specific way. I would expect a really good tech specialist/coach to devote more time to diving deep in technology use, digital resources, planning, assessing, and promoting best practices. These might be defined as including these tasks:

Provide leadership in the implementation of effective classroom technology, and participate in planning school and district initiatives around technology.

Provide workshops and professional development sessions, not just for staff, but for parents and community members.

Encourage effective use of new tools and apps and social media both for teaching and learning with students and for professional development.

Create and maintain a robust online library of resources and support documents.

Organize opportunities to showcase and promote best practices in technology integration.

Participate in assessing and evaluating technology programs and use.

I would also expect them to be constantly learning, investigating, innovating, and leading change efforts. To do that they need to master lots of supporting competencies – building effective relationships, observing current practices and determining low hanging fruit (easy changes to drive forward), partnering with teachers and administration, collaborating, solving problems, knowing when to lead from in front or support from behind, modeling/coaching/supporting/nudging and finding a balance among these tactics, overcoming being an outsider (as a non classroom teacher) and truly becoming one of the team, and always, always pushing their own learning forward.

Superhero Required?

An excellent instructional technology specialist must possess a daunting and diverse set of skills, and finding the right person is no easy task. They need to be skilled in adult learning science, curriculum, and instruction, as well as possess technical-type skills to be able to understand and use data, figure out new technology and match it to instructional goals. Then they also need the “softer” skills associated with coaching adults – communicating, leading, fostering innovation, and facilitating change.

Are there enough people with the capacity to fill all these roles? I think each school and district needs to think about what pieces they can peel away and assign to another coach, or how they might create teams that work together to accomplish the goals set for the instructional technology specialist or coach. In addition, we need to provide a long-term plan guiding the focus of these specialists and that plan needs to include a very concrete and focused sets of goals for each year.



Related: Tips for Success for the New Instructional Technology Specialist


Image source: stock images

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jennifer March 16, 2017 at 12:12 am

Great information. I’m just looking for additional information to read to assist me in taking my GACE IT exam.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: