Keys to leading a successful digital transition

By Marty Creel for Discovery Education, an ACSA Partner4Purpose

How can administrators ensure a smooth and successful digital transition?

Leading the digital transition is a process that should start with emphasizing good instruction. It is crucial to select the right technology pieces and to prepare networks for increased use, but those decisions alone do not make for increased learning potential. The districts that are getting the best results are the ones in which leaders are focused on improving instruction as the means to high achievement, and are using technology as a tool to help reach that vision.

All district leaders should have a vision for the type of instruction that will be most impactful in their schools. This vision must be clearly defined before selecting the technology to support it.

What role does digital content play in enabling highly effective instruction?

Digital content needs to add value beyond what can be provided in traditional textbooks. Digital resources are incredibly versatile and provide today’s students with multimodal content that is continuously updated to remain relevant. Digital resources also enable teachers to deliver content in new ways that can be very engaging for students. When properly aligned with standards, technologies such as virtual and augmented reality can be engaging tools for delivering highly effective instruction.

Can administrators expect to eventually see the abandonment of print media in instruction? How do educators feel about that possibility?

There will always be a role for print media in education. Digital content is not supposed to be a reproduction of print textbooks. A successful digital transition requires an incremental culture shift in which teachers are on board and gradually engaging with more technology and digital materials. The best way to empower teachers is to ensure that they have ample experiences with new technology before using it in a classroom.

It is commonly believed that students are ahead of their teachers in terms of technology skills. We call today’s students “digital natives.” But if you take the “t” out of native, you have “digital naives.” Students may know how to use an iPad, but they may not know how to verify sources or how to compare and contrast articles. They need to be taught. Teachers have the knowledge of instruction and the experience to provide students with the skills necessary to take full advantage of digital tools and content.

A digital transformation is a cultural change that should be approached as a major shift in thinking and instruction. When students are looking for content to explore, they should have access to deep and rich materials that are instructionally spot-on. 

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