Content Planning – Part 1: Communications Infrastructure

Over the years I’ve noticed that we spend much of our time and energy planning our hardware and equipment purchases and generally take a very unstructured approach to the software that we will use to meet our instructional and administrative goals. In response to this, I developed a Content Planning process.

The idea behind content planning is to create a comprehensive software infrastructure for the school, with as much care as we use when planning for the hardware infrastructure. I have modified one of my planning documents to give you a sense of how we might look at the district-wide Communications infrastructure. In a future post I will do the same for some of the instructional areas.

First, we lay out all the potential places software can play a role.

District Infrastructure – Part 1: Communications Infrastructure

1. District Web Page
External Page – Communications with parents and community.
Internal Page – Private intranet, password protected and secure communications for staff, students, and parents with permission.

Do we want to go with a home grown web page managed by a Webmaster who knows HTML or Frontpage, or do we want to have folks with no technical knowledge to manage their portion of the page? (i.e. Superintendent’s secretary manages the school calendar, Director of Athletics manages sports pages, etc.)

Products: (these are not recommendations; but for illustration only)

SchoolWorld, E-Chalk, E-Pals

2. Teacher E-Mail

Teachers have e-mail that is secure and accessible from anyplace at anytime..

Do we want our teachers using their personal e-mail accounts at school, or do we want to provide them with secure and standardized e-mail accounts?

Products: (these are not recommendations; but for illustration only)

E-Chalk, E-Pals

3. Student Safe E-Mail
Students can communicate with each other and their teachers in a safe environment. Products filter for items such as profanity and are secure from predators.

Do we want our students using e-mail to communicate with other students, teachers, and administrators? Do we want the ability to control the level of security of these e-mail accounts?

Products: (these are not recommendations; but for illustration only)

E-Chalk, E-Pals

4. Teacher Created Web Sites via Web Management Software
Teachers create web pages for students and parents without any technical knowledge. Allows schools to have a public side to their web presence and a private side for use by the school community only. Assignments, projects, homework, special resources can be made available by teachers.

Do we want to provide our students and parents with access to student assignments, projects, homework, and teachers assigned resources?

Products: (these are not recommendations; but for illustration only)

E-Chalk, E-Pals, SchoolWorld

5. Teacher and Administrator Sharing and Social Networks
Networks that allow teachers to connect and share ideas, lessons, and activities.

Do we want our teachers to be able to connect with each other in our buildings, throughout our district, and with teachers from around the country and world?

Products: (these are not recommendations; but for illustration only)

We Are Teachers, Apple’s Learning Interchange

6. Teacher, Student, and Administrative Blog, Wikis, Podacasts
Teachers, Students, and administrators create content that is published to the school community; participate in educational conversations via blogs, and store educational material for future reference.

Do we want our teachers, students, and administrators to create an online learning community?


WordPress, PBWiki, iTunes

7. Electronic Forms and Workflow
Streamlines business processes and makes reporting easy by utilizing workflow management.

Do we want to automate some of our business processes so that we become more efficient and effective?

Products: (these are not recommendations; but for illustration only)


8. Educational Portal

Teachers and students access all their resources from one menu making technology easy to use. Available anywhere, anytime. Saving and retrieving from a virtual backpack makes it easy to transport projects from home to school or school to home.

Would we like as many school resources as possible available to all students, teachers, and administrators at anytime, from anywhere?

Products: (these are not recommendations; but for illustration only)

Classlink, Learning Station

9. Parent and Community Notification System

This system would empower the school or district to communicate with parents and community members electronically. Voice mail, e-mail, and text messages can be sent to all parties to notify them of school events, and other important information.

Would we like to more efficiently reach out to our school community?

Products: (these are not recommendations; but for illustration only)

K-12 Alerts, ConnectEd

10. Electronic Board of Education Meetings
Board documents, policies, and agendas are part of an electronic process.

Would we like easier access for our Board Members, Administrators, and community to Board meetings?

Products: (these are not recommendations; but for illustration only)

Board Docs

Once we’ve laid out all of the communications infrastructure components, we can check off any areas where we have existing satisfactory solutions in place, and look to prioritize the areas where we have none. Just as we often phase in our hardware; we may have to phase in our communications software infrastructure over a number of years. By laying out our software needs like this, we are better able to plan and budget for the future.

It is wise when planning the Communications Infrastructure of the district to include the Teachers’ Association/Union in the process. It may take 12-18 months of discussion to bring all stakeholders into alignment. It may also require the creation of policies to guide the implementation of portions of the infrastructure (ie. Sample policy: All e-mail will be answered within 48 hours).

In general, I advocate that schools look for and adopt web-based software whenever possible. This has two benefits: 1) Web software can be accessed from anywhere, at anytime 2) Web software reduces the need to maintain software on hard drives and district servers; saving time and money.

On the other hand, web-based software is usually subscription-based and requires that districts budget annual fees; as opposed to the one time software purchases that are presentlhy so common.

If we focus on the category and function of the software first, rather than specific products, it makes planning much easier. After we lay out our priority list for the functionality we want, we can put together teams of stakeholders to preview and select the products that best meet our needs.

I use the same process shown above to lay out all the components of the school’s security infrastructure, and it’s data infrastructure. In the instructional areas I take a slightly different approach which I will explain in a future post. A completed sample Content Plan that I facilitated with the Port Chester City Schools is located on my “edtechjourneys wiki”.


9 thoughts on “Content Planning – Part 1: Communications Infrastructure

  1. Hi Pete:

    Thank you very much for providing this post. I am going to share this with my cohort and staff. My response is posted above.

  2. Dear Peter:

    How many of your readers really understand the years, effort, and background knowledge that underpins your posting? Connect-Ed is a possible answer to #9. Thank you for articulating the following: In general, I advocate that schools look for and adopt web-based software whenever possible. This has two benefits: 1) Web software can be accessed from anywhere, at anytime 2) Web software reduces the need to maintain software on hard drives and district servers; saving time and money.

    This is the future for schools and the vendors who are going to go out of business unless their software becomes web-based.

    Hope you are well.

    Lou Cuglietto

  3. Lou,
    Interesting that so many people are focusing on the products that I used as examples and not on the “Big Ideas”:

    1) the concept of creating a software infrastructure
    2) structuring the software adoption/planning process
    3) building a multi-year software purchase plan and budget
    4) transitioning to a completely web-based software inventory
    5) giving software as much (or more) attention than our fixation with hardware and equipment

    These are the innovations that I am trying to bring to the forefront. I must not have done a very good job articulating them. 🙂


  4. But you started the conversation. I plan on sharing it at our next tech planning meeting as well. Software choice is becoming a vital component in our instructional structure. I am at the point of needing K-12 assessment software that will track results, mods, tips, and other data throughout a student’s career in our district. It will at least help speed up the work of the next year’s teacher in trying to find what will work with each individualized plan for a student. Thanks for sharing it! If we do not prepare for the possible extended costs now (web-based subscriptions), then what will we do when that option is chosen?

  5. Thanks, I was looking for something along the lines of this. I was thinking, do you think newsletters are still an good way of marketing online? Does anybody still use them well and actually acquire readers?


  6. Education is really a vital field, because everything in civilization is dependent upon knowledge. I saw that on a website someplace — a non-profit organization in the Philippines. Teachers bust their tail at their craft (a lot of them, anyway). But there are several who seem to have a gift to inspire. My senior high school world history teacher was one particular. She had lived in China as a kid. When she taught in Rockville, Maryland, you could feel the wisdom of all her experience. She didn’t have us memorize dates. Which had been the first great thing I had heard from a history tutor. What she said next took the subject several magnitudes higher in value. She wanted us to know the motivations of history — the deeply visceral, human areas of what can otherwise be a deadly dry subject. Jaime Escalante of “Stand and Deliver” fame, dared to dream big. Calculus for the typically dropout crowd? Pushing them to go on to college? Wow. And I have this book called, “Calculus Made Easy,” by Sylvanus P. Thompson, first published in 1910. It’s been through dozens of printings all to create an easy subject simple. What are we able to do to create more tutors who inspire world-changing brilliance? Einstein once revealed that imagination is much more important than knowledge. Knowledge can give you the foundation. Imagination may take you to the stars. Don’t our kids deserve better?

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