August 15, 2023
The following article is a guest post by EdTech expert, former district administrator, and author Carl Hooker. Carl has 20+ years in education and K12 consulting. He speaks on various topics, from digital wellness to technology integration and district leadership.
As technology continues to play an increasingly important role in our daily lives, it has become critical for K12 schools to prioritize its integration into their curriculum and operations.
When I was Director of Innovation at Eanes ISD, one of the first orders of business was to form a technology committee. The Digital Learning Task Force (DLTF) was formed with the primary purpose to decide what device to choose for our students.
However, over time, it became apparent that having this committee would be valuable in many other ways to ensure that technology is effectively utilized in and out of the classroom.
Before we talk about a few of the benefits, let’s start with a few basic FAQs starting a successful tech committee.
This seems like an obvious first step, but it’s arguably the most important. Some schools elect to choose just a handful of staff while others open it up to a wider audience. In our DLTF, we invited parents and students to be a part of the conversation as our technology affected their daily lives as much as the teachers and administrators.
We sought out to get students, parents, teachers, and campus administrators from different levels throughout our organization.
For example, you could have a librarian from High School, a teacher from elementary, an assistant principal from middle school, a parent of students from different levels, and a student or two from secondary.
While the most vital component of the committee is the representative from the technology department, they need the input from various groups to help steer the vision of the district.
It can get overwhelming pretty quickly to have 20+ people on a committee. The larger the committee, the more time it takes to share and process points of view heard. On the other hand, if the committee is too small, you run the risk of having a limited range of ideas and beliefs around technology.
We tried a target range of 10-12 members and had some participants rotate on and off over the years. These members consisted of at least two parents, two students, two teachers, a librarian, one administrator, and one member of the technology department.
The number of people on your school tech committee will ultimately depend on the size of your school, the resources available, and a variety of other factors. However, the key is to maintain balance across different stakeholders.
Internally, we asked administrators to recommend various staff (including themselves) for the committee. Afterwards, we posted an open application for parents and students to apply.
Being in a high tech city like Austin, we wanted to be careful about parents that might work for technology companies which could affect their bias and influence.
Ultimately, the goal of the technology committee is to gather feedback from their various communities and provide guidance and suggestions for the district moving forward. They do NOT purchase technology or make wholesale policy changes, but they can influence those items.
Those that volunteer (or are ‘voluntold’) to be on a technology committee are giving up a portion of their time, usually after work hours. They do this because they feel passionate about the direction the district or school is taking with technology. While we didn’t pay members of our DLTF, we did provide the following incentives to help with participation and attendance.
We provided food/snacks/drinks whenever we held a meeting.
We made sure the meetings were held on time and with an agenda that had various timed components.
For those that couldn’t attend, meeting notes were captured and shared.
On occasion, members of the technology committee would have access to new and emergent software or hardware to vet it as a resource or tool for schools.
For most members of the committee, the ability to influence the direction of a school’s technology use is enough incentive to join, but having a few of the extra “perks” mentioned helped encourage better active participation at meetings regardless of the focus.
As mentioned, a technology committee brings together a diverse group of stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, students, parents, and IT staff.
By promoting collaboration and communication, the committee ensures that all stakeholders have a say in the decision-making process. This ensures that technology initiatives are tailored to meet the needs of the entire school community.
One point to reiterate here; the committee should be made up of a group of stakeholders that hold diverse beliefs in the use of technology.
On our committee, we had parents that completely avoided technology use in their homes while others welcomed it at an early age. As they both represented different parts of our community, it was important to hear from them on the struggles and successes on technology usage in the home.
A technology committee ensures that technology is thoughtfully and effectively utilized in the classroom to enhance learning outcomes. When we began our journey in using one-to-one student devices, there were a lot of challenges to overcome.
One is that subconscious messaging from a district supplying student devices might be the belief that students “use them all the time.” The truth is, digital learning needs to be balanced with other forms of learning. Not everything should be online or on a screen, but there are also great benefits to students using technology when it comes to the ease of which material can be differentiated.
By providing guidance and training to teachers, the committee ensures that they are equipped with the necessary skills to incorporate technology into their lessons.
This ensures that students are exposed to a variety of learning methods that cater to different learning styles. It also ensures that digital tools are a balance of consumptive tools (i.e. watching videos) and creative tools (i.e. designing an infographic).
Technology is constantly evolving, and it can be challenging for schools to stay up-to-date with the latest edtech trends and best practices.
Just recently, we’ve seen a surge in the use of generative AI tools like ChatGPT. A technology committee helps schools stay current by researching emerging technologies and providing recommendations for their implementation. This ensures that schools are using technology that is both effective and relevant to the needs of the school community.
On top of that, our teachers would often attend conferences and return with excitement around the latest tool or trend. While we don’t want to dismiss their eagerness to integrate technology, those resources need to be vetted. Having a technology committee (or a sub-committee) that reviews new tools and resources in a timely fashion can help validate the use of the tool before it’s put into action in the classroom.
We know that schools have limited resources, and it is important to ensure that they are being used effectively. While we occasionally get infusions of funds like ESSER or ECF, the reality is most schools work with a very limited budget when it comes to purchasing and maintaining technology.
A technology committee helps schools maximize their budgetary resources by prioritizing technology initiatives that are aligned with the school's goals and objectives. This ensures that technology investments are made strategically and are not wasteful.
One of the most effective uses of our technology committee was reviewing our software subscriptions and purchases. When schools purchase a software or app, there needs to be an awareness campaign as well as training to make sure that it is being utilized in classrooms.
Tools that go unused represent a low ROL (Return on Learning). As part of our yearly “sunsetting” process, the technology committee reviews each digital tool that the district pays for. Based on usage and effectiveness, the committee can then make a recommendation to replace, remove, or provide extra professional development around a tool to help maximize the limited resources we have.
With the increased use of technology comes the risk of security and data privacy concerns in schools. A technology committee helps schools address these concerns by developing policies and procedures that protect the school's digital assets and sensitive information. This ensures that students and staff are using technology in a safe and secure manner.
One subcommittee that we formed from our DLTF was an “Internet Filter Review Board” to look over what our restrictions were on our filters at various levels. Students shouldn’t be viewing inappropriate material per CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act), but different committees hold different beliefs as to what else students should have access to while on school devices.
This part of the technology committee can be contentious, but it’s important for all members to keep focus on the goal at hand: Can students access age-appropriate material whenever they need it for learning?
Creating a technology committee is a vital part to any K12 organization. This community of stakeholders is an essential component of any school’s technology strategy and vision.
By promoting collaboration and communication, ensuring effective use of technology, staying up-to-date with technology trends and best practices, maximizing budgetary resources, and addressing security and privacy concerns, the committee ensures that technology is being used to its fullest potential to enhance learning outcomes and streamline school operations.
Students are increasingly absent from school, and educators are worried about the impact on learning outcomes.
After listening to what 400,000 parents had to say about their children’s digital safety and wellbeing, one thing is clear: they are ready ...
Should cell phones be banned in classrooms?