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Effective Technology Planning for the Technology Literacy Challange (PDF)

Technology Planning in Transition

The goal of Effective Planning for the Technology Literacy Challenge is the establishment of an effective technology program, resulting in a technology-enriched high performance educational environment that effectively supports all students in meeting challenging academic performance standards.

We are entering into a new era of technology in education. Society is moving rapidly into the Information Age and schools must do the same. For the last decade, education has been in an innovative phase where technology has basically been viewed as a "nice-to-have" component of education. In the relatively near future, technology will be considered an essential component of the educational environment to achieve instructional goals and to ensure productive and cost-effective organization operations -- This will be the period of mainstream adoption. But we are not at this stage yet. We are currently going through a transition era. There is a need to shift the technology planning model to a more dynamic, ongoing process to make a successful transition from the innovative phase to mainstream adoption.

The explosive growth of home computer acquisition and use of the Internet and underscores the fact that society is rushing into the Information Age. Business and government agencies made a transition to distributed computing environments in the 80's. K-12 education remains the last major social institution to make a transition to a technology-enriched operational environment. If K-12 educational institutions fail to rapidly embraced this technology they will rapidly become "out of sinc" with society and will be unable to fulfill their critically important mission of preparing students for future success in life and work.

The U.S. Department of Education's new Technology Literacy Challenge Program and the F.C.C. e-rate discounts for educational telecommunications are providing significant impetus for the educational community to shift to a technology-enriched environment. The U.S. National Technology Plan, entitled Getting America's Students Ready for the 21st Century is available at URL http://www.ed.doc/TechnologyPlan/NatTechPlan/. This document provides an overview of federal and state activities in technology. Many states have also provided strong leadership and funding for educational technology.

There is not uniformity of agreement that technology has a future in education. Those who argue against educational investments in technology generally raise factors and incidents that they suggest demonstrate the failure of educational institutions to use technology effectively. Frequently, the concerns that are raised, such as computers sitting unused because the teachers were not adequately trained, are issues that must be addressed by more effective planning and implementation. As we enter this transition era, effective planning and implementation processes are absolutely critical.

Accountability will be the key to success!

The technology planning model developed in the 1980's served the innovative phase well. Frequently, the impetus for the creation of a technology plan was the opportunity to obtain some special funding for technology, through a capital asset bond or state funds for technology. The technology plan was generally drafted by an intrepid band of district technology enthusiasts. To be honest, the plan generated minimal "buy-in" from the mainstream education community of the district. Additionally, the plan rarely functioned as an operational document. It was essentially a marketing tool which, after serving its purpose of obtaining the special funds, ended up collecting dust on the shelf until the next funding opportunity, several years in the future.

The innovator phase technology plan model had its good points. Frequently, it was effective in raising funds and the equipment those funds acquired was used effectively by the district's technology enthusiasts for a range of innovative educational activities. The successes and failures of the technology enthusiasts provide a rich information resource to guide future planning and implementation. Insisting on too much accountability during the innovative phase would likely have hampered innovation.

But as we move into the transition era it is very important establish a planning model that will ensure accountability and move districts forward to establishing a technology-enriched environment where technology is being used effectively throughout the educational community for instructional and operational activities. This model should include the following:

  • Understanding the Critically Important Role of Technology in School Improvement.

    There must be a recognition that technology is not an end it itself, rather, technology is the means -- a tool for better teaching, learning, management, and communication. Technology is not a "nice extra." It is an essential tool for school improvement as we are moving into the Information Age.

  • Technology Planning and Implementation as a Process, not a Product.

    Districts must shift from a focus on the development of technology plan, to the establishment of an ongoing planning and implementation structure and processes that are effectively integrated into other relevant district planning and implementation structures and processes.

  • Ongoing Assessment of Status, Program Effectiveness, Priorities, and Needs.

    Districts must ensure accountability through regular assessment of progress towards district goals in technical infrastructure, staff competency, integration into the curriculum, and other related areas. Routine assessment of status, program effectiveness, and needs, will provide the district with information necessary to guide investment and program implementation activities.

  • Ensure Integration of Technology into the Curriculum Across the Disciplines.

    Technology literacy is more than just knowing how to use a word processing program and instructional use of computer is more than just plugging a kid into a drill and practice program. Integrating technology into the curriculum requires considering how technology can be used by teachers and students as a tool to assist student learning across the curriculum -- English, math, science, social science and other disciplines -- in a standards-based educational environment. Successfully integrating technology into the curriculum will require that technology enthusiast teachers to join forces with district curriculum specialists in planning, action research, implementation, and ongoing evaluation to identify effective strategies for the use of technology to improve student learning.

  • Ensuring that Teachers have First Priority for Access to Computers

    Teachers cannot learn how to use computers by osmosis. Computers are, first and foremost, productivity tools. Teachers need access to a networked computer on their desk to increase their productivity with administrative tasks, to communicate with other teachers, and to gain sufficient familiarity with the technology to be able to use it effectively instructionally.

  • Establish Effective Programs for Training, Support, and Professional Development.

    There must be a recognition that to achieve necessary instructional goals and to have a fully functional organizational environment, all educators -- administrators, teachers, and staff -- must be competent in the use of technology. Training and support structures must be established to accomplish this. Additionally, teachers need ample ongoing professional development opportunities and sufficient time to effectively integrate technology into the curriculum to assist all students in achieving high academic standards. Administrators need to gain a better understanding of the use of technology for effective organizational operations.

  • Understanding the True and Full Costs Implementation and Operation of the District's Network Infrastructure.

    Too often, during the innovative phase, districts have set forth bold and ambitious goals, without ascertaining or providing information about the true and full costs of achieving those goals. The district's technology budget must that reflect all of the associated costs of technology. Without funds for training, professional development, support, network operations, equipment upgrade, repair, and maintenance services, and timely equipment replacement, taxpayer resources are being wasted on the acquisition of very heavy paperweights.

1."High performance" is a term that comes from business. It describes an organization where people at all levels are empowered to perform at their highest level of proficiency and where innovation flourishes. These organizations have reduced levels of administration, with decisions made by the people closest to the operations. There is a high degree of both internal and external communication. A high performance organization sets high standards and measures its effectiveness in meeting these standards.

2.Edupage, 24 June 1997 BUY IT AND THEY WILL LEARN More than 2,800 pieces of classroom computers, printers or terminals are broken or neglected in Fairfax County (VA) public schools. A school official says: "The focus of attention was on buying the equipment, and the support of that equipment was not taken into account. It was assumed the current support systems would be able to handle things and that has not proven to be the case." The school board's budget panel chief says the board's decision not to hire additional technicians for this fiscal year was influenced by its budget policy to hire administrators only when absolutely necessary. (Washington Times 24 Jun 97)

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