Brittany Firestone

Using Pilot Teams to Drive Canvas Adoption in Elementary Schools

Blog Post created by Brittany Firestone Employee on Dec 15, 2019

For the past two years, I have had the opportunity to promote Canvas adoption in elementary schools across a large school district. While many schools were excited to learn more about Canvas and create a roadmap for implementation, others seemed more hesitant. It can be intimidating rolling out new technology, and often schools are faced with barriers including a lack of time or resources that can lead to resistance. As a solution to this obstacle, three of the schools I support decided to try something not so new during the 2018-19 school year, using pilot teams, to build capacity in Canvas.  


Pilot teams are an awesome way to build an army of Canvas early adopters who become the go-to digital teacher leaders on campus! These digital leaders can then help drive future school-wide technology adoption. While helping facilitate pilot teams was not part of my initial consultant offerings, it came to be out of growing demand from the schools I was supporting.


Pilot Team Members


At each of my three elementary schools who chose to introduce Canvas with Pilot Teams, the composition of the teams varied. Pilot team members were either nominated by school leadership or self-selected to participate. One school chose to have one teacher representative from each grade level PLC including special areas, another selected a single grade level to participate joined by an instructional coach, and the final team was composed of an instructional coach in addition to pairs of teachers from the intermediate grade levels at the school.

Pilot Team Models

Pilot Team Model


At each of the three Canvas pilot team schools, the framework for Canvas adoption appeared very similar. I would meet with school leadership to develop the team’s Canvas goals and schedule a series of visits to work with the team on topics relating to the selected goals.  Sometimes I would meet with the entire team at once, or other times team members would be grouped to meet with me throughout the day to minimize the need for substitute coverage in the classroom. During the sessions, we would focus on the selected topics to develop and enhance Canvas courses including Developing a Homepage, Building Robust Modules, Assignments & Speedgrader, Using External Tools, and Quizzes 2.0. Pilot team members would use their course with students, reflect and refine the activities, then demonstrate how they were using Canvas with their PLC team and other teachers at their school. During subsequent sessions, the team would continue to develop their course while being introduced to other Canvas topics.



Moving Forward


Several members from the 2018-19 Canvas pilot teams at the three schools have now become digital teacher leaders during the 2019-20 school year, helping roll-out Canvas as the official LMS at their school sites. These schools find it helpful to have teachers who are comfortable with the technology supporting their colleagues by helping lead professional development and being available to answer questions from their colleagues who are just getting started with Canvas. Recently, I was so excited to be contacted by one of my pilot team members who was preparing resources for supporting her grade level team with Canvas. This year, her school will go from having 7 teachers using Canvas to over 60!


While technology adoption looks different at every institution, I would love to hear back from you!  Have your schools used pilot teams to develop capacity in digital teacher leaders? How does this model look in your school?