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3 Factors That Can Make Or Break Your Technology Implementation

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October 03, 2013 08:15 am


It’s Thursday, and that means it’s time to talk digital learning! Today’s post comes from Lenny Schad, Chief Technology Information Officer for the Houston Independent School district and a member of the Project 24 Team of Experts.

During the course of my career in education, I have had the opportunity to implement both a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, while I was Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Katy Independent School district, and a 1:1 program, in my current role as Chief Information Technology Officer (CTIO) for the Houston Independent School district. While there are significant differences in each approach, my experience implementing these programs has uncovered some foundational characteristics common between the two that will determine success or failure.

1. Strategy

These programs are not about the device—they are about philosophically changing the way instruction is delivered. In order for this philosophical change of instruction to occur, this must be both a district and community initiative, with heavy involvement from the curriculum, technology and professional development departments. The involvement must be from the very beginning. This will help assure alignment between the three areas every step along the implementation path. The need for alignment does not diminish once the program is implemented—it must remain intact for as long as the program exists in your system.

2. Leadership

This begins with the school board and extends down throughout the organization. You must spend time helping all your stakeholders understand “Why” you are doing this. Only after they understand the “Why” can they even begin to comprehend the “How.” Often times, leadership for these types of programs are left to the “central office.” As I mentioned above, this is a district and community initiative. Leadership must occur at the campus level and with your parent community. Changing instruction will not be easy; you are attempting to change a traditional education model that has been in existence for many years. Without the understanding and support of your campus leadership, and parents’ acceptance, adoption will be spotty at best. Most importantly, without the understanding and acceptance in place when bumps occur (and they will!), program abandonment will be an easy out.

3. Expectation Management

At its core, instructional delivery is the culture of an educational system. When you attempt to change instructional delivery, you are changing a culture. Changing an organization’s culture is challenging in and of itself, but changing this type of culture becomes personal for your key stakeholders—teachers. You must be realistic in the adoption cycles for this change. You will never have 100 percent adoption in Year One, and forcing this type of change on your teachers is a recipe for failure. When you embark on changing the instructional delivery model, you will have three distinct camps of teachers:

  • Early Adopters: These are your teachers who embrace the change and are off and running out of the gate.
  • Testers: These are teachers who are willing to “try” some things but will use the old instructional model as much as the new model.
  • Resistors: These are teachers who, for whatever reason, have not embraced the new model and are going to fight the change.

The smallest camp, by far, is your early adopters, yet they are your most influential. If you try and force the Testers and Resistors into immediate adoption, they will push back and have many more people in their camp to derail your program. Rather, you need to focus on the Early Adopters in Year One and begin to leverage their ability to influence the other two camps in years two and beyond. If you take this realistic approach, and use the people with the most influence to your advantage, your Tester and Resistor numbers will decrease with each passing year. Ultimately, three to four years down the road, the resistors (however many there are) need to go, because they will never embrace the change or the goals.

If you manage these three areas effectively, whether you are in the planning or implementation phases, you are well on your way to success—at least, this has been the case for both of my implementations!


Lenny Schad is chief information technology officer for the Houston Independent School District (ISD). During the previous nine years, Mr. Schad worked as chief information officer for the Katy ISD, a Houston-area district recognized nationally for technology innovation. Prior to joining Katy ISD, he spent seventeen years in the oil and gas sector.

Through Mr. Schad’s leadership, Katy ISD is in year three of a mobile-learning initiative at the elementary level, and public Wi-Fi became available at every K–12 campus beginning with the 2011–12 school year, allowing students and teachers to “bring their own device” to school. Mr. Schad has also been instrumental in developing both the technology plan and the budget for this initiative with his colleagues in Katy ISD.

Mr. Schad was selected as one of the National School Boards Association’s “20 to Watch” educators for 2008 and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) named him to its prestigious list of 2010 CoSN Volunteer Hall of Fame inductees.

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Digital Learning Series, Gear: Infrastructure & Technology, Gear: Teaching & Professional Learning

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