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Category: EdTech

5 Tips to Design a Future-Focused Edtech Mindset in the Midst of a Pandemic

As of March 29, 2020, school closures due to COVID-19 have impacted at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and affected at least 55.1 million students, according to Education Week.

In a recent edWebinar, Dr. Justin Aglio, Director of Academic Achievement and District Innovation for the Montour School District in Pennsylvania, expressed that while we have prepared for school closures due to weather and disasters, school districts have found themselves in an unprecedented reality.

While educators and support staff are trying to ensure continuity of learning for their students during school closures, school and district leaders have an opportunity to design a positive future.

Aglio recommends that districts align every action and decision regarding remote and virtual learning to their mission, vision, and core values. In the Montour School District, they are designing a positive future for Montour schools aligning every action and decision to their three core values: curricula, educational technology, professional development.

Adopt and adapt

As recently as three months ago, school districts had robust, successful adapt and adopt methods for new curricula and programming, including the collaborative process of assessment, observation, and reflection. However, most school districts are forced to adopt and adapt methods for online and remote learning software and curricula due to the current school closure situation.

Aglio points out that school districts must implement the same collaborative process to acquire educational programs and curricula no matter whether stakeholders are meeting in person in a school conference room or online in a Zoom or Google meeting room.

The new August

Aglio recommends that teachers and school leaders take a step back and consider March as the new August, focusing on the start of the school year expectations, curricula, scope and sequence, and relationship building.

He prescribes five tips for designing a student-centered, future-focused edtech mindset:

Ensure equity for all students, especially students with disabilities, low-income students, and ELL students through digital resources such as Google sites and Classrooms, television options such as PBS, and communication tools such as Google phone and snail-mail.

Develop a clear game plan, including clear, precise, and accessible communication options that support the entire school community.

Build a healthy community by focusing on learning for students, teachers, parents, administrators, and school board members while creating a sense of belonging that sends a voice that we are all in this together.

Continue to provide and use quality district vetted resources and not fall into the trap of “trying” new educational resources.

Lastly, school leaders should reflect every day to assess current practices that connect all stakeholders, especially our students.

Source: eSchoolNews

The Role of Educational Leaders in Sustainable Edtech Initiatives

“Small but mighty” is what I called my small rural Massachusetts school district when I recently presented to a leadership team that included district administrators, building administrators, and community members. In the past three years, our district, with its previously limited instructional technology, has morphed into a digitally equitable learning environment for all students. Transforming a school district into a lean, mean technology-rich machine is no small feat, and it requires educational leaders to reexamine the critical roles they play in this metamorphosis. 

These five critical behavioral components will be essential if educational leaders want to drive sustainable edtech initiatives thoughtfully, collaboratively, and effectively towards “mighty.”

1) Model 

Nothing tanks an initiative faster or ensures failure to reach district goals than the school community’s perception that their administrators have the “do what I say, not what I do’ mentality.  Well-intentioned administrators purchase devices for classroom instruction or commit to district-wide software programs but continue to stay in their comfort zone by not learning or using the new technology themselves. Educational leaders need to model technology like they are Tyra Banks on the fashion week runway.  Attend and be present at teacher edtech training, communicate with staff and faculty using collaborative online documents, make it a practice to use a school-issued Chromebook or iPad during classroom walkthroughs and facilitate staff meetings using the newly adopted presentation tools. Educational leaders who are involved and engaged with technology initiatives can significantly impact school culture and achieve district goals. 

2) Listen

So many district edtech initiatives suffer from the Oprah car syndrome where educational leaders are on the receiving end of “let’s give every student an iPad” or “let’s require all teachers to incorporate blended learning into their classroom instruction by the end of the first semester.”  These well-intentioned decisions can be disastrous when the very people impacted by these decisions are not heard. Dust collects classroom Chromebook carts, district-issued software programs only integrated into third-grade classrooms, and interactive whiteboards used as glorified projector screens. So, open up your ears wide like a cat outside a mouse hole and listen to ALL stakeholders. Just by walking through classes, meeting with curriculum leaders, creating student and parent focus groups, and being a presence in the hallways during passing times will educate leaders on what types and levels of instructional technology are sustainable and critical for our students and teachers.

3) Recruit

When school districts hire teachers who can text and “install,” it may be assumed that these new hires will be tech-savvy and drive technology initiatives. Sorry but you know what happens when you assume!  

Hiring a teacher who will support and drive edtech initiatives at the classroom level should not be based on anything but their courage and willingness to try and sometimes fail at new things that reach all of our students.  

Also, look both outside and inside the organization for innovative educators. Use the listening suggestion above to talk to students and teachers and consistently walk through classrooms to “recruit” teacher leaders.  I guarantee that you will tap into fantastic teachers already being change agents for education in your buildings. 

4) Showcase 

Everyone needs five minutes of fame as it ignites and energizes us to continue to grow and succeed. As educational leaders, we are not in the “it’s all about me” game. We are in our positions to lead, support, and guide students and teachers. Take every opportunity to showcase the classroom teachers in your district, who, every day, are driving the initiatives, improving student performance, creating an engaging curriculum, and provide students with collaborative learning environments. Make it “all about us” by showcasing the dedicated educators and students at every school board meeting, parent open house, edtech event, faculty meetings, and even on social media posts. These are your rock stars who will sell out the show and leave the audience wanting more.

5) Outreach

When it comes to proposed edtech initiatives, it can be challenging for educational leaders to provide the school board with concrete evidence of success. It feels like the final Jeopardy when leaders are put upon to answer the question, “what other districts in the county are doing?”. What if your district is the first in the county to offer mobile hotspots, devices for home use for students, new learning management systems, or even student data privacy policies. How do you answer that final jeopardy question? Be the leader, not the follower of edtech initiatives. Reach out to edtech organizations such as CoSN and ISTE for resources and case studies, contact your Twitter PLN peeps for their stories of success and join forces with local colleges and universities to underscore the importance of supporting our students from pre-K – postgrad. Make your little (or big) piece of the world exemplary for other districts to follow. 

Source: Tech&Learning

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