This blog is written by Bill Lewis, Assistant Superintendent of Technology and Curriculum Support in Seguin ISD. Bill is also the current President of TCEA.
It is clear that the implementation of technology is important to the state of Texas and all its school districts. In 2004 through 2006, the Texas Long Range Plan for Technology (LRPT) was created and put into action. Numerous forward-thinking people contributed to this ambitious document. These pioneers did groundbreaking work, and Texas schools are better because of what they did.
Today, however, the climate is shifting in regard to how and why districts plan for technology integration across the board. Incorporating popular educational buzzwords such as “21st Century” and “Real World Technology” in district goals are popular choices. Which forces us to ask the question, “Does the prevailing practice of writing intervaled technology plans provide an effective roadmap to success?”
The Old Technology Plan
In recent years, E‐Rate no longer requires a technology plan as part of the filing process, there is no more NCLB, and the Texas ePlan is not required by the State of Texas. The companion tool, STAAR Chart, is an outdated tool that no longer offers relevant data needed to make meaningful decisions and is consequently used sparingly by school districts. Can technology plans written for designated periods of time meet the prerequisites for providing a quality instructional program for our students and teachers? I propose that our process for developing instructional planning has to change.
Technology plans were born out of an effort to create documents that are meaningful to districts and schools on their own merits – even if there was no mandate. In the past, it was clear that E‐Rate, Texas LRP, and NCLB compliance drove the process. The technology plan was formatted to make it easy to scan down a checklist and demonstrate compliance. Today, compliance is no longer a factor.
Change Is Required
The pace at which instruction and technology change increases exponentially. Districts should plan for a high standard of service, such as upgrading aging infrastructure, new business and data collection systems, and other items that have a mandated need and a long-term life expectancy. However, the days of district-wide replacement cycles and upgrading devices on a schedule are vanishing. The need to merge instructional and technology planning has surpassed the years of lip service that have subsisted and a new reality is necessary.
If the process starts with a vision of fostering a climate where student learning is at the epicenter, then districts must integrate a technology planning process that aligns with the instructional strategy needs for the district. The results will be the optimal association of resources and actions to successfully and efficiently grasp an enriched vision of student learning.
Stated differently, it is the acknowledgment that in a highly digitized economic climate in which our educational organizations exist, antiquated and independent operations of a technology department can not operate outside of the goals, culture, and pedagogical vision of the instructional side of the organization and the belief that a mission of success is possible. Equally, in a highly technical world with the expectation that students should be empowered digital citizens, the instructional goals must incorporate effective, meaningful digital tools.
How to Make the Change
Simple steps to foster a meaningful process for planning for student success include the following:
- Create a year-round collaborative environment that fosters relationships between instruction and technology.
- Keep board and district goals aligned.
- Create a process where the instructional needs drive all decisions.
- Be intentional with the integration of technology and instruction.
- Address the infrastructure needs of technology to support student and staff needs.
School districts complete an annual District Improvement Plan (DIP) that is often created to meet state-mandated accountability criteria based on standardized test outcomes. I offer that districts should rethink the DIP process and center efforts on strategic planning. Strategic planning inherently lends itself to be a more inclusive process where diverse groups can be deliberate in building core strategies. Creating a strategic plan keeps the attention on priorities, focuses energy and resources, strengthens operations, and ensures stakeholders we are working toward common goals.
The use of independent technology and instructional plans have historically been with their own mandates and timelines. Instruction and technology must not be seen as separate from one another any more, but as two different aspects of the same process with a common mission – each with a specialization. This cannot be the norm any longer for schools that wish to make progress and be a future-ready district.