District Technology Planning
02Jun

5 Key Areas Every K-12 District Should Include in Their Technology Plan

students-studying-300x200 5 Key Areas Every K-12 District Should Include in Their Technology Plan

Are these areas covered in your technology plan?

Ten years ago, your district technology plan most certainly looked very different than the vision and plan you have today. As the number of devices, applications, platforms and vendors continues to rise—as well as the number of people who work with them—creating a district technology plan has become a complex undertaking.

But one thing hasn’t changed: the direct impact your technology plan has on student achievement and classroom instructional strategies. An integral part of your comprehensive school improvement plan, at its core, your technology plan should focus on how your district will use technology to transform teaching and learning.

Hall County Schools Shares Technology Planning Must-Haves

We invited Dr. Aaron Turpin, assistant superintendent of technology for Hall County Schools, GA, and one of the Center for Digital Education’s Top 40 Innovators In Education, to share with us in a recent webinar how his district has approached technology planning. Joined by Jay Smith, innovation architect, and Greg Odell, eLearning specialist, the Hall County team discussed five areas that every school district should include in their technology plan: networks and services, information technology, instructional technology, web development and technology funding.

Let’s take a look at each of these areas.

Key Area 1: Networks and Services

“Everything we do in a school district—instruction, school food nutrition, finance, transportation, student health services, security systems—they’re all on the network. With that reality, a secure network isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity for school districts.”
— Jay Smith, innovation architect, Hall County Schools

One of the major elements in that network is the district’s data center, noted Smith. The component that “makes all the magic happen” across the district. He offered some tips to ensure your student and district data is safe and secure, from building in redundancy to ensuring adequate computer room cooling.

He also recommends that districts monitor networks around the clock, as well as conduct regular audits—not only to uncover issues, but also to confirm that your systems are performing as expected.

“There is no unhackable system,” said Smith. “An unhackable system is really one that is never used.”

Key Area 2: Information Technology

“Information technology is key to funding school districts.”
— Dr. Aaron Turpin, assistant superintendent of technology, Hall County Schools

Depending on where your district is located, state and federal funding is tied to areas such as free and reduced lunch percentage, number of students, years of teacher experience and teacher degree levels. In the state of Georgia, the number one factor in determining state and federal funding is scheduling, noted Dr. Turpin. That’s why stakeholders work closely with IT to ensure they have the data they need to get it right.

In order to maximize funding, Dr. Turpin recommends having an effective master schedule, ensuring everyone adheres to FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy) regulations around protecting student privacy, and having two backups of your systems, including your student information system (SIS).

“A lapse in data security could jeopardize a student’s future opportunities,” he said.

Key Area 3: Instructional Technology

“The purpose of everything we do is to have a positive impact on student achievement.”
— Greg Odell, e-Learning specialist, Hall County Schools

The e-Learning team does this by collaborating with teachers, administrators and other school leaders in curriculum design. They curate and evaluate new and existing instructional content and platforms, while looking for ways to break down communication silos and collaborate more effectively across the district.

According to Odell, their most important work is supporting local school teachers. Through their BLAST program (Blended LeArning Support Teams), the e-Learning team works with local school blended learning leaders (practicing classroom teachers) to identify how their digital resources can help the school best meet the instructional goals outlined in their school improvement plans.

Key Area 4: Web Development

“Successful organizations realize that their customers expect to be able to access well-organized, pertinent information on many different devices at any time.”
— Dr. Aaron Turpin, assistant superintendent of technology, Hall County Schools

That’s why the district considers web development to be an important function of a highly efficient, effective technology department, explained Dr. Turpin. To support their efforts, Hall County has three full-time web developers. The district also empowers schools to maintain their own websites, with some schools choosing to work with high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) students to develop and maintain their sites.

To ensure districts manage their sites strategically and effectively, Dr. Turpin discussed best practices, from making sure your sites work on a variety of devices, to investing in security and backing up your sites regularly.

“Don’t skimp on website security,” cautioned Dr. Turpin. He explained that the district site had been hacked in the past, and while they were able to get the site back online in minutes, they have since strengthened their security measures to prevent further episodes.

Key Area 5: Technology Funding

“With the exception of power and water, there’s really no area that impacts every facet of operation more than technology.”
— Dr. Aaron Turpin, assistant superintendent of technology, Hall County Schools

Dr. Turpin advised district leaders to think about ways they can work smarter, drive down costs and save valuable time. In one example, the district realized a 45-percent cost savings over nine years by replacing textbooks with instructional software. In another, they saved $10,000 in consultant fees after investing $2,000 in a technology certification training program.

Find out more about how Hall County has developed their technology vision and plan. Watch the webinar today.

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