Adding technology to classrooms has become a nationwide conversation, but school administrators are learning that tech for tech’s sake isn’t an end unto itself.
“The goal should not be more kids using technology,” explained CoSN Chair and former Santa Fe Public Schools CIO Tom Ryan, at the CoSN conference workshop, “Systemwide Planning for 21st Century Learning Environments.” The goal is to build a sustainable culture of transformation where implementations are easier and return on investment is better evident.
Santa Fe Public Schools, a district with nearly 14,000 students, invited Ryan to speak at the workshop to inform school system administrators about the keys to their success with rolling out new technology and educating teachers about how to use it.
Here are a few of the takeaways from the workshop and for more from our editors, visit our conference page.
1. Seek Stakeholder Engagement for New Tech Initiatives
“Start simple,” says Jeff Lunsford, of the eLearn Institute. “There is no way to effect revolution overnight. Over time you will gain allies.”
As a technology program grows, it becomes easier to win over more stakeholders, allowing districts to then add more complexity and capacity. Also, attempt to include everyone’s voice. Santa Fe focused on six groups of stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, administrators (both at the school site and at the district), the broader community and businesses.
“You might not know all of your stakeholders, so gather info before you bring them to the table,” says Felicia Maestas, a digital learning coach at SFPSD. “You need to know their expectations in advance.”
2. Make a Plan for How to Communicate with Stakeholders
With any plan, stakeholders will need to be educated continuously. SFPSD created a comprehensive calendar that scheduled multiple forums at each school explaining the technology to stakeholders prior to a public vote on a bond for technology funding. A team of digital learning coaches attended the forums to answer questions.
3. Build a Comprehensive IT Budget
Include all of the support elements to make a technology implementation successful, Lunsford says. Professional development and support are typically left out of financial planning. Some schools include capital expenditures, but it is rare that they also include ongoing operational expenses, he says.
4. Gain an Outside Perspective on IT Challenges
Simple feedback on challenges you’ve mulled over for months might seem profound when you hear it from other people, says Lunsford. Don’t rely solely on your IT team. Education leaders like principals and teachers must be included as expert resources. Engaged and persistent leaders are a critical key to a successful transition. SFPSD hired former teachers to help support the new curriculum. Also, look to people and organizations such as CoSN, eLearn Institute and the Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) framework for different opinions, Lunsford says.
5. Include Technology in Class Naturally
Finally, understand that the conversation is no longer about if technology will be integrated, says Neal Weaver, director of digital learning for SFPSD. “Technology in the classroom has been historically viewed as an ‘add-on.’ Districts must move to a point at which technology becomes an essential condition of learning, like safe classrooms, curriculum, assessment and leadership.”
EdTech is covering CoSN 2017, including articles on spotlight sessions, keynotes and the pulse on social media. Keep up to date on all of our coverage by visiting our CoSN 2017 conference page.