Washington district puts forward a unified approach to digital integration

Commentary: At Vancouver Public Schools in Washington, the technology staff is tackling digital integration through three strategic teams.

It is rare that things go exactly as planned after school systems select or purchase new digital content, services and tools. Therefore, building a culture of shared understanding and cross-departmental responsibility for how digital integration is approached can be crucial to the success of any digital strategy.

In a recent webinar, technology leaders from Vancouver Public Schools in Washington shared their processes for selecting and integrating digital content and resources to ensure effective implementations.

For those at the forefront of digital integration at Vancouver Public Schools, it was frustrating to turn away new resources when they lacked a process for proper vetting, evaluation and implementation. The integration of digital content and resources presents not just a technical challenge, but an adaptive one, so the solution revolved around becoming unified and building a shared understanding regarding that integration.

“In some ways, there’s two dynamics with culture,” said Mark Ray, director of innovation and library services for Vancouver Public Schools and Future Ready Librarians Lead at the Alliance for Excellent Education. “One is that if you don’t implement digital resources effectively, it undermines the culture of schools and districts … but at the same time, you also have to create a culture within your leadership teams and among schools so that everybody sees themselves in the work of implementing digital content.”


The technology staff at Vancouver Public Schools decided they needed three teams to achieve the systematic approach they were looking for: a digital advisory team (DAT), digital integration team (DIT), and digital evaluation team (DET).

The DAT is where the shared culture of digital integration begins. It aims to build a shared understanding and ownership of digital content across all teams. This team develops a process to identify, vet and recommend digital content prior to a purchase, and ensures compatibility with existing content.

DAT also reviews specifics like the proposal details collected from the sponsor, resources already in place, audience, available funding and more. After a review, the resource is either given the go-ahead for implementation or is sent to DIT for further review.

DIT investigates what it will take to integrate any given digital resource into the existing system. After a review here, this team comes back with a rating for the level of difficulty or intensity of the integration of the resource.

This team also sends a technical survey to the vendor, many times followed by a call or meeting to review additional details of that resource. “A lot of times … we meet either face to face or in a webinar with the vendors and their technical teams. [During] that face to face on the technical side, we found some really significant advantages to using this particular vendor and roster in a whole different way than we even knew was possible up front when we reviewed it in DAT,” said Zach Desjarlais, director of instructional technology for the district, describing a recent product reviewed by DIT.


After the call or meeting, next steps are determined: even further review — or a recommendation to DAT to move forward with the resource.

DET, working with all things data, develops processes for evaluating digital content, measures efficacy of implementations and informs decision-making, training and evaluation. According to Bridget Hildreth, performance and evaluation analyst at Vancouver Public Schools, that last part is very important. The technology needs to work, of course, but is it being used and delivered powerfully and in the best way possible?

The team also integrates and addresses qualitative feedback from end users as a critical part of the process. Teachers may feel as though the resource is not working, while students may feel something entirely different. This qualitative feedback can ultimately have significant benefits for teachers and other users when it comes back at a frequency to be able to act as reassurance that the resource is working.

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This broadcast was hosted by and sponsored by Digital Promise.

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