Apr 05 2023

School Mission Should Be at the Core of Any Effective K–12 IT Roadmap

As schools continue to embrace digital transformation, district leaders must include these three steps in the planning process.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s quite likely that many school IT leaders had a technology plan or an IT roadmap in place. However, in light of the pandemic and resulting  federal funding, school districts across the country have invested in thousands of pieces of technology to support learning. Now may be the time to take a second look at those best-laid plans.

When revising technology plans, IT leaders must look beyond the mechanical parts of their roles where they add up how many pieces of equipment their schools will need, determine how much it will cost and set the replacement cycle. A truly effective IT roadmap requires a more enterprising view. To me, that means K–12 IT leaders must keep these three things in mind.

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1. Flexible IT Roadmaps Make Room for Anytime, Anywhere Learning

I’m sure all (or at least the majority) of K–12 technology leaders have come to the realization that their IT roadmaps need quite a bit of flexibility. These plans will impact how IT supports future learning. While remote learning was a one-time emergency measure for some, schools must recognize that the educational landscape has permanently changed. School leaders know it, and so do IT leaders.

Despite most K–12 students having gone back to the physical classroom, IT must build in support for anytime, anywhere learning. Parents who have 24/7 access to resources and goods online have the same expectations for their children’s education. According to the Consortium for School Networking, a rich digital ecosystem is one of the top three enablers that will drive K–12 innovation in 2023.

According to the report, “connecting systems or digital environments can form powerful digital ecosystems for enabling student learning and/or supporting education administration. These interconnected systems of online and virtual spaces can span formal school settings and beyond.”

Today, with learning loss still an enormous problem and some schools offering 24/7 tutoring and other online learning acceleration tools, any new IT roadmap must plan for flexible learning going forward.

LEARN MORE: How schools can avoid pitfalls when implementing online education software in K-12.

2. School IT Roadmaps Must Bake In Technology Integration

In addition to considering flexibility, K–12 schools must also plan ahead for proper integration of technologies and software that reside on-premises and in the cloud.

Without a plan for integration, schools may not realize the best return on their technology investments. Ultimately, school leaders need to understand how the plans they make for the school’s networking infrastructure, data centers, cybersecurity, device management and off-campus connectivity contribute to a trusted learning environment.

IT leaders also need to know how the instructional tools they purchased are working out in the classroom. What good is the tech if end users don’t find it useful? This is where effective, ongoing professional development can help.

In a recent survey from ed tech company D2L, a wide majority of K–12 educators agreed that ongoing PD is important for teacher effectiveness. An effective IT roadmap should also include plans to work with the instructional technology integration team to select appropriate tools and encourage proper training.

EXPLORE: Why K-12 schools should consider backup as a service (BaaS).

3. School IT Planning Needs Less Silos and More Voices

An IT roadmap that doesn’t consider the organization’s overarching mission and strategy is one that spells disaster before deployment; you could spend years with an inadequate infrastructure.

School technology strategies should never be developed in silos. I’ve seen repeatedly how impactful it can be when IT leaders seize the opportunity for cross-departmental collaboration, especially with their fellow senior counterparts.

Reviewing the district’s strategic plan and talking to their colleagues can give IT leaders insight into how tech can help accomplish the school’s overall mission. That might include a competitive esports team, a future-ready career and technical educational program, a one-to-one program, expanded options for students with disabilities or increased parent engagement through virtual communication. An appropriate IT roadmap can even increase teacher retention and also help right-size IT infrastructure.

IT decisions will reverberate for years to come, so it only makes sense that IT leaders continually revise their roadmaps to ensure continued alignment with the school’s mission for years to come as well.

This article is part of the “ConnectIT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology” series.

[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology

Illustration by James Carey

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