Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Creating a tech plan: Four questions...

I often get asked about creating a technology plan or vision for schools. It's a tough question to answer specifically as every school will have different wants and needs in order to best serve their students and overall goals.

What works for me won't necessarily work for you. And that's okay.

In general, however, there are a few key questions that everyone needs to answer when thinking about a technology plan & vision...

  • What is the instructional goal and how does technology play a role?
  • What is the end goal? When it's "done" what will it look like?
  • If money was no object right now, what would be purchased?
  • If given $500/$1,000/$10,000 right now, what purchase(s) would be made today?

What is the instructional goal and how does technology play a role?

Our overarching instructional goal for students is writing, creating, publishing, and being authors on a global stage.

We want students to use their voice. We want them to begin to curate their digital footprint in positive ways. The ultimate goal is for students to graduate the 5th grade being able to craft their voice into something they can share with the world.

We are a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) school to facilitate that instructional goal. Beginning in the 3rd grade, students use Drive to write, collaborate, and publish. Some classes have student-run blogs on Blogger. 4th and 5h graders use Sites to build portfolios of their work.

Work done in the computer lab goes to support the core elements of that instructional goal: Digital content creation and publishing of original work by students. The computer curriculum, while ever evolving, is centered around writing and digital publishing (see the curriculum outline here).

What is the end goal? When it's "done" what will it look like?

First things first, it will never be "done." You'll be constantly updating, repairing, maintaining, and expanding. But you can definitely reach a point where there is a sense of "done." Maybe "done" is a SmartBoard in every room and at least 5 laptops for every class. Maybe "done"is a 1:1 iPad program. Maybe "done"is multiple labs, or maybe "done" is no lab and all mobile carts.

To support that goal, our technology "done" is:

  • Up-to-date, OSX Server based, iMac lab to support teaching core skills
  • At least 2 iMacs in every room
  • A wall-mounted, overhead projector Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) in every room
  • Laptop dedicated to the IWB in every room
  • iPad Retina for every teacher
  • At least 5 Chromebooks in every room, grades 3-5
  • At least 5 iPads in every room, grades K-2
  • Google Apps (GAFE) exclusive use in grades 3-5 (all work done in Drive, portfolio blogs and Sites, etc.)
  • Writing and publishing as the focus 
  • Plenty of opportunity for enrichment and academic intervention activities/services included

Essentially cloud-based (GAFE) writing, communicating, collaborating, and publishing for grades 3-5 and app-based writing, creating, and support for grades K-2.

We are flexible and open to additions and alterations, but that is essentially the technology vision of our school. It's the hardware, software, and purpose framework for what we are doing.

If money was no object right now, what would be purchased?

For us, my "blank check" wish list is:
  • New iMac Lab
    • MacPro server (fully loaded process, RAM, etc)
    • 32 new 21" iMacs (yes, I have classes that large)
    • new 27" iMac "Teacher Station" (fully loaded process, RAM, etc)
    • new MacBookPro "Demo Station" for IWB use
    • 2 IWBs, one for front of room, one for back, synced to facilitate easy visual access for all students
  • Classroom upgrades
    • 84 new 21" iMacs, 2 for each of the 42 instructional classrooms
    • 42 new MacBook Pros for teachers, connected to their IWBs
    • 20 IWBs for the classrooms without
  • Devices
    • 100 32 GB iPad Airs (for all pedagogical staff)
    • 315 Chromebooks (15 for each of the 21 classes in grades 3-5)
    • 210 iPad Retinas (10 for each of the 21 classes in grades K-2)
Hey, it's a "blank check" wish list, right?

If given $500/$1,000/$10,000 right now, what purchase would be made today?

This is the key question. It is the bridge between the first two. It's how you get from a vision to your "blank check" ideal.

I know how many iPads we have, how many Chromebooks are in each class. We keep track of our technology, our expenditures, and ensure our expenditures move toward meeting the ultimate goal.

You give me $500? I'd purchase a new iPad for our SETTS/Resource room teacher. She is one of the last pedagogical employees still using an iPad 1.

You give me $1,000? I'd purchase 3 Chromebooks for our Self-contained 4th/5th grade class, currently without Chromebooks.

You give me $10,000? I'd purchase 3 Epson BrightLinks IWB systems for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade rooms that currently have 40" SmartBoards on mobile stands that are 7 years old.

I also have a running list of MacBook and iPad display adapter needs, projector bulb needs, external hard drives for backing-up and re-imaging systems, and so on. In general, my budget and purchasing people know they can come to me with a number to spend and within an hour I'll have an itemized list to them, with classrooms the items will end up in when they arrive.

It's about where you are, where you want to go, and how you want to get there

This post is by no means the end all be all of how to do a technology plan. But it's what worked for me. My mind works in a way that having the end-game in mind helps me to evaluate on-going need and to build toward that. When I first got to the school the end-game in terms of writing and publishing was the same, but this was pre-iPads and Chromebooks. When those devices came out we evaluated them and knew we could make those work to support the ultimate instructional goal. 

The end-game, the vision of "done" should never be a hard and fast vision. It needs to be flexible and adaptable. At the same time, it needs focus. No good comes from haphazardly spending money on new gadgets and whims with no real purpose or goal behind them.

At the end of the day it's about students, teachers, and critical mass

When all is said and done, have you planned to get the most value and use out of your technology? Have you planned, purchased, and implemented in such a way that teachers can efficiently and effectively integrate the technology tools within their classroom? Have students been given the full breadth of opportunities the tools provide? Have the students used and created in positive ways? Can you easily add technology to continue to support and enhance your vision and goals?

I may be wrong, but the way my mind works I need to know the answers to those three core questions:
  • What is the end goal? When it's "done" what will it look like?
  • If money was no object right now, what would be purchased?
  • If given $500/$1,000/$10,000 right now, what purchase would be made today?
Once I have those answers I can begin to dedicate all resources available to ensuring students and teachers alike are getting the most useable technology available.

Would love to hear from others that have developed technology plans. I'm always looking to steal great ideas and make our plan push the boundaries of possibility...

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