When you get right down to it all the technology in the world and the best support structure are nothing if you do not take the time to implement the technology in a way that supports the structure of the entire plan. The process of implementing your tech plan can have lasting consequences on the buy in you get from stake holders. Implement the plan correctly and you bring the stake holders and the system along at the same time. Implemented incorrectly you can end up alienating stake holders or never fulfilling your tech plan’s goals.
Most schools do not have the financial freedom to implement a complete technology plan in the span of one year. Therefore, schools are forces to implement new technologies, new plans, over several years. Let’s face it, in the end it has to do with money. You need money to implement the tech plan. From switches and wires, to teacher training and support, it all costs money. Because schools are forced into multi year plans it is easy to get stuck in a routine of working on or focusing on one part of the plan without ever moving on. Infrastructure is usually where this happens. Schools decide they are going to focus on upgrading their infrastructure over a period of time. By the time they get done upgrading it is time to replace the 3 to 5 year old equipment to meet new standards. In these cases schools continually work on their infrastructure and never truly implement the technology into the school or classroom.
There are two things I believe can be done when creating a tech plan and implementing that tech plan. First, you must identify what it is you want end users to be able to do on a year to year basis. From there work backwards and create your infrastructure needs based on what you want teachers and students to do that year. Do not overbuild your infrastructure but instead build it to meet your users needs. Secondly, evaluate your technology and implementation plan on a yearly basis. You might create a 3 or 5 year tech plan, but technology does not stand still or wait for anyone.
Start with the end in mind
Doug Johnson provides a nice visual of the different layers of technology needs in school. I like the fact that the diagram shows that it is the technology infrastructure that is the foundation on which to build. You can not add hardware and software that your infrastructure cannot support.
What I do not like about the diagram is that the use of a triangle depicts that the infrastructure must be wider than the student and teacher use at the top of the triangle. Although you do need a solid foundation I believe your base should be in-line with your use. In other words, there is no need to have a base that is state-of-the-art if your users are only word processing. Build your infrastructure to support only what you need. So if I rework this diagram is looks like this.
In this way the infrastructure, resources, support, and outcomes are all in-line and supported by each other. We do not add more then we need, instead we build the system just large enough to support what we need. Once we understand that we are only going to build what we need instead of what we might need we can then look at what we want students and teachers to do with technology and work backwards to make sure that systems are in place to support those outcomes. So over three years our plan looks like this:
Even though the layers of support must be horizontal, the implementation of the whole system must be vertical. By implementing in a vertical format each year sees added value to the end user. Allowing stake holders to buy into a system and ‘see’ results on a yearly basis.
If a school only focuses on infrastructure, in many cases the end user does not ‘see’ results. A new server means nothing to a teacher. But being able to work with new content or enter grades online does. By implementing the plan in a vertical way we make sure that the user sees results yearly. They see the impact the money and hard work is having on the education system as a whole.
In word form it might look like this:
Students will: be able to upload multimedia projects to the web and embed them into their e-folios
Teachers will: be able to support students in the creating of multimedia projects and learn how to embed projects into e-folios
Resources needed: Time to train teachers, Time to train students
Infrastructure: Internet connection, server to house files, A way for students to upload videos and embed them on e-folios
Starting with knowing what we want students to do we can work backwards to make sure we have in place the infrastructure we need to make this outcome happen.
To often we think horizontally when implementing technology. We cannot afford to try and think of everything we might need our infrastructure to support. Technology evolves to fast to try and guess what we will need. Instead, we need to start with what we want students to be able to do and build an infrastructure that will allow us to do that today with an eye on tomorrow.
By looking at technology implementation through a vertical lens schools also can decide how much they can afford to do any given year. Each school’s budgetary demands are different. Some schools might take smaller chunks of their plan then others based on the financial resources they have available. No matter what a school’s financial resources are, by implementing in a vertical format a school ensures that the students are impacted in some way. That the end users are seeing results with the money and not just servers and wires in a locked closed.
Each school must decide how to best implement their plan, but by taking a vertical approach you focus on impacting education and student learning. Again, keeping our focus on student learning from the design through the implementation stage is a key factor in successfully bring all stake holders on board with a 21st Century Technology Plan.
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