A Guide for Technology Planning in K12 Districts and Schools
Technology: Change is Constant
Change is the only thing that remains constant with technology. We can all point to countless examples of how fast this change takes place. Here are a few changes to consider. One excellent example was an article posted February 4th 2014 on Forbes.com written by Eric Kane titled “On Its 10th Anniversary, Facebook Isn't Cool Anymore And That's Okay “. In the article, Eric contends “with social media, it’s glaringly obvious that the exclusivity is gone once everybody you know is on your Facebook feed.” His central argument is simply that what Facebook once was (cool), it doesn’t have to be any more because it is so ubiquitous. That also means that it won’t be the go to site it once was for the coolest kids. We live in an age where Facebook is considered passé by the youngest digital natives. Twitter has announced it will lay off 8 percent or approximately 300 workers. Keep in mind that once, upon a time in the technology landscape, dialup modems were all the rage. If that doesn’t give you a perspective on how fast technology changes, consider this. The class of 2028 is about to enter kindergarten. By the time that class is ready for college, over a quarter of the 21st century will be history. What will their expectations be when it comes to educational technology? In the era of ever tightening budgets and increased accountability from stakeholders, parents, board members, students and community members, how are teachers able to be proactive? The answer comes with careful planning and buy in from constituents. This is not the typical top down planning that is typical with school districts. I am instead referring to the type of thoughtful, necessary planning that teachers do every day. Consider this. Good planning is not technology dependent. The device or devices do not nor should they ever drive the planning process. Local stakeholders are always the best candidates for careful planning. The methods and strategies that follow are a compilation based on what I have seen work, and not work over the years as well as work done by the Maryland Technology Academy, Kankakee School District 111 and San Diego Unified School District.
Who This Hub is Written For:
If you are concerned with careful, thoughtful technology planning for a school district, school or classroom, read on. You will learn:
The resources you’ll need to carefully plan technology
Planning Strategies for non technical people
Avoiding the most common pitfalls in technology planning
The importance of understanding the culture
Planning: Why Bother?
Why is careful planning so important? Why should we even bother? What’s the point? In public education, we are all public servants whether we realize it or not. We are, by definition supposed to act in the public’s best interest. That includes being good stewards of public funds and assets entrusted to us to educate children.
Tools for the Job
It is always important to have the proper tools all set before starting a job. Some recommended resources or tools to have at your disposal would be State department of education website, the latest District Strategic Plan, feedback from principal, district leaders, teachers and students.
In show business, there’s a saying. “Will it play in Peoria?” In other words, the question is not “Is the joke funny on Broadway?” Peoria refers to the real America where people go to work everyday. If the joke isn’t considered funny by real everyday people, the show will be a flop. The same holds true for technology integration. Will it play in Peoria, is all about understanding the culture with which one exists first. For our purposes, we define culture as the collected set of beliefs and value system common to the community at large. When planning technology integration, begin at the beginning. The beginning is understanding your district/community culture. The next question that comes to mind is how does one go about understanding the culture? The answer is not simple. Here’s why. Example: Fantasyland Unified School District principals have gotten together and decided they would like to increase the amount of technology available to students and teachers. In order to do this, they realize they need the community’s backing in order to be successful and decide to have a series of town hall meetings inviting members of the community out to hear their (principal’s) ideas. Much to the principals’ dismay, five meetings are held and a grand total of five people show up. The effort of the principals to increase their district’s technology has been stopped dead in its tracks. Head scratching begins. Why did this turn out so bad? The question the principals did not ask themselves whether or not town hall meetings would be the best method to reach out to their target audience. Perhaps an online survey to find out what the preferred method of communication might be would have been better. Information given out at each local school site to students for example. Creating a clearly defined communication strategy to reach the target audience is essential. In order for the plan to be successful, first understand the culture that surrounds you.
Form Follows Function
Before we transition from step one, Understanding the Culture, to step two, Analyzing the need/Gap Analysis, there is an important point to make. Waiting for funding to be in place before completing these steps could prove to be very costly. I have spent over two decades in public education in the area of technology integration. I’ve seen the same mistake made in school districts of all sizes in different states. Typically, out of the blue, some grant will be awarded to the school district, or some other funding source will suddenly appear. Here’s where the fun begins. No one seems to have a plan to spend the money and thus begins the mad scramble to put together some sort of plan that may meet the criteria of the funding source before the deadline expires. Sometimes this “method” works. Most often it does not. Worse yet, school districts often have to explain to their community why they were unable to take advantage of a sudden opportunity. Form follows function. Have a plan in place whether or not funding is readily available.
One to One Technology Initiative
This is the part where, as a district, it is important to look in the mirror to examine everything, warts and all. The object is to see the big rocks and the small rocks. In other words, identify everything with regard to technology that gets in the way of delivering instruction. Some examples include, but are certainly not limited to teacher proficiency with technology, district network, and Internet access, lack of technology available or operational at school campuses. Utilizing a variety of sources summarize findings in a concise, non-technical format. Findings derived from a variety of sources should include, but are not limited to, fellow administrators and colleague interviews, planning sessions with the principals if doing technology planning at the building level rather than the district level, school improvement and technology plans, and student assessment results and scores. The necessity for advocates with different voices. It is important to keep in mind that the purpose of the Gap Analysis is to get an accurate snapshot or baseline to use as an honest reflection of the state of the district or school with regard to the present state of technology. Planning should be timeless in the sense that the planning process itself is not tied to a particular device but rather the process is guided by a collective vision, which is the next step.
Final thoughts on Gap Analysis: Consider the following guiding questions when doing a Gap Analysis:
Gaps in technology exist as evidenced by what?
Is a gap a roadblock or an opportunity not to be ignored?
Are there different gaps in different places within the same building or district? If so, what would be the best way to address them? Does one size fit all?
What are the possible data sources exist in order to do a gap analysis? Some examples could include Standardized test scores, benchmarks, attendance, online surveys, district strategic plan, state technology inventory, teachers, students, principals.
Students First and Foremost
The Whole "Vision" Thing
According to the Maryland Technology Academy, it is important to “develop a vision that incorporates a technology-enriched educational program focused on student learning. The vision should be based on current best practices, effective teaching methods, models of innovative technology infusion, and relevant school data as well as professional beliefs”- Why is this important? Stakeholders should agree in consensus in order to move forward with thoughtful focused technology integration. Once a common vision is in place, the more tactical (rather than strategic, which is what the focus has been up to this point) portion of the technology integration planning can take place. This would include identifying best practices for technology integration. The International Society for Technology in Education is an excellent source. Once this is all in place, student learning goals that can be measured must be clearly defined. Finally, the identification of appropriate instructional delivery methods must be decided.
As the reader has undoubtedly noticed, no mention of funding has been mentioned here. This was done on purpose by the author of this hub. Funding strategies will be covered in detail in a soon to be completed hub.