All the conversations about technology and education lead to 1:1, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives. Each concept has its benefits and challenges, which creates a spirited debate among educators. Add to this debate the ever expanding list of educational apps, programs and services being developed for teachers, students, parents and administrators, and you begin to feel the urgency to innovate in your school. Before you take the plunge consider these five essential questions:
- Are you truly being innovative or just implementing technology to say you did it? Too many school and district administrators are feeling the pressure to implement something related to technology in their schools. But the old argument of “something is better than nothing” does not work in this situation. If you are feeling this way, take a step back from the decision and work through the remaining four questions.
- How does the innovation you want to implement improve student learning? This should be the priority every time we consider implementing anything in a school. The innovation, in this case technology, must improve student learning. We are educators because we believe in students and want them to maximize their learning potential in the short time we work with them. So if we are going to implement technology then it must be able to improve student learning. How you define improved student learning will be dependent on the age and grade level of student you work with, type of school you lead, etc.
- How does the innovation improve instruction? Hand in hand with question two is this one. Innovative technology must improve instruction. It can not be a burden on teachers or an after-thought by them. Innovative technology must become part of the fabric of instruction so that the teachers become more efficient and effective at how they motivate, engage and instruct students. If it’s not going to improve instruction and they do not know how to seamlessly infuse it into their lessons, you will not get the support of the teachers and they won’t use the technology.
- What type of professional development for teachers, training for students and information sessions for parents must be implemented for the innovation to have a chance at being successful? Here is the fork in the road with technology innovation and implementation. You can have answers to the first three questions and feel like you are on the right track, but the innovation will become useless if you do not provide the training for teachers and students, and information sessions for parents. We cannot assume stakeholders will understand the reasons for the innovation, how it can be used, and most importantly, how to use it properly. We need training and information sessions early and often before, during, and after implementation.
- What is a realistic timeline for innovation? Technology is changing by the minute and the pressure to be innovative accelerates the timeline for implementation. Be realistic, talk to other schools and districts about their process of implementing similar innovations, and learn from their successes and challenges. Then establish a timeline with clear objectives that can be met, a comprehensive professional development program, trainings for students, and information sessions for parents. Poor planning and rushed timelines are recipes for implementation disaster.
We want to be innovative with the use of technology in our schools. Yet we must be careful to address the essential questions that can assist in making the implementation as successful as possible. Let’s give our students and staff the technology innovations they need to be successful. While doing so, let’s assure that we are asking the right questions and implementing the innovations for the right reasons. We are experiencing an exciting evolution in our educational world and we can add to it by making educationally sound decisions that are well planned out and superbly executed.