Making the Most of Technology while Keeping Students First

Creating conditions for success with technology starts with smart, strategic implementation.

GUEST COLUMN | by Sam Weiss and Dave Saltmarsh

CREDIT jamf.pngSchools, educators and IT professionals provide students with the best conditions for success when they learn how to move beyond the technology. While this may sound counterintuitive, it is when schools get past the nuances of the devices that they are able to spend more time and resources supporting the individual needs of all learners. After all, learning should be the leading driver for all decisions impacting student success, not the technology. While this likely isn’t new news to most educators, it remains an area where schools continue to struggle. So how can schools change their path and turn this idea into their reality?

As a first step, schools should gather an inventory of their devices.

Schools should never be limited by the technology they use, nor should they let it dictate their choices. To ensure this is the case, schools must approach technology with a student-centered focus that moves beyond simple substitution and augmentation to a point where students are doing activities that are involving, creating and prompting critical thinking skills. Instructional design and technology experts know this concept as SAMR (substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition). Schools can use SAMR as an analogy for how to implement technology. They can remain below the line of basic deployment concerns or move above the line to support transformation. While this may sound like a challenge, it’s easily accomplished when keeping some key things in mind.

Creating the conditions for success with technology starts with a smart, strategic implementation. The lower implementation concerns are often considered easy and should be the beginning – not the target. Depending on what a school already has, this may involve purchasing and provisioning devices. Then, once the appropriate technology is acquired, it must be deployed. This process of getting devices into the hands of students is only the beginning.

As a first step, schools should gather an inventory of their devices. This will allow them to create a base understanding of what they have to work with. Collecting inventory should be straightforward and relatively simple with no extra cost. From there, using a mobile device management (MDM) solution, schools can set up the devices with little or no hands-on work.

Pre-assigning applications will give students instant access to the content they need as soon as they turn on their devices. Similarly, creating group privileges will give certain classes, age ranges, etc. the same access to pre-determined content when and where they need it. This can all be accomplished in a streamlined fashion with easy workflows.

Completing these initial steps puts schools in a great position to start a conversation around how to accomplish the mass customization of the devices. The challenge is, like SAMR, to move above the line by simplifying what some see as complex or not possible. This conversation should include an agile refinement session that will help establish a foundation that supports the continual changing needs of each student.

Once the basics around purchasing, provisioning and deploying are accomplished, schools can start exploring different ways of creating transformational experiences for their students. A powerful way to do this is through mass customization. Schools should consider providing individual privileges to students instead of only giving one generic setup to everyone. Purchasing content that is based on the individual needs of each student, rather than buying software that is supposed to apply to everyone, is essential to meeting the individual needs of all learners.

To accomplish this work, schools should consider enlisting the help of non-traditional IT roles, such as administrators or librarians. Through their help schools can customize more content, which in turn creates more flexibility within the classroom. Throughout this process, those completing the work should be agile with privileges – another way to ensure success. Schools should think about assigning content to students as they grow, mature or earn new capabilities with their technology. Likewise, some students may lose privileges. So rather than tying everyone to the same content, use dynamic content that allows students to receive what they need when they need it. This creates a better, individualized learning experience for students.

Through the implementation of these techniques, and by continually moving forward with their capabilities, schools will move to a point where technology enables learning in a strategic and impactful way. They can shift the focus to learning, specifically personalized learning, but they must first ensure the conditions for success are set by high expectations.

Sam Weiss is an Apple education evangelist and Dave Saltmarsh is a global educational evangelist and former classroom teacher at Jamf, an Apple management company.

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