Learn how to assess your team’s readiness and make the leap to digital reality

self-assessment-cosnOne of my aspirational resolutions for 2015 is that we can move the conversation in most school districts from the “why” of making a digital leap to the “how.” While some school systems are already powerfully integrating technology into their pedagogy, it is time to scale up the power of digital tools to transform the learning beyond a few showcase classrooms and cutting edge teachers. It’s time for leaders—superintendents, heads of curriculum and technology—to move beyond the rhetoric of the potential of technology and focus on their role in making the change happen.

In particular, leaders need to focus on how we can use digital tools and resources—especially within constrained budgets—that create systemic learning transformation. This requires careful thought, planning, and communication to all stakeholders involved. And, if we have learned anything about successful transitions, there is not one simple or single approach that works everywhere.

Whether your district has taken the “digital leap” or is only in the early planning stages of making technology a key component of learning, your district leadership team must assess and enhance their readiness. With different roles, responsibilities and levels of experience, this type of team assessment takes work and careful thought.

Assessing of your team’s readiness requires understanding the core competencies that move a school system to the next step digitally. This will involve evaluating your team’s ability to: strengthen district leadership and communication; raise the bar with rigorous, transformative, and innovative learning and skills; transform pedagogy with compelling learning environments; support professional development and communities of practices; and create balanced assessments.

Next page: All about the assessment

How can a district’s leadership team find the time to fairly and objectively evaluate these competencies across the school system?  How do you do a 360 degree assessment and see where everyone on the leadership team is with technology?  Fortunately, CoSN has developed a readiness evaluation tool—the “District Leadership Team Assessment,” which enables your team to identify strengths and opportunities for growth. This free team assessment is part of CoSN’ s Empowered Superintendent initiative, produced with AASA (The School Superintendents Association).

On a scale of one to five, district and school leaders rate their teams based on a series of statements to see how they can improve their readiness across the core competencies. One example for strengthening district leadership and communications asks respondents to assess themselves on the following statement: “We encourage innovative ideas from principals and teachers for using technology to support student learning.” Another example, concerning the transformation of pedagogy through compelling learning environments, states: “We work together to create innovative learning environments appropriate for the digital age.”

The aggregate of these ratings gives teams a baseline before moving forward. I am sure this has never happened in your school district, but sometimes the expectations and vision of the superintendent or principal are not consistent with the views of others on their team.  Identifying these “disconnects” is a key part of moving forward.

Complementing the team assessments, superintendents and CTOs can also measure their own skills on an individual basis through separate personal evaluations—the “Self-Assessment for Superintendents” and the “Self-Assessment for CTOs and Technology Staff.” Combined, these assessments open the door for superintendents, aspiring superintendents, CTOs, and district leadership teams to identify their strengths and weaknesses and build their knowledge, skills, and confidence both from leadership roles and within the entire unit.

The integral role of digital tools, and their place in the lives of America’s youth, will only grow in 2015 and beyond. This reality heightens the task of administrators who remain focused on ensuring all students are prepared for college, career and life readiness.

School leadership teams in 2015 have an opportunity to work closer together and strengthen their technology readiness skills. The effects will transform learning and pay enormous dividends for our students in today’s hyper-connected world.

Keith Krueger is the CEO of CoSN (Consortium for School Networking). Learn more about The Empowered Superintendent at: cosn.org/superintendents.

To learn more about “Leading the Digital Leap,” please visit: leaddigitalleap.org, and follow @LeadDigitalLeap.