Below is an introduction (draft) included in the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District’s, “Strategic Technology Plan: Planning to Enable Digital Learning.”
In the hands of students and teachers, technology is powerful. When in support of a rigorous curriculum, technology can transform learning. Integrating educational technology into our classrooms and lessons is important in providing a quality education. It is the mission of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District (District) to prepare students for a 21st century, global economy. This mission must be threaded throughout the fabric of our schools and developed as a literacy that all students must acquire.
Seymour Papert, author of Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas and developer of the LOGO computing language, begins his landmark book describing his experience with gears he played with as a youngster. As a result of his experiences with these gears, Papert came to understand physics in a way impossible to replicate with only books and lectures. For Papert, the gears were “objects-to-think-with” and thought of computers as one of the best objects to think with because young people better understood concepts when they could manipulate and engage ideas for themselves in digital ways.
At the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District (District), we want students to use technology as objects to think with in ways that go beyond the affordances of pen-and-paper. We want students to use technology to construct and demonstrate learning of curriculum content and to interact with the world.
We believe our goal should be to prepare students for the challenges of our interconnected, globalized, tech-laden economy and society. We should be preparing students not just for college, or job placement, but for years thereafter in a world in which tasks and responsibilities are constantly changing and new ones emerging.
To meet the needs of the 21st century learner, we must ensure students are prepared to thrive in a world that demands collaboration, innovative thinking, and adaptability. In order to prepare students for the rigors of life beyond, we must ensure that we are developing essential skills across all content areas that will ultimately help ensure students graduate college and be career ready.
In order to integrate digital learning and technology into the fabric of our school district, the Education Technology Department, in conjunction with teachers, staff and administration, must collectively develop a strategic technology plan (or digital learning plan) that serves as a blueprint for integrating digital learning strategies that directly impact teaching and learning.
Effective leadership is critical to the success of any technology integration program. A defining trait of successful school educational technology programs is a well-defined vision technology infused teaching and learning that is effectively shared with various constituents. Effective communication of a well defined technology vision and plan to all stakeholders results in a common goal for the entire district which will allow for increased innovation.
Top-tier educational resources were used in the creation of this plan. The collection of key industry resources and standards that we relied upon were as follows:
- U.S. Department of Education, through the Office of Educational Technology created an open-source, publicly funded vision and plan for learning environments supported by technology.
- In conjunction with the Alliance for Excellent Education and the U.S. Department of Education, Future Ready Learning materials and assessments were used to help ensure that our technology and digital learning plans align with instructional best practices, and lead to personalized learning experiences for all students.
- Benchmarks by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), designed to guide districts in developing purposeful long-range technology plans.
- International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Students is the definitive framework for successfully implementing digital strategies to positively impact learning and teaching in our technology-powered world.
This strategic technology plan will be managed by the Educational Technology Department and integrated by the dynamic educators throughout the district. While both our district mission and strategic technology plan directly serves our students, it reminds every educator that we are all lifelong learners who share in this process.
It is important to note that innovation itself is a process, not an event. A major driver of this plan is for the district to define a strategy with all stakeholders and we hope to continually assess this plan in an ever-changing landscape and reflect on our mission to reinforce the district vision, budget considerations, digital learning and technology integration. In order to provide our students with the most current technologies, we must continually assess our infrastructure, hardware, and software applications and therefore, believe that the strategic technology planning document is “living” and will change with appropriate advances.
Technology needs must be in the service of learning. This may seem obvious, but all too often technology becomes an end unto itself, rather than a coherent part of a community plan for learning, as there are often many details in technology planning including acquisition, security, sustainability, teacher training, parent education, and so on. It is possible to lose sight of the most important issue, which is student learning. Providing tools and infrastructure is important, but not as important as engaging educators in incorporating technology in thoughtful ways that empower all students.
To start, we know that not all students learn the same way. Our students have processing differences that influence how they will handle information through text, visual, aural, or kinesthetic pathways. We also know that information presented through multiple modalities or pathways addresses a wider range of learners and increases both comprehension and use. Fortunately, technology provides us a variety of options for engaging all students through various modalities.
At the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District, technology integration is an essential process which can enhance and support the delivery of engaging and effective instruction. In order to create an effective technologically infused educational environment, every classroom must be equipped with diverse technologies to support varied teaching and learning practices.
Educational technology also plays a valuable role in the implementation of our districts Universal Design for Learning (UDL) initiative by supporting technologies necessary for students to analyze information, collaborate and be creative as well as provide necessary scaffolds and challenges, to engage students in the 21st century learning environment (see Section 2: Digital Learning).
Our teachers must be knowledgeable and skilled in the use of technologies in daily instruction to reach our diverse set of learners. Despite the great diversity in student capacities, our curriculum materials are often narrowly constructed with an overwhelming focus on text. (Some advocates have gone so far as to call the curriculum print disabled—incapable of supporting learning from people who struggle with decoding print.)
For students to succeed as 21st century learners, they must be technologically literate and have regular access to up-to-date technology. Through recent increases to district technology hardware and infrastructure (see Section 4: Hardware & Infrastructure), made possible by the FY13 Technology Warrant article, the Educational Technology Department has worked hard to cultivate a strong technology ‘core’ across the district and build deeper capacity in the operating budget, to meet the needs of our staff, students and families. It will be important to have the necessary technology to match future needs to explore personalized learning and support universally designed teaching.
Luke R. Callahan, M.Ed.
Director of Technology