16 Questions for School Leaders Going Digital

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When implementing a digital conversion, it’s imperative for school leaders to have a systemic plan of implementation. In schools where news headlines have pointed out failures in implementation, quite often evidence points towards poor planning, a rushed implementation, and/or poor decision-making by school leaders. School leaders must consider many aspects of digital learning, not just the devices themselves. Some questions that need to be wrestled with prior to full-scale implementation are:1. What do we want teaching and learning to look like in our classrooms and how will we get there?2. How do we expect classroom instruction to shift when devices are deployed?3. What professional learning is needed to properly support teachers in the transformation process? How will we work to personalize professional learning?4. Will we shift the way we assess students? How so?5. How will we engage our community in the digital conversion process?6. How can we best work with businesses and community organizations to support students that don’t have access at home?7. Do we have the proper infrastructure and bandwidth needed?8. What’s our refresh plan to ensure reliability?9. How do the recent changes in E-rate affect our funding and budging capabilities moving forward?10. How will our budgeting priorities change to ensure sustainability and proper use?11. How will we utilize time differently to support anytime, anywhere learning?12. In what ways do our learning spaces need to shift to become more flexible to support 21st century teaching and learning?13. How will our school leaders create cultures of innovation in their schools and how can they best model expectations for staff?14. Do we have a well-written privacy policy for contracts we sign? How do we ensure student privacy, yet utilize all necessary tools and resources to personalize instruction for students? Does our staff know what’s expected of them when it comes to confidentiality and student privacy?15. In what ways will we develop a data literate staff? What role will data play in informing instructional decisions?16. What role do students play in the transformation process? How can we best leverage student voice?Note: The questions above are not listed in a priority order, nor do they represent an all-encompassing list. They only begin to scratch the tip of the iceberg of what districts must consider as part of a digital conversion.Where should one start? What should be considered when implementing a digital conversion? To properly implement digital learning, some key ‘must-do’s’ are:1. Assess Readiness Levels: Recommended is the Future Ready Dashboard, a free tool that offers districts a self-assessment, gap analysis, strategies, and customized resources to support the implementation process.2. Utilize a Dynamic Framework: Recommended is the Future Ready Framework, which helps districts systemically plan for all aspects of digital learning, including: Community Engagement; Data and Privacy; Professional Learning; Technology, Networks, and Hardware; Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment; Use of Time; Budget and Resources; and Leadership.3. Personalize Professional Learning: Make professional learning relevant, engaging, and meaningful, empowering teachers in the process. Professional learning that is job-embedded and hands-on, focuses on outcomes - not hours, and is meaningful to staff will help shift culture and mindsets; a key precursor to instructional and pedagogical shifts.4. Pilot, Solicit Feedback, and Revise Plan: Prior to large scale rollouts, districts must be well versed in the intricacies of the roll out process, the deployment of devices, technical support, a refresh plan, teacher comfort levels, and plans to transform instruction moving forward.5. Lead with Learning, Not with Devices: Keep conversations focused on what’s best for students, how decisions will support teacher effectiveness, and how the technology will empower and personalize the experience for all learners. When discussing a 1:1, make sure conversation focuses on the right "1".6. Ensure Equity in Access: With moves to BYOD and devices at home, if not careful, schools can increase the digital divide, putting low income students at a further disadvantage. However, when implemented well, anytime, anywhere access to high quality content and technology tools can help close the achievement gap. (Note: This gap at home is starting to be referred to as the "homework gap".)7. Empower Teachers: Districts that work to implement in a top down model will hit roadblocks in culture and mindset. Empowering teachers, giving them a voice and being valued in the process is an investment in long-term success and something that fosters relationships and culture - two keys to success.8. Develop Sustainability Plans: Difficult budget-related decisions to ensure sustainability must be made on a yearly basis. Analyzing usage rates, effectiveness, and cost-benefit each year is a must, as is continuing to find ways to cut costs while ensuring a higher level of quality. Technology is one key area that continues to get better and more cost effective each year, and districts that continue to use that to their advantage will have better sustainability rates long term.With districts often spending millions of dollars on technology, it’s imperative that each taxpayer dollar is used wisely and put towards transforming teaching and learning in the classroom. Without a shift in mindset and classroom pedagogy, we’ll end up using 21st century tools with 20th century teaching methods; a recipe for a teacher-centric learning environment. However, when such a shift does occur, a more personalized, learner-centered learning environment is formed, benefiiting all students.