STRATEGY: Communicate regularly with the district technology and facilities teams to advocate for the school’s needs and identify strategies that lead to better, more robust infrastructure.
The effective use of technology provides tools, resources, data, and supportive systems that increase opportunities for teaching and learning. Maintaining a secure, reliable, and integrated network infrastructure is essential to creating an educational environment that enables continuous, authentic learning at the school level. High-quality, high-speed technology and infrastructure systems are essential for a school’s needs and activities, including instruction, curriculum, professional development, and operational requirements. Establishing a collaborative culture is also essential to any school improvement work; given the importance of technology to the modern school, it is critical that the team overseeing that technology meet regularly with school and district leadership to both ensure that all parties are on the same page and to look for ways to maximize the impact of a school’s or district’s technology and infrastructure.
Student learning benefits from a robust network infrastructure that supports teaching in a safe and well-managed digital classroom environment. This robustness only exists in concert with the skill level and responsiveness of the district’s technical support team.
To assess the need for learning technologies, schools should consider a host of creative options to ensure that diverse and appropriate technology is available to all students and staff to support powerful digital learning. As part of this assessment, district technology leaders are critically important, given their knowledge in this area and the larger picture they have of the district. In this role, leaders can evaluate proposed technologies and devices and their uses, with special attention given to strategies that will allow for equitable technology access in the school community. As an example, district technology leaders have established criteria for the use of technology devices based on past and future applications, and they have identified types and numbers of devices to support desired applications. They understand the process for procuring and placing devices to meet the needs of schools, teachers, and students, in support of teaching and learning, and they understand the various underlying issues related to technology procurement, such as budgeting and purchasing, placement/distribution, and training and support. Their input is critically important to the process.
When it comes to technology for teaching and learning, district leaders establish a vision for it and the criteria needed for the comprehensive, user-oriented support services that keep the technology up and running—which, in turn, keeps teaching and learning up and running. They examine desirable methods for and levels of technical support, which may include new need assessment activities. Technology leaders also investigate and model review and replacement policies, including conducting a comprehensive internal inventory and reviewing disposal policies.
An effective school or district is a collaborative one, as school-based teams work closely with district leaders to ensure that students are well served. The teams that oversee the district’s technologies and facilities are critically important to the smooth functioning of all school buildings—from instruction to operations to assessment—and a close working relationship with those teams needs to be established and maintained, for the good of the entire school community.
First Steps to Consider
- Deepen school staff’s understanding of the district’s strategy for developing, communicating, implementing, and evaluating a shared, forward-thinking vision for digital learning.
- Identify, organize, and articulate specific areas of need, the desired results, the current reality, and actions to bridge any gaps.
- Develop a strategic learning plan in tandem with a digital resource plan, all aligned with the district’s vision for digital learning.
- Create a cross-functional team that participates in conferences and discusses strategies with other districts and experts on a vision for digital learning. This team can explore the economic, social, educational, and ethical underpinnings for such a vision.
Complexities & Pitfalls
- The guiding criteria for this work often do not include mention of any subpopulation of staff or students for whom home access to technology may be an issue. There may be problems identifying funding to provide equitable access to all.
- There may be a lack of communication between the school and the district about the school-based needs and strategies for success. What has the relationship between the schools and the district’s technology and facilities teams been? Does that relationship need strengthening, to ensure thoughtful collaborative efforts in the future?
- There may be a lack of a planned refresh cycle of hardware replacement and services to ensure adequate uptime and optimal use of available bandwidth.
- What is the adequacy and quality of currently available technology in the district?
- How responsive is current technical support?
- What is the cycle for review and replacement of equipment and devices? Does the district have a formal technology review and replacement cycle? What is the criteria for equipment replacement?
- Does the school or district qualify for E-rate funds? Can these funds be accessed by individual schools?
- Does communication with the district-level teams only happen when there is a problem? How can communication and collaboration become more regular and intentional, and not just reactive?