“A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lau Tzu
Congratulations! Your district is about to take a fantastic journey that, when complete, will help every single student and provide a professional roadmap for every single employee in your district for years to come.
But first … there is an important journey that your district must go on first!
As Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland, “Begin at the beginning, and when you get to the end: then stop.”
For a district looking to rethink, reimagine, and recreate the learning activities that happen in the classroom, the first step is to look in the mirror and decide who they are at the beginning of this process. To do this properly, the district must create a holistic abstract of their district from both the internal and external viewpoints of what they want a classroom to look like in the form of a District Snapshot.
Keeping in mind that the journey that your district is about to embark on is the direct answer and response to its Strategic Goals, the purpose of the District Snapshot should be to begin to start to answer the question “How is my district going to meet the needs and challenges laid out and agreed upon in our Strategic Plan as well as our Vision and Mission Statement?”
What is a District Snapshot?
A school district snapshot is a document, report, or infographic that showcases where a district is at any time.
A snapshot might be simple to put together or might take months to put together depending on the information requested by the district.
How Does a District Snapshot Work?
A district snapshot is a self-assessment tool that provides decision-makers the opportunity to look at and analyze data based on several criteria. Over time, data is collected from various stakeholders.
Where no two district snapshots are identical in how they are created or the data in them, best results from snapshots come in a combination of charts, graphics, and written statements that can be easily understood by a community-wide audience.
Creating a Single Focus Question
At the heart of any district, a snapshot is a single focus question that is trying to be answered.
Examples of a centralized focus question are:
- What is the overall makeup of our school district?
- How can we properly redistrict our students due to the increase of low-income housing?
- How do we want to effectively distribute next year’s budget funds across all our school buildings to meet the needs of our Title I students?
No matter what the focus question is, once it is created and agreed upon a series of questions will help you create a story that helps you determine the answer to your focus question.
Formulating Your Instructional Technology Focus Question
When it comes to creating a snapshot of your district’s instructional technology use, it is important to not drill too deep with your focus or supporting questions. At this point, the goal is to get a broad overview of how technology (both hardware and software) is being used in classrooms to support students.
Additionally, doing an instructional technology snapshot of a district provides an invaluable opportunity to poll your community to get a temperature of the district’s comfortability towards the instructional changes that are going to be affected by this process.
Examples of Instructional Technology and Digital Learning Focus Questions:
- In what areas of my school district is Instructional Technology being used effectively?
- In what areas of my school district is Instructional Coaching being seen as Successful?
- Is there a correlation between the amount of technology (hardware) funding provided to a school building and the amount of professional development provided?
EdTech Integration District Snapshot Questions
When planning on your survey questions, it’s important to have a wide variety of topics. District surveys such as these will be needed to be completed by stakeholders of several expert levels and it’s best to have questions that can be answered by those directly affected by the snapshot and the program that is being developed.
- What are some of the key motivators for your district's Technology Integration Plan?
- How is Professional Development set up in your school/district?
- How does Teacher Feedback play a role in Technology Integration decisions?
- What is going well for your school district’s Prof Dev program?
- What would you like to improve about your school district's Prof Dev program?
While the questions above are perfect for getting a general idea of instructional technology use and best practices in district-provided professional development, your district survey should also include data on topics such as:
- District Overview
- Vision, Mission & Beliefs
- Strategic Plan
- District Profile
- District History
- Student Population
- Free WIFI Coverage in the community
- Staff Wants/Interests
- Community Wants/Interests
A notable example of a District Snapshot is the Bensenville School District 2 About page that provides a complete overview of who the district is, what they believe in, and where they want to go.
Who should you ask questions to?
A District Snapshot has many qualities of a traditional community survey, but I do not recommend treating the two in the same way or ever confusing the two.
Where it is true that much of the data from your survey can be found easily in budget reports and by having conversations with department and community leaders, the best way to get a true snapshot of your community is to have simple conversations with as many people as possible.
As an instructional coach, I often find myself having meaningful conversations with teachers on a variety of topics. During these conversations, I often slip in a few “snapshot questions” to get a feel of where the teacher is on the subject.
By doing this, you can get information and data that you are seeking without the need to conduct a formal survey of your staff. This also allows the staff member to be a part of the project and provide feedback without the need to do a formal survey that takes time out of their day.
When creating your District Snapshot, you should plan to include as many members of the community as possible to get a wide variety of answers.
Participants in the District Snapshot could be:
- Central Office
- Office Workers
- Support Staff
- Central Office Staff
- Department Leaders
- Certified Staff
- Non-School Personnel
- Community Leaders
- Leaders of Community Buildings
- Community Members
How Can Your District Snapshot Support Instructional Coaching?
In creating your ideal Instructional Coaching program, your District Snapshot (District Profile) is the first tool that is needed to craft what the ultimate role and function of your instructional coaches will be. It not only serves as an overview of how the district sees itself, but how those inside the district see themselves.
Looking Beyond the District Snapshot
When creating a plan and pathway for creating a new way of delivering instruction in classrooms, the district snapshot is a vital tool in collecting and analyzing data about where the community would like to see instruction in years to come.
The next step in the process is to analyze your data and decide how you would like to tell your district's story through it. From this point, your district is ready to create an outline of what it would like the final project to be and what it would like to see inside of the final report.