CoSN 2019: Steps Teachers Can Take to Create Sustainable Innovation Programs

Research, teamwork and time are essential to ensure technology integrations will last.

Scaling and sustaining innovation is the No. 1 issue schools should be concerned about in 2019, according to the Consortium for School Networking’s most recent “EdTech Next Report.” 

This is a problem that Norton Gusky, educational technology coordinator for NLG Consulting, has seen regularly, he said during his session at CoSN’s 2019 annual conference

“As a person who has been a director of technology for many years, I have seen it happen time and time again,” said Gusky. “You start something, it lasts a year or two and then it’s gone.”

When programs cannot be sustained, it can become nearly impossible to get teachers on board with future endeavors, said Gusky. 

“Those teachers are always saying, ‘I’ll just wait for the day when it’s going to die again,’ because they have seen it happen, because you haven’t done those things to put the pieces together,” said Gusky. 

To prevent technology integration initiatives from fading, Gusky and fellow CoSN members gathered resources on how to keep innovation programs in place over the long term.

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Evidence Is Crucial for Sustainable Innovation Programs

One of the biggest problems in K–12 is that schools will take on a program without doing the proper research into whether an initiative will fit their needs, said Gusky. 

“I have seen it happen many times: People will jump on a bandwagon, embracing the latest technology,” Gusky said. “We need to be looking at the research and the challenges in education.”

Unlike in other industries, where widespread adoption of new technology may happen more easily, schools can have vastly different cultures, needs and resources, which require unique solutions. 

In order to gather that information, administrators will need to accept that a program may not yield results right away — and that is OK, said Gusky. 

“Successful innovation programs require at least three to five years,” Gusky told attendees. “You need that kind of time.”

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out three ways to achieve a successful school improvement initiative.

5 Steps to Build a Lasting K–12 Program

To help schools as they work toward lasting change, CoSN evaluated innovation frameworks administrators can use as a guide

In his session, Gusky identified one five-step framework by Christopher Dede, a professor in learning technologies at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, as a good resource for K–12 schools:

  1. Depth: Sustainable programs come from a deep understanding of how effective they will be. This requires evaluation and research.
  2. Sustainability: For a program to continue to grow, schools will need to develop a robust design. This will make it easier to course-correct if any negative outcomes stem from the original idea. 
  3. Spread: Programs need multiple stakeholders from the school community in order to succeed. To make this happen, resources need to be shared. Gusky recalled giving teachers laptops in order to show them firsthand the benefits of a program he wanted to accomplish.
  4. Shift: Ownership is crucial for a sustainable innovation program. Users should be considered co-evaluators, co-designers and co-scalers of any ongoing initiative. This includes teachers, administrators, parents and students, said Gusky. When writing a grant proposal at one of his former schools, Gusky brought students into the conversation, which ultimately lead to a much more successful program.
  5. Evolution: Programs are bound to change over time to meet new classroom demands. It is important for leaders to be willing to rethink the innovation model and be open to new ideas. “The model has to be able to grow over time; it cannot be static,” said Gusky. “The ideas you develop today must be able to move on, and if they don’t, you have to move on.”

Overall, said Gusky, collaboration and patience are key to sustainable innovation programs. Without shared ownership, ideas are likely to fail — regardless of how promising they may be.

Keep this page bookmarked for articles and videos from the event. Follow us on Twitter at @EdTech_K12 or the official conference Twitter account, @CoSN, and join the conversation using the hashtag #CoSN2019.

Eoneren/Getty Images
Apr 02 2019

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