Many K–12 educators are leaving the profession due to constant shifts in policies and priorities. Asking those remaining to master a new assessment tool or learning management system (LMS) on top of everything else could drive more teachers out of the classroom.
However, we discovered that most educators are open to change and willing to embrace innovation when the rollout process is thoughtfully planned and executed. We found this during the webinar Please, Not Another Tech Tool! presented by Kassia Gandhi, academic affairs director at D2L, and Stephanie Kelly, senior manager of instructional technology at Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
Here are the top three mistakes district leaders make when introducing new technology to their region—and tips on how to successfully guide your staff through the technology adoption process:
1. Failing to Inspire Key Stakeholders
People will adapt to new technology if you can show them you have a compelling vision of what the future will look like. “The biggest mistake that we often see people make when they’re adopting new technologies is not presenting a compelling vision,” says Gandhi.
Kelly and her team at Anne Arundel—who moved over 6,000 teachers and 80,000 students from Google Classroom to D2L Brightspace—created a metaphor to help staff visualize the underlying reasons for the transition: “It’s time to move from our tent to the house with all the amenities.”
Kelly continually showed her staff the features, or “amenities,” of Brightspace during the adoption process, such as parent communication and data management tools, to demonstrate what would be possible moving forward—a tactic that helped keep her teachers optimistic and engaged.
It’s time to move from our tent to the house with all the amenities.Stephanie Kelly describes the transition from Google Classroom to D2L Brightspace at Anne Arundel County Public Schools
2. Not Addressing the Concerns of Everyone Impacted
While you may expect teachers and administrators to find your reasons for improvement compelling—for example, using a new LMS to improve school performance—they won’t be able to fully conceptualize your plan until they know how it will affect them personally.
“That doesn’t mean you don’t need a strong vision for change,” says Gandhi. “You just need to make sure you’re addressing staff’s immediate concerns and how it impacts them, because otherwise they won’t be able to absorb your vision.”
Once your stakeholders’ individual questions get answered (How will this impact me?), they will move through the adoption process and start considering the impact overall (How can we do it better together?), which is vital to the wholesale adoption of new technology.
3. Assuming Everyone Will React the Same Way
You can group the way people approach technological advancement into five main segments on a bell curve, ranging from most willing to embrace change to most reluctant:
– Innovators and Early Adopters—“New things are good because they are new.”
– Early Majority—“New is good if my friend thinks it’s good.”
– Late Majority—“New is suspicious and to be doubted.”
– Laggards—“New is bad, not to be trusted.”
Based on this model, Kelly and her team in Maryland created enablement and communication plans not only tailored to people’s specific roles (such as teachers, parents and IT leaders) but also to their adoption type (such as early adopters, early majority and late majority), because the needs of each group are different.
“That chart helped me through the entire implementation process,” says Kelly about her district in Maryland. After figuring out who her early adopters were, Kelly’s team started a “road tour” where the teachers who were getting the most out of Brightspace D2L could demonstrate its features for their colleagues.
Teachers who were not yet enthusiastic about the LMS were invited to see what it was capable of, which inspired them. Kelly says, “When they saw other teachers doing it [using the new technology], they started to say, ‘I can do this too.’”
Every school district will require a unique approach to technology adoption depending on how big the technological change will be, how quickly you want to move the change forward, and the kind of infrastructure and capacity you already have within your district to facilitate that change.
While people generally behave in predictable ways when adapting to new technology, they are unique individuals, and every school district is composed of that group of unique individuals. So, there are many things to consider when introducing new technology, because something that works for one region might not work for yours.
If you avoid these three big mistakes, you’ll be on the path to success. Overall, Gandhi asks district leaders to be patient: “Allow time; do not rush your results.” That doesn’t mean you don’t rush the change itself—just remember that making deep, fundamental change can take years, even though you can produce positive results from Day 1.
We’ve guided thousands of educational leaders through the technology adoption process. Learn more about how to coach your staff in our e-book, Please, Not Another Tech Tool!