Administration & Leadership

Making the Most of Your Edtech Toolbox

School leaders should be education technology leaders, ensuring that the resources available to teachers are useful and current.

October 26, 2021
Harbucks / iStock

If you’re a school or district leader, you may be familiar with technology licenses. Schools and districts provide technology licenses to give administrators, faculty, and staff a set of tools to use on campus. A technology license can help to unlock multiple tools and resources, but only if faculty and staff are aware of whether or not these licenses exist and how they can help transform learning. Examples include Microsoft 365, G Suite, Pear Deck, NewsELA, and WeVideo.

Awareness and information on available technology licenses significantly reduce the amount of time spent searching for technology tools that can help elevate academic instruction, staff professional development, and general productivity. However, if everyone’s unaware of what’s available, the licenses could remain unused. To make sure that you, your faculty, and your staff are making the most out of available resources, here are ways for you to maximize technology license use at your school or district.

1. Identify What’s in Your School or District’s Edtech Toolbox

Because you are an educational leader, it’s important to think about what tools your school or district already has and whether or not your faculty and staff know that they’re available. Technology licenses or platforms may be housed on a central website (for example, Clever) or via a single sign-in through your school or district. This is common for websites or platforms that may say, “Sign in with Google,” “Sign in with Microsoft,” or “Sign in with credentials.”

2. Survey Educators About Tech Tool Licenses They’re Using

Once the technology tools have been identified, the next step is to determine whether your faculty and staff are actually using them. For example, if a school site utilizes both G Suite and Microsoft 365, this may present not only a financial challenge but also a technical one if faculty and staff are not using the same tools. When you survey educators on which tech licenses are being used, here are some questions to ask:

  • Which tools do you currently use in your school/district? (What is available within your district server may not necessarily be what you are using as a faculty or staff member.)
  • How are these tools being used, and how regularly do you use them? Do you use the technology daily, weekly, or monthly?

3. Survey Educators About Tech Tools They Find to Be Effective

This is the most important aspect of your survey. Once a technology license is purchased, it’s important to work alongside your faculty and staff to see what is working and what is not working. Do you have a communication plan for reaching out to educators on what they use? If not, think of how you can start. Critical questions include the following:

  • How accessible is this tool? (i.e., can you access the tool with ease?)
  • Does this tool decrease your workload? (i.e., does it make it simpler for you to collaborate with colleagues; communicate with students, staff, and families; and do your daily tasks?)
  • Is there anything this tool is doing for you that makes you likely to continue to use it?

Once you’ve done this initial work, you can continue to see how available technology licenses can positively impact your school community, faculty, and staff.

4. Invest Time for Teacher Training on Available Tools

Whether it’s during staff professional development, informal staff meetings, or a session where your faculty and staff can get acclimated to the technology, time for educators to learn about available technology tools is crucial. As a starting point, look for “tech teacher leaders” who already use the tools to train faculty and staff on how to use them.

Depending on your school environment, there are likely to be faculty and staff members who are already utilizing these licenses and can provide an on-the-ground for their colleagues. Additionally, feel free to reach out for free tool training available on the tech tool’s website or through customer service. Many educational technology companies offer this type of assistance. You can also track data on how many educators use the tool after the training and how many educators find the tool to be effective after the training.

5. Invest Time for Families to Learn About the Tools Used at Your School

Similar to the experience of how faculty and staff get acclimated to technology, it’s important to keep families in the loop as to what tools and technology their students are using in school. A family member can’t help a student access Canvas, Microsoft 365, Google Classroom, and the like if they aren’t aware that these tools are being used. 

Consider mentioning schoolwide tools and licenses in family communications such as newsletters, robocalls, and shout-outs so that families know what their students can utilize. If families are interested in learning more about the technology on campus, you may want to think about holding a “family information night” about the core tools being used in class and how family members can best support their students at home.

6. Be Strategic About Retention of Current and Future Licenses

If your staff doesn’t find a tool to be effective, you and your technology department may consider letting go of the license or letting the license run out and not renewing it. If your staff does find a tool effective, see what you can do to obtain a license for your school or for your district.

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