An honest opinion of how to plan your school’s digital strategy


Today's blog post comes from guest writer Hannah Mathias, a passionate MIEExpert and E-Learning Manager at Cardiff and Vale College. She recently blogged giving  honest and useful advice for people making strategic decisions and urges them to lead the plan for their digital strategy with the needs of their institutions staff and students rather than basing it around the price of a device. I urge you to read Hannah's blog post below and consider her points when making your own choices for digital transformation. 

 

 


Don’t plan your digital strategy around the price of a Chromebook!

I’ve been in far too many meetings over the years where people are making strategic decisions around their digital strategy and transformation in teaching and learning based on the price of a Chromebook. So I thought I’d write a blog post about what you should be considering when planning digital transformation and digital strategy in teaching and learning and with in your organisation as a whole.

Firstly, don’t start your plan with what device you want and how cheap it is!!! THIS IS A BIG MISTAKE! This is one of the last decisions you should make when developing your digital strategy.

Start with your vision of teaching and learning. What do you want your lesson/classroom environments to look like in 5 years time? What experience do you want your learners to have whilst they are at your organisation? What skills will they need to have when they leave to help them with they future careers and aspirations? What do you want your staff experience to be like? What skills do your staff need to meet this vision? etc.

Once you have thought about these and completed a load of research into new learning and teaching methodologies, which will enhance your teaching and learning, through collaboration, project based learning, digital skills requirements of future jobs, enabling learners to become creators of content and not just consumers, enabling teachers to become facilitators and not the font of all knowledge, that have an impact on outcomes, then you are in the right place to start transforming your teaching and learning.

Visit other schools, colleges, universities, work based learning providers to see how they are implementing this change. But dig deep, don’t just look at what devices or platforms they are using. Look at how they have transformed their delivery to have an impact, or are they just replicating what they did on paper in a digital format? Don’t get sucked in by shiny kit, and don’t just buy what the school or college down the road have bought. Be well informed! Talk to the staff and learners, and other experts in this field. Twitter is a very good place to start this research.

My Post

 

What Seymour Papert said is right, you can’t expect change in your classrooms by just adding computers. I’ve promoting the RAT model to teachers over the years to help transform their teaching practices when introducing learning technology, so that the technology transforms the learning entirely and the learners develop skills that they couldn’t have without the technology.

Another point you need to consider is accessibility. How are you going to make a level playing field for all you learners and staff with this digital strategy? and which platforms, software and devices will help you achieve that in the best possible way? Again do your research, and seek out experts in this area. Accessibility should be embedded throughout your teaching and learning, not as an add-on or after thought. Make it easy and invisible so that people aren’t singled out or embarrassed.  Which platforms are leading the way with accessibility?

Have you researched into what your local employer needs are? What are the digital skills needed in your local areas or even wider? Will your learners need Office 365 skills, Apple or Google skills? Do some job searches to find out, or speak to local employers, to see if you are or can full-fill their needs. How are you going to embed these skills into your new digital strategy and teaching and learning delivery? Think about what the learners need or will need, not what your staff can currently do. Staff training will need to take place and it needs to be driven by what our learners will need. Staff don’t need to know how to do everything either, they just need to facilitate the learning and teach the learners to how to be successful learners. Let the learners decide what tools to use to meet the outcomes. It’s a whole mindset change and cultural shift for teachers and organisations. We need to develop a growth mindset in our staff and our learners. It is more of a change management issue than a technology issue.

Ensure your infrastructure is up to it. If you are moving towards more mobile devices, do you have a robust wifi network? If you are providing laptops/devices in a classroom, will they have enough charge for the day, who will ensure they are charged after each lesson? Do you have enough power points? Or somewhere secure to put personal devices? What support have you got in place to manage your digital strategy?  Are you thinking of a Bring your own device (BYOD) model? There are lots of options out there these days. Choose the right approach for your learners!

Now you can start thinking about platforms and devices. Look at all the options and consider the positives and negatives of all based on the research you’ve undertaken through the previous steps. Which platforms and devices can meet your needs? Will you learners and staff be able to undertake all the tasks they will need to do through the platform you choose? Remember that web applications don’ give you all the tools, they are a stripped down version. Will you be able to achieve outcomes and tasks without all the functionality? For instance, could your Management team do their job by just using Google Sheets or would the ability to open up the full Excel application be a better option? Also with learning platforms, what is the accessibility like? Can you track learners progress easily? Can you use digital badges? Or learner analytics? Does it accept SCORM packages? Where is the data being stored (GDPR)? How easy is it to manage and support? You need consider a lot of things, not just “it’s really simple to use”…Yes this is really important, but you need to ensure your system will grow with you and give you flexibility that you need. Look under the surface, is it pedagogically sound, don’t base your decision on the fact that it’s free. Nothing is free!

What type of devices will you need to fulfil your vision of teaching and learning, will laptops meet your needs? Will you need digital inking? Consider the battery life? Do you need a camera on the device for creating video? It’s not easy to film on a Chromebook or a laptop for instance, maybe a tablet or 2in1 device might be better? How powerful do you need the devices to be? Do you need to run full applications or just web applications? What are the accessibility tools/settings like? What size and weight is the device? Do you need USB sockets or SD cards etc. All these things need to be considered carefully.

BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY DON’T BUY CHEAP DEVICES JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE CHEAP!

These devices need to be robust and reliable or this change will fall flat on its face. Learners and staff need to have a positive experience in using these new devices and have trust in them or change won’t happen.

You should also consider future proofing your digital vision and strategy. You may not be ready for Virtual reality, Mixed reality, Artificial Intelligence or Leaner analytics now, but you will be soon. Ensure the decisions that you make in terms of platforms and technologies enable you to access these cutting edge approaches.

Ensure that you put together robust a training pathways for your staff, and differentiate them, as all staff are at different levels and abilities. Support them, coach them, set up digital leaders or mentors amongst your staff and learners to drive this change. Share and celebrate successes too! This is really important. Digital badges are really good way of doing this.

And finally embed the digital strategy into all process and procedures like appraisals, observations, inductions, job roles etc. so that it becomes part of the organisational culture. Remember this is a cultural shift, it’s about people not the technology. Support a culture of failure amongst staff and learners, without this, innovation will not exist. This is where Growth Mindset comes in to play.

Read more blogs from Hannah here. 

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Follow @hmathiasedtech on Twitter.



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