Why Invest in an Educational Consultant?
Planning for technology initiatives is paramount to successful implementation. Consulting with people who have already made mistakes and learned the hard way can save you a lot of time, effort, and resources. Factors to hash out include bandwidth, wireless access points, IT support, funding, teacher training, teacher coaching, digital citizenship, and acceptable use policies, or AUPs. There are many ways to implement technology, but without serious planning, your technology initiative is bound to fail.
Educational Consultants Save Time, Money, and Resources
Where to Start?
For schools and school districts, the place to start is with your vision. If you do not have one, consider starting with a Visioning Day including students, teachers, parents, local business leaders, administrators, and technology leaders. This is for looking forward. It is not for maintaining the status quo.
This day might include some training on what devices are available and what each can do. Displaying projects from other schools and districts might help participants see what can be done and stretch their expectations. List your dreams and try to think forward 10 – 20 years about how the world is changing and what skills teachers and students will need to be successful in the 21st century.
Once you have brainstormed your greatest dreams, try to make a list of the requirements for those dreams to become a reality. Double back to make sure the dreams are educationally sound and that they include such concepts as the 4 Cs and innovation. You might find that new surroundings might be helpful because rows of desks do not foster teamwork or collaboration. Furniture helps fosters the 4 Cs, so make sure students and teachers are involved in the decision-making process. Pilot a room before buying en masse. Sometimes, once bodies are involved, practicality comes to light. These items are important for budgeting both short- and long-term. Check out Dr. Dieter Breithecker on ergonomic furniture to help movement and development in students
Once you have your goals in mind, it is time to check out the prices of hardware, software, IT structure, and teacher training. Nothing is cheap, so be prepared. This might open your eyes to some limitations you might have such as not being able to go 1:1 immediately. There are solutions to that, don’t worry.
Research supports 25% of your technology budget going to teacher training, so start with that in mind. Schools and districts that have properly trained teachers in both the short and long-term have been much more successful than those that offer drive-by trainings or beginning-initiative trainings. From experience we, too, have seen that poorly-trained teachers either don’t use the devices, use them mostly for drill and kill, or have insurmountable discipline problems. No matter which scenario you face, student and school goals are not being reached.
Teachers need time to get to know the technology before they can even begin to consider integrating it into their curricula. Think of it as learning a foreign language. Fluency is reached only after lots and lots of practice. It doesn’t come easily, though, and just as with language, a few days of sit and get workshops will not do the job.
At Cultivating the Learning, we offer training followed up with job-embedded coaching. This method has been found to be the most successful in helping teachers grow in their integration of technology for 21st century skills including innovation, communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. If teachers are curious about Project Based Learning or flipping their classrooms, this method is especially helpful because there are so many hurdles and road bumps that might cause the average and even above average teacher to get disheartened and give up.
Methods of Delivery
Many schools are trying to start their technology initiative by giving each student his/her own mobile device. While this is equitable, it is not necessarily the answer for all schools. In my experience, schools which have successfully gone 1:1 out of the gate have planned extensively and have had major support in terms of IT, PD, long-term training, and coaching. However, these schools are unique and tend to be smaller in size. Larger schools that go 1:1 overnight have a lot issues to face. First, there are teachers who are not ready to use them, so the devices sit in a corner. Next, if there is a bandwidth issue, it affects everyone immediately, making the start disappointing at best, and disastrous at worst. Finally, when the devices need to be refreshed, the school or district has to budget for another immense investment in technology.
My recommendation is that schools work in a cohort fashion with leaders in the school scouting out the territory including bandwidth, devices, Internet safety, student behaviors, parent involvement, integration, professional development, etc. If devices have a lifespan of 3-4 years, that would give you a 3 year rotation for you to bring on 1/3 of your faculty at a time. The first years would be mentors to the second years, and the second years would mentor the third years. This three-year cycle would allow you to budget more evenly for training and device replacement.
The final option for devices is the shared device option. This would enable you to bring devices on two classes per cart, and the teachers would have to share the cart. This has its pros and cons; if it is what your budget allows for, Cultivating the Learning can coach your teachers on how to efficiently and effectively share the cart to get the biggest bang for your buck. By year two, though, it is best if each teacher has her own cart. The speed of advancement and innovation accelerates exponentially when teachers have their own carts and coaching. When comparing teachers in a 1:1 building who had coaching with those who did not, the difference in use of devices was astounding.
Deployment of Devices
The next stage is deployment of the devices. This can be the hardest part of all because now there are students involved. From my experience, a slow rollout is much more successful than a speedy rollout.
Things to consider:
- Which grades will deploy first?
- Can upper grades deploy first and then be employed to help the lower grades?
- Are school emails required as in the case of Google Apps for Education?
- How, when, and by whom will those emails be set up?
- Are logins required?
- Are the devices to be shared as in the case of a cart in a middle school classroom where students rotate into the room?
- How long will the teachers spend teaching the first steps of using the devices. One cannot assume that students know how to use the devices at all not to mention for educational purposes
- Will every teacher be responsible for teaching every basic app, or will each grade level divvy them up
- Will students be let loose to learn the apps and teach one another
- What is your Acceptable Use Policy? Do you have one?
- What happens if students fail to bring it back signed by a parent/guardian?
- What is the policy for if/when a student misuses the device? Is it stated in the AUP?
- Is there a family fee to use the device or in case the device is damaged?
- The list goes on and on
Although one might think the last step is deploying the devices, the fun has only just begun. In the case of both iPads and Chromebooks, apps and extensions have to be pushed out to the devices. In smaller situations, teachers sometimes take on the task of logging in and downloading apps, but this becomes very tiring, time consuming, and frustrating very quickly. The most widely employed system is called a Mobile Device Manager, or MDM.
Mobile Device Managers manage the devices the students and teachers are using. They can be used to push out apps and extensions en masse. While there are many companies that offer MDM systems, Apple recommends JAMF for iPads. For Chromebooks, Google offers a dashboard. While one cannot know every MDM that exists, minimally one should allow you to break down users by school, grade, class, and small groups to push out necessary apps for that individual group. Some allow you to lock down a device if VPNs are used or if a student manages to get around school filters. Again, the need for clear policies in your AUP will save you headaches in the end. Some schools are very specific while others are general. Each has its pros and cons.
If reading all of this has your head spinning, you are not alone. Please feel free to contact us at Cultivating the Learning to help you get settled and walk you through the process whether it be one step or many. You won’t regret communicating and collaborating with us.
Before Her Calendar Fills - Book Eileen Now
You don't want any coach, you want Eileen for your teachers. Click to contact her immediately.