Catch up with Single Path
Technology is constantly advancing. And so are we.
The jockeys will be wearing their silks. You can wear your finest too, and participate in the best-dressed contest at Single Path’s 10th Annual Day at the Races, our yearly client appreciation and networking event.
Date: August 4, 2017
Start Time: 2:00pm
Post Time: 3:15pm
Where: Arlington Park
2200 W. Euclid Ave.
Arlington Heights, IL 60006
We’ll serve refreshments and lunch so you can relax and have a galloping good time.
This year’s fantastic prizes include:
Win: Samsung Galaxy TabS2 White Android Tablet
Place: Beats® Pill+ Black Bluetooth Speaker
Show: Men’s Fossil Q Crewmaster Black Silicone SmartwatcH
You can bet it will be a great afternoon!
OK, you’ve made the decision to invest in new EdTech resources. Now what? Not only do you have to wade through the nearly overwhelming array of tools at your disposal, but there are so many other things to consider. How? When? Why? What?
In a previous blog post we discussed the four main steps when choosing technology for your school. They were:
- Set your goals
- Evaluate your tools
- Align professional development with your goals
- Evaluate and re-evaluate
While each of these is a critical component of your EdTech decisions, we’d like to present a fifth step when choosing technology: ROI. Or, better yet ROE, Return on Expectations…or, as we prefer to call it, Return on Education.
ROE vs. ROI
While ROI (Return on Investment) is generally computed from purely monetary considerations by businesses when investing in new equipment, educators must rely on other, harder to define metrics. Simply, cost alone won’t determine the effectiveness of your EdTech.
To use ROE, you not only need to determine your specific goals, but uncover ways to measure them. Otherwise, how can you gauge success? If your goal is student achievement, will you measure it through standardized testing, grades, or some other means? If your goal is to increase student engagement, will you measure that through increased attendance or graduation rates? How will you measure improved teacher performance?
Per the online source The Journal, “ROI is calculated by measuring benefits in dollars. But schools are not in business to make money, and should not measure success in terms of dollars. The business of schools is learning. Of course, if technology projects save money or improve efficiency, then a business-focused ROI is useful, but in general it is important to define the “value” of learning in education.”
How To Measure your ROE
With each and every EdTech expenditure must come the expectation of reward or improvement, but the goal of each new tool can vary widely. The more time and money you put into a tool the more results you should expect from that investment. Only by measuring its effectiveness, and continuing to measure its effectiveness, can you know if the investment was a wise one. Then you can decide if it is worth the effort to continue with that tool, or move on to a different one.
Don’t forget, that your initial investment is not the only cost. Do you need to increase your broadband capabilities or incorporate new hardware? What is the cost of training your educators on using the new tools, and is ongoing training needed? When defining the total monetary costs, consider the total expenditures and time needed over a four-year span to determine the true expenses of your investment.
According to a post from educational consultant The Flipper Group, here are the 5 Key Indicators of School Performance:
- Student Achievement
- Discipline Referrals
- Attendance Rates
- Graduation Rates
- Teacher Satisfaction
Fortunately, each of these can be measured, whether from statistical comparisons to developing questionnaires and observation (such as in the case of Teacher Satisfaction). Before looking at these numbers, however, you must set your goals. Keep them realistic, but also lofty. Often you may create a range, determining the minimum number for success, but also striving for a ‘best case’ scenario. Once you reach that minimum number, keep aiming for better and greater results.
As discussed in an earlier blog post, defining goals is a critical component of gauging technology’s success. In that post, we referred to a study by the Center for Digital Education, which came to the conclusion that schools should, at minimum, strive to meet these five technology goals:
- Make learning engaging and individualized
- Measure student progress against college and career ready standards
- Connect teachers to tools and individuals who can help them become effective
- Provide broadband connectivity for students
- Use technology to become more productive, improve student learning and manage costs
When looking at your EdTech investment, consider each of these points to determine which your new tool will improve. Then, set your method to evaluate them.
We know that defining those goals is not always simple, and neither is setting the gears in motion for measuring them. Finding the right path for your EdTech can be difficult. At Single Path, we work closely with school districts, to help them navigate that path. We provide custom IT solutions for K-12 schools and districts, working closely to help them understand the technology options and choose the right ones. We help implement them, ensure mastery of them, and help maximize their potential. At Single Path, we pride ourselves on not just being an IT resource, but a true collaborative and consulting partner providing advice and ongoing service and support.
Chances are, if you’re the owner of a small to medium-size business, you don’t feel a tremendous sense of urgency to spend your time harvesting extensive customer data. You have your instincts and experience to guide you. And, frankly, you probably feel the expense, time and resources for such an undertaking is hardly worth the effort. That’s why most SMBs leave the big data to the big guys. It is estimated that 77% of businesses don’t have a big data strategy. So why should you?
But big data isn’t just for big businesses. A study conducted in part by The Harvard Business Review, revealed that big data “threatens to create a deep divide between the have-datas and the have-no-datas, with big corporations gaining advantage by crunching the numbers and small firms left to stumble in the dark.”
So how can SMBs avoid this stumbling in the dark, and see the light … without feeling overwhelmed?
So what is ‘big data,’ anyway? It’s a term that describes the large volume of data that hits your business every day. It can be an immense amount of information, from web hits to sales information, from data storage to curation— information that can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves—but that is so vast some businesses are paralyzed into inaction.
Just thinking about big data can be intimidating! And where’s a small business owner going to find the time to look at all of it when he or she might already be working around the clock just to keep the business on track?
An article on Forbes.com titled, “Small Businesses Shouldn’t Fear Big Data,” says that “by 2020 there will be 44 trillion gigabytes of information out there; about ten times the amount of data there is today.” The same article admits that much of that data is fleeting and fairly useless. But a lot of it useful, and the article estimates that over the next few years useful information will grow by more than 50%.
So what do you do? Well, whatever you do … now’s the time to start. Many expect the use of big data to become the norm over the next ten years—which means the more you wait the more you risk falling behind.
Keep it Simple
When working with such large amounts of data, you need to pare it down to what’s useful, and ignore what’s not. For example, web traffic is a crucial piece of data—but once you have it, what do you do with it? Spending time analyzing demographics and customer segments can be used to improve marketing efforts. But do you have time to gather that info, let alone analyze it effectively?
Big-data solutions, by their very nature, can impose costs and time burdens that are overwhelming for SMBs. Simplicity and flexibility is key. A big-data solution for SMBs must be easy to deploy and be up and running in days or weeks. Finding solutions that work with your current systems is vital, as is the need to use those systems without expensive specialists or staff training.
So, how do you get started exactly?
Find the Right Partner
SMBs must be focused on their intentions and goals, and selective about what they use. According to an article on Entrepreneur.com, “Just because you can measure it doesn’t mean that you should. Some results simply may not be beneficial.”
That’s where you need a partner, and at Single Path we can help you find the right resources. Tools like Tableau, or software like Hubspot let organizations identify data points to help them evaluate business performance. Companies ranging from giants like IBM and Microsoft, to startups like Kaggle, offer affordable, cloud-based data-crunching services. The choices are plentiful and often exceptional. Of course, determining which company is the right fit is not always obvious.
As we posted in a previous blog, 5 Ways SMBs Can Better Manage Their Data, a partner like Single Path allows businesses to focus on their daily business and their productivity, while also saving a business the cost of hiring additional employees, ensuring regulation compliance and investing in the latest, and maybe unnecessary technologies. With our help, you can start using big data without being overwhelmed.
Keeping a central location for all your data means saving a great deal of time when diving in. An article on smallbiztrends.com, which quotes a study by Aberdeen, says, “The average business intelligence user references 30 unique data sources on a regular basis. When all of your sources are set to automatically aggregate to a central hub, you’ll know exactly where to go to look for vital information about your key performance indicators (KPIs), so you can more easily make data-driven decisions about your business to grow profits.”
Let Single Path Provide the Navigation
SMB owners that use big data will find themselves better poised to compete against bigger players. With the right data, they can make better decisions, avoid actions that waste time and money, and develop a business intelligence strategy to boost sales and the bottom line. SMBs successfully mining big data are using it to uncover customer traffic patterns and understand customers’ behavior better, reducing costs by eliminating inefficiencies, strengthening client bonds by anticipating their needs, and giving employees new tools to perform their jobs better.
At Single Path we provide a comprehensive resource for all your data management needs. We’re not just an IT resource, but a true collaborative and consulting partner providing expert advice, analysis of your needs, and providing ongoing service and support. Let us provide the big support you need to get started using big data.
The vision, a path to get there, and the tools and encouragement to reach it—the superintendent’s leadership is critical in defining all those and more, and nowhere is this more evident than in defining the district’s school technology initiatives. Whether these tasks are delegated to a team, an individual, or even taken on by the superintendent himself or herself, the importance of these tasks cannot be underestimated. And the time to act is now. According to Forbes Magazine, a recent survey by TES Global showed 96% of teachers reported that technology made a significant impact in the classroom.
Education technology is a growing part of any superintendent’s role, but with this responsibility comes not only the excitement of possibility, but also trepidation. There is a lot to tackle, and the learning curve can be long. But if the superintendent understands the following four key elements, he or she can navigate even the rockiest technology waters effectively.
It’s tempting to want to just jump onto the technology bandwagon, but look before you leap: you have to know where that wagon is headed. There are just too many different options out there! Before taking the leap to enhance school technology, the superintendent needs to look at the landscape and figure out not only what technology, but also why the technology. Start with the objective you want to achieve, whether it’s individualized student instruction, augmenting teacher-parent communication, facilitating resource sharing, or all the above.
According to a post by the Center for Digital Education, schools should, at minimum, strive to meet these five technology goals:
- Make learning engaging and individualized
- Measure student progress against college and career ready standards
- Connect teachers to tools and individuals who can help them become effective
- Provide broadband connectivity for students
- Use technology to become more productive, improve student learning and manage costs
Create the Right Team
This isn’t a one-person job. Ensuring the right team is in place is critical for successful technology implementation. As we wrote in our blog post, 5 Ways To Keep Your Teachers and Staff Up-to-Date on Technology, the support team should be flexible and available to train others on any new tool. Your Tech Team can consist of teachers, administrators and support staff. But whoever is chosen, they must be accessible, eager and part of making the decisions that matter. An empowered team is a more effective one.
Just like there are a wide range of technology options, there is a wide range of your staff’s comfort in using them. Some staff members may pick up technology quickly, while others may need a more time-consuming helping hand. But everyone who will be using the technology needs to understand it properly. Technology without proper training is like giving a student a textbook without instructions or lesson plans!
With so many tools out there, each one that is incorporated into curriculum, or into the daily learning environment of the classroom, is doomed to fail without a mastery of expectations and instructions. The right team will go a long way in ensuring proper professional development.
Technology should constantly be examined to ensure it’s meeting expectations. In our recent blog post, The Four Main Steps When Choosing Technology For Your School, we referred to an article on ISTE.org, which stressed how leaders need to continually assess how effectively the technology is being applied. Regular evaluation of how the technology is impacting student assessment and achievement is vital, as is continuously ensuring teachers are successfully applying the technology. Without defining clear metrics to measure success, there will be no way to gauge whether the technology is meeting expectations.
While the potential of EdTech is enormous, it is also daunting. But with the proper leadership and expectations, schools can quickly embrace, master and thrive with the new resources at their disposal. It all starts from the top. And with the superintendent’s blessing, understanding and encouragement, schools are likely to see significant benefits.
At Single Path, we work closely with school districts, top to bottom, to provide custom IT solutions for K-12 schools and districts. We help them understand the technology options, choose the right ones, master them, and ensure the team is using them to maximum benefit. We’re not just an IT resource, but a true collaborative and consulting partner providing expert advice, analysis of your needs, access to cutting-edge technology and assisting in its implementation and ongoing service and support.
Being fluent in technology is make-or-break for many businesses. That’s hardly news and the rewards for small and medium-size businesses are well-documented. According to a study released by Boston Consulting Group1 and commissioned by Microsoft, small and medium-size tech-savvy businesses grew revenue 15 percentage points faster, and grew jobs nearly 2 times faster than their counterparts. Per the study: “Our research confirms that there is a clear correlation between aggressive adoption of new technologies and strong business performance among SMEs.”
Yes, almost half of all small businesses don’t even have websites.
So how tech-savvy is your business? Take this quick quiz and see!
Is your business using cloud computing?
A. You bet. It’s increased our flexibility, improved office collaboration and expanded our accounting capabilities.
B. We’re looking into it.
C. Cloud what?
As we have in our previous blog posts on cloud computing (A two part series, April 21 and April 27, 2016), cloud computing provides numerous benefits including significantly lower IT costs and the ability to access a vast array of analytical tools. Single Path works with many SMBs to ensure they are taking full advantage of all the digital technologies available to them.
What would happen to your data and customer information if your business suffered a fire or another disaster?
A. No problem. All of our data is backed up in the cloud or onto off-site servers.
B. We’d have to close for a few days or weeks, but we’d be able to find most of the information, eventually.
C. We’d be toast.
Almost 62% of small businesses (according to YSFmagazine.com) that encountered natural disasters lost crucial data in the last three years. But a disaster doesn’t have to be disastrous. At Single Path we can help your SMB find the cloud-based back-up plan that will protect your information, no matter what.
Is your data storage system organized and accessible to your entire team?
A. Of course. We can work remotely, share files and find what we need quickly.
B. Much of it is, but we usually need a lot of detective work to figure out where things are.
C. Every folder and file in our network is stored and named randomly. We have no idea what we have.
Data is only used if it can be found and accessed. Creating a file naming structure, an organized and central data storage system and instituting a policy for employees to follow, are critical first steps. You can learn more in one of our previous blog posts, here.
Are you regularly collecting customer data?
A. For sure. We accumulate it via sales receipts, social media posts, customer surveys, Google Analytics and more.
B. We store web addresses when people sign up for our newsletter.
C. Data? We don’t need no stinkin’ data.
As we reported in an earlier blog post, “Knowledge is power, and the ability to gather data is increasing rapidly. With new and better information, businesses can adapt strategies to improve business operations and customer experiences.“
Has your business implemented BYOD?
A. Absolutely. Our team appreciates using their own laptops and devices, and it saves us a lot of money on technology.
B. Our team can use their own equipment as long as they have the right operating system, the right apps installed, and lots of time to waste.
C. BYOD stands for … Buy Your Own Doughnuts?
BYOD (Bring your own device) can reduce IT hardware costs, increase efficiency and productivity. But BYOD also exposes businesses to risks. Single Path can help you create and maintain a BYOD program that improves business performance and employee flexibility, securely.
Do you outsource your data management?
A. Yes. That way we can concentrate on what we do best: running and growing our business.
B. We have a tech guy on our team who seems to know what he’s doing.
C. We know a guy who knows a guy.
Small businesses that are not equipped to fully manage their data should rely on an experienced data management company. A partner like Single Path allows businesses to focus on their daily business, and can also provide significant cost savings versus hiring additional staff, investing in technology, and ensuring regulation compliance. At Single Path we provide a comprehensive resource for all your data management needs.
Is your company’s technology fully mobile-compatible?
A. We are! Our website and payment platforms are all mobile-optimized and we have mobile apps for both customers and employees.
B. We know it’s important, but we have other priorities right now.
C. We can text each other.
According to SmallBusinessComputing.com, surveys indicate that 59 percent of small businesses view mobile technology as critical to their business, with 70 percent expecting mobile apps to replace at least some of their current business applications.
So how did you do? Is your business getting all A’s in technology? Anything else and you may be failing. But whether your business is ahead of the class in technology or near the back, a partner like Single Path is crucial. We can help you stay ahead, or start moving forward.
Ask us how to get started!
Education Technology continues to spread, with more and more educators excited about the benefits to their students. But while the pace of change is fast, it is also uneven. Some regions, states and districts have embraced EdTech. Others are moving more cautiously. Illinois is one state where EdTech has shown broad reach, and encouraging results. In this post, seven school superintendents, ranging from districts in suburban Chicago to further south near Bloomington, share their wisdom. They each know that making the right decisions is important—decisions that make sense with their district’s budget and circumstances.
Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of EdTech is its ability to make 1:1 implementation possible. With 1:1 implementation, each student’s experience can be unique and tailored to his or her needs. As we wrote in an earlier blog post about 1:1 Implementation, 1:1 allows students to use tools far broader, richer and more engaging than a textbook.
Ellen Conway, the Superintendent for Emmons School District is a strong advocate for this approach. Conway says, “Technology provides unlimited access for all students. From reinforcement to enrichment, all students are given opportunities to learn at their level and at their pace. The integration of technology in our intervention classes stretches the limits of possibilities for our kids!”
Proper Implementation and Training
Schools know that proper implementation of their education technology is vital and should be part of daily curriculum. EdTech only improves learning when deployed frequently and in appropriate environments.
Dr. John Thomas, Superintendent of Community High School District 155 in McHenry County, Illinois couldn’t agree more. He says, “Technology needs to be fully integrated into the curriculum, it should be completely transparent and simply another tool for students to use to succeed.”
But to incorporate technology into daily use, proper staff training is critical. Educators should not only know how to use the tools they are given, but grasp their benefits. As we wrote in our blog post “5 Ways To Keep Your Teachers and Staff Up-to-Date on Technology,” keeping staff up-to-speed can be a job in itself. But, when EdTech is used correctly, the results can be astonishing.
“Providing targeted time for teachers to collaborate daily is critical,” says Dr. Brian Harris, Superintendent of Schools in Barrington, Illinois. “It leverages experiences, drives creativity, and continues to increase digital capacity for instruction. Our teachers are excited to work together to change the way students learn.”
Schools that are diligent about the performance of their EdTech tools will show far greater student achievement. A prudent school is a high-performing one! Daily formative and summative evaluations can gauge student learning, and that data can be then used to determine instruction and accelerate learning strategies.
“We live in a digital age that is innate to our children,” says Diamond Lake School District Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis, Ph.D. “It is our priority as educational leaders to foster, support and empower digital teaching and learning experiences and provide the resources to help students innovate, create and explore.”
EdTech is about new opportunities, new ways of teaching and opening new doors. Perhaps no tool is more representative of this than the creation of virtual field trips. These enable teachers to take classes on interactive adventures online to any location on the globe.
“Technology has created many new opportunities for students outside their classrooms,” says Guy W. Gradert, Superintendent of the Ridgeview Community Unit School District. “Virtual fieldtrips make it possible for the student in rural Illinois to ‘travel’ anywhere in the world. These types of experiences help prepare our students for the global society they will inherit.”
Helping Students Grow
EdTech also enables students to become better and more empowered learners. For example, encouraging students to use search engines to research information can be a key element in helping them become well versed in self-directed learning and discovery. These are things they will carry with them well past their school-age years.
Jeff Thake, Superintendent of Amboy Community Unit School District says, “Knowledge is power and our students have amazing amounts of power at their fingertips. Facilitating and educating students on how to safely search for answers to their questions and personalizing their learning ensures the creation of lifelong learners.”
Start With The Right EdTech Leader
Every successful EdTech program needs a leader to champion it. That leader must be flexible, passionate and collaborative. Principals and district leadership should have high expectations for their new technology tools, and finding the right leader can be the difference between small successes and much larger ones. As Dr. Stan Fields, Superintendent of Berwyn South School District says, “Great Principals make great schools, not district office administrators.” If your school Principal isn’t your technology champion, chances are he or she will know who should be.
Who will be your champion? At Single Path, we work with your team to provide custom IT solutions for K-12 schools and districts with a four-part approach:
- Consult: We can provide a customized technology assessment and a strategic roadmap to change.
- Execute: We manage all the details for creating a technology platform that’s right for you.
- Educate: We provide expert professional development classes for faculty and staff.
- Support: We provide an onsite contact, 24-7 remote management, and an advanced response team available to serve you.
Ask us how to get started!
One of the keys to academic success is helping each student learn in his or her own way. Fortunately, there are many exciting technology tools that correspond with each differentiated learning style. Here’s a look at seven common types of learners, and technology tools that match their needs.
These students learn best through speaking, writing, reading and listening. They excel at note-taking and research. Encourage them with:
- wordle.net – Help students express themselves creatively with words
- voicethread.com -– Capture student voices with audio, text, pictures and video
- gcast.com – Students can create their own podcasts
Numbers, measuring, problem-solving, logic and organizing are hallmarks of logical-mathematical learners. Engage them with:
- zoho.com – Provides spreadsheet and data collection tools
- emeraldisland.com – Experiment and problem-solve in a virtual world
- iknowthat.com – Games that make students think
These learners see the world visually and are attracted to shapes, patterns, textures, color-coding and design. Excite them with:
- kerpoof.com – Draw and create picture stories
- edu.glogster.com – Create interactive media posters
- xtranormal.com – Create and direct movies
Some people learn by watching. This type learns best with active, hands-on engagement. Get these students physically involved with:
- secretbuilders.com – Play games and interact with famous cultural and historical characters
- arsights.com – An augmented reality site that lets students manipulate Google Earth objects
- play.ekolo.com – Encourages mouse manipulation, typing and more
These students excel at group projects, discussion, cooperation and mediation Try these sites to help them learn by connecting with their peers:
- edu.glogster.com – Create and comment on other students Glogs
- ed.voicethread.com – Collaborate and comment on each other’s projects
- twitter.com – Start a personalized learning community for your classroom (see our other Twitter ideas here)
This personality is inwardly focused. These students prefer to think about what they are learning with reflective tools they can later share with others.
- wetpaint.com – A wiki where students can reflect on what they’ve learned
- eyeplorer.com – Search a topic and take notes all in one place
- pbworks.com – Another place where students can create and reflect
This type of learner is keenly aware of sounds, tones, beats and vibrations. Engage the musicians in your classroom with:
- toytheater.com – Interact with music, patterns and sounds
- capzles.com – Create audio and video timelines
- kids.audible.com – Download and listen to educational audiobooks
Single Path can help you keep up with technology tools for differentiated learning. You may also want to read our blog posts about social media in the classroom (ideal for interpersonal learners), and ways to keep up with changing technology in general. Together, we can help you connect digital learning with student success.
Single Path has many additional suggestions that can help you safely weave digital learning into your school day. Ask us how to get started!
A recent Harris poll found that 86% of American teachers were not using social media in the classroom, and 62% have no plans to do so. Although many schools and teachers are hesitant to bring Facebook, Instagram and the latest social sites to their students, others are finding ways to use them to engage classes, enhance learning and build critical thinking skills. Here are some ideas you may want to try:
1. Get the Scoop on the Latest News
Follow current news stories with a scoop.it account. Start a class page, open an educator account, and assign students to post articles and comments to the page.
2. Create Student Bloggers
You might inspire the next Hemingway or Angelou by having your students create their own blogs. This will give them the opportunity to write for each other, and make comments that show critical thinking. Free sites such as Edublogs are helpful for getting started, and offer features such as customized themes, full privacy options and global projects.
3. Create Education-centric Pinterest Boards
Fashion and cooking is just one side of Pinterest. You can establish a classroom Pinterest page and have students pin photos, artwork and links about any subject. The possibilities are endless—you can set up pages for healthy eating, study tips, supplementary learning material and more. Here’s a Pinterest page that explains the phases of the moon using Oreo cookies!
4. Propel Learning Into the Twittersphere
Twitter isn’t only for personal use. Encourage your students to create an academic Twitter account and create a class hashtag. Then ask students to find a picture or article that supports a specific topic, or retweet a relevant post from someone they don’t know. For younger students, you can set up a class Twitter account for them. Have a class-versus-class tweet-off to see who gets the most followers, and award a prize.
5. Engage Students With Instagram
Along with teacher’s helper and official whiteboard cleaner, you can add a new classroom job for younger students—Instagram photographer. Designate a specially-decorated tablet for this purpose, and have a student take pictures of key events from each day. They’ll be thrilled to be selected for this role, especially during field trips.
6. Connect With Facebook
While some schools block Facebook and consider it a distraction, others have successfully established closed Facebook groups where students can connect with each other online for class projects, clubs, athletic teams and alumni events.
Remember, before you get started with social media, you’ll need to review your school’s guidelines. Once approved, you’ll also want to teach the concept of good digital citizenship, and have your students take a safety pledge that can set a foundation for responsible social media use. Additionally, make sure to delete your classroom accounts at the end of each year.
Single Path has many additional suggestions that can help you safely weave social media into your school day. Ask us how to get started!
If a teacher from just ten years ago time-travelled to a classroom today, he or she would be amazed at the changes that have reshaped classroom learning in such a short time. From interactive whiteboards to classroom response systems, to handheld devices and document cameras, classrooms are bursting with new and dynamic opportunities. But all those changes come at a price, and not just those that come out of your budget. Today, teachers are challenged to do more than keep up with the daily demands of educating. Keeping up with technology, and all the latest trends and tools, is a job in itself!
Let’s face it. Not every one on your staff is equally tech savvy. Some members of your team can master advanced tools in a heartbeat, others struggle with even basic technology demands. So how can you keep your staff—your entire staff—up-to-date on continually and rapidly evolving technology expectations? Here are five things we think are vital in keeping all your teachers and staff knowledgeable about, and open to, the opportunities that are out there.
Baby steps aren’t just for infants. When new technology presents itself, it’s sometimes best to put a toe in the water before jumping in. In an article on the website edutopia.com, Josh Work, a Middle School Administrator from Maryland says, “The school where I teach is currently within its post-BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) implementation age. We started with a small cohort of tech-savvy teachers to pilot a BYOD program with selected classes. Starting small was definitely beneficial, as we were able to troubleshoot issues and best prepare ourselves for the school-wide BYOD rollout. Front loading any work is always helpful in education, especially when developing resources for teachers who struggle with technology.”
Also, introducing complicated, multi-faceted tools slowly, one or two elements at a time, can not only ensure its successful integration into your curriculum or processes, but reduces stress or resistance from those who are nervous with new technologies.
2. Build a Tech Team
Those who are most tech-savvy on your team can lead the way for the rest. Creating a support team that is flexible and available to train others is essential for the success of any new tool. Your Tech Team can consist of teachers, administrators and support staff. By working together across multiple areas and grade levels, they will not only vet new tools, but master them, and spread that knowledge.
Part of a Tech Team’s responsibilities may include creating a Professional Development plan for the team, and then carrying it through.
Says Josh Work, “Aside from just having dedicated time for teachers to meet, create a homegrown professional learning community (PLC) that focuses on monitoring tech integration throughout the school. This PLC can be powerful and insightful while supporting those that need additional help.
3. Find Time
Even those tech experts on your team can’t learn a new tool overnight. When introducing new technology, make sure your timeline includes their education, as well as that of the entire team. It may take weeks, months or an entire year for a new tool to be fully incorporated. Don’t rush it. Build in time for experimenting. Give teachers the opportunity to play with the new system before they need to utilize it every day.
Says Emily Davis, a Teacher Ambassador Fellow of the U.S. Department of Education, as written in an article on fosi.org, “Utilizing technology well as an instructional tool involves scaffolding, and often a steep learning curve. Educators need time to develop their individual skills, apply these skills within their classrooms, and reflect on what works best. Instead of bombarding teachers with new tools and programs, take a step back and allow educators time for mastery.”
4. Learn From Your Students
It seems every school has at least a handful of students who know more about technology than your staff. Many of their students have been using computers practically since birth, and adapting to changing technology is a way of life for them. These students are a great resource for you! Ask them what technology they are using. Ask them what new trends are happening, and what’s around the corner. Then ask yourself: how can this be used in the classroom?
5. Include and Communicate
Some members of your team may feel new technology is being pushed on them. This is especially true from those members who struggle with new tools. They might not understand why a change is needed. The best way to overcome this? Be open. Ask what teachers or staff struggle with, and show them how new tools might help. Every new technology should have clearly established goals and objectives. Will the new technology help struggling learners, or support differentiated or personalized learning? Will it make parent communication easier, or classroom performance more transparent? The more you share your goals with those who will use the tools, and the benefits of using them, the faster your team will embrace them, and the more enthusiastic they will be to use them.
According to a blog post from the educational resource-provider Pearson, “Keeping up-to-date with technology requires you to jump in and explore new territory. Set aside a few moments at the end of the day to scroll through your Twitter feed, focus on a few tools instead of many, reflect on your student’s progress and what’s working best. Education technology can transform your teaching and learning, dive in—it’s worth it!”
At Single Path, we work with teachers and staff on finding, building and integrating effective technology tools. We work with teams that are tech-savvy, and those that need a little more handholding. Wherever your team stands on the technology curve, we can help you get in front of it.
Choosing new technology applications for your school is a difficult decision; especially since choosing the wrong ones can drain resources that are best utilized elsewhere. So how do you make sure you are making the right decision and maximizing your investment’s ROI?
Here are four important steps to take before you make any significant technology decisions for your school or district.
1. Set Your Goals
Before you purchase any software or new technology it’s vital to set real objectives. Maybe your main goal is to improve communication with parents. Maybe your objective is to create an environment that supports differentiated or personalized learning—allowing high achievers to move ahead while supporting other students who may fall behind. Your goal can even be something as simple as automating reporting procedures to give your educators more time with their students.
Also, while introducing new technology always poses challenges, incorporating it into the classroom can be particularly tricky. If a new purchase requires classroom integration, you’ll want to ask these specific questions according to gettingsmart.com:
- What will students be able to do?
- How long will it take for them to do it?
- At what percentage of proficiency will they be able to perform this task?
- How are they going to demonstrate that the objective was met?
Most importantly, for any technology purchase, make sure you answer the question: “Why do we need this?” Identify four-to-six concrete, tangible goals. If you can’t do that, then it’s likely you don’t need the application at all
2. Evaluate The Tools
Now that you’ve defined your need, you need to look at your options. The most obvious evaluation: does this application answer your “Why do we need this?” question. But that’s not the only criteria. For example, does the application work within your existing platform? An Apple-based product might not work within a Windows network.
You’ll want to make sure you are getting your technology team involved to help ensure the application is compatible within your current environment. You’ll also want to make sure your educators or administrators are up to the task of implementing the tools into their classrooms or their daily schedules. Which leads us to …
3. Align Professional Development With Your Goals
After purchasing the technology, do you have a plan to incorporate it into the school environment or classroom? You’ll want to set realistic time-lines for implementation, training and communication. Depending on the technology, this timeline may span two weeks, or an entire year.
Ask yourself questions like: what are our short term objectives and our long-term ones; who will train the staff in using the new technology; do we want to incorporate the application in steps, or all at once? For more complex tools, you may choose to implement the technology gradually. This can help curb resistance from those hesitant to embrace change, and ensure buy-in from the entire team.
Set aside time to explain the benefits of the new technology with your teachers and staff. Show them how this new tool can help achieve the goals you established at the start. You may also choose to do formative assessments once a month in the beginning, just to make sure everything is working as expected, and then transition those assessments to once a week until all the tools are working smoothly.
If you’re unsure what steps you need to take, ask other school districts that may have already incorporated the application. They may have sage advice on the processes you should implement to make your new technology successful.
4. Evaluate and Re-evaluate
Whenever you incorporate new technology, it’s important to continuously look at your progress. Are you meeting the objectives you hoped to meet? If not, are there new or different steps you can be taking?
According to ISTE.org, leaders need to continually assess how effectively the technology is applied at all levels. This includes regular evaluation of the technology itself, the extent the technology has impacted student assessment and achievement, if teachers are successfully applying the technology, and defining clear metrics to measure success.
Whether you are setting up new curriculum or new technology—if you aren’t doing the critical thinking, then you may end up failing. Single Path can work with you every step of the way so your investment is successful, from helping you determine the Why? to facilitating the fulfillment of those goals, mapping objectives, and even helping create a professional development plan.
There are plenty of application options out there. By working with a partner like Single Path, and taking these critical steps, you can ensure your technology choices are the right ones.