Feature Story

Overcoming barriers to tech adoption in education

Overcoming barriers to tech adoption in education

How to overcome tech adoption barriers to help students learn in today’s digital world.

by Travis Allen, President and CEO, iSchool Initiative

Technology has become a significant part of the classroom and facilitates student success by enabling today’s learner to go where they want to learn, when they want to learn, and how they want to learn.

As I visit schools in Finland, Sweden, the United States and elsewhere, I find that not only do we make the same mistakes in deploying education technology as other countries do, but also schools within the same district are even making the same mistakes!

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Schools, districts, and entire countries all seem to “recreate the wheel” - implementing mobile deployments that suffer from similar setbacks. More cross-pollination and sharing of best practices are essential for school districts to create a learning initiative that leads to success. This is why I think it’s important to know reoccurring barriers to mobile technology adoption and how to overcome these barriers to help students learn in today’s digital world.

Create a vision, empower leadership and build a community

It’s vital to have buy-in from the top down within your school. The vision should align with academic or instructional outcomes you want to see in your students. If the fulfillment of the vision happens to be done with the assistance of a mobile device so be it!

The other side of this is that school districts are enormously complex organizations, and you need as much help as you can get in the transition to mobile. I’ve seen administrators who focus on developing other great leaders within the student body and faculty will find the transition to mobile much more successful because they have more boots on the ground. The key is to listen and empower students, teachers and parents who are excited about continuous learning and the opportunities to improve the education experience.

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This upfront collaboration and continued dialogue is critical to developing an inclusive culture that fosters technology adoption. The thing about culture is it’s a living-breathing thing. It’s not something you do once, and it’s done. You have to keep working at it.

The way you accomplish this is the involvement of your students, teachers and parents in the initiative. Give them an opportunity to share their ideas and opinion about how this can improve over time. Take advantage of the fact that the technology initiative is pushing things forward, and use this momentum to make other upgrades.

Don’t forget about infrastructure

People normally think that upgrading the wireless infrastructure is the first thing they have to do before they can start thinking about anything else. While this is true, a comprehensive deployment plan will best inform the decisions you need to make about infrastructure upgrades. Plan beyond connectivity and think about what educators and students will need today and tomorrow. Do you use streaming video for learning in the future? How many mobile devices do your students use today? How many in five years?

To make your vision for technology in classroom a reality, the actual infrastructure plays a critical role. When you’re making these decisions, it’s important to invest in an easily scalable solution that can grow at the same pace of technology in education.

Think beyond the tablet and imagine a learning solution

We’ve all done it -- purchased the newest, shiniest gadget with slick packaging without much thought to why you need it or what function it will play in your life. Now it’s in the junk drawer of your house. This can happen with schools too, when focused on buying the latest and greatest without a fully baked learning solution.

When education leaders articulate their vision for functional integration, overcoming barriers to technology is not just possible; it’s probable. This requires a focus on the pedagogical changes that technology enables rather than simply using the technology. How will this make instruction different? Are educators going to flip the classroom and use the Socratic method more often? Will you encourage teachers to experiment with methods like Suggestopedia for teaching languages? How will you implement the SAMR (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) model?

These are the questions that result in real progress that is worth pursuing.

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