If you’re wondering how to most effectively deploy classroom technology, these educators who have done it offer the following pointers:
1. Seek student input in technology decision-making.
Greenwich (Conn.) Public Schools surveys students, staff members and parents every two years to determine what’s working and what needs to be improved. Janice Gunnip, the district’s director of educational technology, says student feedback is especially important. “They are our main customer,” she says, and serving them “drives what we do.”
For example, four years ago, the IT staff learned from their survey that they needed to upgrade the network because it was taking too long for students to log in. They resolved the issue by installing new equipment.
2. Implement technology in phases.
A multiyear approach eases the budgetary pain and gives districts more time for adequate professional development. After all, teachers must be trained to not only use the technology and become comfortable with it, but also to integrate the tools into their curriculum.
During the first year of City School District of New Rochelle’s interactive whiteboard deployment, for example, teachers used the boards from portable carts (rather than having them installed on their classroom walls) and were trained in how to use them. The arrangement “gave teachers time to learn how to use the tool and to plan its use in instruction,” says Dr. Christine Coleman, CSDNR’s director of technology.
3. Experiment with new approaches to using technology in the classroom.
Administrators must create an atmosphere in which teachers can experiment, says Billie McConnell, assistant professor of teacher education and director of the K–12 Digital Learning Institute at Abilene Christian University in Texas. “Teachers have to not be afraid to fail. If they don’t believe that they are in that environment, then they won’t try anything,” he says. “[They’ll simply stick] with what they’ve done before.”
4. Offer “on-demand” professional development.
When CSDNR teachers want to include technology in a lesson but need some guidance, they can turn to one of the district’s eight technology facilitators for immediate aid. Coleman says these facilitators are available to provide planning assistance, to help implement technology-infused instruction, to offer same-day training and even to coteach a class.
“If a teacher needs to know how to record a lesson on an interactive whiteboard for the next day or even the next period, a facilitator can provide training immediately,” she explains.
5. Consider a Bring Your Own Device program.
Instead of implementing one-to-one computing, some budget-conscious districts are permitting students to bring their own devices to school.
Greenwich Public Schools, for example, rolled out Wi-Fi over the past year so students in grades nine through 12 can use their own notebooks, tablets and MP3 players in their school’s media center, says Fran Kompar, the district’s program coordinator for K–12 media and technology. Some teachers also allow their students to use personal devices in the classroom — for educational purposes only, she adds.