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Changing teaching practices is a crucial component of a successful digital conversion

Meeting the needs of the individual learner requires a broader focus than device selection
Scott Drossos
Scott Drossos

Scott Drossos, Senior Vice President, McGraw-Hill Education Digital Partnerships

An increasing number of educators are understanding that to implement a successful digital conversion, rather than focusing solely on providing access to technology, administrators must focus instead on creating personalized learning outcomes that are the result of more effective digital teaching strategies. A prime example of the need for this shift was the recent technology deployment in the Los Angeles USD. The focus of that 1-to-1 iPad initiative was selecting and deploying technology, not the needs of the learner or transforming teaching. As a result, that rollout failed.
Administrators should instead ask more important and complex questions:

  • How will I measure the impact of my digital conversion?
  • What are our greatest needs in terms of learning?
  • How are our students progressing?

Success cannot be measured in the number of devices or amount of bandwidth in a district. As administrators address how to answer those questions, they also need to figure out which digital learning resources, tools and strategies are necessary to make the conversion a success. It’s not good enough to just add a learning management system to your devices or simply convert traditional textbooks to digital. In districts where these decisions have been the entire strategy, there has been a struggle to make a real impact on learning. That mindset assumes that every teacher can make the leap to a self-created digital learning environment on their own.

Success happens when there is a balance between structured and unstructured practices, and licensed and unlicensed resources. It is too difficult for most districts to remove everything and start from scratch. When making investments, administrators should choose digital resources that will have the highest impact. And what they choose should work with other systems already in place in the district.
Of course, when undergoing a digital conversion, you need to set up an infrastructure of networks, and access points and filters, but once that’s done, it’s done. The most significant change needs to be ongoing: addressing the needs of learners and teachers.

During the next 18 to 24 months of a digital conversion initiative, district leaders will be implementing core digital learning programs in order to leverage the technical investments they have made. Those investments, plus the requirements of the next generation of assessments, are driving many to create a purely digital learning environment.

In that environment, teachers will experience the ease of real-time classroom monitoring. These resources, such as those offered by McGraw-Hill Education, enable educators to see where students are in the moment. It’s immeasurably easier for teachers to be able to understand what every student knows and doesn’t know, and to then adjust teaching accordingly, creating truly personalized learning. That is impossible without technology. It is difficult for many to think about teaching in such a different way, but impacting student learning is much easier with digital assistance.

Accelerating student learning and improving teaching need to be the goals of any digital conversion. The investments and challenges associated with such a change are not insignificant, and in order to achieve real progress, any initiative needs to extend beyond simply moving a class here or a student there to the digital world. Whole school systems can see rapid improvement of learning outcomes with an effective digital conversion.

There is a lot of value and importance in having a third-party expert who understands what it means to make that digital conversion advise the school system. It is easy to ask another district what resources they used and mimic those choices, but that doesn’t mean your district will be successful. To make a systemic change, engage with a knowledgeable and experienced partner that is devoted to changing teaching practices and supporting your digital conversion in a way that will make a real impact. 

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