Technology projects are exciting. Whether you’re ramping up a one-to-one laptop initiative across your district, or rolling out cloud-based software to help faculty and staff interact with students and parents, the expectation is that the investment will spur positive change in your local school community.
Expectations are a good thing. No school leader worth her salt would spend six months meeting vendors and evaluating solutions in hopes of achieving a half-hearted outcome.
But there’s a difference between installing a new technology and effectively integrating a disruptive solution with the power to transform how people learn and work.
Technology is a proven accelerator. It helps us gather information quickly and efficiently and significantly reduces the time required to process and analyze vital student and community data. As a communications tool, technology helps us connect with colleagues and community members and arrive at more collaborative, better informed decisions — or, it should.
But there’s a caveat — and it’s one that’s all too often overlooked in schools: The solution only works assuming the right people in the district have access, and that they know how to use it. More important, that they want to use it — because they understand fully the problem it attempts to solve.
This is true for teachers and staff. And it’s true for parents and other stakeholders. One of the biggest missteps a district — and, by extension, its technology partner — can make is to invest in a solution, roll it out in schools, and assume widespread adoption.
With apologies to Kevin Costner, just because you built it, doesn’t mean they’ll come.
Take our Let’s Talk! community feedback tool, for example. The technology works by allowing school districts or individual schools to place an interactive button on their website. Parents and stakeholders can click the button and submit feedback to the district. Those comments (we call them dialogues) are then routed to the right person in the school system, who is tasked with issuing a timely response. All of that information is stored and displayed in a dashboard that helps administrators visualize and more quickly identify potential crises percolating in the school district.
The technology represents an easy and effective way to improve stakeholder communications. But administrators aren’t likely to achieve a high rate of engagement unless they connect with parents and community members to promote the solution. Stakeholders have to know that a new feedback tool exists. They have to understand why going to the district or school website and clicking a button is far more effective than picking up a telephone and calling the central office, or blasting the superintendent’s email inbox. They have to comprehend the motivations behind the technology and what it can help the district accomplish.
Getting these messages out requires promotion. School district leaders need to communicate with staff and parents. This might mean penning an article in the community newsletter, submitting an op-ed to the local paper, speaking at PTO meetings, informing stakeholders via social media, and making public appearances and speeches to better explain the goals and motivations behind the technology. It might mean hosting training sessions and other programs to ensure staff feel confident, and that they know how to leverage the technology to create efficiency in work that they are already doing.
There is no limit to the different approaches that you can take to promote technology engagement in your school district. Rather, you are limited only by what you choose not to do.
Are you a Let’s Talk! client? Looking for a few strategic ideas about how to better promote Let’s Talk! to your school community? We can help.