School and District Technology Plans

The pressure of being the first guest blogger!

As Scott mentioned my name is David Quinn and I am an Assistant Professor of Educational Administration and Policy at the University of Florida .  I am in my second year at UF having previously taught at the University of Arizona for six years.  I am excited about the opportunities that are emerging at UF especially being able to focus my teaching, research and service around issues of technology leadership in schools.  I teach three classes at UF: Leading Change, Data-Driven Decision Making and Technology Leadership in Schools and I am excited at the convergence of literature and research in these areas that are readily applied to administrative practice.  I just read through this bio and it is sounding pretty academic, so on to my musings.

While teaching the tech leadership class this past summer, my graduate assistant, Matt Ohlson, and I were talking about how relevant or irrelevant school and district technology plans can be.  As we looked for school and district tech plans that could serve as exemplars for our students, we were amazed at the spectrum of plans.  Some might contend that a plan is just a piece of paper (or more often than not an Adobe Acrobat file) that schools and districts complete because of a mandate like receiving e-rate funding.  I would argue however, that an inclusive process of planning for technology can be a powerful stimulus for changing schools from something Frederick Taylor would appreciate into an organization that acknowledges that technology, especially the Internet, has radically changed our world over the last 10-15 years.  I am in schools on a regular basis and cringe whenever I see the same rote instruction led by lecture, while 5 networked computers collect dust in the back of the room (that’s a whole other blog entry).

Getting back to the discussion of technology planning, one of the often-referenced district plans is from Bellingham Public Schools. This is an excellent “living” document that really drives the utilization and integration of technology in Bellingham Washington.  Searching the Internet for model plans tweaked my interest in what was happening at the district level in Florida.  Being new to the state, I with major assistance from Matt began collecting and analyzing as many of the 67 district technology plans as we could get our hands on.  Out of the 52 plans that we compiled, there are some powerful documents including those from Pinellas, Sumter and Palm Beach Counties.  Many of the plans fall far short of providing a guiding vision for tech utilization.  A majority of these plans follow Florida’s minimum guidelines for district technology plans without deviation.  I don’t blame these districts, they were told “if you want e-rate funding, you will submit a plan that addresses these criteria.”  Those districts that went above and beyond typically have large technology departments and experienced leadership, whereas many of the weaker plans are from small rural districts where the director of technology may also have numerous other obligations.  Colleges of education should also accept some of the responsibility because most are not preparing administrators how to be technology leaders.

This investigation has been enlightening and we have begun to collect school-level technology plans for review.  While district tech plans provide a roadmap for many schools, a school-level technology plan is essential for guiding technology implementation acknowledging the unique context of each school.  The most rewarding part of teaching the tech leadership class was seeing a good number of my students become excited about the opportunities that technology provide for schools.  Several students are using their new knowledge and enthusiasm to start leading change in their own schools.

This “stuff” as Scott so eloquently puts it, is always on my mind, and I am excited about the future of technology in schools.

7 Responses to “School and District Technology Plans”

  1. Dave, I can’t wait to see the results of your study of these district technology plans. Good stuff (and, yes, I tend to liberally sprinkle non-technical terms)!

    Wouldn’t it be cool if more organizations used wikis to foster collaborative technology plan creation and facilitate community input? Here are a couple of examples:



  2. Bravo on your first post! I always wondered if e-rate, in it’s good intentions, didn’t stunt the growth of school district tech plans because the ends always seemed to be networked computers and maybe districts took a collective sigh of relief when that was done.
    I look forward to the rest of the week. I would be interested in hearing more about school-level tech plans.
    Lastly, when will you be back at the U of A being a visiting professor teaching your Tech Leadership class? 🙂

  3. Thanks Scott, I’ll have some of the initial results by UCEA to share with you. BTW I use wikis in all of my classes. This summer we had a wiki where students brainstormed lists of technology related professional development needed in their schools. It is a powerful tool.
    Hi Steve, I think you are right, for many districts e-rate is analagous to a competency exam where all you have to do is the bare minimum to get by, without thinking about how much more powerful tech planning could be. We are just beginning the look at school-level plans but I am happy to share what I have. I would love to come out to guest lecture at UA. We fell in love with Tucson and I definitely miss my friends and colleagues out there. I thought I knew everyone in Marana so you must be new. I hope things are going well in Marana and at DeGrazia…so hello to anyone who remembers me.

  4. Dr. Quinn, you stud.

    I think that school/district technology plans are not just responsive to eRate. It actually goes back to the feds’ original Technology Literacy Challenge Fund whereby states had to develop technology plans and submit them to the feds. Then, in turn, districts had to submit techology plans to the state to get TLCF money. So, arguably, the feds set the initial standards for technology planning for local education agencies. For a good review of the state technology plans see:
    Zhao, Y. & Conway, P. (2001). What’s in, what’s out: an analysis of state educational technology plans. Teachers College Record, ID Number: 10717. Retrieved February 14, 2003 from


  5. Here in the state of Oklahoma, all school districts are being required to rewrite their technology plans to comply with requirements of Federal Title II, Subchapter D funding, just in case at some point they apply for a grant under this program. In the past districts had to address 5 components in their tech plans, now they have to address 13 components. In preparing for a series of E-Rate presentations I’m doing around the state, I’ve wondered about the value of this technology planning process. One of the biggest problems has to do with the timing of E-Rate, districts really have to operate on two different timelines: One assuming their priority 2 funding will NOT come through, and another in case it does. I wonder how many district officials really use the technology plan as the E-Rate lords think it should be used? My perception is that many are just writing it to get it done, as you state. I am wondering if districts shouldn’t be using a wiki to construct their technology plans? That in itself is not an answer to the problems which plague the technology planning and implementation process, but it would certainly lend the process more toward the dynamic and updatable side of things.

    I am struck by how desperately we need 1:1 laptop initiatives accompanied by sustained, just-in-time professional development support for teachers in this country as I do more workshops on technology integration in Oklahoma. Even in those schools that have spent money recently on technology like interactive whiteboards, in most classrooms I do not think predominant pedagogies are changing. The pedagogy of E-Rate seems to me to just be kids surfing the web, sucking up content and then taking tests afterwards to measure their learning. I really would like to know how we can change predominant classroom practice that is so transmission-based. So much of what I think teachers and professors do is “synchronous, non-interactive.” This needs to change. Sadly, I don’t think the technology planning process typically moves districts ahead in this process.

  6. David,
    I enjoyed your post but was chagrined to see Bellingham referenced as having a District technology plan that drives “utilization and integration.” Having taught in the district for years, I can assure you that what looks good on paper doesn’t always transfer to the school level, much less the classroom level. Take a good look at our school sites and you will notice a scarcity of teacher web pages. We can’t upload to our own pages; our library media specialists do it for us. Professional development focuses on acquisition of software skills, rarely are integration courses offered. New technology is spread “equally” and has nothing to do with how it is used or how often. Computers often sit idle in classrooms. There is no technology committee at a district level that includes a classroom teacher and decisions on what type of equipment and software to buy are made by the IT department in conjunction with Library Media department without input from teachers or students! Teachers that do integrate technology are sometimes given the worst equipment because, “You know how to handle it.” Those of us using Web 2.0 tools are quiet about it, because we fear repercussions. I could continue but you probably get the drift. Yikes! There seem to be districts out there much more successful at the classroom level than we are. Perhaps what is on paper is not as important as who is leading the charge forward. Bellingham has made changes in leadership at the district level and hopefully, this year, we will see support for those of us trying to change things at the building level. My fingers are crossed.

  7. David,

    You need to let us teacher ed/ed techers know that you’re doing this kind of thing! I would have been happy to pass along the link.

    We need to lunch sometime soon.



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