Educate has been helping teachers and schools innovate & transform learning through technology since 2000.
Frank Hardart and Robert Flanigan founded Educate in 2000 with a mission to integrate technology into schools across the New York metropolitan area. From the outset, they believed deeply in the power of technology for enhancing instruction and engaging students. In the 1990s, the promise of technology was palpable in wider society. The founders wanted to harness technology innovations and support schools in using them. Frank and Bob knew a primary step was to uncover existing barriers to meaningful technology use in schools. To explore the issue, Bob spent time in Bronx-based schools researching how existing educational technology was being used in a number of school communities. He observed in classrooms and met with educators. He inquired into ways administrators gained access to technological tools. He listened to teachers’ instructional challenges, namely engaging students and providing differentiation. The central finding was that many schools had inequitable access to resources; when teachers had access to technological tools, those tools were often more of a problem than an educational solution. After this exploratory study, Frank and Bob were certain that school communities needed greater technology support. They hired a team of teachers turned coaches to focus on assisting educators with technology in their classrooms, and Educate’s instructional technology coaching was officially born.
The Tech Phase
Our work in the earlier days took a human-centered approach. The professional development model was simple: one instructional coach and one teacher, working together. Instructional technology coaches participated alongside teachers in their classrooms. Teachers had questions, and Educate coaches were equipped with technological content knowledge to provide answers. Coaches worked with multiple teachers per school site to set up educational devices and software, and demonstrated use. Our skilled coaches modeled specific technology tools with students and co-planned lessons involving that technology with teachers. During this initial phase in Educate’s history, coaching methods focused on a transactional trajectory of learning. This meant coaches taught their partner-teachers how to use selected tools over time as a way of achieving their individual technology goals. A secondary aspect of the coaching work involved mentoring and problem-solving schoolwide tech-related issues with school leaders.
Strengthening Organizational Commitments & Reimagining Coaching
In the years that followed, Educate’s reach grew to include charter, independent, and public community schools, serving pre-K to high school. Our partner teachers integrated technology into their practice, and there was an influx of new technology into Educate-affiliated schools. Even with these results, we wanted to make a bigger impact. We questioned: How might we redesign for greater innovation? What might we need to reestablish as an organization?
We wanted to be transformational– impacting more than just practice, influencing educators’ ways of being and thinking to activate all learners and transform communities. Through self-study and reflection, the organization made commitments to practice collective leadership, utilize human-centered transformational coaching approaches, and focus on equity as an instructional stance guiding our work. Other major shifts include reimagining educational technology as a tool for innovative ways of teaching and learning, and breaking down systemic barriers of inequity.
To achieve these goals, we adopted a theory of action, operationalizing our commitment to continually create and share knowledge within the organization to support our work outside of the organization. We developed the Innovation Spectrum (2019) which serves as the organization’s instructional guide. We documented the theoretical basis that guides our coaching framework and overall commitments in Educate’s Core Framework on Learners, Learning, and Teaching (2020). Both of these tools serve as touchstones for our work in schools and the design of practice-oriented professional development. In the process of articulating our commitments, we have become a learning organization.
Innovation for the Future
Our mission is to transform learning so that our partner communities can give learners the meaningful and relevant learning experiences they deserve. We hope to inspire learning communities to become healthy and equitable by continually innovating learning environments and harnessing leading-edge technology. We work to promote access and equity for all learners, deepen their critical-thinking skills, and unleash the love of learning. To do this we have expanded our services to include leadership services, workshops, virtual offerings, community building, and team-based professional development, including Problem of Practice (PoP) and Professional Learning Communities (PLC).
We continue to grow our transformational coaching practice with regular and continuous professional development for our coaches. We know that improvement within our partner schools can only occur if we are committed to improvement inside the organization. We are invested in self-study and research our impact with quantitative and qualitative methods. We seek to develop deeper community connections and are uniquely positioned to connect learning communities around the country via Educate’s forthcoming regional and national conferences. We understand that to be transformational is a way of being. We understand that creativity is unleashed when people tap into their fullest capabilities. We are investing in collective thought leadership, as a dynamic, transformational practice, to innovate our organization and the school communities with whom we partner with cutting-edge ideas. We seek to challenge the status quo of the larger educational context. Join us on this journey.