As Antoine de Saint-Exupry put it, " "A goal without a plan is just a wish." " But tech directors and other educators don't tend to leave things up to haphazard wishing. They make plans. And that's certainly the case in February when most schools and districts are taking on tech planning for the 2015-16 school year.
Barry Bachenheimer, regional director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the Pascack Valley Regional High School District in New Jersey, says it's all about avoiding shiny objects, short-sighted approaches and the possibility of side-stepping your organization's long-term plan. His mantra for tech planning: Ensure the plan connects with your district's mission and the goals you've set out in prior strategic planning.
" "You can't make decisions in a vacuum. You have to have a shared vision. Empowerment, assessment and engagement all require shared vision," " Bachenheimer says. That's why tech planning in his district starts with talking to students, parents, teachers, principals and supervisors.
" "We start with the kids and work our way through. We can then rely on supervisors to be the research experts, principals to look at the operational piece and everyone involved to rely on the vision for why we do what we do." "
Bacheheimer also keeps a list of questions front-of-mind during planning:
Are you just going for the newest thing?
How are the items in your tech plan creating a gain for students?
Can you wait and leverage what comes next?
Are you looking to add software or upgrade devices?
Is the equipment you have meeting the needs of students?
Is there something out there that's better? More affordable?
How does your plan connect back to good assessment, instruction, instructional standards and the ISTE Standards?
Michelle Otstot is the principal at Copper Ridge School in Scottsdale, Arizona, a bring-your-own-technology campus. With new state assessments going online for the first year, much of her planning in the last few years has revolved around the tech skills students need to be able to take tests electronically.
For Ostot and school leaders in several other states who are transitioning to online testing, the planning conversation has shifted to identifying the skills that need to be put in place for students to complete online assessments.
Otstot conducted a 12-week study to help address the Empowered Leaders piece. Information from the study led to the development of a collaborative apprenticeship model of professional learning where teachers with advanced ed tech skills assist beginning teachers. Those teachers are then empowered to help the next cohort of teachers on campus.
" "The teachers become leaders as their skills increase, and we are developing student leaders as a byproduct," " Otstot said.
When it comes to Engaged Communities, " "I'm always looking for partners who can bring new resources to the campus," " Otstot said, " "ways we can acquire the skills we may not have on the campus that businesses might have." "
Recently, Otstot swapped school facilities use for three days of ed tech professional learning for teachers. " "The business needed a facility where they could film commercials. We needed intensive professional development." " A perfect match.