School districts are dedicated to empowering children to live in the modern world, which means they must adopt new technologies if they want to empower staff and students alike.
But, there’s one problem. Getting rid of old, legacy technology and replacing it with more secure and efficient tools and the processes to enable them is about more than changing from one solution to another.
Legacy solutions have served their purpose in the past, but keeping them around today when education as a whole is deep into digital transformation means tedious maintenance, a high amount of support services, poor staff and student experiences, and an overall obstacle to implementing better solutions already out there for K-12 districts.
The use of digital tools in the classroom is certainly nothing new; a study by the University of Phoenix College of Education shows us that 63% of instructors use technology daily compared to only 55% years prior.
So, what factors should school administrators consider when deciding on adopting new software and tools for their teaching needs?
Understand the Purpose of Technology in Education
Businesses, municipalities, and schools alike use tools to streamline
their operations, provide more efficient and less error-prone analytics, and significantly improve user convenience and accessibility.
Modern education, and the technology powering it, is freeing up your staff so you can focus on providing the best possible student experience. Think about computers when they became mainstream in the 1990s. Initially, many educators criticized the shift because of the perceived learning curve involved, but it has been impactful in advancing education.
When it comes to adopting new technology, you must decide whether the switch is worth the effort, which means considering things like:
- Will users engage and use the technology?
- How disruptive will the change be?
- Will changing provide a measurable impact?
Remember, not all technology is created equally and a poor user experience can create skepticism in your user base. In fact, 31% of school administrators see a lack of working technology as a barrier to adopting new tools into the school district.
That’s why it’s essential that you get buy-in from everyone involved, from upper management to your teachers. It’s important that you make it easy to adopt new technology, clearly demonstrate its value, and make it accessible and understandable to everyone involved.
Continuously Improve the User Experience
When you don’t work in IT, you want your relationship with technology to be an invisible one. Your tools work best when you can focus entirely on your workflow without having to think about them or how they work.
We know that 57% of administrators believe current workloads are overbearing for faculty and staff and would love to see new digital tools lighten the load. The feature set and support that a vendor advertises can seem perfect on paper, but the ultimate test is how it changes how your school operates in the field.
In the context of education technology, there are a few things to consider:
- Updates should happen without you knowing or be scheduled at low-traffic times: Nothing is more frustrating than a software update closing off your access during an important session, exams, or during education’s busy periods.
- New features should add value to the experience without too much unnecessary complexity: Ease of use must remain a priority no matter how evolved a piece of software is. Flashy functionality is great, but too much can turn your user base off.
- Everyone involved must benefit simultaneously: Talk with all stakeholders to ensure no one is left out. Impact on the users is an integral part of the decision-making process for K-12 institutions.
- Leverage change champions to reduce user apprehension: All users approach technology differently. Selecting change champions can help improve the user experience by providing a friendly outlet for small functionality-related questions, reducing strain on your IT department.
The user experience is the driving factor for successful technology deployment, ongoing management, and the overall longevity of any solution you choose. Therefore, any solution you choose should embrace the shift to continuous improvement since that’s one of the best ways to increase user buy-in and reduce IT strain.
Consider How Technology Impacts Your End Users
What happens when legacy technology starts to show its age? The end users are the first to know:
- Faculty might find frustrations managing analytics or balancing the budget with obsolete solutions.
- Teachers can have trouble handling timetables, student profiles, or school activities.
- Students often have difficulty searching up assignments, looking at grades, or viewing classroom schedules.
- Parents might find that poor technology is a barrier to effective communication with the school and their children’s teachers.
At the same time, it’s possible that your teachers aren’t aware of how much better newer solutions can be and might not bring up the need for an upgrade. Students don’t always have a way to tell the administration directly about their problems.
For these reasons, it’s important to talk with all of your stakeholders during a possible upgrade to get the complete picture from everyone. For example, you might consider education technology to be primarily used by staff and administration, but keep in mind that even students themselves use tools like a Student Information System (SIS) regularly. In fact, a Gallup study recorded that 7 out of 10 students used education technology outside of classroom hours at least weekly.
Ensure that you have the proper channels in place to assess how end-users feel about new technology, and their struggles and work to implement meaningful change that decreases friction.
Make It a Cyclical Process
Onboarding new technology doesn’t mean the end of change. There will always be new tools and solutions that K-12 districts can benefit from, so regularly reassess your needs and expect to make new decisions on system upgrades in the future:
- Ask stakeholders like teachers and students for feedback at the end of the year: What worked well, and what needs improving? What frustrated them the most?
- Balance your budget: Are you on track for this year, or do improvements need to be made? Create spend categories to see which areas are costing the organization the most.
- Think in the long-term: Nothing is more wasteful than spending all those resources on adopting a new software solution, only for it to fail to catch up with your needs.
In other words, you can’t expect education technology to be a “set it and forget it” approach. Instead, someone needs to make changes as the tools evolve.
Look For Software “With” a Service
School management software should be considered from a service-based approach. This way, a school district can choose a fully-featured solution based on its needs, budgets, and plans, while the service provider can handle all the upgrades and maintenance. As a result, schools have a chance to focus on what matters most: empowering children.
When adding new technology while phasing out old solutions, solicit feedback from your staff by category (such as by subject matter, grade level, etc.). Do a test run if possible. Remember that even if new software might cause some initial problems, it’s still possible that it’s better in the long run compared to the old way.
And don’t forget that almost everyone is on board with you. 63% of educators think that education technology improves student outcomes, and 72% of teachers agree that students enjoy using these tools because they are familiar with technology.
Simplify How You Manage Technology and Change With Edsembli
Significant change is still on the horizon for modern education. In just two years, we’ve seen the rapid digital transformation of the entire education sector.
And as more and more school districts embrace the shift to digital, the need for a unified experience will become even more important.
Discover what an integrated experience can look like with the Edsembli Ecosystem. From human resources & payroll, finance to the student experience, Edsembli seamlessly connects the pillars of education through a single, unified system.
Don’t miss out on innovations, potential cost savings, and better engagement for students and faculty alike. Book a discovery call today and see why top school districts rely on Edsembli.