When thinking about improving instructional technology in a school district, there are many complicated discussions and questions that are thrown about in an effort to bring access for students. As school districts plan for their E-Rate applications and look to the future of improving technology in their districts, I contend that there are only 4 simple questions that every district should ask before tackling this immense task.
- Do we have a plan…a community plan?
K-12 public education is notorious for spending incredible amounts of tax payer dollars on large projects. Often school districts have to ask parents and community members to approve tax increases and to approve spending for large building and technology improvements. Clearly, as students need more access to various technological platforms for learning and achievement, technology needs tend to go above and beyond the classroom. School districts needs to consider the instructional needs of teachers, safety aspects, IoT implementation, and what kinds of technologies will be needed to run the day-to-day operations of the school.
When considering a technology plan, be sure to reach out to the school community…parents, teachers, students, community members, businesses, and other school community stakeholders to ensure that the technology plan is sustainable, cost efficient, and appropriate for the school community. This will help you to make sure you don’t spend more than necessary and you have the appropriate level of technology in place to meet community, state, and federal expectations.
- Technology? Why do you even need it?
What is point of putting a tablet in the hands of every elementary school child? Does every campus in your district need wireless access? What kinds of instruction are we expecting from our teachers after we make this purchase? As you develop your plan, be sure you are asking the right kinds of questions instead of simply purchasing technology that is popular or competes with what the school district next door is doing. There is plenty of instructional technology research available to help guide your decisions, and this information should be included in your community plan. Technology is expensive and should not be purchased for the sake of simply having it available. Make sure you need it and have a plan for how you are going to use it.
- What are we going to purchase?
After you establish your community plan and make a firm decision on why you want and need the technology you intend to buy, it is the time to decide on the products. This is important because you need to spend time evaluating your current holdings and decide if the infrastructure that you have in place is appropriate for the goals your community established in the technology plan. Having the right amount of bandwidth to cover multiple devices is important, and you will need to study the implications for expanding your wireless infrastructure. If you plan on purchasing tablets or laptops, research their durability, longevity, and if they are appropriate for the level of instructional technology you intend to provide for students.
- Do we have the right people and partners in place?
This is by far the most important question to ask. You could have the best and latest technology in place, but it will sit on desks and in boxes like expensive paperweights if you don’t make sure you have properly trained teachers and personnel to use what was purchased. As part of your implementation plan, make sure you have a comprehensive, and ongoing, training and staff development plan for both teachers and students. If you want to get the most out of tax payer dollars and truly make a long-term investment in your students, train your teachers on how to use the devices and have a strong team of technology specialists available to troubleshoot any problems that may arise.