Technology has always been part of education (pencils and chalkboards are technology). However, many savvy school districts focus less on the specific technology and more on what students should know and be able to do. Those district leaders shift the focus away from devices and develop learning initiatives that include how technology will be used to achieve their educational goals.

School technology is a huge expenditure for districts, but without a comprehensive education vision or plan they often see haphazard and sporadic use of technology tools by individual teachers and classrooms. The children in the classrooms where teachers are effectively using these tools reap the benefits, while other students do not, and districts end up not getting a good bang for their buck.

What’s your vision?

School leaders who value their community’s resources develop a learning vision or blueprint before investing in an initiative. A vision may sound superfluous or bureaucratic, but it’s an essential way to improve student achievement. It ensures that technology tools are effectively paired with instruction and learning in every classroom.

“All the innovative hardware and software in the world won’t make a difference if teacher’s don’t know how to use it as an educational tool.”

Developing district-wide learning visions is the responsibility of leadership teams including school boards and administrators, but these plans should not be developed in a vacuum. The community – teachers, students, parents, taxpayers and civic groups – should be involved. Community support is essential, especially when school leaders ask for a tax increase or a bond issue to raise money for new initiatives. If community members are involved in the planning process, they’ll be more trusting with their funds, and if community support for technology is part of the district culture, the initiative and investment will survive when district leadership changes.

Educating educators

Professional development must be part of the plan, as well. All the innovative hardware and software in the world won’t make a difference if teacher’s don’t know how to use it as an educational tool. This training goes beyond the operation of a particular device. Technological advances can radically change what goes on in the classroom, and teachers need time to explore, envision and adapt.

The National School Boards Association has showcased the power of school-leader vision in education technology through 30 years of site visits. California’s Coachella Valley Unified School District, NSBA’s next visit, has garnered national recognition for its work to address equity and home Internet access. The benefit of district visits comes from the inspiration they provide to school leaders, who need to see solutions in action to understand how they can be replicated. Coachella’s Wi-Fi-equipped buses parked in remote neighborhoods at night are one example of innovations educators will experience during their visit on Oct. 19-21.

There are many factors, not a single solution to implementing technology that is constantly advancing. Once we have a device or program figured out, another new application will come along. Education innovation is a journey, not a destination, and a cohesive vision can help keep your district on the right path.