Plan Right for Instructional Technology
Depending upon where you are right now, your school or district may have little to no technology, some technology, its fair share of technology—along with varying degrees of that as mismatched devices and solutions. To be honest, there may be a lot of things collecting dust, too. Having technology doesn’t always mean it’s being used correctly to improve teaching, or student learning—or being used at all. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee the right instructional technology has been chosen in the first place—or that educators have been taught to use it. Choosing wrong, and not having a plan, can adversely affect education technology in a district for years, or it may never have a chance to even get off the ground at all. While choosing education solutions carefully, specifically, and appropriately in a strategic way and purpose, can offer the best possibilities for success, there are many side trips that need to be navigated through, and beyond, or bypassed entirely. It is not the task for one person, or for that matter, a few. It requires a team.
No school, or district, decision should ever be made without a team of decision-makers. Today, in almost every school there should be, at least, an instructional technology liaison, and that person doesn’t necessarily need to be more than an educator, who has an interest in, and believes that instructional technology should be a part of each class day and lesson for all teachers and students. All of those educator liaisons then need to be coordinated in some way throughout the district by a lead, or head of instructional technology. Again, that person could be an appointed, or elected, educator, who can organize individual school ideas and plans into district plans or goals, while looking at present, as well as the big picture.
Together, this district technology group can work, knowing the curriculum, educator and technology status, as well as all pertinent background. The individual school liaisons can organize smaller groups of like-minded educators at their individual schools to plan local education technology goals that the lead Instructional technology educators can collect, and then, take to the higher district team. None of these instructional technology liaisons need be more than educators, who have an interest in changing the way students learn and teachers teach—using technology instruction, with curriculum, tools and solutions for this century.
Those school instructional technology liaisons, are one part of a total district team, which should include, students from each school, community members, and possibly headed up by a district leader, who could be an assistant superintendent, technology director, curriculum leaders and department heads, and if there is one, a district head of instructional technology, or district technology director. While all that grouping together sounds like it might slow down forward progress, it can actually save time by organizing everyone to choose better, and even gain acceptance of choices and decisions, within a larger group, from the start. While it may be difficult to get many to agree, it is far better to get most to understand reasons for accepting a plan and new possibilities.
Some things to think about, from the beginning, might be first to assess where you are, and decide what you want to do based on where you are, within your budgetary means. That means talking to as many as you can, researching as much as you can, seeing as much as you can, and visiting wherever you can. Additionally, finding out as much about the training required, and the mentoring needed for that training, as well as planning for future needs and training is a future-thinking necessity.
Also remember that if something is working, and fits, it can be continued, or modified. Complete change, for complete change sake, can cause friction. This is especially true in districts that have all sorts of mismatched technology, whether old or new. It’s easy to get attached to ways of doing things, and equipment. Perfectly good and useful technology can fit, but on the other hand, shouldn’t be forced to fit. The latter, sometimes means more difficulty and more time. Educators already have too little time in the day. Time wasted over finicky technology cannot happen. Today, technology has to be as user friendly as possible, and as ubiquitous as possible, too. In a classroom, when an educator is using instructional technology it should, simply, look like teaching and that goes for student learning, too, rather than all struggling to manipulate devices. Solutions and digital tools should be seamless.
The biggest drawback to school instructional technology isn’t new, it’s paying for the plan. But budgetary meandering shouldn’t postpone an instructional technology group being organized, or a plan being developed—even when funded, these plans are continually updated. Offering informational professional development workshops, or days, is important as well. Giving educators the chance to see new education devices, solutions, and possibilities sometimes creates a groundswell of support and backing, for need and importance, that helps uncork purchasing bottlenecks. Getting the right instructional technology takes a team, a plan, and a lot of patience, and that last bit can be the most difficult part. Be prepared to be flexible, get what you need for what you need to do, and work together to get the best solutions possible for success. Finally, seek and find consulting help to get on the right path and stay there. Being creative and successful doesn’t have to mean re-invention. The education technology marketplace has plenty of amazing partners to help with your instructional technology plan, and future goals.
About the Author:
Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.