School and District-Level Technology Planning

A chapter on planning for technology would not be complete without a section on technology planning on a scale larger than that of the classroom. Decisions that affect technology availability and policies for classroom teachers are made at the school and district levels. In fact, the technology plan will likely be located in a prominent location on the school or district website. Neglecting the planning process in favor of quick technology purchases risks wasting money for items that may not be used at all or may not be used effectively to further student learning.

Common downfalls of technology plans include a tendency to seek the most cost- effective way to purchase and organize computers, leading at times to underutilized machines; an absence of professional development for teachers; a need for a vision on what type of role technology can play in the classroom; and a surface level sense of equity (such as doling out the same number of computers to each teacher) without consideration of how resources might best be allocated (Fishman & Pinkard, 2001). If the technology plan is the brainchild of one person, hastily written simply to have some kind of a plan in place, these downfalls will likely be endemic, and it may never enjoy the widespread support of those who must act to implement it and thus will ultimately not succeed.

Technology planning is accomplished best by a technology-planning commit- tee that invites input from all key players of the school community, including administrators, teachers, and parents. Novice teachers should seek opportunities to be involved in this type of planning, not only because it has the potential to affect their daily practices but also because their opinions and sometimes more recent technology experience will serve the planning process well. Regardless of its con- stitution, the committee should have the support of local and district administra- tion and teachers; without such backing, any recommendations or policies emerging from the committee will face difficult implementation by those carrying out the work.

Planning for large-scale technology implementation is not a one-time occurrence; instead, the planning and assessment of implementation is ongoing. Planning com- mittees should begin by articulating a vision of technology use for the school.

Based on that vision, the committee should then conduct a needs assessment to determine what technology purchases should be made to satisfy the vision and what policies need to be established to guide school community members to successful use of technology. Next, the committee must define an action plan and timetable for implementation (Valdez, 2003). It has been shown repeatedly that purchasing computers for no other reason that merely to have them, without consideration of how they will be used, is not a reliable plan (McNabb, 2003). Technology planning is most meaningful when use is based on curricular goals and intended learning results, as well as on the resources that schools have and can obtain. Seeking answers to the guiding questions in Figure 7.11 will provide a planning committee with not only focus and direction at the outset, but also benchmarks for ongoing evaluation efforts. Careful planning by an inclusive group of committed individuals will help prevent the plan from being solely budget driven, instead putting the emphasis on the learning vision and meeting the organizational, technological, and educational objectives (North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium, 2001).


FIGURE 7.11      Guiding  questions  for  technology  planning.

•    What is your vision of   learning?

•    How will you use technology to support your vision of learning?

•    How will you develop a supportive    infrastructure?

•    Do you understand the context of your technology planning  process?

•    How will you garner public support for your plan?

•    How will you implement your   plan?

•    How will you evaluate the implementation of your technology plan?

Source: North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium (2001). Guiding questions for technology planning. ERS Spectrum, 30(1), 16–22.


Data-Driven Decision Making

School leaders are transforming the way that they plan, from the district and school levels down to the classroom level, through the power of technology-managed and -analyzed data (Olson, 2002). Data-driven decisions are based on an under- standing of a wide collection of data, from student test scores to enrollment figures. Studying these data helps educators to know what methods and practices work and on what they need to focus additional attention. For example, if 35 percent of fourth-graders failed the end-of-the-year writing test, then fifth-grade teachers can use these data to guide their teaching during the next year. If significant numbers of middle school science teachers are not certified to teach science, this alerts the district to potential issues in teacher retention and student achievement in that con- tent area. This type of data-informed thought also helps schools and districts demonstrate accountability with new federal regulations on reporting spelled out in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (, which requires that dis- tricts measure success by an appraisal of student accomplishment. However, despite the research showing that schools and districts that perform the highest rely on the use of data to inform their practices, most states and districts do not have systems in place to collect, organize, and analyze data in meaningful ways. The challenge to educators is to create technology-rich learning environments not only for student learning but also for efficient school management (Fouts, 2000).

Schools with clearly articulated visions of technology integration were found to have more effective uses of technology (Hayes, Schuck, Dega, Dwyer, & McEwen, 2001). A vision statement should include the role of technology in teaching and learn- ing activities, the extent of professional development for teachers, and the use of tech- nology to link teachers to their worldwide community of peers to ensure ready access to support and advice.