Reaching the Mainstream
After the first years of equipment purchases and classroom pilots, a transition from serving the "early adopters" to enfranchising the "mainstream teachers" becomes more and more critical. Schoolwide technology planning, rather than pilot projects, can become a major focus of the technology planning team. Again, it's important to be conservative in moving to a schoolwide support plan, since not everyone is ready at the same time, and unused machines are money wasted. Another needs assessment survey is a good idea, and based on the results, new plans for curriculum and technical support can be drafted.
As in-house staff take on more responsibility for supporting their colleagues, more and more paid non-instructional time will be needed to prevent their burning out from work overload. Getting grant and district funding becomes an integral part of technology planning. Money will be needed to support substitute teachers, hiring new personnel (as technology supporters and as curriculum integrators), supporting conference registration and transportation, moving to higher levels of connectivity, and purchasing more workstations and servers to provide equitable access for students and faculty become a continuing priority as schools move forward.
Some preliminary fundrasing issues include:
- Organize Grantwriting: Work with principal, other administrators, other schools to strategically apply for funding opportunities at federal, state and local levels.
- Contingency Planning: What are the continuing costs that need to be budgeted for (such as repairs, upgrades, technical support)? What mechanisms ensure these costs are supported?
- Stakeholder Participation: What role does/should the state department of education, the district office, the school board, other community groups and businesses wish to play in ensuring successful and equitable technology deployment? What kinds of support can be asked of them, keeping in mind that accepting their support means taking on their agendas?
Extensive guides and resource lists for technology fundraising are available from many publications, including eSchoolNews.
Issues for Faculty
The effectiveness of the technology planning team is an issue which should be looked at closely after the first years, by an administrator with a commitment to the process (the principal/director, or a district computer coordinator). The team may need to approach this administrator and ask for their attention and comment - but this can easily pay off in funding and facilitating support. A good administrator is schooled in keeping visions on track, and should be valued for that function. It's particularly useful if the "technology resisters" respect the administrative partner who works with the technology team.
Mainstream faculty invited to particpate need the same kinds of empowerment opportunities that the earlier adopters had, which can provide entry into the democratic process that has been ongoing. Through these issues, they can begin to get educated to a point where they can participate in some of the other schoolwide technology decisionmaking that will concern them. Some tasks and strategies which might encourage their contribution include:
- Refining acceptable use policies for equipment use, network accounts and internet access, so that conflicts can be solved with schoolwide policy rather than individual savvy. This supports mainstream teachers who are less experienced about such issues - just as being able to "send students to the office" takes the burden off those whose disciplinary skills may be less developed.
- Considering administrative computing applications (grading, attendance, parent communication etc.). Grade submission via electronic conferencing, for example, can greatly speed up the gathering of data - and makes it easier for teachers to consider each others' comments as they develop remediation and enhancement plans for their students. But it's important to be very conservative about such solutions - there should be a reliable and obvious advantage, else the change won't be worth the trouble of training mainstream teachers how the system works.
- Exploring interdisciplinary curricula, bringing mainstreamers and early adopters together: Ensure faculty feel respected and supported for their own curricular goals by the vision they are being invited to take part in through the following:
- Arrange visits for them to and by other schools.
- Meet with each department to brainstorm project ideas.
- Make networked computers available in the "teachers lounge."
- Support home computer purchase by faculty through incentives.
- Empowering students to maximize their use of technology for learning and share what they know with teachers, which will encourage teachers to support it on their behalf.
- Staff and promote an afterschool computer lab (if this has not yet been done)
- Support purchase of computers for student home use through incentives.
- Train student webmasters to help develop the school's website.
Advanced School Networking Issues
Many schoolwide technology issues will remain the realm of the early adopters who have learned enough about the possibilities and terminology to make informed recommendations. If they have not yet been addressed in the first year(s), here are a few major ones.
- Standard Classroom Configurations: what equipment should be common to all classrooms? What software applications will be schoolwide, with what security system?
- Mail System: find a Mail Server for student and faculty accounts, develop a process for managing accounts and diali-n acccess.
- File Sharing System: choose a File Server for the LAN, develop a process for managing user accounts and dial-in acccess.
- Scaling Up: What is the plan for successive stages of scaling up the current infrastructure? Having a 3-5 year plan ensures that no redundant costs are incurred (paying for infrastructure that will have to be dismantled once the next phase of implementation goes in).
As the by no means comprehensive list above indicates, there are many decisions to be made and issues to be addressed as technology planning goes schoolwide. An excellent guide (which can be printed out an circulated) has been created by the graduate students of Dr. Larry Anderson and his National Center for Technology Planning, which has it's own very complete website of technology guides and plans from other schools for comparative study.