Author: Matt Harris, Ed.D.

by Matt Harris, Ed.D. Matt Harris, Ed.D. No Comments

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.

by Matt Harris, Ed.D. Matt Harris, Ed.D. No Comments

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.

by Matt Harris, Ed.D. Matt Harris, Ed.D. No Comments

Powerful Models for EdTech – EdTech Digest

Powerful Models for EdTech – EdTech Digest

Powerful Models of EdTech - EdTech Digest

I had the pleasure of submitting a guest column to EdTech Digest. In my article, Powerful Models for EdTech, I discuss an alternative to SAMR where schools can use the Learning About vs. Learning How approach to offer professional development to teachers. This article was published online through EdTech Digest on 13th September, 2017.

Click here to read the full article.

Click here to read and/or subscribe to EdTech Digest.

The post Powerful Models for EdTech – EdTech Digest appeared first on Matt Harris, Ed.D. -- International EdTech Specialist.

by Matt Harris, Ed.D. Matt Harris, Ed.D. No Comments

Digital Parenting – NOW! Jakarta

Digital Parenting

I was interviewed for a article in NOW! Jakarta in January, 2017 around Digital Citizenship and Parenting in the Digital World. This is the article.
Digital Parenting - NOW Jakarta

Digital Parenting – NOW! Jakarta

Life in the digital age comes with both opportunities and threats. Technology is influencing parenting like never before, and many families say it makes it more challenging than ever.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Dr. Matt Harris, Ed.D., Deputy Head for Learning Technology at British School Jakarta (BSJ). Used with good intentions, technology can play an extremely positive role.

At BSJ, teachers and students incorporate technology into their daily teaching and learning. Dr. Harris and his team also actively engage with parents, to emphasise the importance of their presence in their children’s lives online.

We sat down with the father of two, who hails from California, to learn how technology can o er unlimited learning possibilities, and help children gain a broader understanding of the world.

What’s your view on children’s use of technology today?

Every one of us has a di erent approach to using technology, and children are no exception. Some use it for entertainment and educational activities, while others use it mainly to interact with

others. Technology is very powerful in helping kids to understand themselves and the world around them. These days, even the very youngest know how to look for information on the Internet, and use social media to connect with people all around the globe. Not only do they understand how to use the medium, they’ve also learned how to be articulate, how to get their message across platforms, and how to correct any communication errors that arise.

At what age should a kid be introduced to technology?

It varies between families and cultures. Because I come from the US, my views about appropriate parenting may be di erent from someone who grew up in Jakarta. My children were introduced to technology at the age of two, but other parents may prefer to wait until their children are older. There is no single answer to this question, but the bottom line is: discuss the matter openly as a family. Talk about the purpose of technology, the amount of time to spend on it, and what sorts of activities are allowed to take place online. If you’re not sure what’s right for you, discuss it with your children’s school or with others in your community.

How can we prevent our kids from becoming over-dependent on technology?

Developing kids’ comfort with technology is very important, since they are part of a world in which it’s pervasive. But it’s all about balance. Using a screen as the singular source of entertainment or education is not good, for anyone, so we should always combine it with other things o ine. And technology use should always be intentional – be it for recreation, education, or communicating with others. Finally, parents and educators must be a part of kids’ digital world. Send your children Snapchats, friend them on facebook: whatever they’re using, you should be doing it too. They need to feel your presence, just as they do o ine.

What is the impact of technology on child psychology?

It would be irresponsible to ignore its impact on students’ social development. To help students de ne and adhere to appropriate technology use, we run a Digital Citizenship programme that covers topics such as Internet safety, relationships and cyberbullying. This programme also encourages students to develop a positive online identity, in the same ways as they establish an equivalent reputation o ine. Critically, we make sure that parents are part of that discussion too.

What are some of the challenges that kids face online?

Some children can become over-reliant on technology, especially for entertainment. Poor practice tends to occur when kids are left alone to use the Internet without parental input. Computers shouldn’t reside in a study or spare bedroom; today’s mobile devices mean that families can use them together, in communal areas of the home, as a shared experience. Again, balance is the key, and we support parents and students in achieving that at home. As long as we all work together, as a strong community, we’ll be able to make sure the bene ts of technology far outweigh any possible challenges.

What kind of advice would you give parents out there?

It is essential for parents to talk with their children about technology use. Communicate openly about everyone’s expectations and responsibilities, and the consequences of appropriate and inappropriate use. Provide a safe space for discussion, set the boundaries, and then come to an agreement, making sure that everyone (including you!) can stick to it. Make sure your kids know that they can always come to you if they wish to discuss something, or if problems arise. Kids will make mistakes; that is okay. You and your children can learn from them.

The post Digital Parenting – NOW! Jakarta appeared first on Matt Harris, Ed.D. -- International EdTech Specialist.

by Matt Harris, Ed.D. Matt Harris, Ed.D. No Comments

Coaches and Champions – The Essentials of Educational Technology Support

Coaches and Champions –
The Essentials of Educational Technology Support

Educational Technology in international schools is a complex undertaking. Schools must implement robust information technology systems that are reliable and sustainable. They must continually develop instructional practices, programs and curricula that draw upon the potential of technology to enhance learning while accounting for teachers that come from diverse pedagogic backgrounds. And they must achieve student learning outcomes that align to the realities of 21st century life while meeting traditional academic standards. All of this, while operating in a foreign environment will little of the support mechanisms enjoyed by schools that belong to Ministries of Education or school districts.

However, consistent amongst all schools around the world, both international and not, the learning impact of technology rests primarily on one factor: the teachers. Teacher capacity for working with technology rich environments, their understanding of fundamental learning principles and pedagogy, and their willingness to innovate are the life blood of exemplary educational technology programs. In international schools, this is far more complicated as our teachers are transitory and their innate abilities to meet these needs go with them as they leave our schools to explore new opportunities and adventures every 3-4 years.

Coaches and Champions – The Essentials of Educational Technology Support

Yet, there are still many highly impactful educational technology programs in international schools around the world that maintain their levels of success despite staff turnover. They do this through institutional commitment to teacher support in educational technology. Teachers in these schools have support to learn about technology tools and how to use them in teaching. They are given instructional support, both in and out of the classroom, to develop activities and collaborate with peers. And they are encouraged to explore new practices and tools that may improve learning within the school.

This type of support includes may different elements such as financial resourcing, time, and leadership. However, the most essential elements of educational technology support come in the form of coaches and champions.

Coaches and Champions – The Essentials of Educational Technology SupportEducational technology coaches are members of the teaching faculty who are trained educators, experienced in curriculum design, assessment for learning, and the fundamentals of good pedagogy. Secondary to these pedagogic skills, they understand how technology can improve learning. They are not IT technicians or systems engineers, but teachers who coach their peers on the use of complicated IT tools to meet teaching and learning needs. Often, educational technology coaches start their careers as classroom teachers and move to coaching after they develop skills with, an affinity for, and a reputation in using technology for learning in impactful and innovative ways.

The job description for an educational technology coach is simple: provide training to teachers on technology tools and their uses for learning, help departments or grade levels develop curriculum that leverages technology, provide in-class support for teachers delivering technology reliant lessons, and offer strategic planning expertise in educational technology. Educational technology coaches must be personable, approachable, and energetic. They are the advocates for innovative practices in successful schools. Note, their role is not to directly teach students or to provide technical support. They are instructional coaches with an expertise in technology for learning.

Schools will approach educational technology coaches in a few ways, but the most successful programs will keep their coaches off the timetable. Educational technology coaches must be available to teachers during any period of the day, before and after school and at lunchtime. Successful schools will also hire a reasonable number of coaches, often striving for a ratio of one coach per 500 students.Coaches and Champions – The Essentials of Educational Technology Support

However, I have found two things to be true with educational technology coaches. First, even the ideal amount of coaching is not enough. Second, schools have difficult time maintaining coaching positions as they are qualified teachers with limited or no direct student contact time.

Thus, good schools will complement their coaching support with a network of educational technology champions. These are members of the faculty who show the same characteristics found in emerging educational technology coaches; excellent teaching practices, desire to try new tools and methods, a growth mindset, a personable and approachable personality, and a commitment to the teaching faculty as a whole. Champions, once identified, can help deliver instructional support to fellow teachers and provide valuable insight into the needs of a department, grade level, or individual teacher. They can also serve as advocates for new endeavors or pilots for emerging technologies. When used well, champions can be the seeds, water, and sunlight of a growing educational technology program.


Coaches and Champions – The Essentials of Educational Technology Support

In my school, we identify at least one champion in every year level and department. My team of coaches and I meet with the champions on a regular basis to learn about their peers and offer insights into new projects. We reserve part of my departmental budget for special professional development for my champions and at times the occasional new toy to play with. We encourage our champions to share their passions internally throughout the school and externally to the international school community. As a result, we are able to better align our educational technology coaching with the needs of each department, supplement that support with a peer champion, and ensure a clear line of communication through the school.



Regardless of whether they use coaches or champions or both, effective educational technology programs recognize their greatest impact of technology on learning comes in supporting teachers by using teachers.

The post Coaches and Champions – The Essentials of Educational Technology Support appeared first on Matt Harris, Ed.D. -- International EdTech Specialist.