As an Implementation Manager for Compass Learning, I regularly work with schools that are adopting new technologies. I’ve witnessed successful implementations, and also not-so-fabulous ones. Below are of some of the biggest challenges, and a few ideas about how to manage them for great results.
1. Avoiding Technology for Technology’s Sake
The wow-factor of cool tools won’t last long, so how can you be sure you’re left with something useful? Ask yourself questions like, “What problem(s) does this solve for my school?” And, “Does this have added value compared to a low-tech alternative?”
2. Creating a Vision
Why do schools with the same technology experience drastically different results? Planning. Who will use the technology? How will they use it? What’s the goal? How will you measure progress? Start with a small, focused implementation instead of trying to use one tool to solve every problem for everyone.
3. Money, Money, Money
Be creative with funding sources. Will the new tech benefit SPED students? ELL? Intervention? Can you use it for your after-school program, too? Always check the guidelines for the specific funding source, but it’s often possible to meet several needs with one implementation.
4. Professional Development
Good professional development will provide you with more than how-tos and button-clicking. Look for PD that will inspire teachers, share best practices, and guide your implementation to success. Don’t forget to provide on-going professional development to address challenges later in the implementation.
5. Getting Everyone Onboard
Every implementation seems to have a couple naysayers who try to bring down the rest of the group (and sometimes succeed). Help prevent this by including teachers early on in the selection and planning process. Provide an opportunity for teachers to express concerns in a productive way, offer individual coaching, and set clear expectations for usage.
6. Scheduling for Success
Allocating technology resources is easily one of the biggest challenges of any implementation. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so be creative. And consider: Will the technology always be scheduled, or is it also available for impromptu use? Will students go to the tech, or will it come to their classrooms? Does every student need access, or just certain groups? Make the most of every minute by scheduling use before and after school.
7. Systems and Procedures
How will devices be charged? What happens if something isn’t working or breaks? Will students be allowed to print or access other hardware? Organization is key to success, so ensure that all teachers understand the ground rules. Label EVERYTHING, post reminders on tech carts or around the lab, and schedule someone to routinely maintain equipment.
8. Unlocking Student Motivation
When the shiny has worn off, and technology has become the norm for students, how will you keep them motivated? Will students receive a grade for their work? Can you sponsor a contest between classes for the highest usage or most growth? Perhaps if students meet their goals they can participate in a special activity. Consider what your students value most, and use it to your advantage. Older students often crave social time, so find a way for them to earn breaks. Younger students might be motivated by competition, Tootsie Pops, or extra recess.
9. Data and Progress Monitoring
Remember the vision you created for your implementation? Don’t forget to follow-up on your goals. Regular progress monitoring is one of the biggest keys to a successful technology program. Are teachers meeting expectations? Are students demonstrating success and making progress toward their goals? Is usage what you expected? Why or why not? Routinely monitor program data and communicate successes and areas for improvement with your teachers.
10. Happily Ever After: Maintaining the Enthusiasm
Most schools have new programs and initiatives every year, but don’t lose sight of your existing goals. If you had a successful first year, plan to expand and improve in year two. If you didn’t meet your goals, what needs to change? Communicate goals and expectations to teachers and provide on-going professional development to move beyond the basics.
What have been your biggest challenges to implementing technology at your school? How are you overcoming them? Tell us in the Reply field below.