Part of a Blog Series from the Emerging Technologies Committee Leveraging Technology for Improving School Wellness and Safety
Teacher stress and dissatisfaction in the workplace is at an all-time high(1). A study conducted by the National Education Association at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year found that over half of educators are considering leaving the profession earlier than planned(2). Educators are under enormous strain due to teacher shortages, heightened politicization, low wages, and student learning gaps caused by the pandemic.
The increasing reliance on educational technology has only added to the long list of what teachers need to learn. Gone are the days when a teacher only needs a textbook, worksheets, and subject knowledge to teach a class. Now teachers are expected to use educational software platforms for grading, creating assignments, taking attendance, and assessing student work, among other things. The COVID-19 pandemic only increased the acceleration of adopting new technology in education. Data privacy laws, cybersecurity concerns, and interoperability with existing district systems are also considerations that complicate matters for teachers.
With this in mind, reducing teacher burden and stress while implementing technology in the classroom should be a priority for district leadership.
The Sweet Spot: Making Life Easier for Educators
Finding the sweet spot between technology solutions and the needs of educators is a difficult task. As previously mentioned, the technology must be accessible to all, meet data privacy and cybersecurity requirements, fulfill the curriculum’s needs, and make the job easier and less time-consuming for educators. We interviewed four district technology leaders nationwide to gather feedback on best practices for adopting and implementing new technology for educators.
Two main themes from our conversations emerged that district leaders should consider to help reduce educators’ stress and burden. They are intentionality and interoperability.
John Lein, the Senior Administrator of Instructional Systems at Orange County Public Schools (FL), emphasizes the importance of intentionality by district leadership in selecting new technology. Intentionality involves district leaders’ thoughtful, deliberate approach to implementing new educational technology that stresses support, simplicity, and stakeholder engagement.
- Support: Establish and maintain a core set of resources that can be used when needs arise, such as online training guides and videos, and other materials that are available 24/7 for teachers. To ensure security and consistency, only software that follows an approval process should be allowed to be installed on school servers/computers or accessed through the Internet. Provide teachers with time and opportunity to practice and learn the tools better on an ongoing basis, not only in a crisis.
- Simplify: To provide the best possible user experience, simplify the number of technology options so it does not interfere with teaching. Provide a list of a finite number of applications in an approved software list that can be utilized/modified over time for longevity. Ralph Valenzisi, assistant superintendent for digital learning and innovation for Norwalk Public Schools, highlights the benefits of using an approved software list. According to Valenzisi, approved software not only provides instructional support but also serves as guardrails for teachers, ensuring that they are using technology solutions that align with the district’s goals and priorities.
- Stakeholder Engagement: Before Greg O’Dell, E-learning Specialist at Hall County (GA), rolls out new software to the whole district, he has pilot groups to provide feedback and make changes. This ensures that stakeholders are engaged and included in the process.
Software Request Process
John Lein has a Teaching and Learning Software Request Process to ensure student achievement, and efficient operations are considered when schools request to purchase software. Only software applications that follow an approval process can be installed on school servers/computers or accessed online. The Software Request Process covers free or paid administrative software, curricular software, website unblocks, iPad Apps, and Google Chrome extensions. Software applications can be a program installed on a computer or accessed through the Internet. This process allows benefits such as discounted volume pricing and ensures that all software aligns with district goals and the Strategic Plan. This process also permits ITS (Information Technology Services) or other departments to support the successful implementation of the software and protect student data. Other benefits include looping in all necessary stakeholders before implementation, weeding out duplicative resources, and ensuring that the requested software meets a need and is curricular and beneficial to teachers and students. Additionally, the process provides transparency by providing an approved software list available to anyone in the district.
Eddie Nemec from Gainesville City School System (GA) emphasizes that interoperability should be a priority for district leaders as it reduces time-consuming manual tasks, giving educators more time to concentrate on teaching. Interoperability includes providing technology solutions that integrate with each other and existing district systems, ensuring that different technology solutions work seamlessly together. Interoperability can include:
- Single Sign-On (SSO): Educators and students shouldn’t have to remember multiple usernames and passwords. Ralph Valenzisi of Norwalk Public Schools says that SSO is a critical resource for the district, serving as a lifeline for educators and students. SSO allows users to use one account to access multiple software applications quickly and securely. By streamlining the login process, SSO makes it easier for educators and students to access the tools and resources they need for teaching and learning. SSO also enhances security by reducing the risk of password sharing and credential theft.
- Limiting Choices: Prioritize selecting technology solutions based on their interoperability with other platforms and ease of use for end-users. By limiting choices to those that integrate well with existing systems and are user-friendly, district leaders can help reduce the administrative burden on educators and promote more effective use of technology in the classroom.
- Learning Management Systems (LMS). Learning Management Systems can help educators organize, manage, share, and assign content to students. However, district leaders should be mindful of any barriers that may hinder the effectiveness of an LMS. Specifically, they must work to recognize components of the LMS that are not helpful or efficient and may actually consume valuable time.
Integrating technology into education has presented teachers and administrators with new challenges. However, district leaders can help by prioritizing intentionality and interoperability in selecting and implementing technology solutions that support educators, simplify their job, and protect network and student data security.
References: 1. NPR. 4/19/2021. 'We Need To Be Nurtured, Too': Many Teachers Say They're Reaching A Breaking Point https://www.npr.org/2021/04/19/988211478/we-need-to-be-nurtured-too-many-teachers-say-theyre-reaching-a-breaking-point 2. National Education Association. Survey: Alarming Number of Educators May Soon Leave the Profession. 2/1/22. Tim Walker. https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/survey-alarming-number-educators-may-soon-leave-profession
Author: Doug Couture, Director of Technology Systems and Programs, South Windsor Public Schools (CT)
CoSN Emerging Technologies Committee Member
Published on: April 17, 2023
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