Thomas Bittman

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Thomas J. Bittman
VP Distinguished Analyst
18 years at Gartner
29 years IT industry

Thomas Bittman is a vice president and distinguished analyst with Gartner Research. Mr. Bittman has led the industry in areas such as private cloud computing and virtualization. Mr. Bittman invented the term "real-time infrastructure," which has been adopted by major vendors and many… Read Full Bio

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Dissecting a K-12 Technology Vision

by Tom Bittman  |  January 16, 2009  |  6 Comments

K-12 Vision My committee has finalized a vision for our school district’s technology plan. This was an effort of about 15 people representing district staff, members of our Board of Education, teachers, students, parents, and a token technology industry analyst. I’d love feedback and comments. Let me also share some of the thinking behind the vision (some of the background pre-discussion is here).

Our school district recognizes that technology is vital to prepare students for lifelong learning and workforce readiness. We will:

  • Integrate curriculum and technology to inspire a collaborative learning community that can effectively find, evaluate, use, and create content.
  • Identify and utilize existing, emerging, and cost-efficient technologies that enhance learning.
  • Promote the safe and ethical use of technology.
  • Ensure equitable access to technology.
  • Provide professional development and technologies necessary to deliver the curriculum, to communicate, and to access, manage, and evaluate student-related information.

We fundamentally changed our view of technology compared to the previous technology plan vision. Previously, technology was considered a tool used to help educate students. Now, we consider technology an integral part of student and professional life – not just “tools”, but actually a change agent that is shaping our culture and our way of life. The education system needs to take an active role in helping shape student access, understanding, and use of technology as a part of their lifelong learning.

There were five specific elements to this vision:

Integrating Technology and Curriculum: Integrate curriculum and technology to inspire a collaborative learning community that can effectively find, evaluate, use, and create content.

We put a lot in one bullet – this bullet encompasses the 21st century skills that we identified:

  • Using technologies to safely filter and find content in order to achieve our personal or professional goals.
  • Using technologies to create, communicate, collaborate, express oneself, and influence others.
  • Using technologies to safely filter and find people who can help us achieve our personal or professional goals.
  • Dynamic teaming and very interactive collaboration.

And we tied the need to focus on these skills with the need to integrate technology completely into the educational curriculum.

We also purposefully used the term “learning community”. This implicitly includes staff, students, and the student’s families. We felt that while the school district is not responsible for educating our entire community at large, we did feel that parents in particular need to understand and be engaged in the program in order to effectively educate students. 

Staying Up-To-Date on Technology: Identify and utilize existing, emerging, and cost-efficient technologies that enhance learning.

In addition to making good choices about well-known and existing technologies, we wanted to include a forward-looking element in the vision. Technology is changing rapidly, and our students are usually among leading-edge users. The school system needs to stay on top of that. Also, the fundamental capital expense equation is changing, as technologies follow the commoditization curve, and as software as a service and cloud computing create new paradigms (e.g., email services, editing services, collaboration tools).

Safe and Ethical Use: Promote the safe and ethical use of technology.

If the school system is going to be more more leading-edge and proactive in using online technologies, it is even more important that the school system take an active role in educating safe and ethical use of technologies. Often, school systems abdicate their potential role here, and instead focus on limiting access to the web. It is more valuable to provide students with the education to make good decisions themselves.

Equitable Access: Ensure equitable access to technology.

This will be a huge challenge. One goal might be to provide one access device or laptop to every student. But is that necessary? Many students already have a laptop, a home computer, an Ipod with wi-fi access, a cell phone with web access. Very similar to consumerization taking place in the workplace, can we take advantage of that fact, and focus on filling in the gaps? Identify students who don’t have access, and provide them with the tools they need? How we fulfill this vision is still to be determined, but there are several possibilities worth trying. For example, our high school students are required to purchase a relatively high-end calculator. A low-end laptop costs only slightly more. Can the school system provide low-end laptops at a lower price – and require high school students to either supply their own or purchase ours? Ensuring equitable access is critical – however, it is important not to drive equality to the least common denominator – more important to bring up those with the least! 

Tools and Training for Staff: Provide professional development and technologies necessary to deliver the curriculum, to communicate, and to access, manage, and evaluate student-related information.

This element is aimed more at the technologies used by the school district to manage, evaluate and communicate information such as grades, trends, etc.

We would love comments and feedback.

6 Comments »

Category: Cloud Education     Tags: ,

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jim Lundy   January 16, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Tom, on this section, Integrating Technology and Curriculum, I see almost no words on how Curriculum is being integrated.

    Based on what is written, you might say Integrating Technology and Increasing Collaboration.

    Very few school districts understand how to tie technology to curriculum because they don’t have the money to buy both textbooks and online courses (or parts of online courses).

    If the idea is to allow access to information sources to enhance what is being taught, then I would say that.

  • 2 Tom Bittman   January 16, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks, Jim. This space intentionally left wide open. There actually is another committee focused on curriculum, and this vision feeds into that (we want to inspire change, but not define it here). Our thinking was at least about using technology as an integral part of the curriculum, not necessarily changing the curriculum – using collaboration tools, wikis, blogs, Youtube, Facebook, access and publish online, etc. But the curriculum itself should morph – another exercise.

  • 3 Barry Bruins   January 25, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Tom,
    Looks like a good statement of direction that should last awhile. I had two reactions to it:

    1) I first wired an elementary school back in ’95/96 when Netday was big and ended up tying 23 schools together with volunteers. What I noticed was one of the key benefits was providing the teachers/staff a modern work environment. I think empowering teachers has to be a key tenet of any technology plan. You need them comfortable and driving the ideas on how technology can enrich the classroom experience.

    2) I don’t think technology is nearly as important as teaching the management of information. Technology is a means. Information and Knowledge are the ends. This is where are schools need help. How to get kids to be able to navigate, access and discern the fidelity of information and then use it to some end. So I think the technology plan needs to have more about teaching the students how to be masters of the information that comes into their lives.

    Barry

  • 4 David Tran   February 3, 2009 at 4:07 am

    @Jim, I don’t think these resources should be completely separate – for example, some textbooks come with online components, and simply giving teachers access to templates to edit/customize materials they photocopy out of textbooks could add tremendous value.

    @Barry: “I think empowering teachers has to be a key tenet of any technology plan. You need them comfortable and driving the ideas on how technology can enrich the classroom experience.”
    I wholeheartedly agree – any technology you create must have low prerequisites for user adoption. The end goal is to make teachers’ lives easier, but give them complex technical systems to learn.

  • 5 Tim Youngblood   February 24, 2009 at 10:02 am

    @Barry: You are 2 for 2 on your comment. I am simultaneously grateful that much of past efforts have been on modernizing the environment for the classroom and instructor (the last mile is expensive!), while remaining suspect that education is stuck in their business as usual approach to their understanding of the developments over the last 10 or even 3 years.

    It is as if education doesn’t know where to go next and your second point is exactly correct: it is the data! (see my blog post on this topic). In particular, I am focused on delivering a number of curriculum management services that allows real time analysis of mastery with mapping across state standards and conceptual frameworks. To me (and my partners) this is the killer app for education.

  • 6 ljs14   January 20, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    [...] http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_bittman/2009/01/16/dissecting-a-k-12-technology-vision/ [...]

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