Congratulations: Your school has established a common vision for educational technology, and all stakeholders agree that the use of information and communication technology is critical to the mission. Now it’s time to identify the technology that will help your organization realize its vision.
Consider these five factors when selecting classroom technology:
Factor #1: Student Achievement Goals
Your school improvement plan is fundamental to the selection of classroom technology. There are some great solutions for improving performance and achieving outcomes. For example, graphing calculators and probeware can visually enrich lessons and provide immediate feedback in math and science courses, and teachers of reading can use document cameras, interactive whiteboards, software and websites for improving literacy skills.
Factor #2: Budget Considerations
Consider your funding sources and their availability. A one-time allocation of funds requires the selection of technology with a long lifespan. But technology can be replaced more often if funds are available on a recurring basis. Don’t forget to budget for professional development, technology support, infrastructure, retrofitting classrooms and installations.
Factor #3: Equitable Access
All students, staff and leaders must have “robust and reliable access to current and emerging technologies and digital resources.” Universal access can be achieved with an infrastructure that brings connectivity to all learning spaces, or by equipping all learning spaces with document cameras and projectors.
Factor #4: Classroom Conditions
Consider the technology capacity of your classrooms. For a 1-to-4 computer-student ratio or a notebook initiative, make sure there is enough real estate and electrical capacity in the classroom. Also, check the location of electrical outlets; if computers are crowded along a single wall, students won’t have room to work in small groups.
If you are considering projectors and document cameras or interactive whiteboards, how will you arrange the cables so students don’t trip? Is there room on the front wall for an interactive whiteboard? These issues require that thought be given to the impact on instructional classroom best practices, varied teaching styles, traffic patterns and safety — in addition to budgetary considerations.
Factor #5: Sustainability
Without a large grant or technology levy, sustainability may be the prevailing factor when selecting classroom technologies. The following is a list of indicators for sustainability:
- Broad in scope: Sustainable technology can be used for student learning, professional development, board presentations, and PTA and community meetings.
- Applicable to most subject areas: Technology that can be used for instruction across the curriculum reduces the need for specialized training and support.
- Easy to use: Teachers will embrace technology that is easy to connect, turn on and use right out of the box.
- Easy to integrate: Teachers don’t have a lot of time to create high-end, professional-quality lessons. The best technologies are those that teachers can use to trans- form old lessons into visually rich activities that yield high-end results.
- Minimal training and support: Setup, training and an- nual support should require less than an hour, and the technology should be easy for teachers to troubleshoot.
- Stands the test of time: Sustainable solutions are still used to meet their original purposes five or more years after their purchase. They can be kept up to date with new (usually free) software and drivers found on the Internet.
IT Investments on The Rise
IT spending estimates peg U.S. educational institutions at $56 billion by 2012, according to Compass Intelligence, an IT consultancy and market research firm. This year, education spending will likely exceed $47 billion, a 2.5 percent increase from 2008.
Most of the money is expected to go toward telecommunications, collaborative technologies and outsourced IT services. Another top expenditure is wireless technology: About 35 percent of all K–12 schools were using wireless by the end of 2008. The market for Internet and electronic learning tools is projected to grow to $12.9 billion by 2012, Compass Intelligence reports.