Technology Use Planning Overview

“We can do dumb things with a SmartBoard.”

– Heidi Hayes Jacobs

In this modern, technological world, there is certainly a great deal to navigate when it comes to understanding and embracing the opportunities that exist.  There is a  pressure to not only be on the cutting edge, but to be obviously on the cutting edge.  There is pressure to have interactive white boards in every classroom and laptops in the hand of every student.  There is pressure to keep a school ahead of a curve that is moving at the speed of light.  All of this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to technology integration in education.  Because the waters can be murky and because the potential benefits are so great, a technology use plan is critical to creating positive outcomes for our organizations (educational or otherwise) and our students.

Photo credit: Avi Schwab

A technology use plan is essentially a road-map that describes where you are currently, where you want to be and how to get there.  It is a set of goals, the reasoning for those goals and a detailed description of how those goals shall be met.  While there can be variation in terms of the exact steps that must be followed in developing a technology use plan the following is a guideline:

  1. Determine the needs based on the outcomes desired.  This is critical to the plan because without setting a destination, the journey will simply be a meandering trip through the technological countryside.  There may be some highlights associated with such a journey, but there is little chance of ending up exactly where you wanted to be.  It is important to go to the source on this one too.  Teachers, students, parents, administrators and technology leaders all have important roles to play in determining the desired outcome.  It is also important to view the plan as more than a way to enhance current curricula.  Modern technology provides opportunities that were not even dreamed of when the typical current school curriculum was developed.  Moreover, one could argue that the future professional needs of the students cannot be met using these data curricula.  In essence, that opportunities that technology present come part and parcel with the imperative need to embrace new learning outcomes.
  2. Once the needs are established, determine what technology is best suited to meeting those needs.  Again, this is trickier than it seems.  It is easy to get lost in the arguments of Apple vs. PC or operating system X vs. operating system Y.  Many of the arguments about the specific technology are rendered nearly moot because of the speed at which new technology is developed.  In fact, John See, the Technology Integration Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education, stated Developing Effective Technology Plans– written back in 1992!- that technology use plans should be short term plans.  “Technology is changing so fast,” See said, “that is is almost impossible to plan what type of technology will be available for use five years from now.”  With this in mind, plans that are developed must be relatively short term.  The ever changing face of technology also forces our plans to be outcome based as well.  Teachers and students will have to adapt as the technology evolves.  Because change can be a challenge in any institution, this evolution of technology and the support needed, must be part of the plan as well.
  3. With the needs and desired technology defined, budgetary constraints should be addressed.  This, again, allows for two different views.  On the one side, there is going to be a limit to how much money may be spent.  While this is most typically seen as a limitation, it can, in fact, be seen as an opportunity to embrace the best tools for the job.  Too many computers are being used for simple tasks or basic drills.  See once again makes a great point when he says “why make high powered technology available to students and staff and then not let them use it to increase personal productivity because the computers are always scheduled to teach keyboarding or low level drill and practice games?”  The budget actually allows us to take the time to find the right tool for each desired outcome.  It forces us to be critical about each piece of technology, which, in turn, can prevent buying into a technology that looks great, but does not meet our needs.
  4. The next piece of the technology use puzzle is the road to implementation.  Having the desire and technology to meet learning needs is great, but it is useless if the ability to do so is not there.  Teachers, staff and students must have effective training in the use of the resources.  Ongoing faculty support is a must.  Because this requires many teachers to step out of their own comfort zone, their input must be sought throughout the process.  Many basic skills can be conveyed though video tutorials that are made available.  In addition, helping teachers connect with online resources and forums to control their own learning helps to model some of what they could and should be teaching their students.  Once again, the need provides an opportunity.
  5. Evaluation of technology use plan is the next step.  With all of this taken care of, it may seem that it time to sit back and enjoy the finished product.  When it comes to technology planning, however, this simply isn’t the case.  Rather, it is time to evaluate.  Does the adopted technology truly meet the desired learning outcomes?  Are those learning outcomes still the desired ones?  Are the training and support systems sufficient?  There is a need for nearly constant reevaluation.  While a yearly cycle may be natural as school budgets change and teacher turnover occurs, shorter term evaluations should also be considered.  Meeting with teachers to see how and why the technology is being used, seeking feedback from students and evaluating changing technology trends all have a role in the evaluation process.

In my years of teaching, I have most certainly embraced the incorporation of technology in my classroom.  Unfortunately, like many teachers and educational institutions, the technology use plan has not been part of this.  Though I have no doubt that I have created some very good learning opportunities for my students using technology, it is clear that to get the students to the true desired destination, a technology use plan is needed.  Moreover, a school wide plan, that ensures all classes are getting the most out of technology and that students are provided with the best learning opportunities, is needed.  While taking on the development of such a plan may be intimidating, the US Department of Education’s National Technology Plan 2010 can provide a good framework to get the planning started.  This document presents institutions with a guideline that helps define what learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure and productivity should look like in our modern society.  Though it should not be seen as a blanket curriculum guide, it is an excellent primer for institutions looking to embrace technology planning and use.

References
Office of US Dept.Education, (2010, March 5) Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology, National Educational Technology Plan 2010 Executive Summary,.Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/NETP-2010-exec-summary.pdf

See, J., (1992) Developing Effective Technology Plans, The Computing Teacher, (19), 8. Retried from: http://www.nctp.com/html/john_see.cfm

TEDxNYED – Heidi Hayes Jacobs – 03/05/2011  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsUgj9_ltN8

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