Mar 23 2020

Getting Your School Board on Board for Educational Tech

Collaborating with school boards is key when implementing tech-driven initiatives.

School boards play a critical role when it comes to implementing new initiatives such as educational technology programs and deployments. They typically hold the purse strings for K–12 school districts and are responsible for making sure funds are allocated in a way that best meets district needs and learning objectives.

But getting school boards to approve funding for new tech isn’t so easy. Administrators and IT leaders must keep in mind that school boards are balancing budgets and technology requests but may not be experts in the technologies presented to them.

Plus, school boards are wary about ed tech going to waste. U.S. schools spend an estimated $13 billion on more than 7,000 ed tech tools each year, but research shows that 85 percent of that spending is wasted on products that are a poor fit or implemented incorrectly for schools, according to the Jefferson Education Exchange, a non-profit organization dedicated to researching how education leaders can make informed decisions about technology.

To that end, administrators and IT leaders must collaborate with school boards to develop a common vision for tech-driven initiatives. They must also help board members clearly understand the potential impact of implementing certain technologies in the classroom by tying them back to the district’s strategic plan and vision. Here are four ways to do that:

  1. Have a plan in place. One key factor in successfully implementing educational technology is having an integration plan. In their EdTech Genome Project, the Jefferson Education Exchange defined these plans as having “systematic and inclusive processes and associated resources” that will enable school districts to “vet and select technology prior to purchasing and full-scale implementation.” A well-developed integration plan can help school board members better understand why districts are looking into certain technologies and vendors, and also help them envision what pilot trials may look like. This will also put board members in a better position to discuss tech expenditures with the rest of their community.
  2. Incorporate feedback. Administrators and IT leaders must take teacher and student feedback into consideration before presenting tech-driven initiatives to the school board — after all, they’re the ones who’ll be using the technology. This is particularly important as some educators still say they don’t have the ability or proper training to successfully use ed tech in their classroom. For example, a 2019 Gallup survey found that nearly 25 percent of 3,210 pre–K through 12th grade U.S. public school teachers surveyed had little to no information about the learning tools they use in their classroom. By actively involving educators in conversations about and the plan for ed tech deployments, school leaders will have a better understanding of how ed tech fits into everyday lesson plans and supports academic standards.
  3. Be transparent about investment costs. Deploying ed tech tools isn’t as simple as passing out Chromebooks or virtual reality headsets to students, especially if schools don’t have the infrastructure to support them. School Boards will have plenty of questions before approving the purchase of technology, Thomas J. Gentzel, executive director and CEO at the National School Boards Association, tells EdTech. They’ll ask about how tech-involved initiatives address teacher training and professional development; student data security and privacy; and network connectivity and access. Solutions for all of those can add up, so district leaders need to factor them into their plans and clearly explain to board members why they might be asking for additional tech and infrastructure upgrades that can sustain their initiatives over the long run.
  4. Launch a pilot program. Board members are healthy skeptics about technology because they need to make sure schools are prepared to use it, Gentzel says. One way that district leaders can ensure this is by running a pilot program. Piloting a product or project allows districts to see the potential value of implementing new classroom technologies and assess their impact. Board members are even becoming more involved in test-driving new devices before deploying them, Chip Slaven, chief advocacy officer at the NSBA, shares with EdTech. This opportunity gives them a clear picture of what works and doesn’t work, for which schools and why.

Successful technology initiatives are a result of a collaboration between administrators, technology staff and the Board of Education. Including board members and understanding how they view educational technology will ensure that partnership is strong.

If administrators and IT leaders want to improve collaboration with board members on tech-driven initiatives, they must understand how school boards view educational technology and brainstorm ways to best support the decisions they make for their district.

This article is part of the “Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

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