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Making Ed. Software Work

Piloting software with a small group before rolling it out to the whole district, gaining administrative support, and working with teachers to troubleshoot problems early on are essential steps to implementing district-wide software roll outs, say a group of district-level technology administrators in charge of such endeavors.

Ensuring a smooth transition to a new software program is imperative to securing teacher support and buy-in, says Jill Hobson, the director of instructional technology for the 34,000-student Forsyth County Public Schools in Georgia. And how fluid and easy the transition is depends largely on the initial planning phases of the roll out, she says. For example, districts should start by focusing on what kinds of problems need to be addressed when looking for new software. In addition, identifying the software characteristics, such as ease-of-use, is an important first step before selecting the software package that's right for each district. Next, "trailblazing" or piloting the software with a small group of teachers can help pinpoint challenges or glitches before rolling it out to all the teachers in a district, Hobson points out.

Eric Wonsidler, a technology integration specialist for the Parkway school district near St. Louis, emphasized the importance of sitting down with teachers to help them learn the software when it is first introduced. Creating templates that teachers can use and modify for their own uses is also helpful, he says. "You have to create something that's easy to start with," says Wonsidler. Instead of forcing teachers to adopt new software or technologies, it's more effective to sit down with them and see where technology can fit into the lessons they already have to teach, says Wonsidler.

Administrative support is also a key factor in successful implementation, the panelists agreed. Without support from district-level administrators and principals, software implementation can be a lengthy and cumbersome process.

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