The U.S. Bureau of Labor has projected employment in the IT sector, specifically computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing, computer systems and design and software publishing, as the largest and fastest growing in the U.S. Yet, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty, forty-two percent of children live in low-income families suggesting a large percentage of children do not have access to technology at home.

Mesa Public Schools in Arizona recently went through a digital transformation.    David Sanders, Director of Information Systems at Mesa, says “A driving factor behind this initiative is that we knew we’d be doing a disservice to our students by not exposing them to technology in the classroom. This generation picks up technology quickly, but we still need to make sure that all our students, whether they have a computer and broadband at home or not, have access to technology and are prepared for today’s digital world.”

Our students need a solid foundation in technology in order to succeed in the future workforce.  Some school districts may be apprehensive about a district-wide digital transformation, the complexity and cost of purchasing, deploying and training for thousands of devices.  But above all else, we need to prepare our children for the future — and technology is our future.

Here are 5 tips on managing a district-wide digital transformation successfully:

  1. Preparation – The first step is to gather a tactical transformation team comprised of complementary strengths.  Along with micro and macro goals that everyone is responsible for, the team should also establish ground rules and a process to track, measure and manage the progress.  Another important is the expectation of transparency within the team.  Working through the project team members should talk about what is working and what is not working, sharing knowledge across the team to build the intelligence of the project as a whole.
  2. Assessment – Conduct an on-site evaluation to assess both teachers and student’s appetite for alternative pedagogical models such as self-directed learning, teamwork, and interactive learning environments.  While in the schools and classrooms, assess what your current assets are, what is reusable and what new infrastructure you will have to add.
  3. Options – As the end users, teachers should also have a say in what technology is implemented in their classroom.  The right technology will be borne out of the assessment and not be the center of, but simply, enhance the learning experience.  You should look for highly compatible devices and tools that will increase student interest and participation.  In order to get the most mileage out of your new devices, it is important to choose the most user-friendly devices so that teachers optimize their device usage.
  4. Deployment – Before attempting a large-scale implementation, consider deploying a small pilot program within one school first.  This way you can define best practices, identify challenges and adjust the rollout accordingly before deploying district-wide.  During the pilot, you can also assess teacher adoption and measure any changes in student engagement, participation, and comprehension and use that data to promote onboarding of the remaining schools.
  5. Training – Even with a dedicated tactical transformation team, one-on-one hands-on learning across a large district may not be possible.  You can rely on webinars and training videos, along with on-site group support.  When teachers witness their colleagues grasping the new technology, they are motivated to follow.  Just remember, transformation takes time, giving teachers ample opportunity to adapt will net a district-wide adoption.