A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away…. wait, wrong story.
A long long time ago in a classroom far far away there were students dreaming of one to one devices and teachers advocating for interactive whiteboards and student-adaptive technologies. Now, fast forward to 2020 and we have it all! From kid-friendly robots you can code, to platforms that connect you with classrooms around the world, and digital learning tools on every subject imaginable. The problem now is that teachers are inundated with various forms of educational technology and teachers, principals, and district leaders need to have a clear protocol for choosing which ones to adopt.
Let’s Go! A Roadmap to New Tech:
STEP 1: Identifying What Tech You Want To Use
Student Achievement Goals: Begin by considering your school improvement plan. Is your goal to increase student engagement, improve math scores or literacy skills, or start a Computer Science program at your school? Your technology selections should depend on those goals. For example, if your goal is to implement a coding program, perhaps you create an extracurricular club after school and purchase lego robotic kits and pay for PD training for your staff. Or if your goal is to improve literacy skills then you should consider purchasing document cameras, interactive whiteboards, and specific software to track student progress and data.
Staff Suggestion: If there is a digital learning tool or piece of technology a staff member has suggested, use an assessment tool like this to determine whether it would be a good fit for your school.
STEP 2: Think About Your Students
Consider your student demographics and appropriateness of the technology. Next, determine the digital skills and readiness of your students and how they pertain to course objectives. Finally, ask if the technology can personalize instruction or adapt to specific student needs.
STEP 3: Consider Your Budget
Consider your funding sources and their availability. If you are receiving a one-time sum of money, carefully select technology with a long lifespan. Then consider what practices you need to establish in order to ensure your technology purchases are sustainable. Should you be setting aside funds each year to replace devices after 5 years? Tschirgi (2009) points out that you will also need to budget for professional development, technology support, infrastructure, and retrofitting classrooms.
STEP 4: Equitable Access
All students, staff and leaders must have “robust and reliable access to current and emerging technologies and digital resources” (Tschirgi, 2009). Ask questions like “Does this technology support all students learning?” and “Can all students access the technology from home?”
STEP 5: Classroom Conditions
Consider if classrooms are compatible with the installation of new technologies. Is there wall space for an interactive whiteboard? Are all the outlets on one wall? What will the impact be on instructional classroom best practices? These questions, along with many others, need to be addressed when selecting classroom technology.
STEP 6: Sustainability
Tschirgi (2009) explains that without a large grant or technology levy, sustainability may be the most important factor when selecting technology. Consider the following areas:
- Can various stakeholders use the technology? (i.e. is it compatible with student learning, staff PD, or PTA meetings?
- Is it applicable to most subject areas? This reduces the need for specialized training and support.
- Is it easy to use? This will help the staff embrace the change.
- Can the new tech be integrated into preexisting lessons? Teachers will be more on board if they can use the new technologies to transform old lessons into powerful learning experiences.
- Does it require minimal training and support? Select technology that requires minimal training and that staff can troubleshoot independently if possible.
- What is the predicted lifespan of the technology? Sustainable solutions can meet their original purposes 5+ years after purchasing.
Step 7: Privacy and Security
Identify your school or district’s student privacy policies. Make sure the new technology has a secure way to store student data and information.
If your technology passes the steps above (it fits in the budget, has equitable access, is compatible with physical learning spaces, and also sustainable) then follow the next set of steps to test your piece of technology or learning tool.
Use It Like a Student
Sign in as a student and experience it as they would. Take the time to consider the perspective of a high performing student as well as a low performing student. Is it user-friendly? Is it engaging? How does the tool respond when students make mistakes? Does it allow for collaboration or networking with outside parties?
Launch a Pilot Group
The best way to see how the technology works is by letting students test it out. Assemble a pilot group that represents a diverse student population: high and low performing students, native English speakers and English learners, students participating in SPED and from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Examine them closely to see how they are using the technology. Can they navigate the platform? Are they enjoying it? Is the language accessible to them? Check out this document from the Renton School District on running a pilot program.
Evaluate the Tool and Examine the Data
- Establish an evaluation protocol so everyone piloting is on the same page.
- Conduct teacher and student surveys. See an example here.
- Ask critical questions about how your technology is improving student learning. Is it truly changing learning experiences, or is it just a technology substitute? You can use the acronym SAMR to discuss the impact of the technology. Ask “What is it about this that’s innovative or different?” and ask that question for different groups of students (Gonzalez, 2018).
- Make sure to examine the data from different angles and various student populations. Gonzalez (2018) explains, “Look for unintentional widening of equity gaps”. For example, is the tech tool helping the high performers, but meanwhile, the low performers are falling behind?
- Ask about the impact. Put the developers in the hot seat. Usually, ed-tech companies are promoting their digital learning tools with data. Examine the information to see if different student groups are represented. If not, ask them.
I hope this roadmap can give you ideas and resources on how to get from point A to point B. Acquiring new technologies is exciting, but should be done thoughtfully and responsibly. Are there any other “pit stops” we need to take along the way? I’d love to hear your suggestions on other steps educators should take when choosing new technologies.
Dorr, E. (n.d.) Digital Tools Protocol Overview. Renton School District. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rJxMJqGnSf_4ksP3-_jK2zRTVkVYkqwJM7896cAwkAQ/edit
Gonzalez, J. (2018, July 15). Quality-Check Your Tech: 6 Strategies. Cult of Pedagogy. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/quality-check-your-tech/
ISTE. (n.d.) Designing Online Learning Experiences. ISTE’s Summer Learning Academy 2020.
Tschirgi, D. (2009, April 13). 5 Factors to Consider When Selecting Classroom Technology. EdTech. https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2009/04/choose-but-choose-wisely
UNT Teaching Commons. (n.d.). Selecting Educational Technologies: A Checklist. UNT. https://teachingcommons.unt.edu/teaching-essentials/teaching-technology/selecting-educational-technologies-checklist