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Educating Educators: Back-to-School Technology Implementation

Educating Educators: Back-to-School Technology Implementation

Determining the many factors that go into implementing technology which is constantly advancing can prove to be a challenge. Too often, as soon as  we have a new device or program figured out, a new one will come along.  Thus, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to fulfilling the technology vision of districts. As administrators and educational technologists plan their technology needs for an upcoming school year, professional development must be a part of the plan. All of the innovative products in the world will not make a difference if teachers do not know how to use them.

Make Sure That Everything Is Ready to Go on the First Day

Before we put the cart in front of the horse, though, the technology must be up to date before  teachers return in the fall. Teachers need ease of usage, beginning with the correct access and login information. Often, things get updated in the summer months, and it can cause confusion when a teacher returns if suddenly login processes are different. If you find yourself in this situation, tell the teachers prior to the first day of fall professional development (PD). Give them a sneak peek into all of the impressive updates, and sell them—do not just tell them. Emphasize how their jobs will be easier and student outcomes will be strengthened by the updates.

Plan the Training Just Like a Teacher Plans a Lesson

In my experience as an instructional technologist who planned many back-to-school PD technology sessions, the best advice is to plan them like a teacher plans his or her lessons. Teachers can be a tough group to present to because they know what “good teaching” looks like. So, create a pre-assessment survey that includes open-ended questions like: “How do you currently use technology in your classroom?,” “How would you like to be using technology in your classroom?,” and “Which of these topics would you like to know more about?” Then, develop the training focused around what teachers will be utilizing with their students.

Pre-Assess and Differentiate

Once the considerations and the pre-assessment is complete, you can use collaborative grouping to meet the needs of all teachers involved (to differentiate the session). To do this, enlist the help of teacher-leaders. Look for teachers who already implement or would be interested in sharing best practices. This can empower the teachers who already have the knowledge and make it more enjoyable to the teachers who are learning. It is unproductive for teachers who already know what is going on to attend a session and have to listen to repetitive instruction. Those days prior to students returning are precious planning time for teachers, so make it worth their while.

Allow Processing Time

During the PD sessions, teachers need time to digest and discuss. Break away from the traditional format, and remember that everyone in the room has something worth sharing. The tech training will get a boost if teachers see each other as resources rather than as outsiders they have to rely on for help.  I have not always followed that advice as a presenter. In the fall of 2008, a dear  teacher friend of mine was sitting in a PD I was about to deliver. As teachers were gathering, I overheard her saying, “This [professional development] is my least favorite part of in-service.” My heart sank when I heard her. Because of our friendship, I was able to ask her about the comment later. She explained that it was because I go so fast when I am presenting technology and that she did not feel it was valuable to her teaching needs. It was a lesson I needed to learn as a presenter. As a math teacher, I always gave ample time for students to practice and reflect on information, and I was not applying those same principles when presenting PD.

Following all of these suggestions should lead to an easier back-to-school technology implementation for administrators. However, have a plan to follow up with your teachers during the school year. It is not enough to give them tools to use without supporting them as they try to use them or with  following up with them as the school year gets busy. Remind them that you are there to support them as they are doing the important work.   

Looking for more resources to support a successful implementation of edtech? Check out this story of a successful implementation of Exact Path and Study Island at Demorest Elementary School in Georgia!