Powering Successful Digital Transformations in School Districts

By Guest Contributor Marty Lange – SVP, Chief Product & Operating Officer, McGraw-Hill Education School Group

MDR-Digital-Transformations-SchoolsI’ve recently returned from ISTE 2018, where I connected with school district leaders and educators who are at various stages within their district’s digital transformation journey. Many are still in the early phases of implementation and navigating interoperability issues, and many others have achieved 1:1 device use in the classroom and are determining next steps.

Irrespective of where they are in their journey, one thing is certain – all district leaders want to ensure that the digital transformation strategies they are driving will deliver results and provide equitable opportunities for all learners. And every stakeholder involved in a district’s digital transformation – district leaders, classroom teachers, students, community members, and education technology companies – has an important role to play, and the ability to fill major gaps in the transition to digital. By working together, all of us can help schools and students reap the benefits of a meaningful, effective digital transformation.

In particular, with the emphasis on the effective use of educational technology and digital enablement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), it’s more important than ever that the stakeholders have clarity and purpose in their respective roles in supporting school districts and successful digital transformations. This may require some to broaden or reconsider their role in a learning community; for example:

  • Administrators have many roles and responsibilities, such as creating a roadmap for change, ensuring students have access to the technology and content they need, and providing ongoing professional development for teachers. As a result, administrators can also provide invaluable guidance to other leaders and educators, by sharing their strategies and learnings, and discussing their successes and challenges through networking events, public forums, and professional associations.
  • Teachers can engage in reflective practices to understand their evolving role in a digital classroom – frameworks like the SAMR model can help them self-evaluate their comfort with pedagogical changes in light of tech integration, and support them in navigating role changes, such as moving from a “sage-on-the-stage” role to a learning facilitator.
  • Students have the opportunity to take on increased agency in light of new digital classroom environments. Technology empowers students and teachers to collaborate throughout the learning design process, and student voices can be of great value in the instructional decisions teachers and administrators make around digital learning.
  • Community members and families should also be engaged and can participate in a thoughtful, collaborative way during a school district’s digital transformation. ESSA encouragesopens PDF file active family engagement, and opening lines of communication with families or local organizations could make some of the obstacles around accessibility and flexibility in learning spaces during a digital transformation much smoother.
  • Education technology providers have a critical role in powering a successful digital transformation, starting with continued communication with district leaders and educators about emerging challenges and new solutions. We also have a responsibility to produce pedagogically sound content and effective tools that help districts design digital learning environments in a meaningful way.

MDR-Digital-Transformations-Schools1As these various stakeholders work to collaborate and innovate in their evolving roles, districts will need continued support from larger communities and entities throughout the digital transformation process. I envision that organizations like Future Ready Schools, a planning and resource hub devoted to empowering districts to make purposeful, efficient use of digital learning, will continue to serve as a foundational resource to many. For example, interested district leaders can access the Future Ready Schools Digital Dashboard, an interactive planning tool which McGraw-Hill Education is proud to support, as well as free professional learning events on creating digital transformation policies, procedures and practices.

In an effort to complement the work of Future Ready Schools and to take a deeper dive into the implications of ESSA on district digital transformations, we also prepared a position paper detailing the changing roles of stakeholders, as well as important considerations for policymakers. This resource in its entirety can be found here, and we hope this piece can serve as a helpful guide for district leaders and educators.

We are continually learning about what constitutes an effective digital transformation for districts. At ISTE, the excitement, engagement, and sense of empowerment I saw was infectious, and I know this energy will drive our positive momentum as we continue on this journey. Fresh obstacles and challenges will emerge, but I am confident that as long as we engage in collaborative, supportive, and open conversations, purposeful, scalable, and equitable digital learning experiences will one day be the norm for all K-12 students across the country.

About Marty Lange

marty-langeMarty Lange has been dedicated to the needs of students, faculty, and administrators for over 20 years in various executive and management positions at McGraw-Hill Education. His career has been focused on bringing together his three passions: technology, learning, and education.

Marty is currently Senior Vice President, Chief Product and Operating Officer for the McGraw-Hill Education School Group. In this role, he drives the strategic development of innovative, market-leading digital and print product lines across the McGraw-Hill Education School Group’s PreK-12 Portfolio. He is deeply engaged in work to help students and teachers achieve better outcomes through the interplay between content, curriculum, learning technologies, course delivery, and successful implementation.