What’s the Most Important Part of a District Digital Transformation?

The Answer, According to 5 Educators

Every school district faces different obstacles and holds a different set of objectives during a district-wide transition to digital learning. Implementing purposeful technology at such a large scale, which impacts student learning experiences in such a drastic way, is exceedingly complex. It requires dedication, flexibility, and innovation by all stakeholders, including educators, students, district leaders, and the community. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to digital transformations, there are some elements that are absolutely critical to ensure the transformation is successful. To find out what those elements are, we asked educators from the Art of Teaching Project to give us their opinion. Here are a few of their responses:

“The first step in a successful digital conversion is to understand and define your why. Simon Sinek helped lead that revelation…Know Your Why. And knowing your why comes from having a clearly defined, understood and shared district mission and vision. Then, after the vision is established by and shared with all stakeholders (parents included), the next strategy is to solidify support. And, by that, I mean….infrastructure (can network handle additional devices), professional development (do you have someone who can help teachers learn to implement change) and technical help (support for troubleshooting devices and other equipment). Without support in all of these areas, any transformation (not just digital) will not succeed.” — Diana M. McGhee, CIO, KY
“The magic isn’t in the tools, alone. For truly meaningful transformation, the administration needs to start with a vision: What problem is the school trying to address? What solution are they looking to find? With these larger questions in mind, the school can help drive change with the help of tech integration. There needs to be guidance/inspiration/training for teachers. Rather, lesson design (ie: training around formative assessment, reflection) and sharing ideas for what to do with the data that these tools provide (ie: helping group students, insight into individuals who need help for the day) should be the focus. I think it’s important that teachers get bursts of inspiration and adequate training on how to rethink lessons rather than them trying to make their old assignments digital. Finally, modeling on the part of principals and other administrators goes a long way.” — Stacey Roshan, Math Teacher & Technology Coordinator, MD
“Once a school community has answered the questions above and decided to implement, I think it is crucial for admin/teachers/students to have shared language and expectations about how technology and tools are used. There are endless ways for tech tools to go wrong (good learning.. and the ‘oooh, we’d prefer that didn’t happen’ learning) and having collective agreement about expectations prevents some of that, and supports for when things may go awry. I would also stress the importance of routines for tech: just as we teach our students routines for how to get pencils in the classroom, or how to organize their physical notebooks/papers, teachers need to be prepared to have appropriate routines for themselves/their students with their tech tools. Throwing some computers at teachers, who then in turn, are overwhelmed and throw them at students, doesn’t do anything for any of us. Finally, I’d add, having ongoing conversations as a school community (maybe even a student group) to assess how it is working, what could be better etc.. models (and is simply realistic!) that we will all continue to revise and grow with how we integrate tech tools into our classroom learning.” — Gabby Arca, Social Studies Teacher, DC
“In my opinion, the key element of having a successful digital transformation in a school is well thought out professional development and training. This includes not only having a initial training for teachers, but having a few more trainings after teachers begin using the technology so they can ask questions they have after they have used a technology. It also helps to have a staff member in charge of technology, so teachers know who to ask when they have issues.” — Blaine Dunsmore, First Grade Teacher, CA
“The reality is there is no one path to digital transformation but there should be a common goal by all schools and districts. The path to digital transformation takes infrastructure, innovation, inclusion, and inspiration. This has to happen from district leadership as well as the learners in the classroom. The common goal is to use the technology to create digital citizens who are prepared to lead today’s learners for tomorrow’s challenges. The focus of the digital transformation should be on people. People using the technology to collaborate and communicate, to provide direction, and ultimately to become producers of solutions for simple academic problems to real world quandaries.” — Dean Deaver, 3rd Grade Teacher & Instructor, Riverside County, CA

To learn more about district digital transformations and to dive into what makes them successful, see:

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