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Executing a digital transformation in your school

Angelica Nierras, Managing Director of Faria Education Group, looks at the benefits and potential pitfalls of introducing new tech

Posted by Hannah Vickers | March 09, 2017 | Secondary

By Angelica Nierras, Managing Director of Faria Education Group

Digital learning is an instructional practice that effectively uses technology to strengthen a student’s learning experience. It enhances high-quality pedagogy and provides access to challenging content, feedback through formative assessments, opportunities for learning anything, anywhere, and personalised instruction to help each student reach their full potential. 

Technology is evolving at a rapid pace and it is easy for schools to feel under pressure to adopt the latest thing, or overwhelmed when they attempt to integrate ever more technology into day-to-day teaching and learning. 

How can schools find the perfect balance, be open-minded to new technologies and all their possibilities, while firmly making sure that the technology does not become the main priority? 

How can schools find the perfect balance: be open-minded to new technologies and all their possibilities, while making sure that the technology does not become the main priority? 

Even when schools set a clear objective, and identify the technology to deliver it, they can still find themselves in hot water, as one headmistress in the UK recently did, when she discovered that her plan to use mobile phone jamming technology to stop children using the internet in class could actually constitute a criminal offence. Just because the technology exists, does not mean it is necessarily legal or ethical to use it.

As a school, it is important not to get bogged down with the technology itself, but instead focus on the transformation of teaching, leadership and learning that can be done with it, whether thinking about introducing ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD), flipping a classroom or creating a forum for communication and collaboration.

Each year, 2,200 international schools work with Faria Education Group to implement the latest learning management systems. From our experience of helping them to plan for, implement, use and evaluate our technology, here are our four key principles.

Good digital leadership develops good outcomes

As pedagogical approaches change, driven by technological advances that have the power to revolutionise how learning is planned and delivered, leadership must also evolve. It is not only about being open to change, but also being a player in the process, which is why digital leadership is a vital element. It’s about working smarter – digital leaders help to establish a collective vision. 

Time and again, the person in charge of implementing our main service, ManageBac, into their school tells us that teachers are at best sceptical, at worst downright hostile, to the introduction of a major new system. Often, it takes a strong strategy and a stern will to continue to make a successful case for change. Senior leaders need to be vocal about their support for the new technology and the benefits it will bring, and able and willing to articulate the rationale for change. Eventually, those very sceptics may well turn into advocates – we see it all the time.

The right pedagogical framework helps successful tech implementation 

Pedagogy will always trump technology; ensure your school has a common goal for how technology will play a universal role in supporting or enhancing learning. Integration models such as the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model are growing in popularity among schools and provide good guidance on what to avoid when it comes to technology. 

Invest in professional development

It may seem obvious, but investing in people will always be one of the foundation elements of a successful digital transformation. Investment in supporting teachers’ professional development through technical training will ensure that they feel confident in using technology to support great teaching and learning. 

Avoid assumption 

Students know how to use technology, but they cannot be expected to know how to use it to support their own learning. The majority of the time that students use technology will be in their free time, away from school. Remember: it’s not just your teachers who will be new to using technology in the classroom. Share devices with teachers and students in the spring term/semester so that they are more comfortable using new technology in their lessons by the new school year and autumn term. 

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