From the Field
“Planning for digital learning requires a comprehensive review of academic achievement goals so that the use of technology supports student achievement.”
Carla Wade, Digital Learning Specialist, Oregon Department of Education
The full scope of teaching, learning and administrative needs that call upon technology in today’s schools demands a thoughtful mix of devices and infrastructure in order to achieve a broad range of goals. The careful planning for digital learning with the necessary infrastructure are critical for digital learning success. Districts have begun moving away from technology planning as a stand-alone activity in favor of more comprehensive planning efforts that include technology tools and resources as one overarching component of achieving school-wide goals. In this integrated approach, districts carefully analyze all applications of technology across the entire school before making investments in facilities, devices, or professional development. Integrated plans document the many school-wide needs, goals, and activities that call upon technology as a resource across the school. Stand-alone technology plans reflect their more focused technology planning process.
District strategic planning can encompass the school’s focused technology planning process to ensure efficiency and effective digital learning and technology implementation. While many districts undergo technology planning to produce a technology plan document, districts often find the whole planning process to be at least as equally valuable as the plan itself. The discussions and collaboration lead to buy in and an understanding of what needs to be accomplished and why. Comprehensive planning offers many benefits:
- Planning orients districts and schools toward long-term thinking about reform and improvements. With a future-facing approach, leaders can establish vision for how technology can support broader goals and objectives that help to align resources for successful technology implementation.
- Planning can encourage districts to emphasize excellence over compliance. Even though most technology plans include similar elements, districts have the freedom to populate plans with various ways of exceeding, and not just meeting, expectations.
- Good planning can cultivate a healthy school culture by calling for decisions rooted in accurate data and valuing the input of a variety of stakeholders throughout the process.
E-Rate Technology Planning Requirements
As part of E-rate Modernization, the FCC eliminated the program’s technology planning requirement. Technology planning is still expected, but submitting and certifying technology plans is no longer a mandate. This shift in E-Rate requirements does not minimize the importance of planning for technology infrastructure. The FCC noted, “We are certain that even absent this rule, technology planning will continue to occur because technology has become a central part of school and library infrastructure, and technology planning has become integrated into applicants’ core strategic planning.” Program details related to technology planning are available on pages 79, 197 & 198 in the July 2014 E-rate Modernization order.
With these changes comes an excellent opportunity for schools to revisit and reassess their technology planning process and their strategies for transforming education to bring digital learning opportunities to educators and students.