Technology Use Planning Overview

On the surface, technology use planning is easily defined by rearranging the order of words: planning for the use of technology. Digging deeper, however, requires asking specifically what this entails. What type of technology do we plan for? What length of time should this plan include? Who develops this plan? This would also suggest planning for the effective use of technology. In this post, I hope to better explain and answer these questions.

At the heart of technology use planning is the technology plan itself. A technology plan is a document developed by the technology committee of a school, district, or organization. It’s more than just a document, however. It can and should be a map, a driving force to get the school where it wants to be, and define when and how it will get there. A technology plan has the “potential for providing directions to success” (Anderson & Perry, 1994). Further, the “purpose of technology planning is not just to produce a document, but to produce continuous action that creates and maintains a technology-rich educational environment. The plan (noun) is a clear, written description of the plan (verb) that is put into action by members of the community” (Al-Weshail et al., 1996).

Thankfully, however, in effective schools, the plan is merely the physical manifestation of a major planning effort that focus[es] on improving all segments of instruction, using technology in a natural infusion process. The plan, ideally, shows to the total community that the school is dedicated to a particular goal, or set of goals, that will benefit the learners affected. Every good plan will include an aggressive thrust that extends beyond the range of ‘the ordinary’ into a level to which the entire community must strive. The plan will cause all concerned to ‘reach’ for the good stuff. (Anderson & Perry, 1994)

In 1992, Dr. John See, a technology integration specialist in Minnesota at the time, shared some innovative ideas about developing technology plans that are still useful today. He suggested that five-year plans are too long. It’s impossible to plan what type of technology will be available five years out. Instead, plans should be divided into phases, not years, with great emphasis on application rather than the technology itself. Focus on the output, not the input. What do you want teachers and students to be able to do? Then figure out what technology is needed to accomplish the goal (See, 1992).

I agree with Dr. See that technology plans need to be short-term rather than long-term in order to keep up with rapid changes in the field. However, I also believe that technology plans should have a long-term aspect, especially in regards to staff development, that builds upon the school’s overall purpose and mission.

I also agree with Dr. See’s focus on the application of technology rather than just the technology itself. This is sometimes difficult to do. I’ve learned this semester in my EdTech 551 grant writing course that a successful grant proposal is based on a need and then requests support to fulfill that need. Take the iPad as an example. Many people get excited about its features and possibilities and they want one. However, it is easy to overlook the basic question: why? What will it help teachers and students accomplish? What is the purpose? What need will it meet? If a teacher can answer these questions, he or she has a much greater chance of getting a grant proposal approved. The same principles are true when developing technology plans.

I liked Dr. See’s perspective about not separating keyboarding and the teaching of computers from what curriculum is already being taught. He notes, “It is wrong to teach about technology in isolation from other subject areas. Technical applications must be taught as part of an existing subject so students understand how technology can be a tool that makes them a more productive and powerful person” (See, 1992).

The 2010 National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) calls for a “revolutionary transformation rather than evolutionary tinkering” (p. ix).  This plan “recognizes that technology is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work, and we must leverage it to provide engaging and powerful learning experiences and content, as well as resources and assessments that measure student achievement in more complete, authentic, and meaningful ways” (p. ix).

If used effectively, the NETP can be a powerful resource for technology use planning. It can serve as a guide–almost a template–in the development of a school’s technology plan. One way to do this is to make sure the school’s technology plan incorporates the same five models of learning outlined in the NETP. These five models of learning are: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity. Within each model, the NETP outlines specific goals and recommendations that turn ideas into actions (p. xvi), many of which can be adapted to fit a school or district’s plan.

A detailed review and application of the NETP is outside the scope of this post, but I have read it and highlighted key phrases. A technology committee could greatly benefit by doing the same. They could use the NETP as a foundation for creating or revising their own plan and as a benchmark to measure their progress against.

I recently joined the technology committee at my children’s school here in Nepal as a parent representative, and this is the first time I have read or taken part in developing a school technology plan. So far I have only attended one meeting of the technology committee, which consists of an elementary school teacher, middle school teacher, high school teacher, technology teacher, librarian, and technology coordinator. This is a small international school with roughly 300 students in grades PK-12. Despite limited resources in this country, the school has made wonderful strides recently to improve their network capability and technology.

Their recently revised technology plan is for 2011-2014 and includes the following areas in addition to their school profile, mission, and vision: integration of learning and technology, staff development, environment (resources, labs, technology in classrooms, policies), monitoring and evaluation, implementation issues, budget, and action plan matrix. I like its vision and simplicity, and it seems to help keep the school and school board focused on technology improvement. I look forward to my service during the next two years on this committee as the school continues to seek after and embrace change.

In closing, I feel technology use planning is worth every effort in order to maximize the power of technology in our classrooms and schools. The 2010 NETP says it well:

The challenge for our education system is to leverage the learning sciences and modern technology to create engaging, relevant, and personalized learning experiences for all learners that mirror students’ daily lives and the reality of their futures…For students, using these real-world tools creates learning opportunities that allow them to grapple with real-world problems—opportunities that prepare them to be more productive members of a globally competitive workforce. (p. x-xi)

I couldn’t agree more.

References:

Al-Weshail, A. S., Baxter, A., Cherry, W., Hill, E. W., Jones, II, C. R., Love, L. T.,  . . . Montgomery, F. H. (1996, May 7). Guidebook for developing an effective instructional technology plan: Version 2.0. Mississippi State University. Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/downloads/guidebook.pdf

Anderson, L. S., & Perry, J. F. (1994, March). Technology planning: Recipe for success. National Center for Technology Planning. Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/html/tp_recipe.cfm

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2010).
Transforming American education: Learning powered by technology.
Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010

See, J. (1992). Developing effective technology plans. The Computing Teacher, 19(8). Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/html/john_see.cfm

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