Scott Kinney HeadshotThe routine is the same:  whenever I leave home, I gather my wallet, keys, and check the gas gauge. Most importantly, I make sure I have a map.

There was a time when maps were paper, often inaccurate, and impossible to fold.  Now, with the advent of the smartphone, my roadmaps are digital, always up-to-date, and they fit into my pocket. Today’s maps even talk to me!

On the road from static, hardcopy textbooks to dynamic, digital content, maps play a key role.  Not just because they provide a great, real-world analogy that illustrates the advantages of digital media but because, on a deeper level, talking about maps in this context highlights the importance of knowing where you are going on the journey to authentic digital learning environments.

In school systems across the country as diverse as South Carolina’s Rock Hill Schools, Michigan’s Utica Community Schools, and North Carolina’s Wake County Schools, innovative school leaders have successfully mapped out their journey to the digital transition.  Here are some of the steps I’ve seen educators at these successful school systems take:

Clearly articulated educational goals. Before any journey begins, it is important to know where you are going.  A succinct description of goals and a vision for meeting those goals, when shared with teachers, students, parents, administrators, community members and others stakeholders, creates a powerful sense of unity and purpose.

A clear plan aligning professional development to goals. The next part of this journey entails providing customized, job-embedded professional development that aligns to district-wide efforts and is implemented with fidelity.  High quality professional development will empower teachers to support new initiatives and more effectively incorporate new technologies into classroom instruction.  In addition, this will better enable educators to change and/or refine their classroom practice, incorporate new resources, and meet new goals.

A comprehensive content strategy. With professional development addressed, the next stop on this journey is to create a comprehensive strategy that offers teachers high-quality, standards-based digital content, accessible from all platforms and embedded in district pacing and scope and sequence documents. Without this strategy in place, school systems run the risk of questionable content being integrated unevenly into classroom instruction.

An access strategy. This is the point in the journey at which I’ve seen educators create a strategy to provide access to digital content.  To create a successful access strategy, school administrators should consider a variety of questions: Is the IT infrastructure adequate? What types of devices should we use? Should we go BYOD? Should we go 1:1? Educational goals should be the key driver for these types of technological decisions.

An evaluation/continuous improvement plan. A rigorous method of analyzing and monitoring progress, that also addresses deficiencies, ensures all educators stay on the right road.  Successful transitions I’ve seen include plans to implement, change, and promote continuous improvement.

With any journey, there will be twists and turns, unexpected stops, and sometime, well, breakdowns.  However, with a map, you will know where you are going, how to get there and ultimately reach your destination successfully.