Setting the table for technology adoption

Technology coaches all know that heading back to school begins a bustling period of activity as we work to support the technology needs of students and teachers. Classrooms that have been dismantled for summer cleaning are wrought with disconnected or misconnected cables, misplaced remotes and adapters, and accompany high anxiety as teachers attempt to get up and running with technology on the first few days of school.  Obviously this is not the high leverage instructional work that tech coaches aim for when working with teachers; setting up technology is simply a necessary evil to truly begin to use the medium in which we help to shape teaching and learning.

For me, this year feels different, though. While plugging in cables and re-connecting cords is a staple of the work, my first few weeks have been filled with really meaningful connections with teachers asking for support in practices that climb to the highest reaches of the SAMR framework. Teachers are asking me to support them as they try to use technology to record student goal setting, offer students immediate feedback, track and utilize formative data from teacher/student conferences, and having students create to showcase their understanding. It feels as if we have somehow turned the corner as an organization and are finally at a point where the question isn't, "What's possible with technology?", but instead is "How do I make my vision reality using technology?" 

While it is hard to pinpoint what the secret ingredients are to begin to make the shift that I am seeing in my district, there are a few key items that we have employed in our district that play a critical role.

Teachers Empowered to Self-Manage Technology

Our teachers update their own technology. They install their own software. They maintain their devices and troubleshoot many of their own problems (with the support of our help desk when necessary). We have created an environment of self-sufficiency for our staff, and in doing so, we have empowered teachers to be self-starters, taking ownership of their essential tools, rather than viewing them as the district's responsibility.

Reliable and Ubiquitous Technology

Our Technology Director once stated, "Wireless internet access should be as reliable for students and teachers as electricity. When we turn on the lights, we are only surprised when they do not illuminate. The same should be true of our digital tools." He has delivered on that promise in many ways throughout our district, and in turn teachers who may have otherwise avoided technology because it is "unreliable" have overcome a major barrier to technology adoption. Further, it does not matter where you are located within our system. The technology is present, supported, and consistent. Learning how to AirPlay in one location on one network is a skill that our teachers can transfer to any location in our district. Apps available in one building are available in a building they transfer to the next year. This creates a sense of stability and reliability that urges use of these tools.

Consistency of Tools

 Holding back the swell of new tools and updates in the world of instructional tech is a weighty and sometimes overwhelming proposition. We have worked diligently to do exactly that, choosing a few high quality (and somewhat costly) tools over a plethora of free or free-for-now type tools that are all abuzz across social networks. The payoff has been a toolset that staff members continually hear of, learn about, and see in action. The consistent messaging around and availability of these tools has offered teachers and students an opportunity to use the tools meaningfully, to get better in their use of the tools, and to apply the tool in new situations for new purposes. The self-discipline it has taken our team to not jump every time we have heard about an impressive new tool is hard to imagine. We get as excited by these tools as every other tech geek, but knowing that consistency is the key to helping teachers achieve their instructional goals makes it easy to say, "Let's hold off on that one for now."

SAMR as a Framework

While Instructional Tech experts can get buried deep in the weeds of frameworks and terminology, the reality is that many educators struggle to develop a consistent vision of how technology can be used most meaningfully and effectively in their classrooms. In our district we have promoted understanding of the SAMR framework with our teachers and leaders. We have done so to provide a common, easy-to-grasp language that helps all educators to define when technology is used well to support learning, and to encourage conversations and questions when it is not being used well. The SAMR framework has empowered district and building leaders, who may not always feel confident in their ability to utilize the wide variety of technology they see in a day, to ask instructionally focused questions (with the support of the SAMR framework as a guide) to determine if the tool is supporting the instructional mission and goal. Having that framework evens the playing field for all educators and re-centers the conversation on the teaching and learning, not on the tool being used. I am hearing more talk about the SAMR framework organically this year than I could have ever imagined. That is an indication that educators in our system are finding it a valuable tool for talking about what we are doing with tech, and that is exciting and powerful!

Availability of Support

Support is essential to growth, but it is also expensive. No district ever says, "I think we have too many people supporting this work." However, plenty say, "We do not have enough support, but we don't have the financial means to add more support." While more people may be desirable, improving the support that is available is the only immediate solution. The addition of a truly positive, supportive and compassionate Help Desk attendant was a game changer in our district. The re-districting of the support team that we did have to balance school numbers and staff sizes was a necessary shift. Incorporating tools like Google Chat, Google Hangouts, and Autocrat for speedy automated responses has provided a sense of immediacy to requests when they do come in. We have not been able to grow our support team, but the data we collect in our district suggests that people feel more supported when they use technology. This correlates directly with our intentional decision to improve the support we do offer to staff. And feeling supported is the first step to removing barriers to risk taking for staff members who are nervous to give new tools a try.


None of these things on their own were silver bullet solutions to the challenges of technology adoption in the classroom. More honestly, these were slow changes that we intentionally engaged in and supported as a team. Consistency was the larger key, though. These were core beliefs of the technology and coaching teams, and as such we have not wavered in these key tenets. Over time, and with consistency, these are the types of actions that have shifted beliefs, culture, and practice in our district, setting the table for meaningful technology adoption by staff members and students.

The Benefits of Going All In On a 1:1

This month we had the pleasure to write a guest post for Naomi Harm's newsletter, Tech Bytes, for her company, Innovative Educator Consulting.  The post focuses on the decision our district made to move entire buildings into a 1:1 implementation, instead of doing it in much smaller segments by classroom, grade level, or department.

Read the full post in the newsletter.  For those considering a 1:1 implementation in your district, it provides a perspective of another way that 1:1 can be rolled out and the benefits we are seeing as a result of that decision.

Presentation: Assistive Technology and Purposeful Use of iPads

Today Patty Hovel, the Related Services Coordinator in our school district, and I will be co-presenting for the Parents United Consortium of SE Wisconsin.  Our presentation will focus on the purposeful use of iPads in schools, the changing landscape in our classroom and the changing roles of our teachers and learners, and the process for determining if an iPad, or any assistive technology, will aid a student in their formalized learning journey.


If you are interested in accessing the presentation resources, they are available here:  http://goo.gl/T76dUV


Just wanted to share with everybody.  Sounds as if we may have just under 100 people in the audience today, but perhaps this is a topic that interests others in our online community.  Patty is incredibly knowledgeable about technology, the process for selecting assistive technology, and the role it can play in the classroom.  She is a wonderful resource and I'm excited to be presenting with her today!

Non-Educators Supportive of 1:1 Program

In our district we are in the very earliest stages of a three year rollout of a personalized learning movement that includes providing an iPad for each student (K-12).  That's about 13,500 iPads across our district, including staff members.

At the launch, I was pretty sure this would be an uphill battle the whole way.  For years I have been reading about schools d to convince their community members, parents, and even staff that putting 1:1 devices in the classroom was the right move.  All of that reading and research convinced me that the general public was  gainst the idea of giving kids access to devices, and that schools interested in launching something of this magnitude would really need to educate the public to get them to see the benefits.

What I find to be the most interesting about our launch thus far has been the support of the program from the general public.  Without question, there are concerns.  Without doubt, we have folks who do not agree with this decision.  That will always be the case, no matter what we engage in or what decision we make.  I can certainly accept that.  However, we are hearing many people who seem to think it is a good idea -- that it is logical and makes sense to provide these opportunities and this access to students.

The bigger surprise has been the ease with which people who have questions or doubts are pacified.  I don't mean to say that they simply lack the conviction to stick with their arguments, nor do I want to imply that we are doing a miraculous job of "selling" the program.  More simply stated, the idea is becoming less foreign to them.  In a way, even with their doubts, they seem to understand that it is an unavoidable reality of the times in which we live. They seem to get that if we do not give students an opportunity to use these devices productively in a "safe to fail" environment today, we cannot expect them to use these devices productively in environments that are far less safe and forgiving.  For many of those who raise concerns, it isn't that they are dead set against the idea.  It seems as if they just want to hear that we, too, have some of the same concerns, or that we have thought through it and have determined ways to deal with that issue (or are willing to think about it and develop a way to tackle it).  

It is pretty apparent that the onward march of technology in our society as a whole is to credit.  The majority of our parents, guardians, and community members have been so significantly impacted by the adoption of technology (both positively and negatively) that it seems they truly realize that education is not immune from this same adoption.  

What I hope, though, is that people believe that putting these tools in the hands of students in an educational setting will begin to steer them in a direciton of meaningful, productive use of these tools in positive, interesting, and innovative ways.  My gut feeling on that, though, is that we don't have the faith of the community yet in that regard.  Give educators a few years.  I know they will prove to the community at large that providing access to the tools was not only inevitable, but also invaluable!  That is where the work of educating our students, staff, and community comes into play, and that is a challenge worthy of taking on.

Bring Your Own Technology - What does it all mean?

On Wednesday, March 27th, Brian will be presenting to the Parents United Consortium in Waukesha, WI. This group is focused on providing educationally relevant information to parents in a consortium of local districts on a wide variety of educational topics.


The presentation will be focused generally on one question -- "Why do schools feel compelled to introduce a Bring Your Own Technology or 1:1 Technology initiative into the educational environment?"

I'm sharing my presentation here for those of you who have the same questions for your school administrators.


The presentation emphasizes five key areas:


  1. The World Has Changed...Schools Need to Change to Prepare Students for It (Academic Achievement is No Longer Enough)
  2. Schools Have to Provide Greater Digital Access -- Which models exist (Labs, Bring Your Own, or 1:1) and which is right for your school/student?
  3. The Great Device Debate - While we can get hung up on device selection, understand that we want to find the tool that can do the most, works best in our environment, and supports our educational needs.
  4. Cloud Services and Open Educational Resources - These are tools that change the opportunities for learning for students and teachers, and can be used for meaningful redefinition of what constitues education/learning.
  5. Changing Roles of Educators - The traditional vision of a teacher that controls the flow and depth of the lesson is quickly becoming outdated.  Many teachers realize this, but we have to give them room to grow into the new model of what a teacher can become.



I'm eager to share the presentation with those of you who are interested in viewing.  If you choose to use it with others, attribution is requested.

Please feel free to answer the polls and offer your thoughts!  


Here is a link to the presentation: http://portal.sliderocket.com/BNPBJ/BRING-YOUR-OWN-TECH