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Transforming with tech? Get everyone on board

By Team ISTE 10/14/2015 Education leadership

School- or districtwide tech initiatives have a way of tipping over not just the education apple cart, but also the tomato truck, and sometimes, the whole semi-truck full of watermelons. That’s why it’s important to get it right. And to do that, it’s critical to get stakeholder buy-in before embarking on a large-scale ed tech initiative.

Here are five tips for making tech implementations successful.

Start with yourself. The best way to cultivate a culture open to accepting your new ideas is to be open yourself, according to S. Dallas Dance, superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools and a member of the ISTE Board of Directors.

Be curious, honest and inquisitive and listen to others first before sharing your ideas. When other people see that you are invested in their ideas, they become invested in yours. Set up meetings, host town halls, visit schools and remain active on social media. Be accessible to colleagues, students, teachers, families and community members. Accessibility opens doors to honest conversations that benefit the school system.  

Be a Boy Scout. When you’ve got a project that’s going to overturn the apple cart, take a tip from the Boy Scouts and be prepared. Be ready to answer the No. 1 question: Why. That’s the advice of Lenny Schad, chief technology information officer of Houston Independent School District. Too often, people spend very little, if any, time talking about why the change is important and instead expend all of their energy on how they want to get it done. If people understand why you want them to do something, they are much more receptive to moving to the how phase. Spend time and energy answering questions and listening to concerns.

Create urgency. Curb the idea that this is just another passing fad or educational trend, says Andrew Smith of Rowan-Salisbury Schools in Salisbury, North Carolina. For teachers, the first question often is, “Are we really going to keep doing this for a long time? Is this something I can expect to be actually doing?” If you can’t promise that the time spent training is a good investment, you’re not going to get buy-in. Let them know this is something that needs to be done now.  

Talk to students. Whaaat? Ask actual students? Yes! Look around at the next education initiative meeting you attend and see how few students are involved in the planning and rollout. Students bring their own perspective to the table and they have a lot to offer. 

In Barry Bachenheimer’s district, Pasack Valley Regional High School District in Montvale, New Jersey, you will find an affluent, driven, highly motivated student body. Nearly every student goes to college and student stress was identified as a serious concern. They decided to eliminate big-pressure midterm and semester tests, replacing those assessments with projects and other ways to measure competence. That eliminated a lot of student stress, and it aligned with the practices of universities that most of their students attend. The district also includes these bright students’ input when making decisions about technology.

Be an encourager. Celebrating small wins is a secret to success for Liliana “Beatriz” Arnillas, director of information technology for Houston Independent School District. She compares it to teaching children to walk. Laugh with them, encourage them and when they fall, nurture them and strengthen them saying, “It’s OK, you can try again.” 

ISTE members can read more about getting buy-in for major ed tech initiatives in this month’s issue of entrsekt. Not a member? Join ISTE today and become part of a global tribe of passionate educators, leaders and experts who are expanding the horizons of education technology.

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