Then, we set about becoming experts on Discovery Education’s supplemental resource. That meant signing-up for the free trials, participating in product demos, becoming a super-users of the service, participating in the free professional learning available through the Discovery Educator Network, hunting down reviews of the service we could share with our colleagues, reviewing the features available in the service, and more. We believed that if we were going to serve as advocates for bringing a new resource into our classrooms, we needed to educate ourselves and become experts on the resource we wanted.
Step 2: Created the buzz
Once you’ve made yourself an expert on the edtech resource you want, it is time to begin to build support for your purchase among your peers, district leadership, and other important stakeholders.
First, identify the right people in your building to support your effort. For us, these were a handful of teachers at different grade levels, our curriculum coach, and principal. We chose these colleagues because of their capacity to work with others and their students, as well as their willingness to foster change within the school.
When sharing information about the resource and examples from the resource with our peers, we chose to deliver small, bite-sized chunks that our colleagues could quickly integrate into their work and see immediate success. As leaders, we knew we had to do some legwork beforehand by carefully selecting the small pieces of the resource (i.e. film clips, instructional strategies, blackline masters, printed directions, or student examples). This helped to dissolve any stumbling blocks the teachers may have had to integrating the resource when using it for the first time. This also meant we were meeting to help develop lessons, cheering our colleagues on, and celebrating their successes with the new resource.
Step 3: Got the funding
After creating the buzz, our principal witnessed engaged students, active learning in classrooms, and the joy the edtech resource brought our teachers. With her support, we took our proposal to our School Improvement Team. This team had all our stakeholders that have the authority to allot funds and the authority to vote on new resources. We timed our presentation strategically when all funds had not yet been allocated.
With knowledge of our stakeholders, we broke down the price per student for the year (hey, look at the powerful resource and it’s only $5 a student for the entire year). We demonstrated how the edtech resource benefited students in our building by highlighting student work that engaged each child in new ways with digital media. We also provided evidence on how it matched needs at each grade level and we shared teacher feedback from our early adopters. Finally, we explained how the edtech resource helped improve educational equity by showing how the resource had access points for all types of learners.
With our principal’s support and the evidence presented, our school was able to use both state funds (the small amount our principal controlled) along with funds from our Parent Teacher Association (they raise money each year to fund certain needs at our school, they vote each year on how to spend these funds).
Considering our annual school funds, we were prepared to hear no. We had a secondary plan of other avenues to pursue. Due to our edtech resource being a media resource we were prepared to approach local media outlets, our local newspaper, area literacy council, and small businesses Also, available for us to approach were our Title 1 team and parents for scholarships.
Step 4: Launched the service and became the “go-to” for professional development
While we were building buzz and working on securing funding, we also worked on growing our skills so we could become the go-to source for professional development in the school. As the leaders of this initiative, we were invested in the success of the effort and we felt that as we knew our building best, we could tailor the professional learning specifically for our teammates. This also lends validity to the PD because you have already forged the path and the evidence of success has already been seen in your building. (Plus, you charge the best price–you’re free!)
In our county, we have an initiative every other year in which we are provided an in-service day and several after-school training days. In the off year, individual schools have the autonomy to choose their focus and use the in-service day and after-school training days for their needs. We planned our launch of the edtech resource for the year our school was responsible for our learning. Because of this, we had more teacher buy-in when it was our school’s focus. Teachers received credit for continuing licensure, our principal followed up in classrooms and provided incentives when seeing the resource in use, and we tailored all the professional development to our school needs.
When tailoring the professional development, we found that demonstrating the resource in deconstructed pieces made our effort successful. We showed 2-3 strategies or features per PD session, then provided participants time to collaborate and integrate the small pieces into their lessons. This time built into the PD gave teachers the ability to walk away with immediate application for their classrooms and helped us meet our goal of having each teacher implement the resource within the week. Post professional learning, we made a point to follow up with our colleagues and be available to provide support as needed.
Step 5: Stayed the course
Change takes time, so we needed to stay the course with our colleagues, provide refreshers to the staff, offer opportunities to collaborate, and cheer everyone along in their growth. For us, we created a bulletin board of exemplary use, curated simple lessons with the resource to share with grade levels, and continued our own growth with the resource.
Now it is your turn–forge the path, make the change! The work is worth it: for you, for your staff, and most importantly, for the students in your building.
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