Today on Digital Learning Day, we celebrate the use of digital technology to meet the diverse needs of children across our nation! In honor of this day, we asked the 2021 NASSP Digital Principals of the Year to offer their thoughts on how school leaders can best integrate digital technology in their schools and curricula.

Be Thoughtful and Intentional

  • “School leaders should take their time and choose the best online curriculum to support their programs. Prior to purchase of any new curriculum, make sure to analyze the demonstration models and have a few staff and students walk through a pilot.” – Cindy Cromwell, principal of Kelso Virtual Academy in Longview, WA
  • “Prioritize the technology your staff and students are already using. As building leaders, we manage the digital tools to which our teams have access. Focus on the tools that will bring the greatest benefit to your students and staff. When we have too many choices, our effectiveness wanes due to decision fatigue. Limit and prioritize the most effective tools!” – Trevor Goertzen, principal of Spring Hill Middle School in Spring Hill, KS
  • “In Digital Learning, less is more. There are so many resources that will fit your needs as a teacher. You can get completely sucked into the latest and greatest apps and digital supports and lose the essence of what you are looking to do. It is important to embrace the ‘less is more’ mentality to keep you focused on being intentional and specific about what you are trying to achieve and what you will need to get the desired outcome for students.” – Marcus Belin, principal of Huntley High School in Huntley, IL
  • “Get good at what you have before you start exploring other options. Fight the temptation to start using new tools before needed, yet always keep your eyes and ears open to trends and use research-based guides to help lead you. Additionally, have a system in place to assess new options, and engage frontline users in the decision-making process.” – Trevor Goertzen

Provide Training and Continued Support to Students and Staff

  • “Take the time to train and coach your teams on how to use the tools. Ensure the systems are being correctly used before having students log on. Nothing is more frustrating than digital tools that do not work correctly or that staff is not trained correctly on.” – Trevor Goertzen
  • “Provide staff with the time and training to practice using the technology tools and curriculum. For a bonus, incorporate training orientations for students and their parents to familiarize [themselves with] and practice using the technology prior to the start of a new online implementation. Double Bonus: Record the orientation, and post it on various district, school, and teacher websites as well as online classrooms.” – Cindy Cromwell
  • “Review acceptable internet usage policies and safety protocols with students. It is critical we teach our expectations in this new online world by keeping kids safe on their devices and ensuring positive practices for virtual interactions.” – Cindy Cromwell
  • “Have a ‘Support Registry’ for staff, students, and families identifying critical contacts when help is needed such as what they do if they are having a device issue, trouble with passwords or logging into platforms, links to Zoom or Google Meet are not working, and curriculum issues. Remember to include both email addresses and phone numbers. An additional tip is to include a problem-solving guide for the most common support concerns that arise and ideas to troubleshoot the issues.” – Cindy Cromwell

Work With Teachers

  • Challenge teachers to be intentional about the learning spaces they create in their classrooms. Creating a physical space in the classroom that supports digital learning is just as key as engaging in digital learning. If the space doesn’t support a strong infrastructure, students will easily move toward frustration, and the move toward digital learning will not be successful. School leaders should be intentional in supporting digital learning physically and by giving adequate time for teachers to engage and receive professional development.” – Marcus Belin
  • “Develop student leaders into teachers. When students are challenged to learn a digital platform, they can find ways to leverage their knowledge and help others and explore and learn something new that can take the engagement to a different level. A teacher is one person. If the educator can allow students the space to learn and teach others what they learned, the depth of what students are engaged in becomes deeper and more meaningful.” – Marcus Belin
  • “Allowing the space for students to explore and have space and time to apply their knowledge using digital media and tools is beneficial to their growth. Allowing time for teachers to explore and create will foster a focus on the importance of digital learning in the classroom.” – Marcus Belin

About the Author

Marcus Belin is the principal of Huntley High School in Huntley, IL, and a 2021 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year.

Cindy Sholtys-Cromwell is the principal of H Kelso Virtual Academy in Longview, WA, and a 2021 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year.

Trevor Goertzen is the principal of Spring Hill Middle School in Spring Hill, KS, and a 2021 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year.

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