Just as a house or building must have a solid foundation to be stable and long lasting, so must our plans for technology in education. One way to prepare for the use of new teaching tools and styles is through the development of a technology use plan. The concept behind this plan is comparable to a blueprint: First, we must lay down a solid foundation that ensures the users will have a safe and successful experience. Additionally, the structure should allow for some changes as the needs of the students grow. Before breaking ground (or implementing the plan), the architect of the plan should seek feedback from administrators, governors, teachers, parents, scientists and students. Together, they will devise a system that suits the need of everyone who will use and be affected by it. Once construction (implementation) is under way, the architect will need to reassess and ask for feedback about the plan. As time progresses, the community or team will near closer and closer to the final product.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education created a similar type of blueprint to transform American education with technology. Designed to take us through the next five years, the proposal calls for large revisions in the way our classrooms function. Furthermore, it serves as invaluable resource for creating a technology use plan for our schools. The plan not only outlines the areas in which we should draw our attention, but also gives specific examples of how we can utilize specific technologies in our classroom. For example in an earth science classroom, the proposal suggests “collecting data with inquiry tools, adding geotags with GPS tools, and interactively analyzing visualizations of data patterns through Web browsers” (Department of Education Office of Educational Technology, p. 14). Not only are suggestions given, but we also receive the purposes behind them: utilizing digital resources from the Smithsonian and other institutions “will engage learners in historical thinking and reasoning” (Department of Education Office of Educational Technology, p. 14).
When developing a technology use plan for a school, there are many variables to consider: How much money do we have to use towards new technology? How will the tools be divided amongst schools and classrooms? Who will provide training on the new solutions? What time frame should the plan be designed for? In his article featured on the National Center for Technology Planning site, John See (a technology integration specialist), investigates and provides solutions for many of these questions. The first question See addresses is the length of a technology use plan, explaining that “technology is changing so fast that it is almost impossible to plan what type of technology will be available for use five year form now” (1991, p. 1). Furthermore, he also argues that planning even one year in advance may be far to predict what schools will need (1991, p. 1). While I agree with See that technology is changing fast, we should still plan to utilize the technologies we currently have and integrate new ones as they come. Perhaps a better solution to eliminating a five year plan would be to reevaluate the learning plan every six months to measure the success of the tools being used and discuss what new technologies would benefit the school.
Along with the time frame of the technology use plan, See discusses the role of technology alongside learning. He suggests that “effective technology plans focus on applications, not technology” (1991, p. 1). This brings up an important factor to consider when crafting a plan: the plan should focus on the benefits of technology in place of just features. For example, if we believe that tablet devices and apps would be a beneficial solution for students, we should focus on the specific apps and benefits that will positively affect learners.
Translating features into benefits has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding parts of working in the technology industry. With hundreds of different solutions available at our finger tips, it is easy to get lost in the specs instead of specific advantages. I can attest that it is very easy to want to order the most high end, upgraded products for employee use. However, sometimes the most inexpensive product can create a more meaningful learning and working experience.
See, J. (1992). Developing effective technology plans. National Center for Technology Planning. Retrieved July 24, 2011, from http://www.nctp.com/john_see.cfm
Department of Education Office of Educational Technology. (2010). National education technology plan 2010. Department of Education. Retrieved July 24 2011, from http://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/netp2010-execsumm.pdf