It is easy for school districts to come up with a technology plan without thinking it through. For example, a district might come up with a plan that they want one hundred Chromebooks and fifty iPads, figure out the cost, and then make the purchase. There is much more to it than that if you want your technology to last for years to come.
In order to be successful, you need to consider how the devices fit into the curriculum, which devices will go where, and more. We have created seven simple steps to help you make sure that you use your money in a smart way. This plan will ensure that you use technology to the fullest potential.
Step One: Creating a vision
It is important to consider what your technology program will look like in the next three to five years. How will the option you choose withstand the test of time? Look at all of the options on the market and take note of which is the most cost effective and which will have the biggest future impact on learning. Come up with exactly how many devices you need. Ask yourself if your district can afford for each student to have their own device, or if they will need to share or bring in their own.
Step Two: What works and what doesn’t
Next, you need to identify what technology is routinely used in the classroom and what technology collects dust. Technology’s purpose is to deepen the students’ understanding of the material. So if some devices are rarely used, you need to take this into consideration so you do not end up wasting money on a similar new device. You should create an inventory of your current devices. Then you can administer teacher surveys to find out what devices they use often. Sending district representatives into the classroom to see how technology is used on a daily basis is also a good strategy that will produce accurate information.
Step Three: Reviewing the curriculum and integrating new technology
You need to figure out how you will integrate technology into the current curriculum. Technology should make learning exciting and interactive, but the devices on their own is not what makes this occur. It is how teachers use them in conjunction with the lesson plan. A technology plan might look perfect on paper, but if teachers receive the devices and have no use for them, the plan will fail. For example, does it make sense to buy a class set of Chromebooks for a physical education class, or new digital cameras for a math class? We didn’t think so. It is important that the school district works with teachers to better comprehend what devices make sense for each classroom and grade level.
Step Four: Figuring out the infrastructure
Once you have answered the above questions, you need to figure out the switches, servers, wireless controllers. Basically all of the technical aspects you need to keep the technology running smoothly. Teachers will not use devices in class frequently if there are constant technical difficulties, or if the internet connection is glitchy and slow. This step is important because you need reliable devices and WiFi. You also need to consider if you want to hire a technical support team to help troubleshoot problems.
Step Five: Educating the school community and selecting devices
At this point, you should begin to look at different options like Google Chrome, Apple, or Windows. All three of these options take a different amount of effort, cost, and a different infrastructure to support them. This step is tricky because you might have to compromise on what you want versus what you can afford. All stakeholders need to be considered in this step because in many circumstances, parents will be actively involved in the learning process. Finding devices and programs that are user friendly for parents, teachers, and students is a priority because parents will want to check their child’s progress online. You can establish a district wide technology team to gather this information and make sure that no one is left out.
Step Six: Making a decision
This is where you need to finalize the direction your school is going to take based on all of your prior research. So let’s say that you have compared your options and decided on Google Chromebooks. Now you need to figure out what will happen if a parent or student forgets a password, if a device goes missing, if you want to incorporate learning management systems, and more. All of your questions regarding the devices and the technicality should have an answer at this point.
Step Seven: Budgeting and rotation plan
You are almost done. Pick endpoints based on requirements and cost and figure out how the new plan fits into the current budget. Remember that everything you buy comes with a use lifespan, so plan the useful life of each item you plan on purchasing for the next five years and then divide all of it by how many months the useful life is. What you should end up with is a monthly and yearly cost for all of the technology. Otherwise known as a rotation plan. Don’t forget to take into consideration the software, upgrades, or hardware the technology might need in the future. Tech support, repair costs, and device maintenance should also be researched, established, and added into the budget.
As a result, a five year technology plan should only be put into motion once all of your options have been reviewed. We believe that these seven steps will push your district towards success. If everything works out according to plan, you should be left with successful and cost efficient technology that your teachers and students will enjoy.