So far in our series on best practices to implement a digital curriculum, we have covered what to look for in the features of a digital product, and how to predict success based on the needs of the school community. In this wrap-up post coinciding with Digital Learning Day, we will emphasize the importance of establishing proper groundwork for a digital transition as well as communicating to help set the expectations of faculty, students, and parents.
Consider possible obstacles
Looking out for potential glitches before implementing a new program shouldn’t only apply to technology; schools should do the same analysis with their human assets: the community.
What are going to be the cultural obstacles to implementing this change? Are students or parents going to be resistant to the technology? Are teachers going to embrace it? How much technology/device training should be done with the faculty prior to the implementation? Will the school be able to set and enforce testing periods for new titles?
Identify Accommodation Level
With the answers to the above questions, you’ll have some sense of where to set parameters on technology requirements, financial aid, and print vs. digital options. The choice may have already been made about whether to operate a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or 1:1 device program, but you can still be cognizant of the different implications of each type. BYOD allows students a wide range of options and the most flexibility for their budget and preferences, but can limit the school’s flexibility in choice of titles and requires more time to test compatibility. 1:1 programs likewise have to balance cost and performance considerations, but offer more consistency with support and compatibility questions.
Will digital be required or optional? It may prove more accommodating, especially in a transition year, to allow students the option between a print or digital version of a book. Keep in mind, however, that the differences between the two versions, even when they are the same title, might complicate instruction.
Make sure that your school’s technology setup, including WiFi, computer access, and staff can support streaming access to digital titles and the download of large digital files. Without sufficient bandwidth, networks will slow down exactly when they are needed most, when whole classes of students are accessing data at once. Similarly, staff should be in place who are able to meet the support demands of the program, which will be different depending on various aspects, such as whether students bring their own devices or the school provides the devices. As mentioned in the previous post, tech issues can easily fall to teachers, detracting from instruction. It’s important to clearly define a tech support role to be held or shared by one or more staff.
Find an internal sponsor or champion
Besides technical infrastructure and support, a key component to have in place is someone at the school who can coordinate and respond to all aspects of the implementation. This person can help teachers with testing of digital titles and keep to the timeline (see below). They can also coordinate communication with the parents and students, in order to provide the necessary information and get buy-in on the plan ahead of time.
Students and parents might have opinions on adopting eBooks, or they may not know what to expect. Either way, it’s important to provide information and address everything that went into planning the implementation: what the school hopes to achieve, what preparations have been made, and what is being required of the students as part of the transition.
Given that students and parents may expect eBooks to be available with one click, convey that some books require more steps for installation, whether on the part of the user or of the school. Point them to resources at the school (or the distributor, if involved) for assistance.
There may also be the expectation that eBooks will save more money than they actually will. How will the additional costs such as acquiring and maintaining devices be covered? It helps to let everyone involved know ahead of time.
Develop a timeline
By now it’s clear that although your school’s new books may be digital, there are still constraints to work within, and that means needing to allow enough time for various steps to take place. Define a period of a few months before implementation to:
- communicate goals and expectations to students and parents
- check on availability, accessibility, and duration of access license
- administer any technology training
Utilize Your Resources
If you get stuck or have questions, don’t hesitate to contact the publisher for clarification and support. Or ask your book distributor to assist. A good bookseller will be a partner who will work with the school not only to troubleshoot challenges, but to help provide the initial research and framework needed to ensure a successful implementation.