Only a few years ago, the most difficult part of educational technology planning did not know what new miracle would come out of the box next time. Instant data storage! Wireless for everyone! Your complete multimedia curriculum on a handheld! Now the threat of difficult economic times makes it even harder to see what is likely to come.
See it as the uncertainty squared. The unknown multiplied by the unknowable. And yet, you are expected to develop a plan to continue your school’s technology for three to five years. Can be done. You simply have to plant your feet firmly in what you know, wrap your arms around what you can know and follow the 10 tips described in this article.
KEEP FIRST FIRST
Just because it’s a cliché does not mean it’s not true. The best touchstone in times of uncertainty is the central mission of your school or district, whether it is framed in the lobby or where you are working there, just does it. Before adding another computer or software license to your inventory, you should ask yourself how it fits into the larger image and meets your objectives. “How can this increase the results of math tests? How will this improve the reading level of students?” If there is no correct answer to the question, skip the initiative or move it to the priority list.
SALE IN STRATEGY, SENT TO TACTICS
This is a slogan between marketing types to distinguish between high-level objectives and quantifiable practical aspects of how they achieve them. Your multi-year public broadcast technology plan should express high-level objectives (such as: “By 2005, ensure effective access to the Internet at the request of each student and teacher”); But look behind the scenes to see if you have a detailed annual or even quarterly implementation plan that describes the steps necessary to achieve those goals. The targets can be calibrated or can be delivered with a specific price tag. Make sure your school board stays focused on the overall goals, while you and your staff take care of the details.
One of the emerging issues in educational technology is the ability of its boxes, cables and software to work together with other boxes, cables or software. From interoperability to the true open source, the step is removed from the patented systems that force it to return to a single provider for each new need. Always look for ways to make your technology plan as open and flexible as possible, even if this means you have fewer short-term benefits.
LEAVE SPACE FOR RISK
See your technology plan as a 401 (k) for the future of your school. Newer, more advanced technology companies can offer great rewards, but with greater risk; more established companies can offer less, but offer more security. To get the best of both worlds, reserve a part of your budget to test new technologies. Establish strict criteria to select what new things you will try and make sure everyone, including your sign, recognizes that you are serious about innovation.
THINK ABOUT GREASE
You can not have too much bandwidth today, especially because Internet and school networks become essential parts of daily activities. Updating your schools’ Internet connection, linking your facilities to a fast WAN and strengthening your LANs should be at the top of your priority list every year.
OBTAIN INTELLIGENT INFORMATION ABOUT THE DATA
Good planning means finding new ways to make the best use of what you have; and the only thing that schools have in abundance are the data: demographics, performance data, class data, special program data and more. Think of all those 1 and 0 who float in your network like gold dust waiting to be recorded. Regardless of what you do in the coming years, find ways to consolidate and use as much data as possible to achieve your core mission. You can be sure that you will do better with technology than without it.
INVEST IN YOUR WETWARE
Your lawware, which should not be confused with your hardware or software, is your teaching team and your technology support team. In other words, the human factor in technology equation is often reduced in the technology plans of most schools. Remember that nothing is worth it, as well as well-structured and adequately funded technological training for teachers. Some experts claim that unless 25 percent of the total technology budget is reserved for professional development, the plan is doomed to fail. Do not forget to ask the staff to maintain and support the machines!
KEEP AN EYE ON “THE TOTAL COST OF PROPERTY”
When it starts taking into account training, support, maintenance and the inevitability of aging, it begins to understand what many experts say is the true price of technology. For more information on the total cost of ownership (TCO) for schools, visit “Take TCO to Class” at www.classroomtco.org on the Consortium for Networking School website.
SHARE THE RISK
The more uncertainty you encounter, the more companies that depend on your company feel their pain. Why do not we help each other by sharing part of the risk? Press the technology companies you work with, for things like “test before you buy” pilot facilities, result guarantees, favorable prices and extra support and training. In return, it can offer longer and broader contracts, testimonials and references and strategic marketing support. Somewhere in the middle you will find the kind of associations that allow you to thrive together in difficult times.
LEARNING FROM A CHILD
Just as important as having the best members of your staff involved in the technology company of the school, there is no substitute for the student’s point of view. A student from the sixth grade with computer skills can show you more of what is happening now, and what will happen in the future, than any collection of experts. For best results, do this in the home environment of the student, where the technology is not limited by the current plan of your school. It takes courage on your part to admit what you do not know, but it gives you the information you need to set a successful course for the future of technology.
Technology ensures an efficient bridging of the gaps in the learning process and is useful for students, teachers and just about everyone.