A Process for Managing Technology Initiatives in Education Organizations
Suppose you travel to a foreign country for a vacation. You've read about several destinations that sound exciting and wondrous. You've lost your map. No matter how much you may have prepared for the trip, the only place you can go without a map is to the nearest information booth for guidance-but you don't even know the language...
Before driving a car through an intersection, you sometimes need to look at a map to make sure that you choose the right route. Similarly, technology planning is an ongoing process that helps your organization map a preferred course for its technology resources.
Following a proven logical process for sound decision-making is the key to ensuring that a new technology initiative will work. First, you must specify your requirements and keep them at the forefront of all decision-making. Technology that doesn't meet your fundamental user and operational needs is not a solution to your problems. There are many published methods for embarking upon new technology initiatives, most of which contain the same set of steps, although the jargon used to describe the tasks may vary. In broad terms, the steps are as follows:
- establish a context for decision-making (i.e., based on your technology plan and policies)
- define the task, conduct a needs assessment, establish technology requirements, and describe current computing and networking technology resources (part 2)
- evaluate defined needs relative to current capabilities and select a solution that will meet the goals of the initiative (part 3)
- implement the selected technology solution and incorporate it into your comprehensive technology and security plans (part 4)
- secure your technology and information (part 5)
- provide for the maintenance and support of your technology solution on an ongoing basis
- train your users to maximize the utility and efficiency of your technology (part 7)
- integrate the technology resources and technology-based practices into the daily routines, work, and management of the organization (part 8)
These steps, which form Parts 1-8 of this resource, are illustrated in Figure 1.1. Think of this document as a map that will help you navigate the various stages of the process. This map will lead you to the decisions that best meet your needs.
Technology Plans and Policies
As can be seen from Figure 1.1, a great deal of preparation is critical to the planning of a technology initiative. In fact, all education
organizations should have technology plans in place (meaning that one should be developed if it does not already exist).
In many education organizations, the overall goal of a technology plan will be the successful integration of technology in
support of student learning and school management. Achieving this goal sometimes requires the purchase of new or upgraded
resources. The technology plan, and the
policies that derive from it, should guide decision-making. When an organization introduces new components to its technology system,
plans and policies must be updated to reflect the change to the overall system. Moreover, when other changes occur within an
organization (e.g., it develops a new mission statement), the technology plan must adapt accordingly. After all, unless
technology planning is a component of a greater organizational management plan, it is doomed to failure. How else can
technology planners be certain that other policymakers share their priorities? Or that funds will be available to achieve
their goals? Or, most importantly, that technology supports the overall vision of the organization?
Unless technology planning is a component of a greater organizational management plan,
it is doomed to failure.
Identifying Technology Policies That Govern the Organization
Existing technology policies serve as a background against which a technology plan is developed and carried out. Likewise, policies can be a product of new or existing technology plans. Examples of policies common in education organizations include acceptable use policies (AUPs) and policies related to the privacy of student records. A school or district may have broader policies in place that will affect a technology plan, such as business policies that might mandate, for example, impact analyses, financial contingencies, or security safeguards for all organization transactions, including those related to technology.
Policies that affect technology planning can arise at many levels, including school, district (local education agency), region (intermediate service agency), and state (state education agency). Planners should make an effort to identify early any and all such policies and plans that will govern their efforts.
Possible Indicators for Assessing Technology Planning
- What technology policies are currently in force?
- What types of policies are being developed?
- What processes have been established for updating an existing technology plan?
- What processes have been established for developing new technology policies?
|Types of technology policies:
- policies governing acquisition, maintenance, or disposal of school equipment or applications
- information security policies
- acceptable use (or appropriate use) policies (AUPs)
- file access restriction policies
- policies regarding commercial advertising on school websites
- policies concerning donated equipment and software
- policies governing community or after-school access to technology resources
|Some components of a technology plan can overlap with
an organization's facilities plan (e.g., electrical wiring
needed for network installation). Technology planners should
decide during the preplanning phase how they will coordinate
their efforts with facilities management.
Developing a Technology Plan
Technology plans are central to technology deployment. They can be tools of reform and guidance and, as such, affect every aspect of a technology initiative, from inception through evaluation. In its simplest form, a technology plan can be informal. A local technology proponent such as a superintendent, principal, or teacher technophile might initiate one. At the other end of the spectrum, a technology plan can be quite formal and, in many jurisdictions, require a public hearing or another prescribed venue for receiving input from various stakeholder groups.
Sound technology plans document that planners have:
||considered the implications of long-range funding issues
||identified timelines and milestones
||coordinated all aspects of technology integration, including professional development and staff training
||established evaluation mechanisms
Technology planning and policies should address the following three major areas:
|| vision-the overall expectations for technology in the organization
access-the acquisition, deployment, and availability of technology to intended users or audiences
integration-the methods and strategies for ensuring that technology is implemented appropriately and meets users' needs and organizational vision
There is perhaps no better description of a good technology plan than that advocated by the E-rate program. To qualify as an approved "Technology Plan" for a Universal Service discount, a technology plan must meet the following
five criteria that have been established as core elements of successful school and library technology initiatives:
- The plan should establish clear goals and a realistic strategy for using technology to improve instruction and administration in the education organization.
- The plan should include an assessment of the hardware, software, networking, human resources, and financial resources needed to improve education services.
- The plan should provide for a sufficient budget and schedule to acquire, maintain, and secure the hardware, software, and related issues (e.g., training) that will be needed to implement the strategy.
- The plan should have a professional development strategy to ensure that staff members know how to use these new technologies to improve education services.
- The plan should include an evaluation process that enables the organization to monitor progress toward the specified goals, and make midcourse corrections in response to new developments and opportunities as they arise.
The E-rate program (more precisely referred to as the Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism) helps U.S. schools and libraries obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access.
Good technology plans should address the following major components:
- current technology status, needs assessment, and other preplanning products
- organizational vision/goal statements
- equity issues
- applicable technology standards
- integration into core curriculum (if applicable)
- pilot program activities
- infrastructure and support for infrastructure, including such facilities-related needs as air conditioning/cooling and asbestos abatement
- review of current "state of the art" technology for options in design of infrastructure
- current capabilities of hardware and software
- projections of "next generation" capabilities and features
- long-range goals
- inventory control issues, such as maintenance and replacement cycle
- budget projections and funding sources for initial installation, hardware, software, maintenance, security, and training
- staff training
- benchmarking standards
- quality control components
- security planning
- evaluation planning
- review cycles
Possible Indicators for Technology Plan Development
- Are the fundamental components of a good technology plan present (see above)?
- Has the plan been reviewed by stakeholder groups?
- Has the plan been approved by the necessary authorities?
- Has funding support been assured?
- Local technology funds?
- Other local funds?
- State funds?
- Federal funds?
- Private or other funds?
Implementing a Technology Initiative
Creating a technology plan and policies is only the first step toward embarking upon a successful
technology initiative. Implementation has its own issues, including staying on schedule when purchasing
and installing equipment, training users, and evaluating each new technology introduced. The technology
plan should provide timelines and benchmarks for each of these components, as well as identify those
individuals or teams responsible for the tasks. More information about the implementation process can
be found in Part 4: Implementing Your Technology.
A technology plan should specify a timeline for implementation, which often occurs in steps. When these steps are incorporated into a schedule, they are called benchmarks and can be used to assess whether the organization is making reasonable progress toward achieving implementation.
Possible Indicators for Technology Plan Implementation
- What is the status of each major plan component?
- Are plan components and other benchmarks being achieved on schedule?
Evaluating a Technology Plan
An extremely important aspect of the technology plan is the evaluation of its effectiveness
during and after implementation. Provisions for revising a plan based on evaluation findings
should be a part of its creation. This iterative process occurs as a part of the plan's review cycle, which includes evaluation timelines and reporting expectations. One fundamental question for reviewing a plan is: Are desired goals being achieved? In order to evaluate the answer, framers may wish to analyze implementation benchmarks, budget trends, technical performance, utilization records, user enrichment (e.g., student performance), community support, and other issues deemed relevant. Specific indicators for assessing these topics should be identified during the planning stage. Possible methods for obtaining progress measures include customer feedback questionnaires, plan audits, focus groups, and user surveys.
The technology plan should include a schedule for evaluating the initiative, as well as procedures for revising the plan based on events as they unfold. The plan should provide details about the proposed review cycle as well as other components of the evaluation, including the use of indicators that can assess:
- implementation benchmarks
- budget analyses
- technical performance
- utilization records
- user enrichment (e.g., student performance)
- community support
When evaluating a plan, it is important to remain objective. If the early stages of a plan do not proceed as anticipated (i.e., benchmarks are not being met or tasks are being altered due to "reality"), it doesn't make the entire plan a failure. Indeed, schedules and budgets are essentially early 'best guesses', and will almost certainly need to be adjusted later (i.e. modify the balance of the plan). Implementing new technology can be a daunting undertaking. For this reason, evaluation in a variety of formats is critical for objectively determining what aspects of the plan are working and what aspects need additional attention.
Possible Indicators for Technology Plan Evaluation
- Is the technology plan being evaluated?
- Have specific steps during the implementation stage been identified for evaluation efforts?
- Have indicators for assessing specific implementation steps been identified in the plan?
- Is there a documented review cycle?
- Does the plan get revised based on evaluation?
- Can planners answer the question: Are desired goals being achieved?
Evaluating the Implementation of Your Technology Plan
Technology implementation is a continuously changing process that adapts to the organization's changing circumstances. Effective evaluation allows planners to rethink and adapt objectives, priorities, and strategies based on the realities that present themselves as implementation proceeds. The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) has developed the following questions for evaluating technology plan implementation:
- What windows of opportunity exist for reviewing the technology plan? (e.g., the plan might be reviewed during curriculum review cycles)
- Who will be responsible for collecting ongoing data to assess the effectiveness of the plan and its implementation?
- What is the key indicator of success for each component of the plan?
- How and when will you evaluate the impact that your technology implementation has had on student performance?
- How will you assess the level of technological proficiency gained by students, teachers, and staff members?
- How will you use technology to evaluate teaching and learning?
- How will you adapt implementation in light of new information and technologies?
- How will you analyze the effectiveness of disbursement decisions in light of implementation priorities?
- What organizational mechanism will be created to allow changes in the implementation of the technology plan?