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Local School District Educational Technology Planning

The Office of Educational Technology provides leadership, coordination, and guidance concerning the submission, technical review, and approval of local educational technology plans as a service to school districts. The Essential District Technology Plan Components (Word, 62KB) structure in use by the Department of Education is intended to provide a general framework for technology plan content and provides for consistency in the plan review process (historical information).

Eligibility to participate in certain federal technology initiatives and grant programs requires that a local school district develop and maintain a long-range strategic district technology plan that adequately addresses prescribed planning criteria. Planning requirements and expectations vary from program to program, but many of the essential components of an effective technology planning process are consistent between programs. While participation in federal programs is optional, a majority of school districts participate to improve learning opportunities for all students, enhance technology resources needed in conjunction with existing initiatives (such as reading improvement), and as an ongoing strategy to help address (in a targeted and focused way) significant challenges associated with impoverished and disadvantaged student populations.

The following are links to key educational technology related programs that have specific local planning requirements associated with them:

As various ed-tech programs can have different implementation timelines and application filing deadlines associated with them, a regular annual submission, review and approval cycle for school district ed-tech plans is difficult to maintain. The Office of Educational Technology coordinates the plan submission and review schedule to address ongoing program needs as well as new planning requirements to the extent possible. In an ongoing effort to prevent any Florida public school district from being ineligible to participate in critical funding opportunities that become available, the Office of Educational Technology recommends that all districts develop and maintain a comprehensive educational technology plan.

In addition to addressing federal program participation requirements, developing a strong technology planning process can assist a district in establishing appropriate guidelines, standards, and policies related to the acquisition and infusion of new and emerging technologies. A well designed and robust support structure is required to manage complex technology infrastructure and telecommunications upgrades at schools, address major transformations such as one-to-one computing, wireless access, intensive laptop use, Internet-based instructional content delivery, distance learning, etc. There are a host of complex issues involved in migrating to technology-rich instructional environments, and good planning is essential to dealing with the many challenges and opportunities that arise.

Developing the resources necessary to build and maintain a modern installed base of technology in schools requires input from (and ongoing coordination with) many stakeholders. Effectively integrating technology into instructional activities demands that teachers and school administrators be aware of technology-based learning tools currently available, have ongoing access to appropriate training opportunities, and have workable polices and procedures in place to guide technology use in classrooms. Significant amounts of funding are needed to provide technology-enhanced instruction for all students, and a sound district level technology plan can be a key resource when seeking new grant opportunities. A comprehensive technology plan can also help staff manage technology that has already been acquired, facilitate the identification critical needs, and provide a foundation for future developments.

Researching and identifying appropriate technology-based solutions and support strategies, considering technology-related standards, understanding current concepts and directions (such as "technology literacy" and 21st Century skill development), are all pertinent to technology planning. A district's long-range strategic or comprehensive plan will typically address technology in a very broad manner, but in most instances will not cover specific needs related to technology use in schools. Reviewing and selecting appropriate educational software, establishing Internet and e-mail access policies, developing strategies to replace broken or obsolete equipment, and upgrading the technology infrastructure within a district are all areas that demand constant review and attention. A well focused technology planning process can assist a district in determining areas of critical need and can help in prioritizing what needs to be done to address those needs. A fully developed district level technology plan can also fill in the guidance gaps inherent in a strategic or comprehensive plan. A plan that has been developed with key stakeholder involvement can help steer school improvement efforts in a positive and constructive way. Financial resources are limited in every district and so priorities must be determined and complicated support decisions must be made. Using available resources efficiently and providing the best possible learning experiences for students are both important outcomes of a robust technology planning process. A technology plan can provide the necessary technical framework and standards necessary to guide technology-intensive school improvement initiatives and reduce confusion when technology purchases and installations are being considered.

The goals outlined in the local technology plan should always support the broad goals and directions established in conjunction with high level strategic planning in a district, but establishing goals within a technology plan that are too broad in scope makes evaluation and monitoring of the plan difficult or impractical. Goals and objectives should be written in a manner that make it possible to determine if progress is being made towards achievement of desired results or objectives.

Because technology changes so rapidly and new capabilities are available all the time, it is critical that effective planning tools and strategies be developed and incorporated to support educational technology use in schools. Effectively infusing technology into the learning process requires skilled and knowledgeable teachers as well as highly capable support personnel. Addressing the numerous policy issues and technical problems encountered when trying to use technology to support instruction can be daunting, and the many challenges can overwhelm both school and district personnel. The DOE Office of Educational Technology is committed to helping school districts as they move forward in removing significant barriers to effective technology use in schools.

Individual school districts adopt different approaches to educational technology planning as they have different planning needs depending on the size of the school district, the complexity and magnitude of service needs within the district, and the particular operational and administrative structure in place. Changes in leadership, long-term student population growth trends, and other factors can also significantly impact the direction and planning needs for a particular district. Ultimately, each district must determine which planning model will work best to address local needs.