The Steps Of An Effective Technology Integration Plan
It’s more than a fact that technology has become a linchpin for many disciplines and industries including education. In this regard, many approaches have been conjured up so as to tame technology and make it for the benefit of education. With that, the level of integration or even the discourse of giving technology much voice in education is not well spread among institutions and stakeholders per se, since many struggle in the transitive period and they find themselves tinkering on how to integrate it successfully. Knowing how to integrate technology is a crucial element; if not done well, technology will be more costly in terms of time, as well as less productive. I will walk you through some basic technology integration plan steps and procedures that you can carry out with ease, as well as some well known caveats and pitfalls to avoid.
Before You Begin: Conduct A Needs Analysis
Before delving into the work of integration, it is necessary that you conduct a needs assessment analysis of your own institution so as to be able to identify some crucial information that may carry out a successful integration of technology. In management terms, you need to spend some time with necessary stakeholders to decide on the scope of integration, its quality, its cost, and time needed for that. You can remember this like SQCT: Scope, Quality, Cost, Time. This will help you gaze at the feasibility and have more informed steps on integrating technology. Below are suggested steps inspired by the Google For Education training program.
Step 1: Define The Nature Of Your Integration Channel
The source and task of integrating technology in an institution can be carried out in different ways that have their own advantages and disadvantages:
These can be teachers inside the institution or independent trainers who regularly give support to teachers who are not familiar with technology to implement and to computerize their courses in order to make them more effective and interactive.
School Site Mentors.
These can be teachers who are also given the task of updating teachers and giving them necessary support whenever needed.
This is an interesting approach where students take initiative and help teachers with matters related to technology through online sessions and websites.
Workshops For Staff Development.
This can fall in the framework of continuing education where teachers benefit from workshops, conferences, and online courses that may help them understand how to integrate technology and gain more insights on how to implement in the real world.
Digital Resources For Self Guided Professional Development.
This may be the last resort to integrating technology if the institution is on a budget and cannot afford instructional coaches, on-site mentors, or workshops. Instead, the institute can create a pool of an online help that teachers may refer to whenever they want. It can be accessed anytime and anywhere.
It’s up to you, the generator of this idea, to decide which one could be a possibility given the current contingencies that you have already identified in your SQCT.
Step 2: Get Buy-In And Leadership Blessings
You have to keep in mind that what you have reached may not ring any bell to the others, and therefore you have to be prepared for some negative feedback and lack of interest. You should not take it personally; people process ideas and information differently, which is in fact a good and blessing for human nature, since without difference, innovation is but a word. However, you can raise the awareness of stakeholders and increase the visibility of what you intend to do or what you’re currently doing through different channels that may trigger the ‘aha’ moment.
1. Design monthly newsletters that talk about technology with teachers and principals as your target audience.
Don’t digress in your newsletters, because here you’re not lecturing or trying to give the pins and needles; rather, you’re informing and trying to ring some bells. There are many freemium bulk email services in the wild and maybe one of the best one is Mailchimp that also has some premium services with reasonable fees.
2. Prepare for online sessions and webinars with teachers and students inside and outside the institution.
This may give a taste to the leadership board about the benefit of such events that only cost a laptop and an internet connection. Don’t underestimate the power of planning for your event beforehand, and proactively expect any technical troubles you may go through. Sessions may be something related to units students are studying such as English literature, Mathematics, and so on. To give incentives for students, you may decide on giving extra credits for students who attend and answer the follow-up quiz of the webinar.
3. Organize round tables with stakeholders to gain more feedback, position, and interests of each, so your integration plan responds to the needs of these stakeholders instead of only responding to your own.
Parent organizations, teacher representatives, students representatives, advisory board, and so on. At this stage, you may conduct a stakeholder analysis based on the interest and power of each, so you know beforehand what to say, how, and whom you will try to gain advocacy from.
4. Conduct surveys among parents, teachers, and students to gauge their wants and needs, position, and interests.
Surveys can be carried out digitally or on paper, but my advice is that you do it online so as to give your integration plan some extra points where you show the power of online surveying. Google Form is a free service that comes along with Gmail that you can use, and if you have Google for Education or Google for Business accounts you may even benefit from a new feature on Google Form where you can ask interviewees to upload different file formats that don’t exceed 50 MB.
5. Keep an eye for events where your stakeholders may show up; it may be an opportunity to showcase and advocate for the technology integration plan that you intend to implement.
Here you can capitalize on the benefits and the added value of technology-based instruction and offer some successful cases that are not far away from where your institution is, just to convey the message that it succeeded for them and so it should be for your institution.
Step 3: Create A ‘To do’ List For What Needs To Happen Next With Clear Milestones
You don’t need to be project management savvy to build the structure of your technology integration plan. Instead, you only need to clarify the tasks that will be conducted, expected starting and finish date, and resources needed, be it material and human. After you identify these, you can put above each group of tasks a milestone or summary task. Summary tasks help you see an overall picture of the most important steps that you aim to attain within a certain period of time. Don’t be bogged down if tasks are slow to be performed, but rather be hopeful and be ready to adapt to any change.
Step 4: Build A Prototype And Test It
Now you have carried out all the tasks successfully, and you want to start implementing the technology integration plan. You may be more than zealous to deploy the plan, but you may want to do a pilot to see how it works and be able to spot any anomalies that may pop up. In other words, this plan you’ve designed is a fully-fledged prototype that has not been tested and you don’t know for sure if it’s going to work or not. Testing gives you a second chance to fill in the gaps that you might have forgotten previously.
Step 5: Implement, Monitor The Changing Curve, And Adapt If Necessary
Now it’s time for you to brave the world and start implementing your integration plan and see how it works in the real world, with real people and real consequences. It is possible that you may encounter some obstacles and some twists during the implementation. It’s normal; Rome was not built overnight. Your plan is not written on stones, but rather it should have an intrinsic trait of accepting new changes and adapt to situations that pop up according to the status quo.
Bear in mind here that you are including a new change to your institution and therefore your plan may go through a curve and may not jump directly to the outcomes that you have expected in the very beginning. Like screenwriting, your change aims to change the status quo of your institution, and here your plan is injected with some expected outcomes.
Once you disseminate your plan, it’s time for you and your institution to witness some drawback, which is in fact a stage where adaptation to these new environment is being processed. It’s called a ‘Pain’ period, because the human nature tends to refuse what it does not know primarily. However, this drawback period should not take long, else it’s an omen that your plan is not on track and needs reworking. How long it takes is a relative matter, and it’s at your own discretion to decide on that.
When the pain period starts to wear out, the integration is being institutionalized where the process is being brought back to its previous current status quo. At this stage it is expected that your plan should gain extra points by transcending this old version of status quo and move toward a new vantage point, namely the exploit or the gain. The following diagram sums us the learning curve of change:
One word of thought is that you should remember that a plan is what you do until the first shot fired: The more you’re proactively prepared for what will come next, the more you’re able to successfully implement your plan.