Bridge the gap

The role of a Technology Integration specialist

Investing in technology is now a fundamental part of my school, as it is in many schools today, writes Nathan Still. Part of that investment here at Cairo English School is my role as Technology Integration Specialist. Bridging the gap between teaching and IT.

Some with extensive technology budgets don’t yet recognise its value, while others with even quite small IT budgets are employing this role. Having worked on both sides of the fence – as a teacher and within IT – I would argue it’s a role few schools today should be without.

Translating the IT vision

There can be such a big divide between teaching and IT – in the language we use, in the understanding of value and in the skills of users. Many teachers know what they need, but don’t know how to get there. Many leadership teams recognise that the methods they are using are inefficient or unconnected, but struggle to know how to move forward. Often in schools, there’s a huge disconnect between departments particularly in the implementation of educational goals that use technology and the understanding of IT needs. It helps to have someone with a combination of educational and IT skills to bridge the gap.

The Tech integration role

My role is to liaise between the IT department, the educational staff, and school administration. I don’t manage the IT department and I don’t have any teachers reporting to me.  I’m a go-between person in a lot of ways and, as a result, represent everyone’s best interests. I help to ‘translate’ the IT vision of our school between the different disciplines. I make sure that everyone is absolutely clear about what is required, what can be delivered, and ensure goals are achieved.

A big part of my role is making sure everyone understands each other because miscommunication can easily end in misunderstanding and even conflict. When people clearly understand each other and what to do, then it helps the school to move forward in a proactive, solution-based way.

Another part of my role is appreciating the challenges that teachers face and helping them through. I see them looking overwhelmed at the prospect of learning new technology or a new system, or struggling with implementation of technology because of their responsibilities in the classroom. Showing them compassion as well as giving them support makes such a difference.

The economics of the role

Ensuring a return-on-investment is also my responsibility. I consider all expenditure from a number of perspectives: the needs of the students and the school, the limitations of our budget, and our IT integration. It’s so easy to be wowed by the amazing new edtech resources today. Just walk through a show like BETT and any teacher will feel like a kid in a candy store. It’s important to carefully assess the needs, opportunities and value of any resource, and work with staff to evaluate a range of options to find the best solution.

Tracking children’s learning progress

Technology is now integrated into almost all aspects of operation and education at Cairo English School; from school administration and parent communication, to managing school fees and tracking student progress.   We do have areas where we don’t use technology for technology’s sake; there’s got to be a clear educational purpose for the use of technology within teaching and learning, but our school is now centred around an effective information management system from WCBS which we have come to depend on as the cornerstone of our information management system.

Cross-curriculum alignment and tracking

Over three years, we have been able to level all of our summative assessments and heavily using our new equivalency, aligning the Early Years profile, IGCSE, A levels and IB Diploma against an APS (average points score) baseline. We’ve created numeric equivalents so that we can easily compare and track different grade sets across the whole school. It gives us visibility of the teaching and learning that’s happening, and the ability to easily track student progress from the beginning of Early Years through to the end of IB and A levels.
It took time to get us to this point, and lots of support from the staff. If a new system or product is well designed and intuitive for use, as many are today, it shouldn’t be too challenging to introduce. But what is important for everyone in a school to remember is that teachers have a very full agenda, and any change requires their investment of time.

Some people will need more time and more support than others. We introduced changes bit by bit, helping everyone to get to know the system inside out, understanding what we were working towards and why consistency and a whole-school approach was important.

Tips for effective technology integration

Here’s some advice for school leaders and teachers to help ensure technology supports you rather than stresses you during your school day:

  • Implementation of any new system should be a slow, well-planned, well-supported process.
  • There are always some members of staff who enjoy the challenges of new technology. They are the best people to help everyone in their department to progress with implementation.
  • Don’t assume that all the teachers in your department or throughout the school are using existing technology in the right way. Plan refresher sessions regularly.
  • For many teachers, the hardest part of school information management can be understanding how to use and optimise a system so that they can understand how it helps them. The IT team and senior management should be supporting all teachers in their understanding of this.

Every school should be selecting systems and products that are built for education, not for business. There are too many haphazard implementations in schools because products have been selected that are not designed for school.

 

Nathan Still, Cairo English School

Cairo English School is an Esol Education School and uses WCBS for its school information management system

 

 

 

Feature Image: kreatikar – Pixabay