A quick Google search for “trends in education technology” returns 6.9 million results.
Sales calls and emails steal time from your day (even if it’s spent hitting the delete key). Colleagues seem to post never-ending social media updates on accomplishments and are forever #A1-ing a new Twitter chat. There’s inspiration everywhere, and, as the kids might say, the FOMO is real.
Don’t let the fear of missing out tempt you from staying the course, gaining deep knowledge, and enriching the culture of your school. Let’s center ourselves with a deep breath, a fresh hot beverage, and six ways to forgo change for the sake of change.
1) Self-awareness gut check
Imagine what you do to enrich your own knowledge if you weren’t juggling a new tech implementation (or two or three). Take a moment to check in with yourself as a leader. What’s your management style? How do you prefer to work? Where do you gain the most energy? What drains you? What helps you reset?
It can feel unnatural for a person who spends their days helping others to pump the brakes, look inward, and search out tough realizations. It’s also hard to know what you don’t know, so to speak. After checking your own blind spot(s), reach out to some trusted peers and ask them to give it to you straight: What could you do a little better? The answers may (and possibly should) surprise you. When all else fails, there’s an internet quiz like the EdLeader Personality Test for that.
2) Culture evaluation
Day in and day out, a large population of your community enter classroom doors ready (or not) to learn and teach. The value and importance of school culture cannot be overstated, and it builds the foundation of your brand. What do people say about the district when you’re not around? Where are the nooks and crannies that could be built up, improved, and polished?
It takes more than a couple opinions to get a well-rounded picture of school culture, especially if you’d like an honest, warts-and-all evaluation. What can you do to get a diverse spectrum of perspectives from colleagues, staff, students, parents, and the community? Start with a school culture survey, of course!
3) Scrutinize existing tech
When a well-respected district leader shared his intention to enter sustain mode—that’s right, no new projects or implementations—during the upcoming year, our collective eyebrows were raised. That decision to hit the pause button and truly evaluate the existing technology, and more importantly, its effectiveness, gave the entire district a dedicated goal to improve operations without adding new bells and whistles. Check out the article It’s Okay to Have No New Projects to make sustain mode work smarter for your tech department.
4) Policy crystal ball
It’s impossible to predict the next move on the mechanical bull of policy change, where state and federal leadership is more volatile than not. Change will come, and when it does, it can bring some serious disruption to policy and funding.
Closer to home, how have recent local and state elections turned out? Will new candidates be joining the school board? What are their priorities—and promises to constituents? Awareness is the tip of the iceberg, and early conversations may go a long way to forge a strong partnership.
Next, check in with ESSA plans. How are current initiatives toward statewide goals going? Whether you’re reporting progress or just beginning to strategize improvements, avoid the urge to jump into action before a solid, tech-friendly ESSA plan is in place.
5) Deepen knowledge
Is tech know-how in your district an inch deep and a mile wide?
One of the best ways to help on-board new employees or polish up existing employees’ knowledge is to produce your own training videos. It helps ensure everyone hears the same, uniform message. Invest in production now, and free up trainers’ time later.
A welcome respite from initiative fatigue offers breathing room to actually achieve a deeper knowledge and build automaticity. Development doesn’t always need to be costly—some tech partners offer free resources or group training. Coach some subject matter experts and encourage them to identify a succession plan in the event of a long absence or resignation. Mentorship programs help veteran staff pass this knowledge on to rookies eager to learn.
6) Be an anchor
Amid the calmer waters, be careful not to slip back into old habits. Hold fast, preserve progress, and gather steam for the next big change (because we all know it’s coming). Have conversations about recently completed initiatives and goals, and answer questions about the trends you’re deliberately passing by. You’re not resting on your laurels—you’re enriching your existing processes and culture.
Authored by Erin Werra, a writer at Skyward and Advancing K12. She has spent sixteen+ years learning, and then went on to scrutinize the inner workings of edtech in K12 schools.
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