Month: October 2017

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Find Your Digital Champions

Find Your Digital Champions

To fully embed Educational Technology (EdTech) into the DNA of a school takes significant resources. We know about the fiscal and technological resources to provide sufficient and sustainable access to tools. Schools also need vision, leadership, support, and grit. These key resources are not easily bought with money and rather take something far more precious: time. Time from leaders, time for students, and time from teachers to bring this goal to fruition.

Find Your Digital ChampionsMany schools will build in time for support from teachers by hiring Educational Technology Coaches who use their time to help teachers focus and execute on EdTech programs. However, coaches are teachers just like any other and hiring another teacher has serious impacts on budgeting in the short and near term. It’s doubtful any school has the financial resources to keep hiring teachers to the point of full support for every program. Further, many schools find it challenging to fund even one Educational Technology Coach while others do not have EdTech programs mature enough to warrant coaching.

This leaves an inevitable gap in support for teachers who are the most important part of the equation on technology effectiveness for enhancing learning.

We’ve addressed this issue, to moderate success, by identifying and supporting Digital Champions.

Find Your Digital Champions

A Digital Champion is a teacher who has aptitude in using EdTech effectively for learning, interest in trying new things, and openness to support fellow colleagues. For example, a Digital Champion might be a Biology teacher who uses technology for formative assessment and differentiation to success. She is vocal with our Learning Technology team and me that she wants to experiment with new data modeling systems in her classroom. And when we ask for information about challenges in the Science department related to technology she is knowledgeable and forthcoming.

At my school, we have identified at least one Digital Champion in every grade level team and every subject department. As a result, each group of teachers at our campus has a recognized Digital Champion we can use a conduit to support the faculty. Finding these teachers was the easiest part of the process as we already knew who our high fliers were from previous work.

Schools can leave the process here, with informal recognition of Digital Champions and as-needed communication, and they would have a strong supplementary support system for teachers.


However, we felt this was insufficient and we added some formality. First, we create a role description to describe the skills and attributes of our Digital Champions. Second, we added simple responsibilities to the role such as regular communications with our team, formal processes for experimentation with new tools, and a requirement to inform us of departmental challenges or teachers needing additional support. Notice none of this added additional time to the Digital Champions’ workload, just formalized our interactions with them. Lastly, we added line items into our budget to provide additional professional development training and access to technology resources specifically for the Digital Champions.

Find Your Digital Champions

In short, we have a formal role at the school where tech-savvy or tech-affinity teachers help us provide support to their department, offer us a clear line of communication, and we reward them with more tools and training. It is a win-win.

Since we created our Digital Champion program, we’ve seen a large uptick in effective use of technology in several departments and grade levels. Not surprisingly, those departments house the more active Digital Champions. We’ve also seen a reputational increase for the Learning Technology department as teachers feel more support

ed on an individual and group level. Digital Champions have brought in a handful of new tools and services that we have extended across the school. We have even removed a few tools that they showed us were obsolete.

My favorite outcome of this program has been the challenge our Digital Champions have given us. They, being empowered and well resourced, have pushed our IT and Learning Technology teams to improve service, uptime, and speed of response. Our Digital Champions have even called vendors directly (with our blessing) to request features and challenge customer service delays that have resulted in immediate actions from those providers.

Our Digital Champions have pushed technology into the DNA of the school in ways that my team and I could never have done. And they have done it by offering their time and passion with little financial or organizational cost.

The post Find Your Digital Champions appeared first on Matt Harris, Ed.D. -- International EdTech Specialist.

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Committed Leadership is the Fuel that Keeps EdTech Alive

Committed Leadership is the Fuel that Keeps EdTech Alive

Educational technology (EdTech) is a movement towards contemporary learning needs. It takes the tradition view learning that consists of paper and pencil delivered by an expert in the front of a room and flips it on its head. EdTech brings learning, for both children and adults, into the modern world. It uses the tools and information at hand to build skills, competencies, and attitudes in learners rather delivering information to be regurgitated. It prepares people to live and work in our connected society in ways that 20th century schooling is unfit to accomplish…Committed Leadership is the Fuel that Keeps EdTech Alive

…and it is difficult for schools to fully engage as it challenges their long-held beliefs, their perceived role in student development, and the learning experiences of teachers and administrators.

Yet, creating successful EdTech programs in schools is moving away from “nice to have” or “emerging need” to “requirement” and “expectation”.

To meet this requirement and create a successful and sustainable EdTech program in a school there are three key factors: resourcing, engaged teachers, and committed leadership.

Resourcing is relatively simple. Does the school have ample technology, personnel, time, and budget to run its EdTech program? These need to be appropriately allocated and managed, of course, but the real factor is their existence in the organization. EdTech programs without resourcing can be challenging.

Next, an engaged teaching faculty is important. Teachers are where the rubber hits the road as they deliver the program. Teachers need to be engaged in improving learning for students and for themselves as part of the overall initiative. Without engaged teachers, EdTech will run into many barriers or become forced and autocratic.

However, committed leadership is what brings EdTech to life into a school and, more importantly, keeps it alive.

Committed leadership ensures that the ethos and operations of the school support EdTech in its development and its continued growth. Committed leaders, such as school boards, heads of school, division principals, and middle leadership, will demonstrate their commitment through multiple avenues like communications, time allocations, planning, and budgeting.

When you enter a school with a leadership commitment to improving learning with technology, you’ll feel it. EdTech will show up in newsletters, on the school website, and in the mission and vision. Leadership will speak about EdTech with enthusiasm and clarity of purpose, easily articulating the school’s long term commitment to the program. They will ensure that EdTech has become part of the school’s DNA, not just an add-on.

Committed Leadership is the Fuel that Keeps EdTech Alive

Leadership will provide teachers with time and training to build their skills around using technology for learning and the pedagogic shifts found in modern education. They will insist on robust strategic planning and indicators of success. And committed leadership will develop budgets that allow for program growth in the short term and sustainability in the long term. For example, they will allocate money to buy devices this year then include an annual line item to replace those devices as they become obsolete.

This is where we see the most trouble with EdTech in schools. Leadership makes a strong commitment and push for the development of the program to start. They build a strategic plan, hire personnel, buy equipment, and offer professional development programs. However, once those are completed the commitment wanes. They put a check mark next to EdTech and consider it accomplished. The commitment to continual improvement erodes as the newness of the program fades away. It is a common problem in school who have had early success in their programs.

However, EdTech is a long game. Technology changes, the ways it can improve learning changes, and the supported resourcing and professional development never go away. Further, devices get old and bandwidth needs increase.

For leadership to fulfill their long-term commitment to EdTech in a school they must include EdTech in the assessments, budgeting, and strategic analysis. The way the school assesses learning for its students and teachers should include an EdTech element, such as skills ladder for students or EdTech goals for teachers. Budgeting should include fixed annual funds for depreciation, replacement, and new equipment. And, most importantly, when the school conducts strategic analysis of themselves, as in external audits or accreditation, they should delve deep into the accomplishment and plans for their EdTech programs.

Committed Leadership is the Fuel that Keeps EdTech Alive

I have worked with several schools around the world and rarely have I found they have all key factors in place – resourcing, engaged teachers, committed leadership – instead being stronger in one or two of them. Yet, many of these schools have still made immense strides in developing impactful EdTech programs by overcoming their shortcomings. That said, none of these successful schools has been lacking in committed leadership. If a school can’t commit to EdTech from the top it will never develop a meaningful or lasting program, regardless of how much time and money they invest. And, as a result, they will find themselves falling behind their competitors, the expectations of parents, and the needs of students living in the 21st century.

The post Committed Leadership is the Fuel that Keeps EdTech Alive appeared first on Matt Harris, Ed.D. -- International EdTech Specialist.