Empowering Leaders to Successfully Implement Instructional Technology
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Empowering Leaders to Successfully Implement Instructional Technology

Emily Dillard, Director of Instructional Technology, Alexandria City Public Schools
Emily Dillard, Director of Instructional Technology, Alexandria City Public Schools

Emily Dillard, Director of Instructional Technology, Alexandria City Public Schools

Emily Dillard currently works for Alexandria City Public Schools as the instructional technology director. She is responsible for the school division’s instructional technology and manages 19 technology integration experts who work in schools and provide professional learning around instructional technology, including digital citizenship. Emily previously worked as an elementary school teacher in both public and private institutions, as well as a K-8 academic technologist. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership.

What is the function of leadership in the implementation of educational technology?

Leadership is incredibly important when it comes to implementing instructional technology in a K-12 schools. The last two years, our school division focused heavily on Canvas, our learning management system (LMS), to support instruction. Our principals were involved in the process of creating templates for teachers to use, as well as setting expectations for their individual schools.  Due to this, the confidence level of school leaders grew while using the tools in a new way.

Principals and assistant principals are the leaders in their schools, and when they set the expectation that something is vital, students and teachers respond positively. It’s also critical for the school’s instructional technology specialist to establish a positive working relationship with school-based leaders to understand priorities, support their efforts, and collaboratively work to solve challenges.

Prior to COVID-19, many of the instructional technology tools available to staff were viewed as optional, and that’s changed in the last two years. As we rethink the benefits of virtual and hybrid instructional models, we also need to adjust how we could help our school administrators by providing them with the skills and confidence they need to execute their jobs in this new format. This includes making space for principals to discuss their needs and challenges together.

How did the pandemic impact leaders while implementing new structures in education?

The pandemic made everyone realize that virtual tools are no longer optional. Today, it is essential for leaders to understand the resources teachers have in place and when they are appropriate. We expanded our one-to-one program to include Pre-Kindergarten to second grade, which was not the case before the COVID-19 pandemic. While we are doing more virtually than ever before, we want to enhance, not replace, in-person experiences for our students.

  â€‹Leadership is incredibly important when it comes to implementing instructional technology in K-12 schools.   

To support our school leaders, we recently implemented a questionnaire to plan for future needs. We asked leaders about their needs for three different areas with our LMS: navigation, instructional leadership, and modeling expectations for their staff. We also provided space for additional feedback from our school leaders.

How do you envision the education space in the next 12 months?

The pandemic prompted innovative thinking in the education sector in order to deal with a crisis. As a result, I believe in the coming years we’ll see new technologies or the use of existing tools in new ways to solve unexpected challenges that will come as we emerge from the pandemic. 

In terms of our leadership, I hope their knowledge base and confidence will continue to increase over the next few years so they have a sense of ownership over the technology in their building. I’m looking forward to seeing where school leadership takes us and how it will help us improve the way we think about lesson planning, delivery of content, and supporting the unique needs of learners.

Would you like to give a piece of advice for beginners as to how they should approach this industry?

My advice would be to seek support from your school leaders when considering any project.  Not only will it give you a new lens to consider your plans, it is also vital to have a positive, trusting working relationship with them and including stakeholders in your planning increases this. It can be scary for any leader to step out of their comfort zone in front of their staff. Inclusion allows them to feel comfortable approaching you with questions they have and trusting that you’ll support them when you’re asking them to try something new. If you’re in a position like me, I’d suggest putting in the effort to build solid, trusting relationships with the leaders in your school buildings to maximize your efforts to support students.

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