As was the case in previous technology plan revisions, we initiated the planning process with information gathering, exposure and discussion in the format of a staff work session. Session participants were selected based on their background and experience in working with technology resources, media content and communications systems over the past years, and most have held some level of responsibility in serving as information and/or technology resource and support agents for other staff members. Administrator participants have an awareness of district curriculum and technology goals, logistical barriers and potential opportunities, staff needs and motivators, and provide required leadership.
The session began with introductory comments providing an explanation of the purpose for the meeting. The meeting agenda was reviewed with the desired outcomes revealed.
The next portion of the session called for the establishment of several small workgroups, each assigned a technology specialist as a resource and charged with the completion of a sequence of tasks created for each of ten (10) designed activities. The purpose for each activity was to allow the participants to work with a different “e-learning” resource available today in their schools, explore them at a fairly complex level, and engage in discussion and problem solving throughout the process. The groups were able to rotate through most of the activities during the morning portion of the work session. With that, discussion of the management, maintenance and support requirements allowing for the existence of these resources in the classroom was drawn out with individual groups during the activity.
As the nature of many of the examined resources expressly involve the manipulation and sharing of various media forms (content) as well as communications (people), whole group discussion examining legislation, policy and procedures dealing with copyright vs. fair use, and parental permissions were included in the process.
With an experience baseline established after working through the ten distance learning activities, and relevant discussions, the primary focus of the afternoon’s discussion session was to: 1) identify opportunities for employing the use of these available resources; 2) examine some of the benefits for enhancing instruction, staff development and productivity; 3) list required conditions leading to successful implementation; 4) recognize obstacles hindering progress; 5) explore motivators for increasing staff participation; and finally 6) construct legitimate recommendations for systematic change that affords the district a better approach to achieving its goals, beyond what it’s doing already.
As a follow-up to the initial meeting, the district provided a ½ day hands-on staff development session in every school over the course of several months during the spring of 2003, providing full day substitutes to cover both a morning and afternoon group of teacher participants, as well as selected community members. This program provided several small-scale learning activities allowing participant groups to experience many of the new technology resources available. Enough sessions were scheduled to include every building teacher and community representative, and all of the district’s technology specialists participated in every session as group leaders. Feedback was obtained from every participant and this data was analyzed and used in the revision of goals and tasks incorporated in the plan.
The community at large was also afforded the opportunity to participate in a comprehensive survey that included items designed for the purpose of educational technology planning. This survey was conducted in the fall of 2003 via the district’s web site.
Additional meetings were held with district technology staff members serving as building and community representatives. A complete review of the required revision elements of the plan as prescribed by the NJDOE was provided, a final task-by-task assessment of the former action plan was conducted with respect to continued relevance, and new goals and tasks were created in the identified target areas as a result of staff and community input.
By more aggressively pursuing the implementation of the recommendations made as incorporated in the revised action plan, it is hoped that we may: 1) Pursue equity by increasing significantly the number of students that are afforded opportunities to benefit from the provision of learning experiences that utilize educational technology resources on a more regular basis; 2) Raise levels of expectation and provide assurances that our staff will regularly use educational technology resources following varied approaches to motivation, appropriate levels of staff development and the reformation of various types of support structures; 3) Dedicate the required level of manpower and expertise to ensure that systems that provide access to educational technology resources may be properly administered, maintained and can evolve in proportion with our changing needs; and 4) Engage in continuous project assessment and provide necessary modifications to ensure that the district realizes a maximum return (i.e., educational benefits) on its investment in costs associated with communications services, infrastructure, staff, staff development, media content licensing, and support services.
As was the case in past revisions, the nine (9) target areas that were again reaffirmed as comprehensive and viable:
- Instructional Technology Programs and Initiatives
- Administration and Productivity Initiatives
- Community Access Opportunities
- Facilities, Hardware Resources and Infrastructure
- Software and Online Resources
- Staff Development Programs
- Educational Technology Staffing
- Maintenance, Service and Support
- Technology Resource Acquisition