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Technology in Schools
NCES 2003-313
November 2002

Chapter 1: Technology Planning and Policies, Technology in Schools: Suggestions, Tools, and Guidelines for Assessing Technology in Elementary and Secondary Education

"Build a technology plan around teachers' needs, and they will come."

Ken Eastwood, assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, and technology, Oswego City School District, New York, and Computerworld Smithsonian laureate


What to Expect from This Chapter

  • Suggestions for what the phases of a technology plan may involve
  • Resources and ideas for evaluating technology plan implementation
  • Resources and ideas to make technology plans comprehensive
  • Suggestions for policy development processes

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Key Questions for this Chapter

  1. Are there technology policies?
  2. Is there a technology plan?
  3. Is the plan being implemented?
  4. Is the plan being evaluated?

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Overview

This chapter addresses the assessment of documented strategies that direct the acquisition, use, maintenance, and expansion of technology in the educational enterprise. These strategies are expressed in policies or as a school or district's technology plan. The overall goal of technology policies and plans is the successful integration of technology to support student learning and school management.

In content terms, technology planning and policies should address three major areas: vision, access, and integration. Vision pertains to what is expected from the technology overall. Access refers to the acquisition, deployment, and availability of technology to the target audiences. Integration of technology is the development and implementation of strategies that make technology useful and capable of accomplishing the vision. More detailed content lists are given in what follows.

In terms of process, policies represent relative end states that begin with the adoption of a technology plan. This in turn involves a series of steps, ranging from the determination of needs, the involvement of stakeholders, and the ratification of a document, to the implementation, evaluation, and revision of the plan.

Assessing plans and policies involves evaluating the content of plans and documenting the existence of policies, as well as assessing the process of plan development and implementation.

The key questions in this section, and the indicators that point to their answers, will be useful to the persons who most likely already know (or can easily find out) their answers: the school or district technology coordinator, or (in larger districts) the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or administrator functioning in the CIO role. They will also provide reporting information to these persons' superiors: superintendents and school board members. That the person closest to the information might find it useful to respond to these questions might seem paradoxical, but the purpose of responding to these questions is precisely to record the state of technology planning and implementation for the local education agency (LEA). Thus, answering these questions provides a snapshot in time, a point of reference and reporting from which comparisons can be made.

Usage Tip: If you are in the process of composing a technology plan or assessing an existing plan, you can compare it to the sample major components of a technology plan listed in Key Question 2, Is there a technology plan? See "Term categories" for Key Question 2 for this chapter.

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Defining Technology Plans and Policies

Policies are guidelines for activity, put into writing and officially decreed or accepted by the organization. In a sense, technology plans represent end points for which technology policies are a beginning and a road map.

There is perhaps no better definition of a technology plan than that described by the Regional Technology Education Consortia's (RTEC) Technology Plan Task Force: "A technology plan serves as a bridge between traditional established standards and classroom practice. It articulates, organizes, and integrates the content and processes of education in a particular discipline with appropriate technologies. It facilitates multiple levels of policy and curriculum decision-making, especially in school districts, schools, and educational organizations that allow for supportive resource allocations." (See Resources for reference.)

As RTEC also points out, planning in general is a continuous, organizational process that provides "a road map." A plan for technology can maximize the potential of technological innovations while helping to overcome the challenges of implementation. Ultimately, it should result in more efficient expenditures and improved student achievement.

Questions about planning and policies interact with the content of all of the other chapters in this handbook. For example, security policies lead to firewall applications choices, covered in Chapter 4, Technology Applications; hardware aging leads to replacement policies, covered in Chapter 5, Maintenance and Support, as well as in Chapter 3, Equipment and Infrastructure. Issues of financial resources for technology are covered in Chapter 2, Finance, and so forth.

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Key Questions and Indicators

The initial key question refers to the environment that allows for a technology plan to be developed in the first place. It points to the broad policy-making efforts of a school or district, which will ultimately affect a technology plan's implementation. The remaining three questions refer to the plan itself and are very straightforward: is there a plan, what does it consist of, and how well is it being followed?

Perhaps the most critical component of planning is evaluation of the plan, addressed in Key Question 4; only through assessment is it possible to ascertain whether or not the plan is accomplishing the job its originators set out to do. Assessments may also be helpful in giving insight into what is most important in a technology plan, and it may therefore be useful to refer to this key question in composing a plan in the first place. Ultimately, evaluation will point to plan revisions and reveal the need for adaptability through periodic review cycles.

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Are there technology policies?

Existing, implemented technology policies can be a background against which a technology plan is carried out, or they can be one desired end goal of the implementation of a technology plan. Examples of such policies might be acceptable use policies (AUPs) or policies related to the privacy of student data records. A school or district may also have broader policies in place that will influence a technology plan, such as business policies that could include requirements for impact analyses, financial contingencies, or security safeguards.

Policies with local impact can be adopted at any level, from the school to the district or region, or to the state as a whole. An example of district-level policy can be found at the Bellingham (WA) web site, http://www.bham.wednet.edu/policies.htm. A framework for state technology policies developed by Chris Dede can be found at http://www.neirtec.org/statepolicy/forum1/default.asp.

INDICATORS

Policies are in place that will affect
technology planning or implementation
Existence of policies.
Types of policies currently in force.
Technology policies are in process Existence of a policy development process.
Types of policies currently in process.

TERM CATEGORIES

Types of technology-related policies: acceptable-use (or appropriate-use) policies (AUPs); restrictions on access to student records; technology security policies; policies regarding acceptance of commercial advertising on school web sites; policies regarding acquisition, maintenance or disposal of school equipment or applications; policies regarding acceptance of donated equipment and software; policies regarding community or after-school access to school or district technology resources.

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Is there a technology plan?

As stated in the Overview to this chapter, technology plans are central to technology deployment. They can be tools of reform and guidance, and as such they can impact every aspect of technology infusion in the school or district from dialogue to professional development.

Technology plans undergo review and approval by many outside groups. Some are reviewed and approved at the state or even federal levels. The requirement for outside review imposes structure on a plan. Plans not requiring outside review can be much simpler and can depend on the initiative of local proponents, such as a superintendent, principal, or teacher technophile. However, all planning efforts can benefit from considering the components listed in this chapter. All technology plans should take into account long-range funding issues; focus on instructional and administrative enhancements and goals; identify an implementation phase; coordinate all aspects of technology integration, including professional development or staff training; and evaluate outcomes.

The first indicator deals with the pre-planning phase, which must be given careful thought in order to ensure the success of a technology plan. The stages of a pre-planning phase include a current-status assessment of technology, including equipment, skills, and use. Additionally, a current and future needs assessment provides the plan with direction and credibility. Finally, the make-up of the planning team needs to be determined, and participants identified and recruited. The members of the planning team are the ones who will bring the plan to life, including solidifying district and community "buy-in" of the plan and finding the funds to make it happen.

INDICATORS

Pre-planning phase completed or under way
Stages of the pre-planning phase completed.
Major plan components The major planning components are present.
Components of the plan.
Plan approval The technology plan is approved.
Funding support Percentage of total technology plan budget that has funds committed to its support.
Percentage of the plan federally funded.
Percentage of the plan state funded.
Percentage of the plan funded through other (local or private) sources.

TERM CATEGORIES

Major plan components can include:

  • review of technology status, needs assessment, and other pre-planning products
  • vision/goal statements
  • equity issues
  • instructional uses of technology
  • student technology standards
  • staff technology standards
  • integration into core curriculum
  • pilot program and action research
  • management uses of technology
  • student information systems
  • infrastructure and support for infrastructure, including such facilities-related needs as air conditioning/cooling and asbestos abatement
  • review of current "state of the art" for options in design of infrastructure
  • capabilities of hardware and software, projections of "next generation" capabilities and features
  • acceptance and management of donated computing resources
  • long-range goals
  • inventory control issues, such as maintenance and replacement cycle
  • budget projections and funding sources for initial installation, hardware, and software
  • staff training programs
  • benchmarking standards
  • quality control components
  • security planning

There are potential components of a technology plan that can overlap with a school or district's facilities plan, such as network installation costs, including electrical wiring, maintenance and expansion. Technology planners and administrators will most likely want to decide in the pre-planning phase where to deal with facilities issues and related budgeting.

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Is the plan being implemented?

Creating a technology plan and getting it approved and funded are only the beginning. Implementation has its own timeline and benchmarks, including purchasing equipment and installing, training, and evaluating each new technology introduced. The technology plan should account for each of these components, as well as implementers or teams responsible. The indicators below point to broad categories of implementation components. Technology planners will want to adapt their implementation efforts to the details of the overall plan and/or revisions to the plan.

INDICATORS

Evidence of plan implementation Status of each major plan component.
Plan schedule and benchmarks are being met.

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Is the plan being evaluated?

Perhaps the most important aspect of the technology plan process is evaluating its results and impact. Provisions for revising the plan should be a part of its creation, in the form of a review cycle that includes timelines and reporting. Possible components of the review cycle are listed below. If records from the pre-planning phase have been kept, the evaluation phase will be able to provide greater insight into the plan's progress and impacts. Possible means to obtain measures used to determine progress include customer feedback, plan audits, focus groups, and surveys.

It is important to remember that technology or parts of the plan that are not implemented should not be considered failures. Implementing new technology can be a daunting undertaking and flexibility is needed for any change process. For this reason, evaluation in a variety of formats is critical in objectively determining what is working and what needs more attention.

INDICATORS

Evidence of evaluation A review cycle (including timelines and reporting) is implemented.
There is a provision for revision of the plan.
The review is detailed in a report.
The report is readily available to the school and community.
The technology plan has been changed on the basis of the most recent evaluation review.
Components of the review cycle.
The plan is achieving its goals.

TERM DEFINITIONS AND CATEGORIES

Review cycle components include accountability measures, such as identification of indicators during pre-planning to maintain records of progress; technical performance; student performance; community support; implementation benchmarks; budget analyses; utilization records; evaluation components; and progress measures.

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Unit Record Structure

Many of the indicators presented in this chapter can only be measured through specific data collection efforts, with surveys conducted or questions asked by the local technology coordinator or the CIO or acting administrator. The unit record structure presented in other chapters, in which administrative data routinely collected for a variety of purposes can be converted into indicators that provide responses to key questions on the presence of technology, is not really appropriate for data on the status of technology planning.

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Sidebar Topics

The story of Jane Neussup continues…

Planning and Policies

John Techno has been asked by the superintendent, Dr. Neussup, to report on last school year's expenditures for technology. The next day he shows up in her office with the most recent report on the implementation of the Freshlook County technology plan, and shows her where the financial summary tables are to be found.

Dr. Neussup thanks him, and reminds him she had also wanted him to find out how students are using technology to learn science. While he's scratching his head over this request, Dr. Neussup adds "While you're at it, what does our technology plan say about integrating technology for all of the content areas?"

John replies, "I am on the technology planning committee. One of the goals of the plan was to Integrate Technology Into the Core Curriculum. At the time, I wasn't sure what that meant, but after talking with you I'm beginning to have a better understanding of why that's included in the plan. I was planning to check with the science teachers; let me also do some research in the other content areas to find out how close we are to achieving this goal."

[To be continued...]

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"Evaluating the Implementation of Your Technology Plan"

Technology implementation is a continuous process that adapts to the organization's changing circumstances and includes ongoing evaluation. Effective evaluation will force planners to rethink and adapt objectives, priorities, and strategies as implementation proceeds. Continuous evaluation also facilitates making changes if aspects of the plan are not working.

Evaluating the implementation of a technology plan can be conducted by various means. Simple observations, both negative and positive, that have been made by students and teachers using the technology are the most helpful. Interviews and informal meetings with both instructors and students can draw out the lessons that both groups have learned from using the technology. A simple written survey can assist in measuring the extent to which the plan has met its original objectives and expected outcomes. The following questions may be addressed annually when planning the evaluation of the implementation of your technology plan:

  • How and when will you evaluate the impact your technology plan implementation has on student performance?
  • Who will be responsible for collecting ongoing data to assess the effectiveness of the plan and its implementation?
  • What windows of opportunity exist for reviewing the technology plan? (For example, the plan might be reviewed during curriculum review cycles.)
  • How will accountability for implementation be assessed?
  • How will you assess the level of technological proficiency gained by students, teachers, and staff?
  • How will you use technology to evaluate teaching and learning?
  • What is the key indicator of success for each component of the plan?
  • How will you analyze the effectiveness of disbursement decisions in light of implementation priorities?
  • How will you analyze implementation decisions to accommodate for changes as a result of new information and technologies?
  • What organizational mechanism will you create that allows changes in the implementation of the technology plan and in the plan itself?

Reprinted with permission from North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium (ncrtec@ncrel.org).

Copyright © North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. All Rights Reserved.

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Resources

Eastwood, K., Harmony, D., and Chamberlain, C. (1998). "Integrating Technology into Instruction, How We Became One of the Best by Simply Listening." Curriculum Technology Quarterly, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Search archives at http://www.ascd.org/readingroom/ctq/framemain.html

"Evaluating the Implementation of Your Technology Plan," North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium. See http://www.ncrtec.org/capacity/guidewww/eval.htm

Levinson, E., and Surratt, J. (1999). "Five Components of an Effective Technology Plan," abstracted from "Taking Control of Technology Planning." eSchool News. See http://www.eschoolnews.org/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=1349

Planning tools

Guiding Questions for Technology Planning, Version 1.0, Regional Technology Education Consortia (RTEC). See http://www.ncrtec.org/capacity/guidewww/basic.htm and http://www.ncrtec.org/capacity/guidewww/gqhome.htm

Learning through Technology, A Planning and Implementation Guide, North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. See http://www.ncrel.org/tandl/homepg.htm

Technology plans

"Teaching and Learning for Tomorrow: A Learning Technology Plan for Maine's Future," State of Maine, 119th Legislature, January 2001. See http://www.state.me.us/governor/news/previous_articles/PressReleases/MLTE.pdf

Michigan Department of Education, State Technology Plan. See http://www.michigan.gov/documents/miplan2000_40662_7.pdf

In-depth resources

From Now On, the Education Technology Journal. See http://www.fno.org/fnoindex.html#Technology

National Center for Technology Planning. See http://www.nctp.com/

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