Educator Panel: Engaging Teachers, Students In IT Sales Critical To K-12 Success

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Solution providers need to move beyond the superintendent and IT director and engage players in the classroom in order to get new technology successfully adopted and implemented in schools.

That was the message from a panel of educators at Synnex's Red, White & You public sector event last month in Atlanta.

"Unless the teachers and the students know how to use those [technologies] and are trained, we miss the boat," Sue Anne Link, an interim administrator at Greenville (S.C.) County Schools, told a couple of hundred solution providers at the event.

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Thomas Riddle, vice president and director of curriculum at the Shannon Forest Christian School in Greenville, S.C., said solution providers are concentrating too much on getting into the offices of the superintendent, tech evaluators and purchasing agents when they really should be focused on the needs of the students.

Riddle added that it's quite obvious when the technology in a classroom has been selected without ever consulting a person younger than 14.

"I've been in a lot of schools where there's great shining technology, and it sits there, because there hasn't been the training given to the staff or it's not engaging to the students," he said.

Donna Teuber, a team leader for technology integration in the Richland School District in Columbia, S.C., likened selling technology to school districts to a square dance, saying solution providers must move around to, and get feedback from, every constituency -- including the district office, IT department, engineers, teachers and students -- before asking for sign-off on the purchase.

"If you go to the grants coordinator or to the superintendent and it's just purchased immediately, no one has buy-in, and it's not going to be an effective implementation," Teuber said. 

Link said she tries to cast as broad a net as possible when determining how to best allocate technology funds, inviting not only tech-savvy teachers and administrators to the committee but also PTA members, students, Title I facilitators (focused on school and districts with many low-income families) and senior citizens to maximize buy-in and continued community support. 

And once the technology is purchased, Link said, it's vital that teachers and students be offered training not just on the first day but continuously.

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