digital resources

Going digital? 5 tips for a smooth start


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

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Teacher Rebekah Higgins gets direction from workshop leaders Shannon Parks and Richard Murphy as she participates in a Project Based Learning workshop for teachers and administrators at Leon Sheffield Elementary School in Decatur, Ala., Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Decatur City Schools have been selected for a pilot program in the Project Based Learning initiative. (AP Photo/The Decatur Daily, Gary Cosby Jr.)

3. Implement well. The exhaustive planning process involving the full spectrum of stakeholders should help ensure smooth implementation. But there are still key points to remember when getting the new technology into the hands of teachers are students.

For example, it may be a mistake to pilot new devices and software only with the most enthusiastic, early-adopter-type teachers. Consider doing so across a range of teachers in order to get a more realistic and longer-lasting view of the initiative’s status and results.

At the same time, have reasonable and measured goals and expectations. It’s wrong to overwhelm certain teachers who have a low comfort level with change or technology. Understand differences and give them time to adapt.

And, remember, technology is not the end in and of itself – it should spur creativity. Take the Ridley School District in Pennsylvania. The district sends its students on reading and learning
“quests” through a series of curated education apps that are automatically distributed to individual students’ iPads based on assessment data.

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4. It’s an ongoing process. The job isn’t over after the planning is done and the new technology is in use.

The entire initiative needs to be thought of as sustainable. With administrators and school boards constantly bombarded with new priorities, it’s easy for a technology effort to fall down the list after the novelty has worn off.

The initiative must have achievable, ongoing financial planning. Its advocates (administrators, teachers, community members) should be aggressive in trumpeting the results and successes. Professional development for teachers needs to be ongoing, too.

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5. Avoid BYOD. While BYOD policies may seem like a more economical solution than buying new devices for all students and staff, BYOD can single out students who don’t have access to their own devices, thus tying academic achievement to socio-economic factors.

And teachers can’t provide a consistent educational experience for their students. For example, not all apps are available on all platforms and an interactive website may look and perform differently depending on the type of device. It would be as if a classroom had all different textbooks.

Proceed cautiously – or better yet, not at all, with BYOD.

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