Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The 10 Zens of Technology Planning

by Jacob Gutnicki

Your principal has drafted you to create a school based technology plan. You are both enthused and scared at this prospect. Where do I start? Do we purchase iPods for all the students? Perhaps we should invest in netbooks. I hear they are really cheap. Then again… I hear they are kind of flimsy and the keyboard is too small. Wait a minute… How are we paying for this?

With this in mind, I share with you “The Ten Zens of Technology Planning”

1. Establish a committee with stakeholders of varying interests- Make sure to include a Special Education teacher, ELL teacher, Math teacher, Science teacher, an administrator, as well as teachers from the other subjects and interests as this will promote school-wide buy in to the plan.

2. Conduct a Hardware and Instructional Needs Inventory- The Hardware Inventory should catalog the age, functionality, and condition of the technology equipment. The Instructional Needs Inventory will help the school determine what instructional focus the computer hardware will be used for.

3. Developing a Long Term Plan- Ask your committee the following; “In 5 years what 3 technological milestones do we wish to achieve?”

4. Developing a Short Term Goal- Ask your committee the following; “In 5 months what one goal do we wish to accomplish?”

5. Develop Activities to Achieve the Short Term Goal- Once the committee agrees on a short term goal, it becomes important to create a mini timeline of what activities must be carried out to fulfill the short term goal.

6. Grants- Grants are often a major funding source to help schools acquire and update technology with in a school. With this in mind, schools should aggressively seek grant opportunities. This includes funds available from local politicians, private foundations, donations, and public grants. In many cases, simply writing a letter and making a few phone calls can help a school net a grant or donation. For example, a company purchases new computers and may wish to donate their old computers as it helps them avoid potential recycling costs and can be used as a tax write off. Similarly, a local politician is running for reelection and might have funds to help a local school. Likewise, a philanthropist creates a grant opportunity offering free computers to promote his/her cause. In each of these scenarios the school that proactively seeks these opportunities is far more likely to benefit from one or all of these opportunities.

7. Repair and Repurpose Technology- All too often, schools are ready to throw out equipment that appears to be older. This is a shame as older computers can often be nursed back to health by re-imaging the machine. Additionally, older machines can be used as dedicated writing and research centers where as newer machines could handle photo and video editing applications which tend to be more taxing. If a machine is beyond repair, cannibalize it and use it for spare parts. Not only is it environmentally sound, it also teaches students a valuable lesson about computer repair.

8. Be Wary of Purchasing the Newest Technology Toy- New products typically are ridden with hardware problems, have a limited number of applications, and are cost prohibitive. For example, in 2007 the iPhone cost 500 dollars, was buggy, and had very limited features. Three years and several upgrades later the device costs only 100 dollars and has approximately 200,000 applications that can be used. One may also recall a number of school systems purchased the 1st generation tablet based laptops, which proved to be costly, underpowered, and buggy.

9. Research Software Solutions- As we all know there is no shortage of vendors trying to sell their wares. The best way to determine the effectiveness of a program is to test the software. Fortunately, acquiring trial versions of the software is fairly easy to do as reputable companies will usually offer white papers documenting the effectiveness of their product and will offer a demo version of their software.

10. Avoid Drive By Professional Development- All too often, schools will conduct one-session of professional development. This is a recipe for failure, as multiple sessions are needed to see a cohesive improvement. Additionally, follow up workshops are critical. It is also important to offer a menu of workshops as adults learning how to use technology have very different needs.


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