4 common technology adoption barriers
Minor software upgrades won’t disrupt K-12 education environments. But wholesale changes and new districtwide technology integrations can.
Avoiding the most common challenges to technology in schools can save district leaders time, ensure seamless integration and generate buy-in from all stakeholders, says Lenny Schad, former Houston ISD chief information officer. Schad currently serves as chief innovation and information officer for LRP Media Group’s District Administration.
Challenge 1: Resistance
Before implementation, help staff grasp the reasons why the district is migrating to a new education technology. Allow members to “question, to rationalize and to push back,” Schad says.
“Organizations that don’t spend time explaining the why and answering inquiries miss the opportunity to build that foundation of understanding,” Schad says.
Challenge 2: Organizational fatigue
When district leaders become “fixated on a new technology and chase the new shiny object,” it can exhaust district staff and teachers, Schad says. This unhealthy environment creates a culture of apathy that says, “I’m not buying into it and I’m not investing in it because I know in six months they’re going to come up with something new,” he explains. “This is a very dangerous mentality. You get everyone sitting on the sidelines just waiting for the next thing to come. And you get educators who are very complacent and very comfortable with the status quo.”
Challenge 3: Impatience
District CIOs must establish realistic expectations and timelines. “The adoption of technology is an evolution,” Schad says. Before, during and after technology rollouts, leaders must create a plan to “institutionalize” the technology over the span of years, not months, he says. Understand that employees may be at different ends of the maturity matrix, too, so allow time and individualized training to address everyone’s needs.
Challenge 4: Emotions
Dealing with the “emotional pull” is perhaps the most pressing, and unexpected, condition of integrating technology in the classroom, Schad says. “There is a tremendous underappreciation for organizational change management in public education,” he says. “When it comes to putting in place enterprise systems, you may be changing how people have done their job for 20 years and their value to the organization feels threatened.”
Part of a district technology leader’s role, he says, is to address this issue on a broader scale before new technology is integrated into teaching and learning. Schad has used the Prosci ADKAR change management model, which is acronym for:
- Awareness (of the need for change)
- Desire (to support change)
- Knowledge (of how to change)
- Ability (to demonstrate skill and behavior)
- Reinforcement (to make the change stick)
“A leader needs to walk their stakeholders through each piece of the model,” he says.
Establish strong teacher collaboration
Teacher buy-in plays a major role in technology adoption, Schad says. Research has shown that teachers feel greater personal satisfaction when they believe in their own efficacy, are involved in decision-making and establish strong collegial relationships. Helping teachers collaborate is, therefore, a priority.
Collaboration can take many forms, such as allowing teachers to meet in teams to review student work or using their insights to create instructional improvement targets, according to U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences guidance.
Researchers indicated that school leaders must foster this sense of shared responsibility among all staff, including teachers. Other leadership actions that nurture school improvements include:
- Send a clear signal that dramatic change is needed urgently.
- Maintain a consistent focus on improving instruction.
- Make visible improvements quickly.
- Build a staff that is committed to the school’s improvement goals.