Before considering new purchases, existing resources and uses need ought to be polled. An Intranet (a website where messages can be posted and commented on) is a great way to for teachers to describe and share uses. Pictured at right is one example.
Also, invite students to visit classrooms with clipboards to establish an accurate, up-to-date account of what equipment currently exists (as well as what equipment is NOT being used and needs to be repaired or redistributed).
Finally, survey the faculty about equipment and software needs. An Intranet survey can get data quickly. Establish immediate priorities and a wish list for later purchases.
Once information has been consolidated about what the school has, what's being done with it, and what immediate needs for repair or purchase exist, the planning committee can begin implementing its vision through three interdependent tasks: developing purchase requisitions, creating equipment deployment plans, and assisting facutly with creating project plans for their classrooms.
Equipment Purchase and Deployment Issues
- Inventory & Needs Assessment: get repair & wish list from teachers. This can build good feeling AND show the school is being accountable.
- Datakeeping: Develop an inventory, purchase and repair database & process.This is an excellent time to draft techie students to help design and populate a database.
- Budget: Determine a funding portion to make available - don't spend everything at once, even though there's not enough money as there is for everything you need. Save the extra for total cost of ownership (repairs, upgrades). Think projector bulbs!
- Repair and Recycle with Student Help: Make existing equipment functional. Students learn the "mix 'n match" school of computer repair fast and greatly enjoy the experience - if your students are too young, consider using high school interns! Don't invest staff time or repair funds in machines that are too old to make much difference going forward. You can often find donated equipment containing replacement parts.
- Prioritize: Develop and articulate a rationale for making choices about what's bought first. Create workspaces that are ergonomically healthy - even if they cost more. Get Everyone's Input: circulate a draft purchase order among planning team for comment., and have an open meeting. It's a great time to enlist the support of parents, some of whom will be technology experts..
- Select Software: Much of what you need is online and free, and educational software can be very expensive. That said, some programs are well worth the spend, like Inspiration.com or Decisions, Decisions (Tom Snyder Software).
- Purchase and Deploy Equipment and Software: Keep track of serial numbers & placements. Use a LAN Management program (like Altiris) to create "images" of computer hard drives that can be easily copied and updated, or consider Thin Clients if you have the infrastructure. Make sure teachers are committed to dust covers, food prohibitions, and any other abuses that may harm the school's investment. Make sure computers are placed in ways that support best use as well as maintenance access.
This is a long list, and yet leaves off what may be the central issues for establishing the importance of technology in the culture and mission of your school: integrating learning technology into the curriculum. While an initial period of ad hoc exploration is necessary before teachers gain a sense of how to use it well, there are models in place for integrating staff development, project design, and action research.