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.