If you search the Internet, you’ll innumerable articles about factors for success in Educational Technology programs. These are contextualized for school districts, Ministry of Education schools, and private schools serving local populations. They often talk about about funding and environmental conditions or buy-in and visioning. I would suggest that as you look into developing your EdTech programs in international schools you investigate these resources. There are a number of takeaways and tools that have immense value for international education.
Still, our context is a bit different. We serve diverse populations of students from around the world paired with host nation kids. We have affluent families and those on scholarship. We have linguistic variability that rivals most Multi-National Corporations. Most of all, we have transitory populations in our teaching staff, administration, and students. As such, the requirements in international schools are complex and varied when we look at essential conditions for EdTech success.
That said, when you overlay the needs of international schools, three key elements bubble up in schools that have the greatest impact in the field of educational technology: administrative commitment, community support, and appropriate resourcing.
The schools that I have seen (and had the pleasure to work with) that have been most successful in creating impactful and ingrain EdTech programs have shown a very public commitment from the administration and ownership. They have developed a clear vision that is understood by everyone in an explicit and tacit manner. When you talk to these site leaders individually they can clearly articulate the vision for EdTech in school, discuss its provisioning, the operational impacts its had on the organization, and how and where you can see improvements in teaching and learning because of it. Interestingly, the turnover of school leaders in these schools doesn’t seem to affect their success because the commitment of leadership towards the use of technology for learning becomes pervasive in the ethos of the school. They do this through public statements, learning conversations with the community, funding, professional development allocations, and evaluation models for staff, students, and the overall organization.
Parallel to leadership commitment towards EdTech, the most successful schools have a level of community buy-in towards improving teaching and learning. I have seen where faculties have engaged leadership in Educational Technology conversations that have been pointed and challenging, but not confrontational. The result being teachers who integrate EdTech at varying levels, but whom all embrace the school’s intent to improve student learning through digital resources. They do not actively (or even subversively) block initiatives or school sponsored support. Similarly, the parent body actively engages, asks good questions, and develops a level of understanding and support for Educational Technology as a means of delivering 21st century learning. Some may take issue with screen time or worry about security, but the bring up these issue in a constructive forum where everyone in the community can learn and contribute. And of course, the students are part of the decision making process in the most successful schools. They aid in the implementation of programs, the user support, and the evaluation of new systems. They take ownership of their learning through their collective voice in the shape of EdTech at their school.
However, I have seen this human capital support in a number of school that I can’t describe as successful because they were resource limited. I have seen schools put up barriers to access to what is need for full implemented EdTech program. I have seen resourcing models that are not learning focused. I have seen Ready, Fire, Aim models of technology systems procurement. To be successful in international schools, EdTech needs to be appropriately resourced. To a degree, I am talking about devices, money, and support personnel, but this not the bottom line. What I am talking about committed resources towards growth. The most successful schools have created financial plans that draw upon their abilities to supply students and teachers with access to technology in a sustainable way. This may come in a 1:1 program or single computer lab. Perhaps Edmodo as a free service or some fully featured Learning Management System. They have also given the resource of training and support through time, personnel, and access to external expertise. These school understand there is a balance between IT and Learning Technology. Mostly, they have given the resource of time. Time to build program, to collaborate, to create legacy for new students and teachers, and time to find the best ways to improve teaching and learning through the use of technology.