“Begin with the end in mind,” said Kevin Baxter, superintendent of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Elementary Schools in California, who has led a massive ed-tech initiative called the Catholic Communication Collaboration (C3) Pilot.

By that, he meant that K-12 leaders should focus on the learning goals they want to achieve, and develop their ed-tech vision around these.

“We’ve got to be willing to challenge our own assumptions about … how students learn,” Baxter added. “Often, what ends up inhibiting innovation is the thought that, ‘Well, that’s how it worked for me—that’s how it has to work for kids today.’”

Building capacity

Once you have a clear vision, you need to build your district’s capacity to achieve it. This requires bringing all stakeholders into the process.

“Support and buy-in are key,” said Theresa Dunkin, superintendent of the Aptakisic-Tripp Community Consolidated School District 102 in Illinois.

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Her district invited members of the community to a series of meetings that created a consensus around the need to integrate the “4Cs” into instruction: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.

Lisa Andrejko, superintendent of the Quakertown Community School District in Pennsylvania, earned the support of teachers for the district’s online and blended learning programs by making them “a collaborative part” of these initiatives. As a result, her district has seen a 10-percent reduction of its dropout rate in just one year.

But building capacity goes beyond getting stakeholder buy-in.

“As we integrate technology, we need to have the infrastructure in order to support it,” said David Peterson, superintendent of the Scottsdale Unified School District in Arizona. He said adequate bandwidth and wireless coverage are “essential” to ed-tech success.

Casey Wardynski, superintendent of Alabama’s Huntsville City Schools, agreed.

Under Wardynski’s leadership, Huntsville City Schools launched a collaborative, district-wide effort to move toward digital instruction. Textbooks were exchanged for interactive, digital curriculum on laptops and iPads, schools were connected with robust internet networks, and Wi-Fi was installed in school buses and expanded in public areas throughout the city.