Digital Ambassadors – 2. Reviewing needs, strengths and areas for improvements
Post 2 of 7
Before putting together a Digital Ambassadors programme, it is important to find out what specific needs a school may have, whether there are any particular of strengths and identify the main areas for improvement in terms of technology.
Review of policy documents
I have found that one of the most crucial parts of technology integration in schools is to ensure policies and procedures are in place, and enforced. Ideally those policies have been drawn up collegially and every stakeholder in the organisation has had a chance to give their views and feedback on the document(s).
If a school doesn’t have any policies and procedures in place when it comes to using technology or systems (in the broad sense of the term), it may lead to inconsistencies and a poor user experience for teachers, students, parents and admin.
Here is an example of an item that could be found in a student policy document:
Students will check their school email every school day, at least once.
As a tech integrator, this tells me a few things:
- Every student needs to be provided with a school email account
- If a device is provided by the school, the mail client needs to be setup
- Students need to know how to access their email account
- Students need to know how to check for new email
- There is an expectation that students use email to communicate (with teachers?)
It then raises a few questions:
- Are the conditions mentioned above met?
- How do we know?
- Who is in charge of teaching students how to check their emails?
- Are teachers comfortable to teach students how to check their emails?
Reviewing policy documents will help determine what is already working well, and where there are obvious gaps in expertise. It can be a time-consuming and tedious process, but it can be extremely rewarding.
Review of development plan(s)
Development plans (or whatever they may be called in different institutions) will help determine:
- In which part of technology integration cycle a school finds itself (infancy, training phase, implementation, etc.)
- The emphasis placed on technology integration as a ‘whole-school issue’
- Is the technology development plan an integral part of the whole-school plan?
- Is it an addendum to the whole-school plan?
- The level of involvement of different stakeholders (e.g. students, parents)
- The list of current and future adhoc projects (e.g. trials, etc.)
- The possible hirings in the area of technology integration
- The amount of time and money dedicated to professional development
Reviewing development plans is key to understanding where a school is headed in terms of technology integration and use of technology across the school.
Review of inventory
When reviewing inventory, I like to break it down in the following areas:
- Fixed hardware
- Interactive whiteboards
- Mobile hardware
- Installed on machine
- ‘Standard’ software
- Subject specific software
- Cloud based subscriptions
- In-house web based software
- Installed on machine
- Quality of access to backbone
- Quality of Wifi access
Reviewing inventory helps determine potential areas where training may be needed (with the help of surveys – see this post coming soon), and where support is already available (most paid-for software have good support, or can provide training if necessary).
Reviewing inventory also helps understand how pervasive a specific technology is (e.g. 1 to 1 laptop programme, 1 to 2 iPad, etc.), as it often has an effect on how well it is mastered within an organisation. For example, if every teacher has a Mac laptop, it is much more likely there will be large clusters of expertise, as opposed to a school where only certain teachers are provided with the tools.
Quality access to networked resources (may they be on site or in the cloud) is vital to successful technology acceptance in schools. Slow access to resources most likely will put teachers off using technology.
Review of curriculum and examinations
Curriculum is likely to drive the use of technology and technology integration in most schools. While you may be familiar with the curriculum taught (e.g. IB MYP, DP), it is always worth reviewing the school specific implementations. If you are not familiar with it, the review of the curriculum will be time-consuming, but should really help understand the school.
Examination needs are also key in the sort of tech skills that teachers and students must be familiar with. For example, the upcoming eAssessment for IB MYP schools will require students to master skills such as:
- Typing mathematical equations using an equation editor
- Creating and modifying tables
- Creating and modifying charts and graphs
Internal assessments, coursework, etc. may also require students and teachers to master specific skills, such as:
- Creating and managing a bibliography
- Creating a table of contents
- Understanding section and page breaks in word processed documents
Before drafting a programme for my Digital Ambassadors, I performed very informal interviews with the following stakeholders:
- Pastoral leaders
- School office assistants
Those interviews help get a sense of how technology is perceived and used in the institution. They also help define needs that are currently not fulfilled (due to a lack in knowledge, not a lack of system capabilities) and things that are working well. Interviews are also a good opportunity to start identifying experts, who could later help run the Digital Ambassadors programme, or become an active part of it.