“Bob, I’ve called you in this morning because our company is falling behind in efficiency.”  Bob feels a cold shrill down his spine and suddenly sits a little more straight in the chair across from his boss.  He quickly gives an awkward response, “Well sir……, I believe if you give me a chance, I can show you that I can be more efficient in my work.”  Slowly a smile appears on the face of the boss.  “Relax Bob!  The problem is not with you or any other employees, it’s the company equipment and resources.  They are outdated and we need to revamp in order to compete.”  Bob shows a sigh of relief and leans back a little more in his chair.  “How can I help sir?”   The boss gives him a print out.  “I need you to put together a proposal for what new technology we can implement in our processes and production.”  He points to a number and continues, “This is your one time budget but I want you to also give me an idea what will be needed for long term maintenance.  Get the department heads together to get input from them.  Meet me back here next week, same time, so we can discuss your proposal.”

This scenario is imaginary, but it is a reality for many and one day, most likely, I will be given a similar task.  However, since I work in the field of education,  would my situation be very different?  Do school administrators tend to measure with efficiency, or are they more focused on results?  If students are the product and the education is the process, then who or what would be our market?  How far do we want to take this metaphoric comparison?  According to the National Educational Technology Plan 2010, in terms of technological advancement, the education sector is encourage to learn from the business and entertainment sectors of American society.  Therefore, my purpose with this entry is to begin to explore the considerations when the education sector wants to make a technology plan.

Which way to we go?

This week’s assignment focuses on a written response to reading assignments that relate to education forming a technology plan.  The readings range from objectives at the national level to putting a plan in place at the district or school level.  Two of the readings that we were asked to give more attention are: “Developing Effective Technology Plans” by John See and the before mentioned U.S. Government document “The National Educational Technology Plan 2010” (NETP 2010).  My professor, Dr. Schroeder, asked us to consider the following questions in our response.

  1. Start with defining technology use planning–how would you describe it?
  2. How might the new National Educational Technology Plan 2010 be an effective and powerful resource for technology use planning?
  3. Do you agree with See about tech use plans needing to be short, not long term?
  4. What do you think about his comment that “effective technology plans focus on applications, not technology?”
  5. Do you agree/disagree?
  6. What experiences have you had with technology use planning and what have you seen for outcomes (both good and bad?)

After reading several resources regarding technology use planning,  I believe that I have been exposed enough to understand it, but at the same time I have discovered that it is a daunting task.  In my own words I would describe technology use planning as a research and information sifting approach to purchasing and implementing technologies to the education process.  At the heart of the matter is the money.  Districts and schools are given budgets for purchasing the necessary products to help create a learning environment.  Of course the goal of education has remained the same for the most part, preparing students to be able to contribute to society.  Therefore, since much of our society has taken to many technological trends, it is only logical that the schools should apply these trends.  However, many people believe that the schools have struggled to keep up with the rest of society.

The NETP 2010 is a broad document which sets goals for many levels of the education system.  Because it is a national document, some of the goals are beyond what one district can do.  As school administrators begin to look at their own need to implement technology as a tool in the curriculum, they could use bits and pieces of this document to guide them to a specific goal.  Some of the goals mentioned in the NETP 2010 are so radical to the current approach to education, that implementing them would likely require authorization higher than a school administrator.  Suggestions such as changing how the schools see student seat time and 24/7 access to education are hard to fathom for many, because it goes against a long established structure.  So as progressive teachers and administrators face resistance to change, they can use this government document as a means of information for the leery or a stronghold against the resistance.

John See, Technology Integration Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education, wrote “Developing Effective Technology Plans” which was a journal entry published in 1992 in “The Computing Teacher”.  Ironically, despite being almost 20 years old, this writing has brought much attention to time sensitivity for making technology plans.  The principal basis for his statement, “Technology plans are short-term not long-term” is that technology is changing at such a fast pace that any district should be careful not commit to something on a long-term basis, considering that it could be an inferior product in a relatively short amount of time.  Even though it is a good point and in many ways is still relevant today, I don’t agree completely with what See wrote back then.  One reason is that in the last 20 years, technology products have been careful to develop timeless standards in their products that are either compatible with later versions or they can be updated to perform with newer technologies.  Another logical reason administrators should consider in making plans longer, is you will get more bang for the buck.  Companies would be more willing to offer deeper discounts for longer term contracts as well as they are more likely to negotiate maintenance services in the contract.  However, I do agree with See on the matter of reviewing, at least once year, the technology plan.  However, If a technology is found to be outdated, there is a strong likelihood that the company is already aware of it and may have developed a software base upgrade.  Schools can also negotiate with the company regarding on going developments and upgrades.  Most companies would welcome this if it means a prolonged business relationship with the school.  One study done at the Round Rock School District in Texas, shows these benefits as well as others, taken from their exclusive and long-term relationship with Dell Computers.

John See makes another good point when he says “effective technology plans focus on applications, not technology.”  It is hard to say if technology has become more or less standardized in the time since See wrote this article.  It seems just as true today as back then when he suggests that different brands offer different features.  However, market demands have required the companies to innovate in order to keep up with the competition, or to make switch over components so that one product works on another system.  Regardless, I don’t want to loose sight of See’s most important point.  What do you want the students to accomplish with the technology plan?  Many administrators and teacher feel the pressure to provide technology to the students based on what they see in society and even in other schools, yet it does not mean that they necessarily understand how students will apply the use of technology.  I agree with See that it is important to identify the output goal in a technology plan, but in most cases it ultimately comes down to each individual teacher feeling comfortable enough using the technology in order to gauge the students on the application and use of it.  According to a study done by Research in Higher Education, teacher attitude can affect the implementation of teaching with technology.  One indicator is that teachers are less likely to engage in online interaction if they have not had a chance to test it out first.

At this point in time, I have not yet been asked to participate directly in the formation of a technology plan for a school.  However, I have had the interesting perspective of working in both private international schools and public schools within the USA.  In all the cases of international private schools, I have been told that I can make requests for resources but I have not been offered a budget to purchase them on my own.  Also, in the private schools I found that students already had access to important technologies that they could use to engage in the lessons.  However, one school discouraged the use of technology in the core subject classrooms because they were concerned with cheating.  In the other school, where I am currently, so far school policy has not stopped me from encouraging students to use computers and mobiles as part of the learning process.  On the other hand, when I worked with the public school in the USA, I was given a meager budget and I was encouraged to spend it as I chose.  Unfortunately, the amount was not substantial enough to purchase technology to put in the hands of the students.  Even when I bought software, the district limited and discouraged downloading it. In addition, I worked with a demographic of students that were most affected by digital divide and digital inequality.

Based on my experience, I do agree with the NETP 2010, when it says that the education sector can learn from the business and entertainment sectors in terms of technology use, but especially with resource spending.  When I first came into the public education sector, I had been working in the business sector.  One of the first things that caught my eye was the lack of control on the use of resources, especially print resources.  I had the task of sifting through resources that were purchased in recent years but now were unused.  I don’t doubt that the teachers had good uses for these resources, but I also knew that the costs for mass use of these resources was astronomical and in my heart I believed that there were more efficient alternatives.  Eventually I assimilated to the system and found myself doing the same thing.  When I was given a budget I often was caught up in purchasing whims, usually to satisfy a short-term goal.  Now that I am not there, I am sure that some of those resources are in the darkest part of a teacher’s storage cabinet.   I believe it is a dilemma that is not easily solved.  I know teachers need to have input in what is purchased because they are going to measure the students on how well they use it, but perhaps they need more guidance or training in resources that come from the administration.  At the same time it can lead to wasteful spending if teachers are given items that later are hardly used.  Worse yet, as a teacher, I have purchased items because it looks useful, but it gets little use because administrative goals or school policy limits its use.  Now, more than before, it is imperative that schools look at efficient use of their budgets and practical long-term uses of their purchases, like most businesses do.   John See, gave support as well to the idea that schools can learn from the entertainment sector.  He mostly encouraged teachers to consider using technology for students to create a final product, however the learning will take place during the process.  When we see entertainment’s final product, we don’t always understand all the work that went into it.  By using the approach that See recommends, students will understand that there is much to be done in order to reach a final product, and in most cases, learning will take place in the process.

  • National Education Technology Plan 2010 | U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2011, from http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010
  • National Center for Technology Planning. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2011, from http://www.nctp.com/html/john_see.cfm
  • McLester, S. (2011). TCO and technology standardization. District Administration, 47(1), 18.
  • Tabata, L., & Johnsrud, L. (2008). The impact of faculty attitudes toward technology, distance education, and innovation. Research In Higher Education, 49(7), 625-646. doi:10.1007/s11162-008-9094-7

This entry meets the following AECT standards:

2.0.6 Use the results of evaluation methods and techniques to revise and update instructional and professional products.

3.0.1* Assess, analyze and design a media facility for optimal use and functionality to support contemporary educational goals of the school media program.

3.1.1 Identify key factors in selecting and using technologies appropriate for learning situations specified in the instructional design process.

3.2.1 Identify strategies for the diffusion, adoption, and dissemination of innovations in learning communities.

4.0.2* Establish mission, goals and objectives of the school media program that align with and support those of the local school district and community.

4.1.2* Use knowledge of school, district, state, regional, and national organizations to support efficient and effective operations in contemporary school media programs.

4.2.3* Prepare and justify a budget that supports standards-based curricula and that provides necessary resources to ensure the success of the school media program.

5.4.2* Develop and update a long-range strategic school media program plan.