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I truly believe technology can be used to enhance and transform learning in the classroom and I have witnessed its fundamental benefits in my current and previous work. As a former teacher development specialist and curriculum writer in a large urban school district, the majority of my work consisted of designing and leading a blended learning literacy framework for a reading intervention course for secondary students reading far below grade level. Writing curriculum and leading a group of curriculum writers, involved careful balance of technology usage and instructional time. Much of the balance included the personalized use of online assessments and progress monitoring tools, digital books/texts, digital media, inquiry-based learning, while the teacher mainly spent a majority of their time in small group instruction/conferring/providing authentic feedback to students. This model resulted in significant gains in student reading levels because of the delicate balance between tailored instruction and technology. In my current role, as the Director of Instructional Technology, in an urban charter with very similar demographics and challenges, I have witnessed the evolution of technology integration and its impact on students and staff. As the first Director of Instructional Technology for my organization, I have had the opportunity cultivate this role into a valuable learning experience which maybe helpful for future/aspiring leaders.
My current organization has only a few campuses with a 1:1 laptop environment, one of which applies to only two grade levels while many are limited to shared laptop carts (some new and others dated past warranty). In addition to device barriers, various departments did not have a combined effort for technology integration in the classroom. As a result I was tasked with developing a framework and vision for technology use in the classroom. My first thought was YES! I get to build the foundation and I have seen this transition in my previous district. I know exactly what to do. My first mistake was assuming my ideas would be materialized based on previous experience and simply being knowledgeable in Ed-Tech best practices and research.
"It is imperative that we understand digital literacy in education is ever-evolving and changing"
Having a vision and a strategic plan for implementation, is NOT enough to make org-wide transition happen. For a new initiative and change management process to work, relationships must be established, nurtured, and AUTHENTIC. As a team of one, with a role which intersects with a variety of departments/teams, I must emphasize authentic relationships. Get to know the people you will need to bring your strategic plan to fruition.
Here is some steadfast advice:
• Do not assume you know how everything works solely based on previous experience in a similar organization- All organizations have their own system, learn how the organization works and where there are opportunities for influence
• If your role is mainly supporting curriculum, instruction and professional development, please get to know your IT Team (they are the soldiers behind the scenes making sure things work- such as network, security, software access, etc.).
• Processes: The key to seamless implementation is understanding or developing necessary process to ensure success. If introducing new hardware or software work collectively to ensure this does not disrupt, overextend, or impact the safety/security of the organization.
• Consistently loop in key members: After establishing a relationship with the technology team, include them in all technology-related efforts (hardware and software)-their input regarding how this might integrate with existing technology is critical.
• Integrating technology into the curriculum: Introduce technology integration within the curriculum (if technology use is not yet embedded) in gradual increments and having ongoing check-ins with the Curriculum Writer to ensure their vision is heard. Additionally, you might be the curriculum writer, serving as a model of best practices for technology rich curriculum.
• Learning Management Systems: If supporting 1:1 devices at various campuses, vet your Learning Management Systems to determine not what works best for now, but what works best for the future of the organization. Do you see this LMS growing with your organization?
• Communication: You cannot communicate technology information enough! If you are a central office Director of Instructional Technology, find out what campuses know about current and existing technologies within the organization, do not assume the information will somehow find them. Many ways to do this includes a technology tool catalogue, newsletters, and empowering other leaders that touch these campuses frequently.
• Campus visits: You should ensure campuses know who you are and your role in supporting their instructional technology efforts. Build relationships with campus leaders and teachers. Visits will also support the implementation of initiatives or to determine if there is any disconnects. I have personally visited campuses and met with teachers, conducted observations, and worked with campus administrators to tailor the support he/she/they might need.
• Stakeholder input: Your strategic instructional technology plan should include stakeholder input from the central office, campuses, and parents before any real progress is made. You must ensure senior leadership is included and onboard.
• Collaboration: Due to the nature of Instructional Technology, collaborating with other teams is critical to your success and the success of the organization.
• Celebration: You should celebrate the small wins (Teacher/student satisfaction with a new or existing tool, increase in usage such as student Microsoft or Google accounts, highlights in professional development etc.)
Most importantly, it is imperative that we understand digital literacy in education is ever-evolving and changing. Stay as current as possible regarding the future of our digital world. As the Director of Instructional Technology, it is our responsibility to empower the members in our organization with the knowledge, guidance and support needed to launch a sytemwide instructional technology plan. However, before we empower, we build relationships.