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

For long term success, EdTech needs to be part of a school’s DNA

EdTech in the School's DNA

For long term success,
EdTech needs to be part of a school’s DNA

We know that Educational Technology (EdTech) offers the potential to enhance learning to meet the needs of contemporary students. It does what education is supposed to do: it provides skills, knowledge, and experiences that emulate the information rich world in which students live. And schools will often jump in with both feet to leverage this potential.


EdTech in the School's DNAThe Common Model for EdTech Implementation

In most schools, the adoption of EdTech is considered a special event. Often it will begin with a pilot program of devices, then a short term strategic plan (with heavy emphasis on costs) to implement technology more broadly, and finally celebration of accomplishment as amazing activities and projects stream out classrooms. Schools will then earmark funds for tools and personnel, bring in trainers to support technology tools, and they create departments and evaluation structures to ensure EdTech is monitored.

During this phase, schools will often highlight their strategies and accomplishments. They will publish a roadmap for EdTech in the school, emphasizing their purpose and plans for the program. They’ll show something cool the students have done using their devices. Many will hold parent sessions to discuss the implication of technology on the home-school bridge. Others will go further and include technology integration into their teacher evaluation processes. Many asking teachers to identify how they will increase their use of technology for learning.

Sadly, this is where the EdTech journey culminates for many schools.


The Absence of Authentic Change

This is not true and lasting change as it doesn’t fundamentally improve the learning experiences for students. In fact, it subjugates EdTech, and its potential, to a lesser position in the hierarchy of pedagogy and learning activities. EdTech becomes an add-on for a school that requires special care and feeding. It doesn’t become a core practice of the school.

Without an eye towards authentic change and sustainability, even the most exemplary EdTech programs will hit a wall. The initial excitement about technology for learning will fade and focus will shift from commitments to the future to returns on investment and eventually cost cutting.


Sustainability and the School’s DNA

EdTech in the School's DNATo truly impact student learning with technology, schools need to look at the long game and insist that their programs become part of the school’s DNA.

First, during program inception, strong focus should be given towards sustainability. Most schools that embark on the EdTech journey will be able to manage logistics, professional development, budgeting for devices at the outset. Instead, they should look deeply at what happens in year 3 once the “honeymoon” period is over.

They should consider altering their expense and capital budgets to include expansion of technology tools and replacement of devices. They should fund depreciation on the devices and be prepared to replace a third of them every year in perpetuity. Clearly delineated funds should be reserved for annual training on new systems and the employment of education technology coaches. These funds should be reserved year over year to avoid either large unplanned expenditures or cancellation of elements of the program.

Second, EdTech should be included in all academic planning. As curriculum is developed and term plans are finalized, the EdTech personnel should be part of the discussions. Technology skills should be part of student evaluation with an eye towards application and independence rather than tool specific knowledge. The technology should move from being an add-on to learning to an accepted tool, similar to textbooks or resource specialists.

Importantly, there needs to be a balance. Many schools will err on the side of one time learning projects with heavy use of technology tools as a marker of EdTech success. This is not always the case. Technology can be used for amazing student work, but it must fit into the curriculum and pedagogic models of the school to be truly integrated into learning over the long term. It is very easy to a wonderful project in year one, then ditch it in year two because the time is needed for something else. Instead, technology projects should be seen to integrate and supplement other forms of learning activities. Large scale projects should use technology to create a holistic experience for students that focuses on several areas of learning.

Finally, schools need to change the way they call out their EdTech. The most sustainable EdTech programs will be found in schools that implant technology into their core learning documents and practices. You will find reference to it in the school’s mission and vision, hiring and appraisal procedures, and in school reports. However, this reference is always on par with other learning and operational approaches.

Technology goals should be removed as a highlighted element from teacher evaluation. If technology is highlighted, then it isn’t integrated in the learning DNA of the school. Instead include it as a line item as you would differentiation or formative assessment. Also, report cards should talk about creative and responsible uses of technology rather than specific skill development. And when a school highlights their EdTech success, avoid discussions about the iPads, but rather what the students experienced and learned.


EdTech in the School's DNA

The Long Game

For a school to have a truly sustainable and impactful EdTech program it almost needs to be invisible. An outsider should have to search for technology in school publications rather than be greeted by it at first glance. They should feel its presence in a classroom instead of having teachers specifically call it out. And all members of the school community should be  comfortable in the belief their younger students will receive the same EdTech experiences as the older children as they progress through the school.

Impactful EdTech is not one-time event.


This article was originally published in EdTech Digest in November, 2017.

The post For long term success, EdTech needs to be part of a school’s DNA 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

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.