Independent, but not isolated: No school is an island

ATLIS Conference

Beautiful Los Angeles hosted the 2017 Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools (ATLIS) national conference in late April. More than 400 edtech innovators from across the country’s independent schools came together to share best practices, build their PLN and connect with others working in the same educational space. As an extension of a true member network, the ATLIS conference provides a much-needed respite for teachers who can often find themselves answering tough questions about edtech.

Views of the stunning Santa Monica Mountains coupled with sunny, but blustery winds throughout the week provided a metaphorical background to the ATLIS conference that was hard to ignore. Technology leaders know the value of the programs and devices they purchase and implement, and how meaningful technology can be for students and educators when applied properly. But winds of change can make it difficult to know what’s working, and when to stay the course or turn in a product that hasn’t lived up to its promises. Ascending to a place where one can survey the scene and make unhurried decisions is crucial, but it can be hard work getting there.

At the ATLIS conference, all of the sessions, workshops and keynotes are designed to provide markers for independent school technology leaders. Points along the path of discovery, implementation, analysis, and evaluation of edtech that demonstrate there is a way toward success and improvement.

The question for independent school leaders is how to find the path of least resistance that also resonates with the work they do because independent schools, as indicated in their designation itself, are unique. And as with anything truly unique and special, each ATLIS member school (and by default every school categorized as independent) has certain considerations to keep in mind when it comes to their edtech purchasing and implementation decisions.

In an ATLIS presentation-turned-panel discussion with member school representatives, we asked what priorities are paramount for an independent school’s edtech department, and also, what technology considerations are unique for independent schools?

We asked, and we were answered. Independent school technology leaders said that these are their biggest priorities with regard to edtech:

  • Budgetary needs.
  • Product management, including portfolio curation.
  • Connecting with their educators, namely to help drive edtech adoption and professional learning.
  • Understanding the ROI of what they are using.
  • Forging a data-driven path around evaluation that relies less on blanket statements and anecdotes, and more on growth-focused policies and processes.
  • Creating sustainable infrastructure.

Likewise, these were the most often mentioned considerations that ATLIS attendees felt are specific to independent schools:

  • “Many hats syndrome” whereby one or two people within an independent school setting are simultaneously responsible for the discovery, implementation, evaluation, and purchasing of edtech, often while teaching classes and planning edtech-related professional learning initiatives.
  • Considerations about marketing that revolve around the ever-present need to ensure enrollment numbers are on target.
  • Focusing on educators as the gateway to learning while also providing enough data and information to parents, who are often very involved and eager to understand what edtech decisions are being made and why.

To help fill this very tall order, ATLIS ensures that for every member school, the network effect is in full play. Independent schools can and should continue to celebrate the uniqueness that sets them apart, but that doesn’t have to come at the price of isolation. From the looks of the engaged and invested ATLIS members that we met in Los Angeles, ATLIS is meeting an important need within the edtech space.

To that end, ATLIS has partnered with Lea(R)n to provide an additional suite of member benefits to better organize, streamline and analyze technology.

With LearnPlatform, ATLIS members can:

  • Connect with fellow members and share information, resources and best practices with their peers.
  • Compare insights on classroom application and practices with various edtech tools.
  • Evaluate which edtech products and programs are working (current access to 70 products and growing) — and for whom under what circumstances.
  • Improve student learning and transform instruction.
  • Understand and increase ROI on software investments.
Dr. Amanda Cadran