I’ve never been a classroom teacher myself, but in my five years working with Edmentum and Plato Learning, I’ve had the privilege of working with plenty of educators in a wide variety of settings. And now, as the parent of a kindergartener, I have a whole new appreciation for what teachers have to deal with every day—so first and foremost, THANK YOU! Teachers are on the frontlines and know better than anyone else in education what it takes to make a classroom run smoothly. So, when you find a program that you think will benefit your class, remember: your voice matters when it comes to making decisions about the educational technology solutions used in your school and district.
Being on the frontlines, teachers have a perspective that is critical to the evaluation and implementation of new programs. In many cases, you’re the ones who discover these resources and are the first to realize that they could be game changers for you and your students. So, how can you bring your discoveries to the attention of the administrators managing the budget? We’ve been discussing this topic on the blog for a few weeks now, touching on the big questions to keep in mind and specific features to look for in a solution that will make the front office take notice. But, when it comes time to actually sit down with your administrators, how can you frame the conversation for success? Here are three tips to help you advocate for a solution that makes it easier to do what you do best —teach and inspire each child who walks into your classroom.
1. Think about your school’s or district’s broader goals
The first step in your journey is to make the move from “me” to “we.” Your interest in this solution probably stemmed from how it can help you in your classroom. If you want to build a case for it to actually get purchased, though, it’s time to start shifting your thoughts to how the solution will impact all of the students and teachers in your building or district. The easiest way to do this is to figure out how this solution helps support your school’s or district’s major initiatives and goals.
For example, if one of your school’s goals is to create a personalized learning plan for every student, think about the challenges your school faces in achieving this goal. Typically, time, identification of unique skill gaps, resources, and progress monitoring are significant factors in creating these personalized learning plans for each student.
Now, think about how the technology you want to propose combats those challenges. How will it save time for teachers and administrators? What type of data does it provide, and how can that data be used to drive instruction at the classroom and building levels? How does it help identify learning gaps? What resources are provided to help fill those identified gaps? Make a list of questions for further evaluation, and use this information to build your groundswell of other influencers.
2. Build consensus among your peers
Now that you understand where this solution fits within your school’s or district’s broader initiatives, it’s time to rally the troops. Gather a cross-functional group (different grade levels, subjects, backgrounds, etc.), and make sure that the need and desire for this type of solution resonates with others. Once that is confirmed, connect with your building administrators, and ask for the opportunity to evaluate the proposed solution. Be sure to share the feedback you received from everyone else in the group you assembled to point out the larger-scale need.
Here are some examples of other people you may want to consider reaching out to when building consensus:
- Principal/Assistant Principal
- Technology Directors/Specialists
- Instructional Coaches
- Department Leads/Heads
- Guidance Counselors
- Alternative Education Specialists
3. Explore funding options
The million-dollar question: how can we fund it? Even though you may not be making the financial decisions, it is important to understand some of the funding dynamics when you talk to your administrators. This may impact whom you reach out to in the process and the questions you ask about the solution to understand the populations within your school that it may impact. The broader the impact, the more options for funding across “buckets.” Here are examples of funding buckets that schools and districts may pull from when implementing an educational technology solution:
- Instructional Materials
- Title I
- Title II/Professional Development
- School Improvement
- Special Education
- Gifted & Talented
- Migrant or Rural District Funds
- General Funds
The other piece to consider—and where you may have the biggest impact—is on the “soft” costs associated with the solution. One of the biggest “soft” costs is time.
Here is a quick example: A school or district gives an assessment at the beginning of the year, and once the results come back, teachers and administrators spend “X” amount of time aggregating the data and grouping students by ability levels for various skills and standards. Following this process, every three weeks in grade-level professional learning communities, they spend more time re-grouping students by ability level through the use of data from the initial assessment as well as teacher input (quizzes, observations, etc.). If you found a solution that could help streamline this process, you could calculate the amount of time spent and show a funding impact from that perspective.
Even if you don’t see yourself as a decision-maker in your school or district, keep in mind that, as a teacher, you are, in fact, the frontline in education. No one knows better than you what your students need, and administrators do recognize that expertise! When you are able to clearly articulate what those student needs are and present them to your administrators in a manner that takes the bigger picture into account, you’ll find that you have more influence than you think. So, remember—when it comes to getting the right tools into the classroom, you are not only your students’ best advocate but also your own!
Ready to start your own search for a new personalized learning solution to help meet students at their instructional level? Check out Edmentum’s new Individualized Learning Solution, and find out how our adaptive assessments and targeted learning paths can increase student achievement and save you time!