DAILY INSIGHT: Long-term technology planning

What steps should CIOs take to determine future access to digital tools? 
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By Matt Townsley, CIO Advisor

What? Why? Who?

Our school district will soon begin a multi-year process of evaluating our current use of classroom technology and comparing it to our ideal future. Currently, all staff are issued laptops and we have several mobile labs in each of our buildings with additional desktop labs in our middle school and high school. In addition, many, but not all classrooms have two or three computers for student use. When all of the numbers are crunched, we have a computer for about every three students in our district. In general, our students have access to a computer and Internet access at home, too.

Aside from administering an initial student, parent, and teacher survey, I don't have a clear vision of what our multi-year process will entail. I think we have a team of teachers and administrators who will be able to see our task as a marathon rather than a sprint. Most importantly, I am interested in ensuring our future monetary investment in technology is purposeful. We will focus on two major themes over the next several years: innovative use and innovative access.

Innovative use

Placing a computer in the hands of students is not enough. If we're purchasing $1,000 laptops and using them to complete digital worksheets, I do not feel we are being good stewards of our taxpayers' money. Rather, I believe we should be aiming to engage our students in meaningful learning that is significantly enhanced by digital tools. Plenty of folks have written about this distinction. I anticipate reading this research and commentary will take up a significant portion of our meeting time.

Innovative access

In general, our students have pretty good access to computers at home and in school. Given our community demographics, would a 1:1 initiative make the most sense? Would a bring-your-own-device philosophy be more fitting? Have we considered a targeted or departmental 1:1 initiative? These are the types of questions we'll be asking ourselves after we've had the "innovative use" discussion.

We'd like our future to include increased access to digital tools; however, I firmly believe the access our students have should be determined first by our intended use.

What processes has/have your school's undertaken in order to envision a desired future for your students' access to digital tools?

Matt Townsley is director of instruction and technology at the Solon Community School District in eastern Iowa.

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