Educators today are responsible for so many core tasks related to curriculum, teaching, and evaluation that it’s often challenging to find time for long-term planning. However, with the abundance of new educational technology platforms, tools, and resources available today to enhance student experiences and outcomes, a strategic technology plan for K-12 districts is proving increasingly important and useful. Here’s how to begin.
Get to Know the National Ed Tech Plan
The National Education Technology Plan (NETP), formalized this year, is the nation’s blueprint for ed tech. Its priorities will likely impact yours. Areas of concern and focus for the NETP include connectivity, equity, student privacy, open learning, professional learning, and new research in other areas of ed tech.
In line with these priorities, resources may be available at the national or state level to help support your ed tech needs. Intel’s K-12 Blueprint is among the most robust, with more than one dozen toolkits and collections ranging from active learning spaces to personalized learning.
Look to Leaders for Inspiration
Take successful school districts into account as examples. Wayne Township in Indiana created a strategic ed tech plan centered on supplying learning access to all populations through virtual content and an online portal. Broward County Public Schools in Florida embarked on a comprehensive technology strategic plan focused on digital and personalized learning projects in 2013. It has since been expanded due to its success in 2014 and 2015, making it a great case study. Many other districts have also made tremendous strides recently.
Articulate Your Goals Before Investing
Clearly establishing your ed tech goals and plans before even beginning to shop for ed tech is key for success. Meet with teachers, parents, and other stakeholders to hear them out and understand their ideas, priorities, and concerns about moving into a more digital educational environment. Work to reach a consensus, outlining key objectives and available resources.
From there, you can make a strategic ed tech plan and, crucially, allow it to evolve over time. After you have taken these steps to make and gain buy-in for a plan, then buy the technology to ensure the smartest investments.
Don’t Forget About Digital Content
When gearing up, also take time to develop a content strategy for your district or school. Begin by educating yourself thoroughly about available digital content and devices, then think closely about the actual content. Be sure the content you will create or purchase is of the quality level you need. Also, be mindful of state and district standards when creating, acquiring, or recrafting your educational content.
As you think about how to integrate new content, consider your personnel and financial resources when making these decisions, but don’t be afraid to think out of the box. One North Carolina district, working toward a three-year plan to deploy digital content in the classroom, identified four teachers on every campus and designated them leaders, provided professional development for them, and then used those classrooms as model labs for other teachers and students to learn from.
Culture change can be difficult. Sudden changes to longtime practices, such as replacing textbooks with digital resources, may make some parents and educators uneasy at first. Be sure to keep them in the loop.
To ease this process, share the research about transitions to digital and positive outcomes. It may also help to create online resources and guides to digital learning, so that parents can educate themselves and feel more comfortable with the new environment.
Design ed tech seamlessly into any anticipated new facilities or facilities upgrades. Task experts or a committee to study the technical options, which might include robust WANs (Wide Area Networks) to boost speeds; multiple access points and extra network switches and data drops to build current capacity and allow for future buildout; and adequate firewalls and filters to protect data. Here are three examples:
A Sacramento-area public charter school network serving 2,600 students on seven campuses used two new building projects and a significant renovation as an opportunity to deploy an ed tech plan and Chromebooks across the system. Today it uses cloud-based, tech-assisted curricula while retaining a focus on the student. The process took four years.
A Minnesota district planning a new high school designed a state-of-the-art wireless network into it, plus smart-classroom tech like interactive workstations and monitors, wireless keyboards, charging stations, outlets, modular workspaces, and other upgradeable components that will serve the district for decades as hardware evolves. Principal Chad Duwenhoegger said that “We wanted the school and the environment to be very flexible so students could work independently and collaboratively, not just within the classroom but wherever they needed to on campus.”
An Arizona regional district planning two new campuses and an upgrade to a third in 2012 also grabbed the bull by the horns. It designed wireless into the new spaces with extra network switches to allow for future capacity expansion and deployed hundreds of tablets and notebook computers. “Technology is much more cost-effective and beneficial if you can build in those needs during construction, rather than to trying to go back and retrofit the building later on,” said Western Maricopa Education Center IT Coordinator George Gerardo.
Takeaway: While it’s often difficult to make time for strategy, ed tech is an area that truly requires a well-planned, multi-stakeholder approach. Understanding emerging standards, as well as gaining, buying, and connecting content goals to hardware decisions, can get your school or district out in front of the curve.
1. “Planning on Purchasing New Edtech? Read This First” K-12 Tech Decisions. February 9, 2016.
2. “Making Technology Integral to the Construction Plan” Ed Tech. January 7, 2016.
3. “National Education Technology Plan” Office of Educational Technology. 2016.
4. “Upper Arlington City School District Strategic Plan 2015-2018” Upper Arlington Schools. December 9, 2014.
5. “Garnet Valley Future Ready Initiative” Garnet Valley School District. 2016.
6. “Broward County Public Schools Digital Classroom Plan” Florida Department of Education. N.d.
7. “MSD Wayne as a Strategic Force for Community-Wide Lifelong Learning” Wayne Township. N.d.
8. “Resources to Support Effective Technology Initiatives” K-12 Blueprint. 2016.