We finished a major upgrade for a school district over the summer. We considered it a success because the servers were new, the switches provided more bandwidth, and the network and desktop operating systems were brought up to date. The only problem with the “successful” upgrade, was that the new operating system would not run some of the the old software, so teachers had fewer tools after the upgrade than before.
It got me to questioning our definition of “success”. Is success having the fastest print and save network in the area? or is success having a network that delivers the applications that teachers need and use? Many of us are so consumed with equipment and technical support that software and digital content is just an afterthought. Content Planning is an invitation to look at things in a more structured and balanced way.
Content Planning begins with overarching educational values:
It drils down from these high level areas, to specific areas of need:
Now, we can begin to look at software. First, we look at the software infrastructure of the district. This infrastructure is no different than the hardware infrastructure, or the electrical infrastructure; it is provided by the district to everyone. It might include a communications system, access to data in the classroom, a curriculm mapping system, etc.
Next, we identify software and programs that may help us meet our specific area of need, for example, Literacy K-12. A team of teachers and principals previews various categories of software and various products within those categories. They choose the products that they believe will have the most positive impact, as well as meet the overarching goals they set out to guide them.
After the committee has selected all the categories and/or products for the key areas of focus, we shift to the administrators who need to deal with the finances and resources of implementing the plan.
When the process is completed, we have created a 3-5 year software adoption plan that has a budget and is directly linked to our key instructional goals.
A few key points:
1) This is a structured plan – modeled on a structured hardware plan
2) The products we choose are “anchor products”. They are not meant to represent all products in the specific area of focus. Teachers and software committees may add products to the basic software infrastructure the plan provides.
3) The fact that there is a 3-5 year budget and implementation plan, allows schools to prepare for larger allocations of dollars for software and the accompanying professional development.
4) Creating a content adoption plan puts software on an equal footing with hardware and technical support.
“I need your help ASAP. We’ve come up with some end of the year money, and we want to buy some software with it. Can you come by and help us put together a list? The Business Manager says we need to get this done by Friday.”
It is my hope that once a Content Plan is in place, we’ll never have to field a phone call like this again.