A second challenge is people-related. One hundred and seventy teachers have different comfort levels with integrating technology and nearly require 170 IEPs! Westside’s strong teaming structures combine “gunners” with “phobics,” so even the most reluctant teachers get the support and motivation they need for effective integration. Good ongoing professional development offerings extend the gunners’ skills and motivation. Successful technology integration flies on the wings of building leaders. Westside has had visionary building leaders supporting both sustained excellence and the risk-taking environment that fosters continuous innovation.

A third challenge was determining how to manage the ongoing maintenance and repair needs of 2,500 laptop computers. No other schools our size had dealt with maintenance and repair in-house. We hired support people with good technology skills and helped them earn Apple and Cisco certifications. The first year, nearly 100 percent of maintenance and repair was sent out. Today, our Apple certified techs meet nearly 100 percent of maintenance and repair needs in-house. One tech is a certified teacher whose students apply what they learn to our hardware, software, and network repair and maintenance.

What’s your best or most useful ed-tech advice for your colleagues?

We would tell colleagues to embark on technology integration when the highest possible percentage of the staff has already embraced best practices in content, instruction, assessment, and classroom management. “Good” teachers understand teaching and learning and can use technology to amplify positive outcomes in a positive way. The converse is also true; “bad” teachers who do not understand teaching and learning will amplify negative outcomes in a negative way.

We would also promote embarking on technology integration when the leadership in the building “gets” the power technology has to change teaching and learning, and is willing to give teachers the freedom they need to explore technology use, the permission they need to try what might work without fear or reservations, and the encouragement they need to share what does work with others.

Finally, we would promote embarking on technology integration with technology leaders who have education backgrounds. Though business acumen is valuable, educators who lead technology integration empathize with teacher efforts and struggles to use technology effectively. In addition, they will see technology as the tool it should be, rather than as the lesson to be learned.