Assessing Today’s Technology for Tomorrow’s Learning

September 09, 2018 by Paul Heckathorn, Practice Director for Education IT Services

Today’s charter schools have the challenge of keeping up with the needs of your students and families. As a school leader, you understand that your school must be equipped to meet the technological needs featured in this chaotic image—printing solutions, mobile learning, online testing, device management, and classroom technology.  
 
Many times, there is too little strategic consideration behind purchases. Often, such purchases “seemed like a good idea at the time” and fall into disuse. As a result, schools end up with a collection of tools that don’t work well together.

What is needed is a top-down approach: Every acquisition should fit into a plan. And that technology plan needs to support the mission of the school.

Stated simply, every technology investment needs to support, enable or enhance the learning process. Stated another way: If you can’t see how spending money on some technology advances the mission of the school, or enhances the learning process, don’t write the check!

The goal of the school is to go from a chaotic piece-meal technology program to a well-organized Digital Learning Ecosystem that has been strategically assessed, planned and implemented.  

While your end goal is leveraging technology to transform education, the first step in creating a strong technology program for tomorrow’s learning is an assessment of your current technology infrastructure with an eye towards the school you want in the future. 

As a charter school leader, how do you assess your technology program to ensure that it meets the overall mission of educating students?  Start by asking your leadership team the following questions:

  • What is your vision for the future of the school? Why will parents choose to entrust you with their children’s formative years?

  • What role will technology play in your vision of the future? (“We’re going to have the best technology!” isn’t a good answer).

  • How will you know what success is? How are you measuring the success of technology investments?

Once you have considered what you plan to accomplish, you can consider more specifics, such as:

  • Do teachers receive sufficient training and support?

  • Can all students take advantage of new learning systems?

  • Is there a team in place to guide your technology decisions?

  • How efficiently is your network keeping up with the demands placed on it?

  • How are you measuring the success of technology?

  • Is your charter school ready for online testing?

  • Are educational funds achieving the most efficient results?

  • How are mobile devices impacting your network?

  • Are you making the best use of technology in the classroom?

Some of these questions can be answered through internal conversations. But there are several questions that would best be answered by a formal technology assessment that takes a deep look at your technology infrastructure and classroom-level instructional technology. A trusted partner familiar with charter schools can help you with this step and provide vital information for you and your team to make data-driven decisions regarding your education technology program.

A thorough evaluation of your technology infrastructure provides an assessment of the school’s current state, determines where gaps exist and offers recommendations for needed improvements to ensure your technological set-up that meets the demands of your education initiatives.  A technology assessment should look at the health of your servers and network performance not only based on current enrollment and number of devices but also for projected enrollment and increased number of connected devices three to five years from now.

As you look at classroom equipment that you currently have consider which equipment will eventually be upgraded and what will be added as technology initiatives advance. Do you see your school adopting newer technologies such as 3D Printing, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality? What is the specific educational value you hope to get by adopting them?

Will your school invest in tools to allow for flexible learning environments that allow any time and anywhere learning? These initiatives are exciting and can immensely benefit teaching and learning, but if the infrastructure is not prepared for the impact the accompanying equipment or if the teachers have not received adequate training and support, the excitement for innovation can quickly transform to disappointment and can even develop wariness among the faculty the next time the school wants to introduce a new technological initiative. 

Network performance is critical for teachers who are expected to employ technology to advance the school’s mission of educating students. Similar to when a teacher turns on a switch and expects the light to turn on without any doubt, teachers and students expect their devices and network to perform consistently and reliably. In this transformative era in education where servers, services, and data are migrating to the cloud; students are bringing multiple devices to school, and digital curriculum have been replacing textbooks; the internal network must be optimized for performance and efficiency.

Too often the day-to-day business of running a school and helping students learn prevent schools from possessing the information needed to make intelligent data decisions regarding their technology program. Especially in the cases with new and growing charter schools where many individuals wear different hats and carry multiple responsibilities, these schools may have inadequate documentation of their network, configuration changes, and lack of intuitional knowledge due to staff turnover.

As a school leader, it is vital to understand your network and the effectiveness of current initiatives at the classroom level. Engaging in a formal technology assessment will provide you with the tools to strengthen your program in a strategic manner. An effective assessment report will also provide a roadmap to build your infrastructure to meet the needs of tomorrow’s students today.