A recent conversation with a school administrator highlighted for me again the unrealistic expectations that are placed on technology in educational environments. This idea that if we get ______ (insert the most popular technology here), then everything will be better. From student achievement to parent involvement there is this hope that a device, software, or website will fix it all. Remember that I am a “technology in the classroom evangelist” and am not departing from that stance. However, it is important for us to consider two fatal assumptions that have the potential to impact more than just our ability to implement technology, but to disrupt student achievement.
In last week’s post I talked about the importance of developing a process for determining technology needs. This helps to ensure schools purchase what is needed vs. what is hot at the moment. However, sometimes it is not feasible (or necessary) to do a full technology needs assessment to determine what is really needed. In this post I will be explaining a super simple technique to help you quickly get to the bottom of an issue, which makes finding the appropriate solution much easier. It is called the 5 Whys.
I’ve had my eye on a new iPad mini for the last couple of months. I really like the size, and the clarity seems so much better than the iPad 2 I have now. The only thing stopping me from running out to the Apple Store and picking one up today is that I know I don’t really need it (and it’s pretty expensive).
I often see schools struggling with similar issues. Many times there is money left over at the end of the year, or a certain percentage of funds set aside for technology, so schools will hit the buy button on technology they’ve been wanting.
Don’t get me wrong, having more iPads or other devices available for students (and teachers) to use is great, but when purchasing these devices it is also important to consider what comes along with them. For example, in the case of iPads, there is purchasing and installing apps, maintaining, buying accessories, training students, training teachers, and so on. All of this for a device that may not have truly been needed in the first place.
To help prevent this from happening I often talk to school leaders about the importance of doing a needs assessment before moving forward with purchasing technology. If you read last week’s post where I discussed the Haddon Matrix, this would be part of the “Pre-Event” when working towards successful implementation.
While a needs assessment may be created by a combination of administrators and technology leaders, it is important to make sure that the teachers who are expected to implement the technology on a daily basis actually take it. You can find a number of resources online to help create this assessment by doing a simple Google search. For example, I found one report based off of a needs assessment conducted by the Nevada Department of Education (scroll to the end to see the questions asked in the assessment) that did a good job of determining what technology educators currently had access to and how comfortable they felt with it.
While that is a great start for finding some questions to consider using in your assessment, I think beginning with a few higher level questions is even more beneficial. For example, start by asking what current initiatives are going on in the school or department, or what area(s) students need to improve in the most. The answers to these questions should lead into more specific questions about what technology can help to fulfill those needs.
Once the answers start to come in, be sure to have a team ready to collect and make sense of the responses. This information can then be summarized and used as a checklist when the times comes to purchase new technology. This process will need to be scaled up or down depending on the situation. For example, purchasing technology to be used by all teachers across the district will require more planning and input from end users than purchasing something for an individual classroom.
The purpose of this post is simply to get schools thinking about their current process for deciding what technology is needed. Many of you may find that there is no process. If this occurs, hopefully this post will give you some ideas on where to start. For those who already have a process in place, please share any links to resources, guides, assessments, etc… that you may have already created in the comments section below so that others can benefit!
A few weeks ago Jason Gibson wrote a post that covered many of the barriers educators experience when trying to effectively integrate technology. It just so happens that he and I are getting ready to tackle these barriers in an implementation session we’re delivering at a conference next week. While we will be covering a wide range of things to consider, I thought this post would be a great place to start the conversation of how effective implementation can occur.
I’ve come to the realization that one of the largest gaps in education is the distance between an idea and the actual implementation of that idea. You know…the length of time, required effort, and necessary collaboration needed to get something done in the school setting? If you are working in or with a school district, you have experienced this gap and know the frustrations that this can bring. Though there are quite a few of these implementation gaps worthy of highlighting (don’t worry, we will do more over time), we are diving in to the technology implementation process and where things go wrong (that informs how to do it right). This technology implementation process typically looks like this.
Just a quick update regarding our blog if you are a subscriber… For years this blog has been referred to as Universally Designed. Its purpose has always been to provide tips and tricks related to Assistive/Instructional Technology and Behavior. The blog was part of our website www.systemsofsupport.org, where we shared handouts and other materials used in keynotes, conference workshops, and webinars. We have now decided to merge the two and call the blog Systems of Support. This will allow us to continue to provide relevant information dedicated to helping educators succeed in the classroom while keeping all content in one location.
If you are a subscriber you will continue to receive weekly updates when new posts are made. We know we’ve been a little behind lately on our postings, but the idea is that this transition will help us to once again make the blog a priority and deliver content you expect.
You will notice that the handouts and downloads on the resources page is now password protected. As always, that content is free so no worries about that! If you are already subscribed to our blog, then you will receive an email in the coming days with the password for the resources page. If you are new to the site, subscribe to our blog and once you confirm, you will automatically receive the password get access.
When discussing effective implementation practices of assistive or educational technology, I always bring up the importance of having at least one person (or preferably two) who will take charge of a new initiative and be the “go to” person for that specific project. I call this person the PiC, or Person in Charge and have included the information below on this topic from a “tips” email I sent to customers earlier this month.
Although this may sound like common sense, I typically find that the PiC is a district level administrator when it comes to implementing many technologies. While this person may be the true person in charge when it comes to initiatives, they are rarely the best choice to be leading classroom implementation of a new program. This has nothing to do with being qualified, it is simply that administrators do not have enough time to do their job and focus on the day to day use of a new software product.