We all start the new school year with the best of intentions — just like our inspired commitments to New Year’s resolutions — that same positive outlook and hopeful enthusiasm. In both cases, though, we need results — seeing the fruits of our labor to stay on track and continue pushing forward. And, even if we’re one of the 6 percent who keep a New Year’s resolution beyond February 15th, back to school is even harder — because it’s our whole team and community we must motivate, focus and support for success!
Principals have one of the hardest gigs in town — a 24x7 job, principals “report to” students, parents, teachers, the district and state, the community and its organizations and groups — often with their own families and lives taking a back seat. And every school has a unique ecosystem with an extraordinary, evolving student population and teaching team, with varying shifting challenges and opportunities that need balance to deliver for every single child.
It’s the principal who must balance every moving part of that unique, evolving ecosystem every day — student achievement; safety and privacy; teacher engagement and empowerment; parental support; morale and alignment; budget and resource distributions; ever-changing compliance and policy requirements; district goals and school improvement plans — the list is endless.
As former school administrators and technological problem solvers, the Lea(R)n team has worked with leading teachers and administrators to make the rapidly expanding, often frustrating, sometimes confounding, buzzword-laden reality of education technology an opportunity to ease and improve, instead of yet another challenge adding to the list.
Here are five best practices empowered school principals use to make edtech a benefit, not a challenge:
- Connect purchasing to your School Improvement Plan: If your SIP centers on your values and focus areas, shouldn’t your purchasing decisions be guided and reinforced by that plan? By quickly documenting, and requiring requested purchases tie back to SIP goals, decisions remain aligned and appropriately directed.
- Provide clear path for edtech tool evaluation and adoption:Give edtech innovators and teacher leaders streamlined processes and defined roles to find, get, use and measure their edtech. This reduces duplicated effort and ensures new tools are captured, documented and reviewed — no more tornadoes of tools with anecdotal commentary, absent context or consistent metrics for apples-to-apples comparisons. Great schools are using a clear process, giving their educators clarity and reducing stress.
- Empower teacher voice through structured feedback: Engage and empower educators to drive greater confidence, better collaboration, higher adoption rates on tools and systems that work by fostering an atmosphere of active feedback that demonstrates critical thinking — especially when it comes to edtech.
- End vendor sales calls by establishing a repeatable, consistent process: Principals report getting more than 100 sales calls and emails each week, and going to extremes to avoid sales calls. It’s a distraction, and it’s not that great for companies calling either. Excellent schools are redirecting sales callers to register their products with the school’s unified platform. By funneling companies to register their products and answer quick questions, you and your leaders have consistent, useful information when you want it for edtech evaluation and adoption (see number 2!). You also gain valuable transparency to pricing, contract terms and statuses.
- Measure and share what’s working school-wide: Start an active edtech product inventory so you have the confidence of knowing what tools you have, what you have paid for, if they’re being used and if they’re working — so you can invest more in results and recapture savings from tools that could be wasting limited budget dollars.
Following these practices enables principals to do their 24x7 job and serve their numerous stakeholders with the confidence that they’re not only planning their work and working their plan, but measuring and sharing success. Clarity, consistency and processes increase morale and save schools money, both in operations and edtech purchasing.