In his song “Wildfire”, John Mayer sings, “... a little bit of summer’s what the whole year is about.” For those of us in education, these words couldn't ring more true. Summer time is a great time to refresh, to renew, and to re-energize yourself as you prepare for a new school year. But, all good things must come to an end, and so do our summers. At this time of year, Technology Directors everywhere are preparing for the excitement and challenges of a new school year.
I know that excitement, as I served as a Technology Director for 14 years. Reflecting on my years in that position, I’ve compiled a list of what I think are the five things every Technology Director wishes they had before the school year starts. (I will start by saying I'm taking one item out of the equation — more time. We always need more time, no matter what time of year it is.)
With that out of the way, let's look at my list of the five things every tech director wishes they had before school starts.
It seems every year brings the challenge of making sure you have clean data for the new school year. No matter how many times I started a school year, this was always a challenge. Your data populates so many other tools in your school setting, from textbooks to your parent communication tool, the lunch line, and more. Without clean data to start your school year, you could start off on the wrong foot. So, work closely with your data processors. Be proactive in communicating when you need data and what that data needs to look like. Communicate with your school administration and teachers to make sure they know when the data and all related accounts will be activated so they can plan accordingly. The more they know, the better they can plan for the school year. This will also serve you down the line when you are syncing your SIS to your school communication.
Time With New Staff Members
A new school year also brings new staff members and teachers to your school family. Having time to work with them to show them your district’s technology tools is vital. I will be honest and admit that I used to ask for too much time with the new staff. I wanted to dive deep into the technology they would be using for the school year, and I wound up bombarding them with information. I quickly realized that was not the right approach.
New teachers are inundated with new information when they come on board and trying to pile on every technology tool, web address, username, and password is just too much for them. So, I started focusing on just the “big tools” at the beginning of the school year. I got them logged into their Google Drive and email and I got their website profiles updated. Those three big tools were really all they needed to get the school year started and connected to their new school community. Then, throughout the year, I continued to circle back around to them to make sure they had everything they needed.
I was also lucky to be partnered with a website company whose tech support extended to all users. I sent out a “how to get support” page showing them how to submit a ticket to the website company instead of myself—best move I ever made!
Your websites are your district’s and schools’ online face for the public. Parents, both new and old, will visit your site often at the beginning of the year to get information. Being sure your website is up-to-date for the new school year is vitally important. Check to make sure that your calendars are up-to-date, that you have all the correct forms that parents need, and that they can find information about all the important back-to-school activities. Consider posting pictures of your new staff so your community can meet them virtually. While this may seem time-consuming, having a website content management system that allows you to dole out some of these tasks is really beneficial. Communication at the start of the school year is vitally important and updating your website is a great way to improve that communication. Easy-to-update school websites makes it less tedious when having to go in and make small time, date, event, room location, etc. changes.
Technology in the Right Hands
Technology Directors always want to be sure that the technology is in the right hands as quickly as possible when the school year starts. That means that teachers who may have left the school system returned their equipment to the proper location or those who borrowed technology over the summer return it to its original place. If you are running a one-to-one device initiative, getting devices out to the students prior to the start of the school year is truly beneficial.
In my previous setting, I was able to arrange a Chromebook distribution day prior to the start of the school year so the majority of our students had their devices on day one. The sooner everyone has the technology tools they need, the quicker the learning can start!
A Clear Technology Plan for Schools
Having a clear direction and vision for technology in your school system can set you on the right track for success. Is this the year that you introduce new tools, or is it the year that you simply enhance the use of existing tools? What curricular goals does the district have and how can you support those goals with technology integration? What pain points in the district might technology be able to alleviate for your students, teachers, administrators, or parents? Decide on a clear direction for technology for this particular school year and communicate that vision with your technology staff and your school community.
I hope you found some new ideas or even just some validation in the list that I came up with. I'm sure some of the 5 ring true for you. I’m also sure you may have your own things you want at the start of the year. I’d love to hear about your must-haves!
All of us at Edlio wish you a successful and happy school year. Please reach out to us if there's anything we can do to make your start of the school year smoother.