There are nearly as many different EdTech strategies as there are schools and students. Here’s how to find the educational technology plan that’s right for your school.
1. Define district learning goals and gaps with a needs assessment before making technology purchases.
It’s important to find out what you’re already doing well so you don’t waste time or money. Technology ages quickly, and schools need to be ready to shift and grow. This requires a new mentality about purchasing education supplies. Instead of hoping it lasts forever, we need to consider that it probably won’t. By focusing on how to grow student skills, you can make better decisions.
“Our ed tech needs are determined not by the newest gadget or app but rather by the skills we want to help [students] develop to be successful, including creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and problem solving,” says Jennifer Kelsall, Ph.D., superintendent of Ridgewood High School in Norridge, Illinois.
2. Identify staff and outside organizations who can help make technology decisions.
Make sure everyone in your building knows that you are looking for people’s input on technology use and integration. You never know what knowledge is lurking right in your midst. It could be that your science teacher knows a whole lot about apps to use with kids who have disabilities or that your English teacher volunteered to write a technology handbook for a local nonprofit. Look within before you look outside—it can be less expensive and more personalized that way.
“One advantage [to using a company for assessment] is that their tools are being used across the country in multiple schools with various types of learners,” says Kelsall. “A good company has a process in place to collect feedback and a strong development team to implement these new ideas into the product, but one disadvantage can be the costs associated with tools.”
3. Develop a budget for technology integration.
Once you’ve completed your needs assessment and reviewed your budget, consider consulting with other district leaders who’ve been there before. Make sure you consider your short-term needs against your long-term goals. What are the must-haves vs the ideal situation?
4. Allow for customization of EdTech before implementation.
Assume all of your technology needs customization and don’t underestimate this time commitment. Just like all learning styles are not right for all students, all EdTech isn’t always useful in the same way.
5. Ensure the safety and privacy issues of all data before launching any technology plan.
You know that safety and privacy issues are critical to the success of a plan, but don’t forget to develop a message explaining it. Everyone at your district should understand the plan and be able to share it with anyone. Stakeholders will be concerned about anything they don’t understand.
6. Create a professional development plan that addresses expectations and the use of technology.
It’s not just the students’ learning goals and flexibility to meet different learning styles that matter—professional development for teachers in using EdTech in their classrooms is imperative.
“Technology is just the tool—it cannot and should not replace a good teacher, coach, or mentor,” says Jessica Mays, instructional technology specialist at Temple Independent School District in Texas. “Regardless of the strength of rigor or the level of relevance, cultivating healthy relationships with students is vital.”