Leaders who have standardized technology in their schools offer this advice when pursuing a standardization strategy:
- Have a vision. The push for standardization should have a district-level champion to ensure that schools buy into the concept and that the program will be funded over the long term, says Frank Paredes, director of information management services at San Ysidro School District in San Ysidro, Calif.
- Think big, but be willing to start small. Some schools are able to standardize their technology across the district. But if cultural or financial hurdles prevent that, try to at least standardize your classroom technologies across a single school and then expand, says David Jackson, supervisor of engineering and technical services for the Department of Information Services at Arlington Public Schools in Virginia.
- Standardize but remain flexible. Standardization shouldn't translate into rigidity, says Charles W. Harvey III, senior instructional technology coordinator for the Arlington Science Focus Elementary School. “It's critical that whatever technology you choose to standardize on still leaves you nimble and able to move in another direction, if necessary, without a huge investment of money.”
- Stay away from hot trends. Making an investment in “gee whiz” technologies will cost more up front and in the long run when they don't meet expectations or have to be abandoned for the next big thing, Harvey adds.
- Make the most of training dollars. If teachers and staff don't know how to optimize the equipment, schools will get minimal benefits – no matter how extensive the standardization effort. The San Ysidro School District extends its training budget by certifying its IT staff as official trainers of the different products, enabling them to train teachers on an as-needed basis.
- Invest in IT capabilities. Consider spending the money to send your IT staff to the manufacturer for training on how to maintain and repair standardized products. Schools that do so will see an exponential increase in their ROI, says Julie Christopher, assistant superintendent for information technology at Bibb County Public Schools in Macon, Ga.