Involving Stakeholders in Setting the Vision
From the Field
“When you understand how to strategically plan for digital learning implementation, the benefits and the challenges, district leaders clearly can convey their vision.”
Superintendent, Cottonwood School District, Idaho
Organizing stakeholders for planning means determining early in the process who will have the authority and accountability to carry out the plan, who may have an interest in the outcome of the plan, and who can have influence in ensuring the plan is a success and then inviting representatives from those groups. Typically planning teams include representatives from a variety of groups such as school board members, administrators, teachers, assessment and data specialists, technology staff and community members. Local leadership (e.g. school principals) is key for making sure the planning team has detailed and accurate information, as well as providing an important communication and implementation resource. One recommendation is to include at least some of the district’s less tech savvy educators on the stakeholder committee to gain a more complete picture of all teachers’ priorities, not just those of early technology adopters.
An important stakeholder group to include early in the planning process is the technology support team. Tech support encompasses a range of services from device and network maintenance to user support, and may be configured in a variety of ways. Tech support usually begins with a helpdesk or service desk, but also can expand to include service level agreements with various providers, face-to-face training and professional learning, and online support, both live and media-delivered. With this much contact across the spectrum of technology implementation, tech support staff can provide valuable insight into technology planning, implementation, and refinement.
Initiating the planning process with a shared vision serves as a firm compass point for how technology will support teaching and learning goals. Unlike a consensus in which everyone agrees, developing a shared vision represents buy-in from all stakeholders and reflects efforts to involve the right people at the right times.
One way to achieve a shared vision is to use clear language in all aspects of the process. Districts that have spelled out target audiences, goals, methods, timelines, responsibilities and outcomes enjoy less confusion because of better communication. Another idea is to elevate the interconnectedness of technology with other initiatives taking place at the school above the benefits of particular devices or setups. Sometimes compromises on realizing the full potential of devices, for example, can be more effective for achieving the particular learning outcomes set forth by school-wide goals and indicated by accurate local data.
Implementation of the technology plan depends on wholehearted support from all members of the school community. Only when teachers are attuned appropriately to purposes of the plan, given sufficient ownership in ideas and opportunities for growth through the plan, and provided the level of training they deserve will they ensure full infusion of technological concepts into the curriculum and its related activities.
Technology implementation benefits when community stakeholders, educators, and staff are on the same page about what the technology plan involves. This typically requires a variety of communication approaches (e.g. web-based, print, in person, and both formal and informal) and purposes (e.g. information sharing, gathering feedback, hand-on practice, question/answer, etc.) taking place regularly over a long period of time. Formal stakeholder meetings should be held to review the plan and progress toward achieving its stated goals. In particular, when school boards are involved, it is essential to keep them informed on the progress of any program. Continued funding can be realized if the school board is able to clearly describe to community members how funding has supported meeting education goals.