High Impact Technology Integration: How a District Leader Increased Staff Confidence and Proficiency

October 1, 2021

High Impact Technology Integration: How a District Leader Increased Staff Confidence and Proficiency

October 1, 2021

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, the author may receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

In this post, I’m going to show you exactly how I helped my staff build transformative classrooms through high impact technology integration.

As a Director of Technology, these are the steps I took to not only increase my staff’s confidence and proficiency in technology but what helped prepare our entire district to smoothly transition to distance learning.

Let’s dive right in.

Where to Start in Creating Innovative and Transformative Classrooms?

In my 23 years in education, my mission was always to create an innovative and transformative classroom centered around student agency and self-efficacy. 

However, the question that always existed was “Where do I begin?”.  We all have gone through countless hours of pedagogical training, professional learning, examination and reflection on best practices, etc., but where did we ever encounter the true solution on how to build a transformative classroom? 

The answer:

Develop self-confidence through proficiency in the technological tools that you as the driver are integrating.

How I Gained Proficiency in High Impact Technology Use First

In 2014, my Assistant Superintendent invited twelve educators from across the district to a meeting. 

The commonality of these educators was that we all had a thirst for high impact technology integration, while the ultimate goal of the meeting was to utilize this core group to introduce the notion that the district was moving to what was formerly known as Google Apps for Education (now Google Workspace).

After the introduction to the platform, we were offered an opportunity to obtain our Google Certified Educator Level 1 certification and attend a professional learning Google Summit.

After obtaining the certification and attending the Summit, my desire to provide unique transformative experiences in the classroom was never the same. 

I had the confidence and knowledge with a platform that when integrated effectively, created an environment that promotes collaboration, efficiency, and most importantly, improves student learning

With the certification, I was able to focus on developing technology integrated activities and lessons that were dynamic, while also encouraging critical thinking and creativity.  

Then, the Opportunity to Increase High Impact Technology Integration at the District Level Appeared

Over the next few months, while my newly certified colleagues and I educationally reshaped our classrooms and promoted Google to other staff in preparation for the shift down the road, my career suddenly made a drastic turn. 

One afternoon, my Superintendent called me into his office and asked me to talk about my classroom experiences since becoming certified and also what I thought of the transition to Google. 

After a lengthy conversation discussing what I was now able to do since the entire process began, he asked if I was interested in becoming the Director of Educational Technology with the goal of me leading the district to becoming a Google and 1:1 Chromebook district in the next two years. 

That question changed my life.

Becoming the Director of Educational Technology was something I had never thought about, never mind also becoming an administrator. 

Where would I begin? Who are my resources? Will I miss the classroom? After many thoughts and conversations, I realized that I needed to simply begin with the human capital that was in the frontline. 

After all, how did I change my teaching and become more innovative? By becoming proficient in the things that would drive the pedagogy and promote creativity from all constituents. 

Ultimately, adoption of any initiative in education is culture based. 

The district needed to make it a priority to promote opportunities for educators to become Google Certified, in order to make this initiative successful and as a result, redefine learning.

Where I Began in Supporting my Staff to Develop Confidence & Proficiency in High Impact Technology Integration

Over the next year and a half, I challenged our staff to become L1 certified in order to feel confident enough in order to take chances in the classroom. 

Within that time frame, we offered professional learning opportunities to become L1 certified, very similar to what is now being offered by Designed for Learning

The result:

Almost 200 educators in our district became L1 certified and many more obtained their L2 and Trainer certifications.

I now felt confident enough that things were now moving in the right direction in order to be successful.

By the end of 2016, we completed our transition to 1:1 Chromebooks in grades K-12 and teachers had all of the tools necessary to change teaching by promoting blended learning, collaboration, choice, and student agency. 

In recognition of our accomplishments, we became a Google for Education Reference District, which demonstrates excellence and thought leadership through the innovative use of technology.

Then, I Shifted my Focus to Slow Adopters  

While we had many successes with the early adopters, my focus had to now shift on those that were holding their ground and not truly embracing the transition. 

They needed to see firsthand how becoming certified assists them in redefining their classroom. 

As part of my effort, we created a campaign entitled “Moving to the R”, with the “R” standing for the level “Redefinition” as conceptualized in Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR Model to measure high impact technology integration. 

In this campaign, we changed the way that we planned and designed lessons to focus on how a teacher can redefine a lesson, so technology enables experiences that were previously impossible without it. 

Suddenly, many of the slow adopters were realizing the importance of certification and how it allows teachers to change their focus to transformation.  

The result? High Impact Technology Integration to Bring About Sustained District-Wide Transformation

Over the next few years, we continued to grow as a district and provide opportunities for students at all levels that allowed them to take command of their futures.

We created a TechSperts program, which was a technology enrichment program for students, developed an IT & Digital Creation Academy at the high school, promoted coding opportunities at all grade levels, created the NEXT Expo (Newington Expo of Technology), and continue to develop many other exciting programs and experiences. 

I strongly feel that this is all a direct result of the majority of the staff being Google Certified Educators and being able to shift their focus from learning the tools to utilizing the tools.

How This Impacted our Response to Distance Learning:

As all of us well know, Covid-19 has affected our lives in so many different ways. Most importantly, it changed the face of education and how things will be done in the future. 

We have all seen firsthand now how technology can positively impact students. Many districts were caught in a predicament because their teachers were not prepared with the basics. 

In Newington, we did not miss a beat with so many of our educators already certified and confident in their ability to use technology to create high impact learning experiences.

Technology changes rapidly, however, having a strong foundation of all of the necessary skills, allows for an easy adoption of any new changes.

Although the pandemic changed the traditional instructional model, teachers in Newington continued to provide those redefined learning experiences, with more collaboration, choice, and agency being promoted.

The certification process changed my life as an educator and now an administrator. More importantly, it prepared a district for the unimaginable both pre and post-pandemic. 

Having confidence and competency in the basics, allows educators to take chances and transform a classroom. 

As an educator in a time where the future is uncertain, join Designed for Learning in becoming L1 certified and become proficient in order to prepare yourself for any challenges that you may face, while also providing unique and dynamic learning experiences in your classroom.

Looking for more?

John (Jay) Salerno is the Director of Educational Technology for Newington (CT) Public Schools. Jay is a dynamic and passionate teacher and administrator, who views the integration of technology as an integral part of making all students college, career, and citizenship ready, while preparing them for an ever-changing, technology driven, global society. He currently speaks at many professional learning conferences and sessions at the district, state, and national levels, including work for Designed for Learning at Bootcamps and Summits across the United States. Jay is a Google for Education Certified Innovator (#LON17), Trainer, and Educator, while also being Microsoft Office Specialist Certified.  Follow Jay on Twitter @jaysal7

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