Key Considerations for Readiness and Needs Assessment
From the Field
PowerUp – Houston Independent School District
In 2013, The Houston Independent School District launched PowerUp, a districtwide initiative aimed at digitally transforming teaching and learning for all students. The PowerUp initiative was developed, launched, and continues to be implemented by a cross-functional team made up of various departments including curriculum, professional development, instructional technology, information technology, communications, and the administration. PowerUp is about creating a personalized learning environment for today’s 21st-century learners and enabling teachers to more effectively facilitate instruction, manage curriculum, collaborate with their peers, and engage today’s digitally wired students. The initiative includes trainings for students, staff, and parents as well as the adoption of an online teaching and learning platform, which is currently in the pilot phase on 48 campuses with plans to launch in all 283 schools during the 2015-2016 school year. For more information visit www.houstonisd.org/powerup and watch this short video.
The first planning activity that will contribute directly to the development of a technology plan is to assess readiness. Early on, this means conducting a needs assessment, environmental scan, or evaluation of conditions for success that will provide accurate data upon which to base a variety of planning decisions ranging from device purchases to tech support. Types of data that might be collected include: demographic information, student data (learning climate, opportunities, achievement), perceptual data, and information about infrastructure and facilities. Readiness assessments lead to action planning that defines the audience served, professional development and resources needed to carry out the technology plan.
- Does the district have data on teacher technology literacy skills and comfort with using technology while teaching?
- What professional development opportunities related to technology have teachers availed themselves of over the past two years? What are they asking for now?
- Are teachers comfortable with leveraging the technology tools to help meet individual student needs?
- Do the teachers have broadband access in their homes?
Infrastructure, Equipment & Content
- Can the broadband network support the plans for digital learning?
- Has wi-fi access been planned for adequately?
- Does the school have sufficient electricity to support upgrades?
Access to Tools and Content
- What education technology tools are currently available to enhance education for all students?
- How has digital content already been incorporated into the curriculum?
- What technology resources are available via the current procurement opportunities?
Information technology team
- Does the district have a thorough inventory of the devices in the district, including the age, operating system and warranty coverage of each?
- How are the devices deployed within each school and how are they deployed among schools?
- How has the district planned for long-term sustainability?
- What are the demographics of the student body? Have they changed over time or have certain parts of the district changed over time?
- Looking at data from various assessments – informal and formal, in all subject areas – how are students performing against standards and other benchmarks? Are there areas of concern statewide, district-wide, school-wide or by grade level?
- How prepared are the students to use digital learning tools seamlessly in the classroom ?
- What are the plans for new students as related to technology literacy and familiarity with the devices and tools in your district?
- What type of device and broadband access do students have at home?
Home Access Readiness
From the FieldLamoille Union High School
Lamoille Union High School District’s 1-to-1 program’s planning process included publishing the pre-program’s device and broadband access data. For more details visit their website.
When planning for technology, leaders should also consider the level of access to devices and broadband students currently have and should have at home in order to achieve their vision. Connected students can collaborate with fellow students after school, access research materials, develop multimedia projects, and use advanced features of digital textbooks. Without access to devices or broadband at home, 1-to-1 programs can lose a great deal of their effectiveness. As the Digital Textbook Collaborative noted in its 2012 report, Digital Textbook Playbook, “While schools must be connected in order to create a successful digital learning environment, digital learning cannot only happen at school. To accomplish truly ubiquitous learning, students must be able to connect outside the school walls.” In the National Broadband Plan, home access to a high-speed internet connection is described as “critical to maximizing utilization.” During the planning process, districts may consider surveying families to gather data on student-device ratios at home including the types of devices and also student broadband access at home.