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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Tech Integration and School Culture

The more I work with schools that are seeking out device integration, the more I stress the importance of developing a school culture around those devices. I've seen technology initiatives falter or lose momentum when devices suddenly appeared and magic was expected to happen. What’s more, we cannot expect students and teachers to simply adapt to technology because it's the 21st century and Twitter says so. The pace at which we integrate technology is equally as important as our developing a positive school culture around technology.

Technology can be a great addition to any school, but it can also be a logistical nightmare if added too quickly and not planned effectively. In my experience of consulting with school leaders, working in the classroom and designing several large-scale technology initiatives, I've learned many pieces of this puzzle. In this post, I'll outline three important pieces that every school leader should consider before devices enter the school.

Develop a Culture of Trust and Openness

Every district-wide and building-based administrator should develop a strong relationship with his or her technology director and network manager. Additionally, school admin should seek out tech directors who not only understand the server room, but who can also be empathetic and understanding about what classroom teachers need. Furthermore, school leaders should place their trust in both teachers and students to leverage the technology in a positive manner. Many times this hasn't been the case, and the school's access is locked down. Instead of locking down the network, open it up and provide opportunities to educate both students and teachers on how this tool should be leveraged in an educational context.

Ultimately, technology should not get in the way of or inhibit classroom practice. This kind of obstruction will happen when districts deploy a technology initiative and attempt to control every last thing about it. While parents have every right to expect caution and transparency from the school district, all parties should also understand that tech integration must proceed with open minds about providing students with access to content and opportunities.

Embrace Risk and Promote Innovative Practice

This piece comes directly from the building principal and how he or she approaches staff evaluations. With the added pressure of high-stakes testing and emerging models of teacher evaluations, it's challenging for teachers to move too far outside the lines. And, despite the state or federal mandates, administrators should develop an environment that promotes risk taking in the classroom.

When conducting classroom observations, reassure teachers that it's OK if the wi-fi drops or the projector cuts out. Ultimately, the focus should be on the content delivery and methodology. Also, understand that the classrooms integrating technology are not always arranged in rows where kids are sitting silently and listening. More often than not, classrooms that are leveraging edtech are in motion or exhibiting organized chaos. Essentially, contemporary classrooms should resemble a Silicon Valley tech startup.

Don't focus so much on the devices being used in the class, but more importantly on the process toward the learning goals or objectives. Ask students what they're learning, not how they like learning on an iPad.

Schedule PD That Allows Time to Explore and Share

If your edtech professional development resembles a TED talk, you might want to reconsider the method of delivery. This is not to say that lecture is an ineffective means of delivering content, but edtech PD should include time to explore. It should be hands on, and groups or teams should have time to share their learning.

In my last post, I suggested that districts employ the Edcamp model for remixing their professional development. This model allows everyone to participate, share and be heard. Teachers walk away from this kind of PD ready to integrate what they've learned in the classroom. Also, administrators should model personal learning networks and leveraging a wide range of social media for on-demand learning opportunities.

Developing a healthy, progressive school culture is an essential step in any large- or small-scale technology initiative. School leaders must appropriately pace the technology integration and model digital learning strategies. Similarly, school leaders should leverage professional development time to include opportunities for teachers to connect, explore and share their learning. Also, there should be options throughout the year for teachers to seek out new applications and have time to tinker with them. When these leadership pieces are synthesized with devices and dynamic teachers, we can expect engaging digital learning opportunities to flourish.

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Mr. Leckie's picture

The roll-out process and supporting professional development is so critical to integration's success. The audience (teachers) spans the gamut with their tech abilities, so a thoughtful, non-lecture type of presentation is essential for complete buy-in.

Developing a culture of trust and openness can be difficult depending on the current reputation that the school and administration has in the community. If the community reaches for their pitchforks and torches at the first sign of a mishap, that will delay effective integration for some time.

However, if the community trusts the leadership of the school and understands the benefits of technology in the learning environment, then they will be more willing to cope with the growing pains of this technological evolution.

samin's picture
samin
Early Years Practitioner

Thanks Lyn yes it is very important for meaningful integration. The whole school environment has to be equally involved.

samin's picture
samin
Early Years Practitioner

Careful planning has to be done when and when not to use technology into the lessons.

samin's picture
samin
Early Years Practitioner

Would any of you share with me what challenges you face while integrating ICT fully and how you overcome them?

samin's picture
samin
Early Years Practitioner

Thank you Samar for your input. It would indeed be of great help. I would like to know if there is any discussion forum through which I can have different perspectives.

D Daniel's picture

Thank you for your recommendations on effective technology device integration. Your comments on the importance of effective PD were extremely relavant to me. I find when staff is introduced to technology through a lecture type presentation, many form opinions or become disegaged prior to ever using it. Providing hands-on opportunities at the beginning of the integration process and time throughout the year to "tinker" with the technology is crucial. Opportunites to share successes and failures can only improve our instructional strategies. Even so, there will always be a handful of teachers who are still cautious or fearful of technology integration. What strategies have you found helpful in assisting these specific individuals?

NickWithYourLabs's picture

Tech has been so helpful in advancing teaching methods, but the radical change it has brought to other industries is still lacking from classrooms. The model of teaching and how we view our teachers has changed very little. YourLabs, a tech startup, is looking to make teachers more into VPs of their classroom, providing the business tools to take a students assessment and turn it into actionable data to drive instruction. The use of tech should not simply be to become more innovative, but more effective.

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