When Adopting New Tools, Ask These 5 Questions

When Adopting New Tools, Ask These 5 Questions

Guest post by Kerry Gallagher

Kerry Gallagher headhot

Beyond looking at the price tag, there is so much more to adopting a new technology throughout a school or district. While analyzing data and crunching numbers are essential, so is planning for a positive experience for the people who will be using the tool. These five questions will help all stakeholders have a safer and smoother experience throughout the adoption process.

Have we looked at how it integrates with systems that are already in place?

Your school has likely already committed to a SIS (student information system) and LMS (learning management system) to help all stakeholders manage the data and resources required to do the business of school. Since these systems are the platforms you depend on, be sure that any new tool you adopt integrates as smoothly as possible with them. If it takes too many clicks and downloads to transfer information from your new tool to your SIS and LMS, users will quickly fatigue and the tool will become defunct. A smooth user experience is essential, and that means a team of educators and technologists from both your school and the tech company need to work together to test how well all systems – and people – integrate.

Does the company have acceptable terms of use, privacy policy, and practices?

Most new tools provide excellent information about student progress, and to make this happen they collect individual specific data on each student. This data is incredibly helpful to teachers and parents, but it is important that technology companies safeguard this data according to federal and state regulations. Be sure to review the terms of use and privacy policy of any tool before considering adoption. The Educator’s Guide to Student Data Privacy can help educators understand the importance of data privacy policies. What’s more, the Student Data Privacy Pledge now has over 300 signatures from education technology companies who have promised to abide by federal legal guidelines. Your school does not have to feel alone, either. A total of 42 districts throughout my state has created the Massachusetts Student Privacy Alliance to work together to ensure their students’ information is safe and to communicate more efficiently with technology companies. Find out if there is a similar effort in your state.

Will it help our students, teachers, and parents understand one another better?

No technology tool can replace the important relationships that educators must forge with their students and communities. But often tools can help enhance those relationships by making communication more fluid or providing more data about why students are struggling and succeeding. Be sure all stakeholders know the goal of integrating this tool is not to replace human interaction or to merely make teachers’ lives easier. Rather, be clear about how the tool will improve learning and teaching. Everyone is invested in that.

Do we have a core group of enthusiastic teachers ready to help with the roll out?

When it comes to training and supporting teachers, teachers are the experts. They support one another day in and day out in the normal workflow. Tap into the existing culture of support when it is time to roll out a new tool. How will teachers learn and work together with the tool in their existing teams and departments? Who will take the lead in each teacher group with this particular tool and how it is utilized? How will teachers share their successes and struggles across teams/departments?

In some schools, teachers can sign on to be a part of a pilot or cohort that tests new tools and approaches before they are deployed to an entire faculty, and then take on leadership roles during that deployment. In other schools, the group is more like a committee that provides input to administration and serves as a representative of their team/department. Choose the model that works best within your school’s existing structure and culture.

How will we know that we have made progress with this tool?

Build benchmarks into your roll out plan. Should the use of this technology tool increase student performance? How will that performance be measured? Is there a percentage of teacher/student users you are striving for? Will you provide opportunities for users to give feedback after a few months or a few years? Once you have established these benchmarks, be transparent so that all stakeholders know when they will be able to have input in the rollout process. Also, plan for how your team might adjust if the rollout does not go as smoothly as planned. There will likely be bumps, so how will you deal with them when they come along?

If properly planned, the adoption of a new technology tool can be successful. Keep in mind that a tool rollout is an ongoing process and that adjustments will be needed throughout the life of the tool in your school. We are educators in an exciting time and this means we have to be willing to examine our options, make informed decisions, take a few risks, and maintain our flexibility.

Kerry Gallagher is a Digital Learning Specialist at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts. She is also the Director of K-12 Education for ConnectSafely.org and an EdSurge Columnist. Find Kerry’s blog at Start with a Question and on Twitter at @KerryHawk02.