One question I hear more than any other on a local level, no matter how individuals react personally, is "Why does your school site seem to have more technology than other sites?"
The answer to this question is short and sweet: It seems like we have more because we do.
A more productive question to ask is "How did your school site acquire so many technology resources?"
The answer to this question is also, at it's heart, short and sweet: We have resources because we have a vision and a plan. Without either one of those, our school would be experiencing a dearth of technology just like many other sites. So, how to you create a vision and where do you get a plan? Establish a committee and get busy. Here are some thoughts about how we did it at my school...
Developing a Vision
- What should students be able to do?
- How should students be able to learn?
- How should students be able to exhibit their learning?
- How will student learning be shared?
Authoring a Plan
- What types of technology do students need access to?
- How broad should the access be in order to provide sufficient opportunities for student use?
- Will our platform consist of only one type of technology or will multiple platforms be in use?
Once the logistical questions are answered, a purchasing plan must be developed in order to take a school from being an institution with a theoretical tech plan to an actual one. Developing and executing the purchasing aspect of a school site's technology plan can feel a lot like a wicked game of Tetris. This video pretty much sums it all up:
Suggestions to Help You Carry Out a Workable Plan
1. Budget Creatively and Consult Often
Leadership styles and structures seem to vary per site, even within the same district. For example, at my school site there is a leadership team that is representative of all departments on campus, a school site council representative of all the stakeholders, and administration who ultimately juggles the decision-making based on what's best for the students as a whole. The administration at my site appointed Technology Committee members to develop a vision, create a plan, and execute purchasing recommendations for available funds. My husband teaches in the same district and the administration at his site chooses to make the lion's share of the budgetary decisions on campus, running the yearly budget by stakeholders only as a formality. His school site does not have much technology in circulation for general student use, which I think is a testament to the budgetary effectiveness of the leadership style of his administration - at least as far as technology purchasing is concerned.
Technology must be made a priority. Allocate funds creatively in order to ensure that tech purchasing is funded. For example, if you have a large population of English Language Learners at your school, then allocate ELAP funds for tech that can be used by this demographic. At a district level, funds may be freed up in the "textbooks" category, since many publishers have online, interactive, or PDF versions of their publications. Grants are always wonderful, but in their absence, you need to get creative.
2. Diversify Your Platform
While there are certainly benefits to having students utilize a uniform platform, it is not always necessary. For example, more than one kind of device can utilize Web 2.0 tools, online learning management systems (Edmodo, Schoology), online discussion forums (Today's Meet, Socrative), collaborative cloud spaces (i.e. Google Drive, Dropbox), etc. However, in my experience, when it comes to making movies, podcasting, or doing other tasks higher up on the SAMR Scale of technology implementation, iOS devices are fairly unparalleled. Providing access to adequate amounts of a variety of devices will help you spend your money wisely. If you're not familiar with SAMR, here's a graphic:
3. Sustainability is Key
A technology plan must include a strategy for sustainability. A certain percentage of the existing technology on campus should (and more than likely, will have to be) replaced every year. There definitely needs to be funding for maintenance, because cords will break, batteries will die, screens will crack, etc. Plus, whatever plan you implement needs to grow the amount of technology on campus each year. Decide to grow and sustain technology simultaneously. If you're dealing with mobile devices, the cost of apps should also be addressed.
4. Roll Out to Advanced Users First
If there is technology that is completely new to your school, roll it out to first to advanced technology users - teachers who have already demonstrated excellent competency when implementing educational technology in their classrooms. Set these classrooms up as model classrooms. There are two major benefits to this:
- Pilot teachers will become experts in the new technology and will be able to scaffold others
- Teachers at large can visit the model classroom to see the new technology in action
After a reasonable pilot, release the new technology for general use and support teachers as they begin to implement.
5. Don't Forget the P.D.
An often overlooked component of effective technology plans is including funds for professional development. When technology stagnates, it is usually because staff do not receive the implementation support they need. Identify on-site experts who can provide training at the district hourly rate, or carefully choose local/regional experts to come in and offer professional development. Conferences can be a good source of ideas, strategies, and professional dialogue. Consider sending delegates to local ed tech conferences, with the caveat that attendees must bring back ideas to present whole-staff.
I've served on the Technology Committee at my school site since it's inception three years ago. This year, I'm also serving on the PSUSD's Technology Committee to provide input as the district Technology Plan is rewritten. I can definitely tell you that there is no "easy" button that will make the process of developing, writing, and executing a technology plan easier. However, you can definitely avoid some problem areas by taking the points in this post into consideration.
What things do you think are important to consider when developing a technology plan? Does your school site have a Technology Committee? If so, how does it function? I'd love to continue this conversation, so feel free to comment on this post and/or hit me up on Twitter @Packwoman208.