Technically, It’s not a Tech Plan
Technically, we already have a tech plan. We are required to submit one to the state of Illinois in order to receive our eRate funding. The problem is, while it’s a solid plan, its focus is far too narrow to be a true guiding document for the entire district’s implementation of technology. We needed more. This fall, we began the process of working to accomplish that goal.
We started out with the understanding that the actual, pragmatic technology practices in place in our district were far too nebulous. We had what some might call pockets of innovation, but we lacked a unified, cohesive vision of how technology impacts the learning experience. I believe that is the case in far too many districts due to a perception by decision makers that simply acquiring technology is the answer to the need propagated by our shifting culture. Unfortunately, as this article details, technology itself is simply not the answer. If a tech plan is built exclusively upon technology, it is doomed to fail.
In the hopes of avoiding the inherent failure of technology being implemented for the sole sake of implementing technology, we determined to build our plan upon the bedrock of student learning. The process and potential final product we established is something I’m extremely excited about.
We started our process by determining that we would eventually be building a vision framework for technology rather than a specific technology plan. The key difference between the two concepts being; a plan is something you execute, typically in a linear fashion, to its end and evaluate whether or not you achieved success by its implementation. Whereas, a framework is a foundation and structure upon which you build to establish a solid, dynamic end result that has room built within it for growth and change. Our framework will serve as a guiding document to assist teachers in engaging students in more robust learning experiences through the use of technology. The focus is entirely on students and their learning experiences.
Once we knew that a learning-based framework was our final goal, we had to determine what, exactly, that meant. What would be the learning upon which we build? We started looking at a myriad of learning skills being presented as essential by a host of educational groups. We culled from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, NETS, AASL, and Bloom’s digital taxonomy. We compiled a list of 26 core learning skills to be explored and narrowed down to five. We chose to go with five, and call them “Foundational Learning Skills” because we found that number to be both manageable and attainable as a focus for the framework. We also expect to revisit each of the five foundational skills in subsequent years to examine our effectiveness and determine if we should supplant a skill with another based on the change of society and modern practice.
We know in order for our framework to be successful, we need to build it with the support and representation of all vested groups within our district, so we established a committee with which to work. Our technology committee is comprised of 55 individuals with a direct interest in our students’ futures. We have representation from every building in our district, and we have administrators, teachers, technology support staff, parents, community members, and specialized support staff. The committee met in January and whittled down our list of 26 skills to our 5 foundations. The process yielded; collaboration, communication, critical/evaluative thinking, ethical behavior, and problem solving.
Our next task is to take each of the five foundational skills and build three learning experiences that can span and spiral from pre-k to high school graduation. We subdivided each learning experience up to specifically cover grades PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Each level builds upon the previous, and provides a means by which a teacher can be provided guidance into understanding how technology can interface with learning.
The image below shows a potential example of this framework for the foundation of “communication.” We purposefully selected experiences that have a key technology component but focus more on the learning experience rather than the specific technology. We are currently at the point where we are building a matrix like this for each of the five foundational skills. This example only lists two specific learning experiences, but ultimately, each of the five foundational skills will have three unique learning experiences. Click on the image to see a larger version of the example.
When this framework is completed, it will serve as a guide to help teachers better understand the way that technology can help students access learning with greater depth and engagement than prior to the advent of any of the specific technology referenced in the framework. The framework will help drive the focus for professional development and technology purchases, as well as the specific support our staff will need from our technology leaders in our buildings. We are also working to establish a strong pilot procedure for teachers who want to innovate and experiment with new emerging technologies, so we can have specific data to consider each year when we revisit the plan to make adjustments and refinements to keep current with the changes in our profession.
I am very excited about this process, and I absolutely believe this will help provide a cohesive vision for our district’s technology implementation. I also firmly believe this will result in a positive change in the way students engage the process of learning. There is still much work to be done, but I do believe we are headed in an extremely exciting and student-centered direction.
Thanks to jinglejammer for the Flickr image.