10 Step Process to Evaluate Non-Instructional Technology
Schools, their leaders and their faculty, have invested time and money into technology systems that collect data and communicate with others. Moving from paper for communication, attendance, grades, and discipline has been a goal for schools over these past decades. Two different types of professionals have been involved in the transition from paper to technology. One group is teachers who have an interest and ability in technology who have stepped up into these leadership roles. The other group is comprised of non-educators who have found themselves with a valuable contribution to make in our educational environments. Both groups have strengths and limitations.
Teachers know and understand the needs and operation of the system and can contribute their understanding and experience as they recommend new systems and ideas. But they may be limited in their knowledge of the larger world of technology. The outside professionals may know more about systems and software but may lack understanding of the school system and the nuances of an educational organization. As a result, many schools have multiple systems that may or may not interface while attempting to meet needs for record keeping, reporting, assessing, and collecting data.
Like curriculum, software use has been added, nibbling around the edges and now many are overwhelmed with log-ins and passwords into different systems for different purposes. The weight of this responsibility is on the teachers and staff who are asked to learn these systems, and to enter and retrieve data using them. Some have invested in student information systems that include demographics, attendance and grades and some have found systems that talk to each other. Tech folks, or principals, or superintendents or teachers maintain web pages. Learning systems where students can learn independently add another layer of log-in and password and maintenance. We are not suggesting that there is one system that is the answer. Rather we are suggesting that it is time for many to stop and assess the systems that are being used, how they are being used and if there is a better way.
In his February 2016 EdWeek article, Benjamin Herold offered an informative overview of technology in education that is worth the read. To support what is raised in the article, we are suggesting that there is another layer...or a pre- first step. This involves studying and holding a mental barrier at bay. A ready barrier is believing that changing a system or piece of a system will cost too much, financially and in human terms. We suggest doing the study first. Conduct the study without judgment and bias, simply analyzing the information gathered.
- Gather a committee of students, parents, teachers, leaders, school technology personnel, staff from management and instructional sides of the organization and professionals from the community.
- Define the purpose clearly: examine each and every system in use in the system for effectiveness and efficiency and identify where systems are redundant or lacking.
- Study each system in use and gather feedback from the users of those systems.
- Stop along the way and consider who else can contribute to the process and should be added to the committee.
- Consider each system's success or limitations based upon its intended purpose.
- Consider ways of streamlining and/or connecting systems to limit #s of log-ins, passwords, and redundant use.
- Analyze the feedback collected for value, ease of use, meeting the expected intention of its use, successes and challenges.
- Reach out to other districts to discover how they have streamlined their use of technology while maximizing the value.
- Complete a financial analysis for the costs of any new or revised systems.
- Prepare recommendations for consideration by the district's leadership team. Encourage the committee to include what needs to be preserved and what needs to be abandoned because of inefficiency, cost or simply being outdated.
Oh, yes, and with a study this inclusive and broad, don't forget it begins with Board knowledge and ends with their allocation of funds.
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