Based on the experiences of member districts, here are several key steps to consider when launching a technology-rich initiative in your school:
- First develop a shared vision for what you are trying to accomplish – as not all uses of technology are equal, and the kind of digitally-rich teaching you want to promote will affect other key decisions such as what devices and LMS you want to acquire, and what professional development you will offer. Also identify early on the type of evidence and metrics that you will use to evaluate your progress towards specific goals – so you have a process in place to monitor (and make adjustments as needed) to the initiative and report to your constituencies.
- Ensure leadership support – unless you have school leaders across the district, starting with the superintendent and including the Board of Education, understand and support the shared vision for technology transformation, you should wait to launch your initiative; so work first on sharing your vision and secure this critical buy-in!
- Identify and empower a team to lead your digital initiative from the very beginning – as you will need the combined expertise and authority of instructional leaders, technology experts, finance/ business officials, and instructional technology specialists to make the critical decisions required at start-up, and also to address questions and problems from various constituencies as they will (inevitably!) arise.
- Make sure you have the needed technology infrastructure and support before you have teachers and students use the technology – consult with other districts that are further along the way about what was needed in terms of wireless and technical support, and what surprises the encountered, to avoid costly frustrations when teachers and students start to use their devices!
- Select and implement a Learning Management System right away – this decision is even more important than what devices to use.
- Deploy devices only after you have provided sufficient professional development to teachers – as otherwise devices are not likely to be used appropriately (or at all!), and lead to teachers’, students’ and parents’ dissatisfaction. Several districts have also pointed out the importance of having these initial professional development offerings focus on how the technology can enhance instruction, rather than on how to use specific tools.
- Start small – but strong! While this may translate in different decisions for different districts, resist the temptation to deploy your devises until the conditions described above have been attended to. Failing to do so is likely to result in teachers’ resistance and frustration that will likely undermine the initiative. Most districts have started their initiative either with pilots involving volunteers (which are likely to be your most enthusiastic and capable teachers) or working with a few entire grades at a time – and always making sure that each group of teachers was sufficiently trained before they used the technology in their classrooms, and supported while doing so.