No one wants to be “that district” where large sums of money were spent on technology devices that are rarely used or worse yet, never make it out of the cartons. The key to successful technology integration starts early in the decision making process. We turned to three district administrators charged with making big tech decisions encompassing instruction, purchasing, deployment, professional development and public relations to find out how they managed this complicated effort.
Meet the Experts
David Blattner, Chief Technology Officer and Executive Director for Media and Virtual Learning at Iredell Statesville Schools in North Carolina worked with a diverse group to determine the operating system and device that best suited the educational needs of their district of 22,000 students which received Race to the Top funds to support their blended learning initiative.
John Guyer, Interim CEO of Summit Academy Management, a free public non-profit Academy for Alternative Learners with AD/HD, Autistic Spectrum Disorder and related challenges reflects on his district’s recent technology “refresh” moving his district from a Windows in-house environment to a cloud-based platform.
George Rafferty, Superintendent of Schools in Tabernacle, New Jersey, a K-8 district with 826 students is facing the opportunity to plan for big change as their technology lease will expire in one year.
Tech Decision Tips from Practitioners
Although the three districts may differ in size and needs, there were certain common denominators in their decision making process that helped them come up with the best solution for their particular circumstances:
1. Start with the end in mind: Sound familiar? Just like anything that deals with instruction, the single most important question is “What are your learning goals?” Blattner’s group practiced this as they “understood that blended learning is not a tech issue, it is a learning issue. We did not even talk about a device in the first year…we talked about what we wanted blended learning to look like.” Rafferty reinforced this this thinking by saying “we do not just want to look at a bunch of cool devices, we have to ask ourselves, what is it in our schools and in our classroom that we want to teach?” Clearly the first place to start is with the things you would like to see happening in the classroom to prepare our students for the 21st Century.
2. Who do we need involved in the process? All three school leaders thought it was well worth the time to involve important stakeholders in their decision making process. Iredell-Statesville schools had over 120 people involved and used surveys to collect additional data. Parents, teachers, students, support staff, community members, administration and technologists were all asked for their input. Guyer pointed out that having someone involved from finance is key. It is important to note that those involved in the process are not necessarily those charged ultimately with making the decision, but supply recommendations and data to support them to the decision makers
3. What can our infrastructure support? All three school leaders started with a robust Wi-Fi environment with more than adequate bandwidth, having recently completed infrastructure upgrades in their districts. Nothing will stop the integration of new technology tools faster than having them slow down the learning by not working right.
For those of you about to embark on this complex journey, these three school leaders provide tips for a great start. Find out their next steps in our next blog entry!