July 25, 2021
Teaching and learning during the pandemic gave everyone a major crash course on the role of technology in education. With little notice, teachers, students, and administrators were forced to work creatively with the tools they had—while simultaneously learning the strengths and limitations of technology in the classrooms.
Looking toward the future with more intentionality, you’ll need to decide what lessons, programs, and tools to keep or which ones to eliminate. Apply the incredible lessons learned about integrating programs in an authentic and meaningful way, rather than just using technology for technology’s sake—like you may have inadvertently done in the past.
Here’s how to create an intentional technology plan.
#1—Conduct a Technology Assessment
Assess how your technology plan went last year, and decide what needs to be changed for the future. Consider questions like:
- What leadership and organization structure supports schoolwide integration of new programs?
- Are there people in key technology positions with the appropriate skills who have access to administrative leaders?
- Are academic technology leaders and the Information Technology (IT) department in collaboration with each other?
- What remote technology tools do teachers want to continue using?
- Do you need to expand network resources to accommodate those wishes?
- Do you have backup devices ready to use during outages and in response to problematic issues?
- How solid is your help desk system?
- What network safety protocols and policies are in place, or should be?
By examining these questions, schools can move forward with accurate data to inform future decisions and best practices. Aim to integrate your technology plan for the next two to four years—at that time, you’ll need to conduct another assessment.
#2—Reassess the Role of Technology
You’ve likely participated in professional development where it seemed that the leaders were listing shiny and cool new apps, platforms, and programs with no clear understanding of how to integrate them into the classroom, or why.
Instead, flip your vision of how you examine technology’s use in the classroom—virtually and in-person. Technology should help accomplish a goal you have already established.
Then examine the actions you want students or teachers to take. Finally, pair your technology with tools, platforms, and policies that would best serve that purpose. For example, a shared goal between teachers and administrators might be to decrease time standing at the whiteboard lecturing students. Examine which specific collaboration method or tool could replace the whiteboard for the students—possibly integrating teamwork to produce a product. In this way, technology remains relevant and acts as a helper, not the focus of attention.
#3—Decide What to Keep From Distance Learning
Doubtless last year proved challenging for everyone at school, but many lessons arose as a result. To ensure you continue to use those “wins” to inform future instruction, determine what teachers thought worked well during virtual and hybrid learning. Here’s what we’ve noticed to be positive takeaways.
- There was more active student learning, and less passive and traditional lecturing.
- Instructional video use exploded, with more teachers looking toward video sources for flipped classroom techniques.
- A designated space to learn at home became necessary to stay organized for parents and students alike.
- Popular tools emerged, including Seesaw, Google Classroom, Flip Grid, Screencastify, ScreenCastomatic, and Ed Puzzle.
For some teachers, this past school year was the first time they examined ways to transform decades-old processes and try new technologies. The continued use of technology is expected, and should be integrated to help sustain newfound successes as schools continue to get back to normal.
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#4—Recognize All Grade Levels Have Unique Needs
Schools should focus on the tools that work best for different age groups. A few tools were popular across all grades, including:
Google Tools (from Google Forms for surveys and assessments to Google Classroom as a popular multi-purpose tool) Ed Puzzle, Flip Grid, and Padlet were successful in both K–5 schools and middle schools as well.
For K–5 students, Padlet was especially useful for handling normal routines the class is familiar with. Flipgrid helped kids share what they learned or created.
In middle school, Book Creator was used as a tool for recording students’ experiences, and as a summative assessment especially for any discipline requiring student writing. Middle schoolers started to learn about and benefit from more freedom and independence—especially regarding scheduling and managing assignment deadlines.
Upper school students, especially Advanced Placement (AP) students, benefited from flipped classrooms—a type of blended learning where students are introduced to content at home and practice working through it at school—and video learning that allowed class time to be more focused on collaboration, connection, and critical thinking.
Teachers also appreciated the flipped classroom concept to help personalize the pace of instruction based on the student. Collaboration and peer communication through various platforms had specific and meaningful benefits for upper school students, including:
- building community through open-ended prompts when students weren’t meeting together;
- increased peer discussions that boosted student engagement and personal inquiry, making learning more meaningful for them; and
- effective communication and increased collaboration.
#5—Level Your Learning Management System
If teachers, students, and parents have an accessible and helpful learning management system, they are more likely to engage in virtual and hybrid learning. More than ever, parents requested that all of their student’s content be located in one place.
Achieve this by creating a two-year plan for evaluating your learning management system. Investigate alternatives and consider piloting programs. An excellent learning management system (like Canvas) puts all materials and people behind a virtual wall that provides security and organization.
Some factors to consider when choosing your learning management system include:
- ease of use;
- reliability and reputation;
- ability to integrate plugins, Google suite, video conferencing, social tools, etc.;
- security; cost; and
- discussion thread and forums, chats, and internal messaging abilities.
#6—Use a Checklist
To make sure you have everything students and teachers need, use the following checklist to focus on the purpose of each piece of technology.
Every school needs a tool for:
- communication—including announcements, directions/screencasting, content delivery, discussion;
- collaboration and teamwork;
- creation—including audio, video, and presentations;
- recording or capturing—including space for reflection, brainstorming, and commenting;
- teacher presentations, such as lectures;
- meeting—both live and asynchronously (such as a learning management system); and
- asking questions—including surveying and conducting quizzes.
Schools should revisit their policies to make sure they’re providing a comprehensive education perspective. Communicate your new technology plan to parents in specific ways through webinars or parent orientation at the beginning of the year. Through this intentional technology planning, you will benefit from the lessons of last year, and be able to adapt quickly and efficiently as the school year progresses.
Are you looking for advice specific to your school? Contact email@example.com for more information about our Strategic Technology Plan Consultation.
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