4 Ways to Develop a Team of Forward-Looking Tech Enthusiasts

Last updated: 02-14-2020

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4 Ways to Develop a Team of Forward-Looking Tech Enthusiasts

4 Ways to Develop a Team of Forward-Looking Tech Enthusiasts
Introducing new educational technology goes beyond professional development.
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David Andrade is a Senior K–12  Education Strategist for CDW·G, a leading provider of technology solutions and services to education, government and healthcare. A former engineer, educator, edtech specialist and school district CIO, Andrade works with school districts to assist them with selecting and implementing technology solutions to help them improve teaching and learning.
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Technology plays an increasingly critical role in K–12 classrooms. From collaboration apps to VR/AR equipment, digital learning tools are making instruction more innovative, engaging and inclusive of all students. It’s no surprise, then, that educators strongly believe in its value.
A 2019  Gallup survey  found that 85 percent of teachers, 96 percent of principals and 96 percent of administrators support the increased use of tech in their schools. They also said technology helps support content that aligns with curriculum standards and district initiatives to connect learning to future jobs and careers.
Yet integrating technology in the classroom comes with its challenges, especially because so many key stakeholders need to be involved. It’s not a job for IT directors, administrators and classroom teachers to handle separately because it requires strategic planning, clear communication and a cohesive vision. Implementing educational technology should be a team effort from the get-go.
And even though educators may be excited about adopting new technologies in their schools, many feel they don’t have the ability to successfully use it or teach it to their students.
Only 10 percent of 2,000 K–12 teachers surveyed are confident in incorporating higher-level technology, such as data analytics and computer programming languages, into student learning, according to a 2018  PwC  survey. Meanwhile, the Gallup survey showed nearly 25 percent of surveyed teachers had little to no information about the learning tools they use in their classroom.
However, there are ways that IT leaders can develop a team of tech-savvy educators who can effectively integrate technology into instruction.
MORE ON EDTECH: Discover how administrators can break down silos among IT, operations and curriculum for a team approach to cybersecurity. 
Integrating Classroom Technology Involves More Than Knowing How to Use It
Implementing classroom technology goes beyond simply training educators on how to use it and apply it to their curriculum in a professional development session. Instead, it requires finding ways to engage educators and help them see all the possibilities that come with using educational technology. Here are four ways IT leaders can do so to build a strong team of tech enthusiasts:
Curate the right content. It’s important to figure out not only what kind of technology or digital tools to use, but also how to best incorporate it into a curriculum. And since there’s an ever-growing pool of digital resources out there, finding the right tools for the right classroom is easier said than done. Teachers may come to their tech specialist for guidance, especially if they’re unfamiliar with the ed tech marketplace. So, what’s the best move? Make sure everyone understands the goals behind tech-driven initiatives, such as introducing new  career paths  or  improving accessibility  in the classroom, and let that guide the kind of tools and training you need to apply. Then, consistently assess how tech is used in the classroom to ensure teachers are applying best practices, such as talking about digital citizenship and complying with data privacy laws, when incorporating it in their lesson plans.
Embrace training. Without sufficient training for teachers, investing in tech-driven initiatives may go to waste. It’s unrealistic to expect teachers to become experts on new technologies overnight, so training should be ongoing and progressive — and capture their interest.  Pflugerville Independent School District  in Texas has IT specialists who regularly meet with teachers to go over training topics and even model lessons that involve tech tools they may be unfamiliar with. Meanwhile,  Orchard Farm School District  in St. Charles, Mo., encourages teachers to attend state conferences to learn about the latest tech trends. Also, consider recommending online resources such as  Google  for Education’s  Teacher Center  and  GoGuardian  Teacher, which offer professional development tools for tech-driven instruction.
Enable exploration. Some teachers come up with creative ways of using tech in their classroom. Others use it simply to replace an old method, such as moving from writing on a whiteboard to a smartboard. That’s why giving teachers the extra time to play around with new tech is vital. Think about building that time into a professional development or tech training session so teachers can learn how to use these tools just as their students do — through trial and error and watching how others do it. Doing so can help spark some ideas for innovative tech integration and keep teachers from doing the same old thing.
Initiate true pilot programs. If you want to achieve long-term success in technology integration, it’s good to start small. Consider a  pilot program  to observe and measure the impact of new technology in the classroom while evaluating how engaged educators and students are with tech tools before committing to it. This is also the time to ensure the use of those technologies aligns with your district’s goals and assess what it would take to continue supporting them, whether it be specific training sessions, additional budget requirements or  network upgrades .
If we want to help educators effectively use technology to enhance student learning, we must engage them in the tech space and ensure they get the support they need.
This article is part of the “Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.
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