What is an Innovation Coach?

The short answer:

It’s about:

  • More focused collaboration with colleagues to improve learning (ideally supported by a team)
  • Improving good practice through collaborative design of better outcomes and learning objectives
  • Not starting and ending with technology (though it matters!)…

For a start.

The Long(er) Answer


The idea of educational coaching is not entirely new but, like many relatively new ideas, it has many meanings to different people. I am sharing my thoughts on it briefly here.

Step 1, The Historical Context: Educational Technology Coach
It seems to me that more widely known is the development of educational technology coaching. Most agree that technology integration in schools is necessary. With no more time available and increasing demands on curricula, teachers seek to embed the development of technology skills and understandings into their prescribed units of work.

The pace of technology, however, can add strain to overworked teachers making it difficult to keep up. Enter the technology coach. Ideally experienced classroom teachers from the start, these people combine the best of specialist teacher and co-teacher. These coaches:

  1. Bring new ideas based on the ever-changing technology landscape
  2. Offer insights into how technology can be integrated into the curriculum
  3. Support teachers and students in the development of related skills
  4. Help students and teachers reflect on the bigger picture of how technology fits into our world and how it supports learning (the meta aspect)




Evolution of the Tech Coach
As technology becomes a more and more natural part of the planning process, however, many begin to wonder if this position is still necessary. Now, this is my take on things here but…

For this to be true it must address the facts noted above; most importantly, the fact that teachers still have increasing demands made upon their time. Valuing a position in which teachers have access to new ideas from an in-house expert should not be disregarded.



Enter the Innovation Coach
This is a natural step, hence my reference to it as evolutionary. As also alluded to, the need for innovation with technology is widely accepted. This transformation to innovation coaching addresses the fact that it will always be necessary but that innovation has never and should never begin and end with technology.

The idea of developing proven talent with the passion for teaching with and through technology, the introduction of a more far reaching role, not limited to technology, seems quite natural in this context.

Professional Learning vs. Professional Development
At their best these change agents support teachers empathetically to develop strategies for reflecting on practice to constantly improve (see cognitive coaching).

And this is all done in-house, in an ongoing fashion to support teachers through taking responsibility for their own professional learning and development. We’ve all attended weekend workshops that may be inspiring at the time but fail to help us achieve lasting change. This obstacle can be overcome to some extent by participating in high energy, learner driven events where professionals choose their own learning pathways and work in ways that best support their own unique learning styles (As we strive to enable our students to). The constancy of in-house, learning communities, however, is still the core.




Of course, when professional development is mapped out and informed by a clearly defined and monitored vision of professional growth this can also be a powerful force for change. In a model in which selected groups are sent to workshops with the directive of developing action plans (see ASCD action research) then we achieve the best of both worlds. Taken further to a departmental and school wide level by administrators you can get a sense of what a school may become through the strength of a synergistic approach.


Employing further an actively global networked approach allows educators to reach further outside of these immediate communities for fresh ideas to share within their school groups of practice as well.


Are You Interested in Becoming a Published Bestseller?


Go here for more on:



There is far more to consider than is practical for this (short?) blog post. We’ve only brushed upon the ideas of cognitive coaching and action research without even considering the use of standards such as the International Society for Technology in Education’s famous “ISTE’s“. These are an effective source of reflection for teachers to use in order to assess to proven standards and supply students with appropriately reworded rubrics for formative, reflective and summative assessments (another whole blog post there).

A Final Word for Coaches and Would-be Coaches
Be generous. You are learning all the time in your drive to support others.

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-2-06-02-pmShare it within:

  • your department
  • your school community
  • your area
  • your region
  • the world.

When you need to support someone with a more skills related task make a digital record of it. Make the screencast. Make the Google Slides tutorial. Then set up some sort of repository (see personal example here) to share with others for inspiration or as a resource that can be used again and again as more people become interested.


Share this around!


TPACK is an effective visual on the ideal of integration

Still need more? Check out Seán McHugh’s more scholarly post on Digital Technology Coaching (DTC, another term for plain old Tech Coach though descriptive) here.

Also look for:

  • Technology Integration Specialist
  • Technology Integrator
  • Educational Technology Coach

Oh and speaking of ideals, check out:


About Sean Thompson

Sean is an educational technology specialist at Sacred Heart International School in Tokyo. He travels extensively across southeast Asia speaking, presenting and participating in discussions regarding the effective integration of technology in an educational setting. In 2014 he partnered up with DEEP Learning to support the team with the development, promotion and execution of professional development conferences for teachers worldwide. Sean is also an Apple Distinguished Educator, an International Baccalaureate Educator Network Workshop Leader , a Google education Trainer and a Certified Google Educator available for professional development at your school.
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8 Responses to What is an Innovation Coach?

  1. Pingback: What is an Innovation Coach? | Technology Embedded: Living, Learning, Teaching

  2. mistermchugh says:

    Hey Sean, (great name too) it’s great to finally see another coach wrestling with articulating what it is that we ‘tech coaches’ do, my own attempt is here http://pr0tean.blogspot.sg/2014/04/digital-literacy-coaches-what-do-we-do.html mine is littered with academic references, because TBH I find there are far too many tech coaches who think their own opinion is all that matters. Also far too many who have a skill set that seems to amount to WWPP (Word processing, web browsing, power points, and printing) with no regard to a wider skills set that encompasses what I all Vitamin D VITAD: Video, Image, Text, Audio and Data.

    I was also amazed to discover that Wikipedia is oblivious of our role, which strikes me as more than a little ironic, to that end I am in the process of trying to write an article that does justice to what it is we do, so I’d welcome other perspectives and contributions, it’s here if you or your PLN are interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draft:Digital_Literacy_Coach

    Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Sean, we missed you at the DEEP Learning Malaysia event buddy! Thanks for joining this conversation. I appreciate your efforts to make academic references to your own work. Makes it easier for pontificating slackers like me! (Though to my credit I wrote this during a break at my second job as the passion for sharing is also fundamental to what we do).

      I’ve started reading both your Wikipedia page and blog post. I will be setting aside some time later to give them both a proper read. I also agree about the lack of skill sets and understandings of some WWPP types. It’s been said again and again it takes administrators who use tech to offer foundational leadership for a school to effectively integrate it. (Sorry, no citation).

      Thanks again for your thoughts. let’s keep this conversation going here or at my deep mail. I blog to share my own perspectives and thoughts and to have these conversations. Let’s be honest here. The academics can only write what they to do be cited by learning from us in the first place. I believe blogging is often personal not academic (choice of blogger not normative). I write and state that mine is opinion. I do like to link to other pages for references and give more for readers to go to. I also like to mix up the “wall of text” with bullet points , quotes and self-made video and images to drive the message visually (as you mentioned as well).

      I’m presently taking this edX class, Launching Innovation in Schools (free from MIT though already underway) which I think you would love: https://courses.edx.org/courses/course-v1:MITx+11.154x+1T2017/740b14abfade43349bd8fb5e5f52602c/

      Hope to keep this conversation going!

      • mistermchugh says:

        seriously cutting back on the conferences I attend that require getting on a plane, in fact this whole year I’m attending one, and I’m second thoughts about that, as alluded to earlier, I just don’t I find them to be very effective forms of PD anymore, More about a certain tech cadre of ‘Twitterati’ getting together for a hobnob and to massage each other’s egos and play with tech toys than aoiut facilliatig significant pedagogical change. Like you, my attention has shifted to trying to build my own conference that is the kind I’d like to see, ie oriented around teaching practice in specific teaching domains than around the tech community. Thanks for taking the time t,read my work, the citations are not an implied criticism of those that don’t, more a by product of the fact that I’ve found I’m more likely to gain traction with non tech enthusiasts if Imcan back up my opinion with some authority beyond my own perspective and experience. A great source of a lot of the research I use as a basis for my own thoughts and writing is my Twitter feed!

        Maybe I’ll see you at RTL or RTN this year, I won’t blame you if I don’t though!

  3. Love the term innovation coach – might have been more appropriate for my role than “instructional coach”.

    Great blog!

  4. Lauren Taylor says:

    Great blog! Love that schools are finally investing in innovation coaches or whatever they decide to name the position. It’s such a needed yet challenging position to be in but so much fun! A lot of time there aren’t enough innovation coaches to go around. Iorad is a tool that I love & have used personally to help me teach applications to others rather than making a video screencast or take screenshots. A tool that could really revolutionize that support for teachers with all the increasing demands in education & all the new applications they are forced to learn but have no time.

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