Plan for the Future
When it comes to writing a technology plan, many people can look at the process and quickly feel overwhelmed. But the process doesn't have to cause undue stress if planned carefully and can be a very educational experience for everyone involved.
A technology plan is very important for all schools and especially those that are undertaking a one-to-one program; think of it as a roadmap for curriculum integration with technology. But you need to consider how to best approach the colossal task in order to accomplish your district's goals for the next several years.
According to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which administers the E-Rate program, any school or library that applies for E-rate funding must have an approved technology plan before discounted services can begin. Fortunately, USAC has created some guidelines for schools to follow when developing a technology plan. The plan must consist of the following five items:
- Goals and a realistic strategy for using telecommunications and information technology;
- A professional development strategy;
- An assessment of telecommunication services, hardware, software and other services needed;
- Budget resources;
- Ongoing evaluation process.
Please keep in mind that these requirements are only a minimum and that most districts will go well beyond these goals. If your school or district does not file for E-rate funding, it is still a good idea to have a technology plan that you can use as a roadmap for the future.
The following are several steps you can use for developing the individual parts of your plan:
Step 1 – Form a committee.
The first step when developing your technology plan is to form a committee that can not only provide valuable feedback but can contribute to the development of the plan (remember to delegate). The committee should be made up of technology department staff, teachers, administrators, parents, community members and possibly even students. The committee will prove to be invaluable when research needs to be completed or when you just need some ideas or opinions. It is normally best to start with volunteers who actually want to serve on the committee rather than teachers who are “chosen” and don't want to be involved. Lastly, be sure to include teachers who have one-to-one experience on your committee even if they are from another district.
Step 2 – Schedule meetings.
Anyone who has written a technology plan can tell you this is not a 20-minute job. If the plan is taken seriously, the process will take you most of the school year to develop a meaningful plan that presents a clear picture of the future. Depending on your committee members, monthly meetings might be all that is necessary to get everything accomplished. If getting everyone together at once proves difficult, check out the website www.dimdim.com and conduct a free online conference.
Step 3 – Determine your plan format and start writing.
There are many different templates available for your technology plan, and you will have to find one that suits your school. Ohio, for example, has developed the Technology Planning Tool, which schools are encouraged to use. Ohio's plan is only available for schools in Ohio, but other states offer similar tools. Check with your state department of education for their planning tool or template.
Step 4 – Write your curriculum integration strategy.
It is important at this stage that you have a copy of your curriculum standards handy. The idea behind any good technology plan is how the technology is going to be integrated into the curriculum. This is especially important for schools running a one-to-one program. After all, the notebook should not be the focus here, the content should. The notebook is simply another tool (such as pens, pencils, books, etc.) that is used in the classroom. This is a great opportunity to sit down with each of your teachers, perhaps by department, and see how they are using technology in the classroom. Take good notes and prepare a short report for the teaching staff that gives them the results of your findings and possibly some great lesson plan ideas.
Step 5 – Develop a professional development strategy.
Keeping teachers current and fine-tuning their teaching skills are vital to their success and the success of their students. Consider offering differentiated instruction for individual staff members or groups. This way they are receiving PD that is applicable to their curriculum/discipline and is more meaningful to them. Be sure to include conferences, internal training opportunities and school improvement initiatives. If possible, offer your staff CEUs toward their licensure as a small reward for attending PD opportunities.
Step 6 – Infrastructure updates.
It's easy to spend a lot of time in the Infrastructure section of you plan, however, this should not be the focus of the plan. This is the place where you can spell out what software will be loaded onto each student's computer, whether or not they get e-mail accounts and where the students will store their documents. Be sure to outline your strategy for wireless networking, including upgrade and expansion plans because the “n” standard is on the horizon. Server replacement, storage, backup and everything else infrastructure-related will fall into this section and should have a roadmap for the future. If you are just starting a one-to-one initiative, make sure to include plans to increase network storage (for student documents), wireless expansion and additional authentication servers.
Step 7 – Technical support strategy.
One area where many one-to-one initiatives fall short is technical support for students. If you have an existing one-to-one program, document your current technician-to-computer ratio, as well as where you would like to be by the time your plan expires (typically no longer than three years). If you are just starting a one-to-one program or are considering a pilot, be sure to plan for additional support staff as a one-to-one environment can create quite a bit of additional workload on your technicians. Be sure to get administrative buy-in if you plan to request additional staff, as you don't want this request to be a surprise to your superintendent or board of education.
Here's a list of some resources to help get you started:
- National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (2008) and Students (2007)
- Michigan Department of Education Technology Planning
- Texas Education Agency Technology Immersion Pilot Toolkit
- NCRTEC is no longer in service but the site is being maintained and provides a wealth of knowledge.