Thinking Through Device Choices
From the Field
Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI)
The State of Maine Department of Education’s Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) led a multi-state effort to undertake the procurement process for equipment and services to empower a wireless student-centered, digital learning environment. The multi-state effort was coordinated with participating National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) members on an as-requested basis, at various locations throughout the geographic regions of all participating NASPO members. Request for Proposals (RFP) #201210412 is for the purchase of the aforementioned goods and services.
The site includes the pricing on winning proposals.
Identifying the most appropriate new devices can be challenging, but it is a critical element of the technology planning process. There are multiple options available including tablets, laptops, cloud based devices, eReaders and smartphones. Because technology is continually evolving, it is important for leaders to keep abreast of the field. Key considerations leaders should consider include:
- Aligning the learning goals from the school’s strategic or school improvement plan to the device implementation plan.
- Assessing the professional learning needs for teachers and students both for hardware training and implementation for digital learning instruction.
- Analyzing the impact of the various device options and the number of planned devices on the networks, broadband and Wi-Fi systems.
- Comparing the direct device costs but also costs for any new software and the cost for tech support plan options.
- Verifying the compatibility of new devices with current devices and other technologies such as projectors, printers and interactive whiteboards. Compatibility issues potentially can require additional new purchases and training.
- Gauging the capacity of the tech support staff based on the device options and any requirements related to the implementation of new tech support systems.
Relationships with device suppliers
The most basic component of the relationship with a vendor starts with a Request for Proposal (RFP). RFPs will vary widely depending upon the laws and rules in different states, local policies and practices and specific goods and services districts are requesting.
RFP Options: Schools and districts should research state device RFPs and/or other district RFPs as options prior to developing their own RFPs. For example, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative developed a multi-state RFP.
Relationships with technology vendors can be especially important, depending upon the extent of the agreement of purchase. Successful districts consider which vendor will most likely be a partner for the long term and they share the long-term academic plan in order to have the vendor buy into the district’s shared, long-term vision. Most device providers offer a variety of resources including professional development offerings, online resources and communities in addition to various options for tech support. Many of these offerings may fit with the district’s overall vision and plan. One RFP that is somewhat unique, but contains the key elements of a well thought out RFP is that from the Multi State Learning Technology Initiative in the feature box Best Practices from Maine.
Students with special needs and ELL Students
In addition to the many ways that technology can support traditional students, states, districts and schools should consider the needs of students with disabilities and English Language Learners when purchasing devices. There may not be a “one size fits all” solution for the entire school or district. Resources and materials should be accessible for all students, which may mean alternative purchases of adaptive technologies for students as needed. In addition, there may be additional purchases for students with disabilities to help students gain access to resources not otherwise available to them.