How do we rethink the role of technology as a tool across systems?


The power of technology to provide educators and learners access to information and opportunities grows every day. As noted in the SRI report Using Technology to Personalize Learning in K–12 Schools, benefits include enhanced supports for teachers, enhanced learning and engagement for students; and more supportive and equitable learning cultures in schools and districts. It is also clear that technology will continue to play a central role in nearly all aspects of our lives over the coming years. Therefore, preparing students for career and life means, in some part, exposing them to meaningful technology while at school.


To make the best use of existing resources to ensure the best possible student outcomes, leadership teams must constantly reevaluate the role and use of technology in their schools, including inventorying their current technology practices before establishing new ones. Additionally, the online safety of students and staff should remain an important priority for districts seeking to boost learning, equity, and well-being.


  • DO NOW: Assess your current use of technology in the district and create a strengths and needs list.
  • DO NEXT: Create a strategic technology plan for advancing and growing the use of technology for teaching and learning in the district.


Before creating a new strategy that supports teaching and learning, it is important to arrive at clarity about the role of technology in the LEA.

Rethinking the Role of Technology

While more research is needed, there are signs pointing to technology’s power to personalize learning and meet the needs of students. While most agree on the ability of technology to provide experiences that lead to deeper learning, some educational institutions have yet to make the shift to more innovative approaches. To help, we offer some important considerations when it comes to rethinking the role of technology in schools: 

  • From devices to design. Historically, technology departments within school districts have largely focused on providing tech support to staff and servicing devices. A more student-centric approach will require greater collaboration with educators and a shift in focus away from devices to designing educational experiences that allow for or create opportunities for deeper learning. After all, of what use is a large amount of devices if they are not being used effectively?
  • From top-down to collaborative. Gone are the days in which technology departments could work in isolation and dictate systems and procedures to LEA staff and students. In our connected world where technology is ubiquitous, technologists must now be excellent collaborators who learn about staff and student needs, invite feedback, create engagement, and have a service orientation. Technology steering committees and ongoing workgroups can aid in technology integration and adoption. 
  • From student consumption to production. Access to information remains an important component of equitable learning. But to prepare students for their futures, technology needs to facilitate not only access to information but the ability to produce content and showcase their learning. For example: students can use technology to collaborate with each other and display their learning via digital portfolios or other presentations of learning. 
  • From reactive to strategic. As the complexity and pervasiveness of technology increases, LEAs may want to ensure that technology leadership within their districts has a direct line to district leadership. Chief Technology Officers (or equivalent) are most valuable when they sit at the cabinet level, where they can ensure technology efforts are aligned to core values and strategic frameworks. They can play an important role in bridging instructional approaches and operational needs as their responsibilities generally straddle multiple areas, such as instructional support, administrative support, data systems and management, online security, staff training, research and development, and procurement and negotiation of contracts.

Planning, Launching, and Sustaining the Use of Technology

Below is a summary of considerations for planning, launching, and sustaining the use of technology in an impactful manner at your LEA. 



  • Distribute devices. Distribute devices to all students who do not have a device and/or connectivity at home. If you will be collecting devices back throughout the year or having students share devices, create a plan for sanitizing and refurbishing. 
  • Train students, families, caregivers, and educators on technology use. Ensure every stakeholder is trained on the use of devices and programs. Launch all technology training for students, families, caregivers, and staff in multiple languages. Use surveys to determine where additional support will be necessary.
  • Provide ongoing tech support and maintenance. Launch tech support and maintenance, including a helpdesk protocol and online support portal, so all stakeholders receive timely, high-quality support. 
    • Ensure all hardware and software providers supporting the school system are prepared.
    • Track the number and types of questions to determine where the school system may need to focus or provide additional support.
    • Survey tech support users to determine how to improve the tech support process.
  • Run an improvement cycle focused on implementation. Collect the relevant data to monitor which stakeholders need access and training to reach goals.
  • Run an improvement cycle focused on ensuring the accessibility and functioning of devices and programs. Continue providing high-quality tech support and maintenance services.

Online Safety

Learners are online more than ever and facing increased threats to their safety and privacy. As system-level leaders, it is important to provide as many safeguards and assurances as you can for families and learners. We’ve compiled a series of steps to help you plan for the most secure online experiences. We also encourage you to look to leading online platforms, such as Zoom, for their guidance.


  • Work to understand your current security and safety measures with your technology staff. 
  • Understand the current vendors and tech providers you engage with.  Review current vendors’ data interoperability and online safety measures. Be sure that there is documentation so that, if there is a breach or issue, you are aware of the existing policies in place.
  • Articulate a plan for responding to threats to system-level and student online safety and security. While nothing is fool-proof and there are different threats emerging everyday, working to create as much online safety as possible is necessary in an increasingly connected and online-world. As more and more students move online, we need to ensure that safety is explicitly taught and secured through specific measures.
  • Create a response system for new threats or issues. Define steps to take  if there is a threat to students’ online safety. 
  • Communicate the plan to the community. In a user-friendly way communicate plans and expectations to students, family, and staff. 
  • Provide support and training for educators in online safety. Educators may have varying levels of understanding about online safety.  Be sure that they are aware of the policies in place and how to best protect their students when designing and delivering online learning. 


  • How do you currently utilize and deploy technology in your district?
  • What are your highest needs when it comes to access and equity? How are you considering this when using your technology budget? 
  • What are the benefits you achieve from technology? Does the technology allow more students to participate at a level that is suitable for them? Does it encourage broader participation? Will this help all students think and learn more deeply?
  • How does or will this tech empower students to control their own learning? How will you monitor this? 
  • How are you ensuring that great tech learning doesn’t stamp out great analog learning? How are you ensuring all students have access to technology and its benefits?
  • Is technology represented at the cabinet level at your district? Why or why not?
  • What supports do your teachers need to use technology and blended learning to improve student outcomes? Who are the technology champions that you can learn from and who can help empower others to apply best practices?
  • How important is digital citizenship to you? How will you ensure that students understand the power and consequences of technology? 
  • How are you ensuring safety for learners and families when using technology?