In order to foster new program adoption and engagement you need to do one thing—talk about the program regularly. It may seem overly simple, but the things that we talk about regularly are the things that remain top of mind.
Though an exact number can not be calculated, it is believed that approximately 67% of software licences go unused each year. There are many reasons for this including lack of awareness, limited time, insufficient training, misalignment between needs and resources, and general program overload.
When rolling out a new program teachers will often participate in a training session. Far too often that training session is the first and last time they hear about the program in a structured way. Sometimes there isn’t even a training session. Instead, teachers are selecting from a list of approved and adopted resources that they can explore and opt into if they choose, sometimes completing training modules for those tools and other times just figuring it out on their own.
If you have a program that you want to be used by a large number of teachers consistently over the school year, you need to build in time for that program to be talked about on a regular basis. Talking about the program will not only keep it top of mind, but will also create an accountability loop that promotes usage.
When and how to talk about the program(s) regularly:
- Program Introduction- ideally teachers have been a part of the program selection process and can speak to their colleagues about why they like the program and how they envision using it in the classroom. If this has not been the case it will be especially important to spend time explaining why the program was selected and highlighting how teachers will be supported in using it (ie. training, intentional scheduling, etc.).
- Program Trainings- be sure that adequate training time has been added to the calendar ahead of time. For most programs more than one training will be necessary. Since the first training will be prior to any use in the classroom, a second training a few months into the school year can dive more deeply into questions rooted in actual experiences with the program, rather than just a how-to. After teachers are up and running, these trainings do not even need to include program representatives. Instead teachers that are more active on the program than others can share their tips and strategies and answer questions.
- Teacher Collaboration-it is critical that teachers have time to share with one another about their experiences with the programs they are using. Specifically it is important to talk about what’s working well and what isn’t. These conversations help limit the amount of trial and error that inevitably takes place any time a new program is being integrated into the classroom routine. Learning from one another allows teachers and students to benefit from the program more quickly. It is important to set everyone up for success here by asking a few teachers ahead of time to share their experience. Early on it will be most helpful to ask those who are finding value in the program to share so they can help inspire others to give it a shot.
- Feedback- usage data will tell part of the story, but in order to truly understand the value (or lack thereof) of a program it is critical to engage teachers in an open dialogue about it. In addition to broad questions like, “how do you like it” and “how are things going with [program]” consider the following:
- Which groups of students seem to be benefiting most from the program? What evidence makes you draw that conclusion?
- Which groups of students seem to be benefiting least from the program? What evidence makes you draw that conclusion?
- What feedback would you like to share with the program staff?
- In what ways is the program easy to use? Difficult to use?
As with anything, creating regular times to “talk” about the things we want to or need to be doing helps hold us accountable to actually making those things happen. This year bring this same mindset to program adoption and you are bound to see positive results and learn about current teacher and student needs in the process.