It is estimated that American schools spend over $56 billion on technology each year, intended to improve student progress and/or maximize teachers’ time and effort. According to Bradley Emerling, the principal research scientist at Pearson Research and Innovation Network, “. . . many US schools are consumed by a haphazard race to adopt the latest innovation. While many classrooms are decked out with shiny new tablets, document projectors, smartboards, or infrared response systems, far too often these devices are under-utilized, and methods of use vary widely across teachers.” To avoid these pitfalls as you are fine-tuning your plans for the next school year, consider these three factors of successful edtech implementations.
Slow and Steady
The quickest way to start off the new school year on the wrong foot is to overwhelm your teachers with multiple implementations. In the weeks leading up to the start of classes, everyone is consumed with getting ready. Good teachers know that a welcoming, well-organized classroom sets a positive tone for the entire year. Introducing multiple new tools and technologies adds a lot of tasks to teachers’ back-to-school to-do lists. If teachers feel that they aren’t going to have enough time to get through those lists, the stress will build, and they may not be really absorbing what they need to know to successfully use the tools.
Fine Tuning Approaches
It is always important to explicitly define what the expectations are when introducing new classroom technology—whether it is new devices, a software package, or an online program. Explain how the tool is solving a problem, reducing your teachers’ workload, or improving their students’ learning experience. Then, carefully describe your vision for how this should work. Clarify how progress toward meeting the expectations will be measured and who is in charge of monitoring usage of the new tool. Clearly defined expectations will ensure that everyone is on the same page from the start.
Training for Success
In his article “Stretching Your Technology Dollar,” Doug Johnson asked a simple question:
“How can you make the most powerful and expensive technology worth absolutely nothing? Drop it? Spill coffee on it? Let an 8th grader hack into it? Perhaps, but a far more effective way is to buy a new system, hardware, or software and not provide sufficient training.” His conclusion? “If serious, formal training isn't part of your technology budget, don't worry much about the rest of it. The shiny things won't get used well anyway.”
In my experience working with schools and districts implementing new technology, this kind of situation is, unfortunately, quite common. Due to genuine time and budget constraints, there may be just a single professional development session for teachers to train on a new tool, with no follow-up or opportunity to have questions answered or concerns addressed. The result—in a very short period of time, the new tool is gathering dust. The needs of your teachers are similar to the needs of your students when it comes to learning something new. We know that effective learning requires giving teachers time to explore, brainstorm with others, and gain sufficient skills to feel comfortable and confident enough to really incorporate this new tool into their classroom routine. Effective implementation requires ongoing training, professional development, and support efforts.
At Edmentum, we’re just as passionate about providing high-quality training and support as we are about offering outstanding online programs. Over the summer, I will continue to dive into strategies for effective edtech implementation. I will share stories about administrators who planned thoughtfully and gave their teachers time to grow professionally with technology, and I will look at how their tactics can be replicated. In the meantime, you can learn more about implementation with Edmentum Services here!