Technology planning has entered a new era. In the early years plans were focused on setting up the infrastructures necessary to move us from labs of stand alone Apple IIe’s to building-wide networks. The first wave of technology plans emphasized building out the network (wiring), providing computers in classrooms and labs (deployment), developing high level governance (policy & process); for example hiring a Director of Technology, as well as insuring there was institutionalized tech support, professional development and increased funding.
It took years to implement these plans. We took tremendous strides forward based on the strategic initiatives these plans put into action.
After the decade of technology “build outs” many districts entered into a period of replacement, modification, and horizontal expansion that didn’t require the same level of commitment to planning. For example, if a district had used its original strategic plan to install 1,000 computers, a decent network, Internet access, establish tech support, and a decision making structure; the major focus of leadership was on maintaining what was there.
Of course, maintenance might require a bigger pipe to the Internet, upgrading local area network speeds, replacing computers and equipment that had “aged out”, or upgrading network and desktop operating systems. Initiatives like these were primarily tactical and did not require a strategic plan. Planning became secondary and, if any was done at all, it was to conform to e-rate requirements.
This is not to say that things weren’t “popping”. While the number of computers in the district may have been relatively stable, the horizontal growth of technology was not. For example, during this period a typical district might have implemented a combination of one or more of the following: a district Web page, teacher web pages, e-mail, a student information system, cafeteria system, transportation system, voice over IP, a surveillance and security system, Internet filtering, Spam filtering, an IEP system, data warehousing, wireless access, etc.
We are now entering into another major transitional period. There have been significant changes in the learning environment, the world itself, and in the emerging trends and tools available to schools. These changes call for a renewed commitment to planning, as well as new models of planning.
What are some of the elements to consider in an updated planning model?
1. The role of online learning both for teachers and students.
2. The ability to provide home access to school resources, 24x7x7.
4. The emergence of web-based software allowing ubiquitous access to resources and lower hardware and support costs.
5. The emerging role of data in decision-making and its migration to the classroom. This includes data warehousing & SIF initiatives.
6. Unified desktops (portals) that aggregate appropriate resources and allow single log-ins to multiple applications.
7. Decreasing computer costs making “one to one” more feasible.
8. WiMax and meshed WiFi technologies making the school network accessible from home.
9. A new emphasis on innovative Leadership to inspire change in teaching and learning.
10. New networking strategies including “virtualization” and “remote support” that lower support costs and allow re-allocation of resources to “one to one” initiatives.
12. The emergence of Web 2.0 or Read/Write web.
We’ve learned a lot since those early strategic plans. It’s time to re-new our commitment to a new round of serious planning.