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Going digital? 5 tips for a smooth start

By Dave Saltmarsh
November 30th, 2016

A digital transformation doesn’t have to be hard, as some innovative and successful school districts are proving.

digital-transformation-start

As schools look to modernize teaching and personalize learning, technology is becoming an indispensable tool in the classroom. Though technology alone does not improve learning, it does offer a greater opportunity for students to improve skill proficiencies, test scores, spontaneous collaboration and productivity.

While it’s no longer a matter of if technology is right for the classroom, just which technology and how much, districts aren’t always sure about the best ways to get started on the digital journey.

Like any other important education initiative, going digital requires a hefty amount of planning and implementation. Districts that have been most successful in their digital transformations [Read: “12 districts honored for their innovative digital curriculum transition strategies.“] seem to share a commitment to a careful, multi-stage process involving the full range of stakeholders – administrators, teachers, students and parents.

Here are five lessons from these best practices:

blueprint

1. Planning is crucial. School technology programs always begin with the broad idea to use laptop computers, tablets and other devices to maximize the learning experience. But what needs to come next?

As a first step, districts should articulate a precise vision that goes beyond adopting technology for technology’s sake. What specific educational goals do they hope to achieve and what kinds and amounts of hardware and software will be required to reach them? And not just in the near term but over the next 18-24 months?

The Eanes Independent School District near Austin, TX, addressed this essential first step called by the Consortium for School Networking Leadership for Mobile Learning (CoSN) as a “recipe for transformation” checklist. Administrators, teachers, students, parents and any other stakeholders all need to be involved in developing and understanding the vision, according to the Eanes model. And there needs a clear, shared understanding of what success looks like, including quantitative and qualitative metrics.

smart-collaboration student choice

2. An inclusive approach works best. You could say it takes a village to develop and implement a technology-in-schools program. Change isn’t easy. It requires cooperation among administrators, teachers, students and parents.

The Eanes district is on the cutting edge here too. It established a Digital Learning Task Force that brought together teachers, parents, community members, students and administrators to guide the process. Its purpose includes researching the latest technology trends and current integration models of technology and learning, researching expectations and goals for professional development and standardization of digital learning platforms, and collecting feedback. The task force even distributes a monthly newsletter and prepared an online course on “digital parenting.”

(Next page: Digital transformation tips 3-5)


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