Establishing relationships helps education leaders ensure that their edtech investments are useful and impactful.

Fostering connections and edtech strategies between education leaders

Establishing relationships helps education leaders ensure that their edtech investments are useful and impactful

Key points:

  • Education leaders face uncharted challenges ensuring that teachers who stay feel supported and connected
  • Leaders are consistently ensuring that policies, technology, and teaching practices prioritize equity and cultural responsiveness
  • See related article: 4 best practices to support and retain school leaders

If there is one thing I have seen consistently over many years of working with education leaders around the world, it is that they don’t often get enough opportunities to connect and learn from one another. The heart of education is community, and peer-to-peer learning and conversation are foundational to that. 

This year, as part of ISTE in Philadelphia, a roundtable event hosted by Visual Sound brought together representatives from three districts: the School District of Philadelphia, Prince George’s County Public Schools, and the District of Columbia Public Schools for conversations among education leaders about shared challenges and ideas for solutions. Together, these districts represent more than 300,000 students. They are dedicated to leveraging technology as a key part of teaching and learning, and this roundtable provided the opportunity to share approaches and learn from each other about what works with edtech and what doesn’t.

During the roundtable, hosted at the School District of Philadelphia’s Education Center, district representatives were split into three groups based on their role and main area of focus: coaches, technicians, and administrators. Across all the conversations, common themes arose that will be relatable for districts across the country–and beyond. 

Supporting teachers: PD and beyond 

With teachers leaving the profession at an extraordinary rate, education leaders face uncharted challenges ensuring that those who stay feel supported, connected, and that they have the tools to feel and be successful. 

Each of the three districts participating in the conversation have put together outstanding training and professional development programs–some of the very best I’ve seen globally. Plus, they’re all continuing to look for ways to improve the experience and provide integrated PD. Administrators noted the important role of coaches with a dedicated focus on technology and classroom instruction.

Of huge importance is ensuring that teachers know what they have available to them, how to use it, and perhaps most critically, WHY–helping them connect their tech to their pedagogy and classroom goals. The coaches themselves discussed the importance of building relationships with teachers along with offering incentives (and food!) for people’s time. 

Technology access and equity 

Another topic that came up throughout conversations was access and equity. With a high percentage of student populations being economically disadvantaged across the three districts present, leaders are consistently ensuring that policies, technology, and teaching practices all put equity and cultural responsiveness at the forefront. 

Ensuring equity and access to technology in education is paramount to fostering a level playing field where every student can thrive. Some subtle but key ways districts are making sure they can serve all students is by focusing on students individually to provide personalized tools and learning pathways. Planning for 110 percent of enrollment for the inventory of devices helps ensure that no one is left without. And, orchestrating tech that is more specialized–such as Chromebooks with touchscreens for younger students and those with special needs–is also an important part of the equation. 

One of my favorite ‘full circle’ examples of providing opportunities for students is the School District of Philadephia’s Urban Technology Project. This project provides opportunities for high school graduates who want to go into tech to get hands-on experience. The programs ‘involve a continuum of service-learning and school-to-work experiences that provide long-term, holistic support for urban youth.’ 

While these ideas and programs only scratch the surface of the critical conversations education leaders and stakeholders are having around equity, they are good examples of looking at the issue from a variety of perspectives and angles to develop solutions that truly serve the community. 

The importance of connection

This type of live, in-person, idea-sharing is valuable for so many reasons. From discussing the above topics to relating with one another about how many district-issued Chromebooks get left on public transit every year, this roundtable event served as a microcosm of the broader challenges and innovative solutions within education today. The significance of cohesive communities and collaborative learning was unmistakably underscored.

As a technology professional who has the privilege of working with schools around the world, I know well that technology is only meaningful when it serves a need and contributes to a teacher’s goals in the classroom. Conversations like this can help education leaders ensure that the technology they’re investing in for their schools will get utilized. With ideas and tips for training and PD, as well as insights and information for managing the technology itself, there was something for everyone to take away from the conversation. With education budget dollars at a premium, technology investments must amplify learning outcomes, enhance administrative efficiency, and ultimately provide students with a well-rounded, future-ready education. With connection and shared learning with peers, this becomes more possible. 

Real-time, face-to-face discussions allow for nuanced exchanges of insights, enabling educators to tap into diverse perspectives and experiences that digital platforms may not fully capture. Establishing a sense of community sparks meaningful connections that lead to innovative solutions, enhanced teaching and coaching methodologies, and a deeper understanding of the evolving educational landscape.

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