Based on the experiences of member districts, here are several key steps to consider when launching a technology-rich initiative in your school:
Develop a shared vision for digitally-rich teaching
Before you do anything else, be clear about what you are trying to accomplish and why – 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 what evidence and metrics you will use to evaluate progress towards specific goals – so you have a process in place to monitor (and make adjustments as needed) to the initiative and to report to your constituencies.
Ensure leadership support
It is critical to 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. If you don’t, you should wait to launch your initiative. So work first on sharing your vision and secure this critical buy-in!
Establish a digital leadership team
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.
Joe Sutorius — East Irondequoit, Former Chief Information Officer
Choose a Learning Management System along with your devices
Choosing which devices your students will use is certainly important – and we encourage you to ask other districts about pros and cons of the devices they chose. It is even more important, though, that you select and implement a Learning Management System (LMS) from the very beginning – as it will provide teachers with the backbone for all their digital lessons and materials, as well as a powerful vehicle to communicate with students and families.
Joe Sutorius – East Irondequoit, Former Chief Information Officer
Secure the needed technology infrastructure
Before you deploy devices to teachers and students use, make sure your Wi-Fi network, cabling, etc., are ready to support the new and more intensive use of technology. Consult with experts as well as other districts about what is needed – and what surprises they encountered! – to avoid costly frustrations when teachers and students start to use their devices.
Start with professional development focused on instruction
Wait to deploy devices until you have provided sufficient professional development to teachers – or those devices are not going to be used appropriately (if at all!), leading to teachers’, students’ and parents’ dissatisfaction. And to secure teachers’ buy-in, make this initial professional development focus on how the technology can enhance instruction, rather than just on how to use specific digital tools.
Be ready to provide the needed IT support
Technical problems and glitches are inevitable when starting to use new technology – so be prepared for it! Make sure you have an IT support team that is ready to address these problems as they occur, and makes responding to classroom calls as their first priority. It will address one of the biggest barriers to adoption!
Cory Allen – Spencerport, Chief Information Officer
Develop a sustainable technology budget
Whether you are taking advantage of a state grant for your initial purchase or not, it is important that you develop from the start a sustainable budget – as your devices will need to be replaced on a regular basis, and there will be other recurring expenses. As you prepare this budget, make sure to include items that have surprised other districts in the past – such as purchasing keyboards, building secure storage, etc.
John Abbott – East Irondequoit, Deputy Superintendent
Start small – but strong!
How do you get started? Many districts choose to start 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. Most importantly, make sure that the teachers you begin with are sufficiently trained before using the technology in their classrooms, and get full support as they get started.
Mary Grow – East Irondequoit, Superintendent