The Future of Information Technology in Education
An ISTE Publication


 

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Chapter 9
Planning for Educational Change

Goals of Education in the United States

  •    A strategic plan for technology in education should take into consideration the generally acknowledged goals of education. Chapter 3 contains three general goals of education. The following list is more extensive and detailed. It is a list of goals that many people in American society generally agree upon. Each of the goals is followed by brief comments about how the goal is being affected by information technology.

     

    Conserving Goals

  • G1

    Security: All students are safe from emotional and physical harm. Both formal and informal educational systems must provide a safe and secure environment designed to promote learning.

    Comment: There has been a great deal of media coverage about potential physical and emotional harm that might occur as students are given access to the World Wide Web. Schools are responding by trying to shelter students from Web sites that are deemed to be inappropriate. In addition, students are being asked to use the Web in a responsible manner.

    G2

    Full Potential: All students are knowingly working toward achieving and increasing their healthful physical, mental, and emotional potentials.

    Comment: Notice the emphasis on students "knowingly" working to increase their potentials. The goal is to empower students to empower themselves. Person Plus is more powerful than a person who lacks knowledge and skills in using the modern mind tools. Achieving full potential includes learning to make effective use of contemporary tools that are used in the fields where one is developing their potentials.

    G3

    Values: All students respect the traditional values of the family, community, state, nation, and world in which they live.

    Comment: Not all people are equally appreciative of and supportive of information technology. Our educational system must allow for such differences in values. In many cases, this means that students must be given options on assignments and on information sources, as well as guidance in selecting options that are supportive of values of their family and culture.

    G4

    Environment: All students value a healthy local and global environment, and they knowingly work to improve the quality of the environment.

    Comment: Some of the most successful uses of information technology in schools have centered around environmental projects. Students work on environmental problems in their own communities and/or on a wider scale. For example, students make use of microcomputer-based instrumentation to gather data on water and air quality. Data may be shared from sites throughout the city, state, nation, or world through use of e-mail. It has become common for students to develop hypermedia documents as an aid in disseminating the results of their studies.

    G5

    Overall Educational System: All communities knowingly work toward having both formal and informal educational systems that work together on the following Achieving Goals.

    Comment: Information technology is now well embedded in our communities. The entire community can be a supportive learning environment as students learn about information technology. School-business partnerships for information technology have become common. For example, many companies refurbish the microcomputers that they are replacing, and provide them to schools.

     

    Achieving Goals

  • G6

    Basic Skills: All students gain a working knowledge of speaking and listening, observing (which includes visual literacy), reading and writing, arithmetic, logic, and storing and retrieving information. All students learn to solve problems, accomplish tasks, deal with novel situations, and carry out other higher-order cognitive activities that make use of these basic skills.

    Comment: Many people now argue that information technology literacy is a basic skill. A number of states have set goals for having all of their students gain basic knowledge and skills in use of a variety of information technology tools.

    G7

    General Education: All students have appreciation for, knowledge about, and understanding of a number of general areas of education, including:

     

    • Artistic, intellectual, social, and technical accomplishments of humanity.

       

    • Cultures and cultural diversity; religions and religious diversity.

       

    • Governments and governance.

       

    • History and geography.

       

    • Mathematics and science.

       

    • Nature in its diversity and interconnectedness.

    Comment: Information technology is part of the technical accomplishments of humanity. The history of information technology is an integral component of the history of the human race.

    G8

    Lifelong Learning: All students learn how to learn. They have the inquiring attitude and self-confidence that allows them to pursue life's options. They have the knowledge and skills needed to deal effectively with change.

    Comment: Information technology will continue to change quite rapidly. It will present a learning challenge to students of all ages throughout their lifetimes.

    G9

    Problem Solving: All students make use of decision-making and problem-solving skills, including the higher-order skills of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. All students pose and solve problems, making routine and creative use of their overall knowledge and skills.

    Comment: Information technology is a powerful aid to problem solving in every academic discipline. The idea of Person Plus is important throughout all grade levels and subject areas in school.

    G10

    Productive Citizenship: All students act as informed, productive, and responsible members of organizations to which they give allegiance, and as members of humanity as a whole.

    Comment: Information technology, including the World Wide Web, is fast becoming a routine component of life in our society.

    G11

    Social Skills: All students interact publicly and privately with peers and adults in a socially acceptable and positive fashion.

    Comment: Information technology has brought us new forms of communication and social interaction, including desktop conferencing, picture phones, e-mail, and groupware.

    G12

    Technology: All students have appropriate knowledge and skills for using our rapidly changing Information Age technologies as well as relevant technologies developed in earlier ages.

    Comment: Information technology is both a discipline in its own right and a driving force for change in many different areas of technology, science, and research.

Long-Range Strategic Planning

  •    Many organizations do long-range strategic planning. They decide where they would like to be 5 to 6 years in the future, and then they commit their resources to getting there. That is, strategic planning can be thought of as a combination of predicting the future and of allocating resources to shape the future.

       Strategic planning is a process that leads to a product. The product, a strategic plan, is useful to the extent that:

     

    • it embodies creative, careful, and realistic thinking;

       

    • it is implemented in an appropriate and thoughtful manner; and

       

    • it contributes significantly to accomplishing the mission of the organization.

    Many organizations find that the process of developing a strategic plan contributes as much or more to an organization than does actually having such a plan in hand. However, a strategic plan is very important to have available because it provides a framework for day-to-day and longer-term decision making on the part of the staff and volunteers who work for the organization.

       In general, completion of a long-range strategic plan then leads to the development of a medium-range plan that covers 2 to 3 years, and a short-range plan covering one year. One-year plans are particularly important in education because typically one can accurately forecast the resources (money and people) that will be available during the year.

       Once a long-range strategic plan is in place, it needs to be updated each year. This provides a basis for annually updating the medium-range plan and creating the next year's plan. All of this gets tied into the budget cycle, as a year's budget is designed to accomplish specific short-term goals in the year's plan.

Six-Step Strategic Planning Process

  •    A six-step strategic planning process for technology in education is outlined below. A strategic planning team should include members from the various stakeholder groups that are involved with and/or interested in education. Typically, several members of the team will be community members who are not educators. A small school might require about 100 person-hours of time to complete the process. A large school district might require 1,000 or more person-hours of time to complete the process. Keep in mind that quite a bit of the time is used to help educate the planners. The time and effort invested in this education process is essential to achieving overall success in the strategic planning process.

    1. Evaluate the Situation

       The starting point for strategic planning is a careful evaluation of the current situation. This step is often called an environmental scan. Much of the work needed to complete an environmental scan can be assigned to staff and can be completed before the first meeting of the strategic planning group. However, once the group begins meeting, it will likely generate additional requests for such information.

     

    • Analyze the environment and the planning assumptions. Identify the key stakeholders, their beliefs and goals, and the current state of affairs.

       

    • Tabulate such resources as money, personnel, time, and so forth and decide whether these are certain, allocated, or probable. Resources are needed both to carry out the strategic planning process and to implement the plans that are developed.

       

    • Gather and analyze data on what is working well and what is not working well. For example, what are the current uses of technology in the organization, and what are students learning about such technology?

       

    • Gather baseline data that adequately describes the current situation. This will consist of both quantitative and qualitative data. This baseline data is needed both for planning purposes and to measure change over time, as implementation of the strategic plan proceeds over the years. Conclusions from the data can become assumptions for planning.

    2. Articulate a Vision

       Although long-range strategic planning usually focuses on a 5- to 6-year time span, it is important to have a vision of what might be accomplished over a much longer time span. This vision might be focused 15 or more years in the future.

       Imagine a member of the strategic planning committee sharing hopes and fears:

     

    • My child will enter kindergarten next year. I hope and expect that my child will at least complete two years of technical training in a community college-I think that is going to be essential to get a good job.

      What will the world be like when my child is finishing school, looking for a job, and taking on more and more adult responsibilities? Will the formal and informal education that we have been able to provide prove adequate?

      I am particularly concerned about how rapidly technology is changing, and how this is changing jobs. I want my child to be ready for the jobs that have not yet even been created. I want my child to have the knowledge, skills, and learning habits that will be needed to deal with the changing job situations 15 or more years from now.

       This sort of sharing is a starting point for the strategic planning group forming a vision. Every member of the group can share hopes, fears, and visions. This type of sharing activity is a good way for the planning group members to get to know each other. Notice that it is personal-it does not focus on any particular stakeholder group. It helps to create a shared vision that moves beyond the concerns of any particular stakeholder group.

       Such a vision is painted in very broad strokes. Thus, it might focus on the problem solving and learning challenges today's preschoolers will face on the job, as homemakers, and as responsible adults 15 years from now.

    3. Decide on a Mission Statement

       A strategic planning group needs to decide on a technology in education mission for the school or school district for which the strategic planning is being done.

       A mission is an ongoing purpose, the reason an organization exists. It should be simple, direct, and easy for people to understand. Perhaps you remember what the mission of the March of Dimes was a number of years ago. Its mission was to conquer polio. This was a mission many different groups of people supported over many years. Now the organization has a new mission-to conquer birth defects. Notice that both the initial and the current missions of the March of Dimes are simple, direct, and easy to understand.

       For a school district, a sample mission statement might be "To ensure that all of our students are technologically literate." Quite likely the term "technologically literate" will be defined as a moving target-that is, a target based on ever changing contemporary standards. Thus, the mission will never be fully accomplished.

    4. Propose and Select Goals

       The vision must be translated into specific goals and objectives. These need to be grounded in the reality of the resources available to the organization. The research literature on strategic planning suggests that a plan should not contain more than a half-dozen major goals.

       Each goal can be supported by several objectives. And, of course, objectives can be supported by subobjectives. However, such detailed levels of goals, objectives, and subobjectives is apt to result in a plan that will not be accomplished. It places far too much emphasis on a top-down approach to problem solving and leaves too little to the insights and initiatives of those people who will actually be implementing the plan.

    5. Develop a Strategic Implementation Plan

       The strategic planning group needs to develop an overall implementation plan based on the agreed-upon goals and objectives. Who will do what, by when, using what resources? Who will be responsible for monitoring and reporting on progress?

       The implementation plan has short-term (perhaps one year or less), medium-term (2 to 3 years), and long-term (4 to 5 years or more) components. Remember that the development of an implementation plan requires careful examination of the goals. Quite likely, goals and objectives will be revised during planning for implementation.

       The strategic planning group will probably develop only a rough plan for implementation. Details may best be left up to the school personnel who have the authority and responsibility for implementation. Some planning groups and advisory councils have a tendency to "micromanage"-to attempt to spell out small details of what is to be done to achieve particular goals. This is inappropriate and can seriously hinder schools from actually achieving the goals.

    6. Periodic Assessment and Update

       Once a plan has been adopted, school personnel will choose, organize, and work on specific activities that are based on the overall implementation plan and that lead to achieving the adopted goals and objectives. They will also set in place an evaluation process that provides information needed by decision makers, implementors, and planners.

       Evaluation must be an ongoing part of strategic implementation. A key idea is that results from the evaluation are fed into current planning. Successful planners periodically revise and update the strategic plan based on the ongoing formative evaluation process. The long-range strategic plan should be carefully examined each year and should be updated based on information gathered during the year. Typically, the updating process takes only a small fraction of the time and effort used in the creation of the original plan.

       The National Center for Technology Planning is a clearinghouse for the exchange of information related to technology planning, including school district technology plans, technology planning aids, sample planning forms, and electronic monographs on related topics. The address is:

    Larry Anderson
    Drawer NU
    Mississippi State, MS 39762
    Phone: 601/325-2281
    E-mail: LSA1@RA.MSSTATE.EDU
    URL: gopher://gopher.msstate.edu:70/11/Online_services/nctp/

A Route to School Improvement and Change

  •    David Perkins (1992) analyzes the processes of school improvement and change. He gives a set of six criteria-all which need to be met-if a project is to have a positive, long lasting effect on a school. The six criteria are given below, along with some analysis from an information technology point of view. A long-range strategic plan for educational change should pay careful attention to the ideas presented in this section.

     

    • Do not escalate teacher workload. While information technology can increase productivity, invariably there is an initial phase of use in which decreased productivity occurs. This is part of the learning effort. In education, part of this difficulty can be overcome by providing teachers release time for professional development and by providing them with in-school (indeed, in their classroom) training and technical assistance.

       

    • Allow teachers a creative role. One key aspect of the Information Age is a restructuring of business that includes considerably increased empowerment of the front line workers. Classroom teachers must be involved in design and implementation of their own professional development as well as in changes in curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

       

    • Avoid extreme demands on teachers' skills and talents. The field of information technology in education is extensive and growing. It takes a great deal of knowledge and skills to function well in this field.

       

    • Include strong materials support. Teachers need good instructional materials, and students need good learning materials, for technology in education.

       

    • Do not boost the school costs per student a lot. At the current time, computer hardware and software are an add-on expense in education. As discussed elsewhere in this book, potential expenses can be considerable. Careful thought needs to be given as to whether the information technology expenses will lead to decreases in other expenses.

       

    • Fulfill many conventional educational objectives at least as well as conventional instruction. Chapter 3 of this book draws a parallel between the three R's and use of information technology in education.

What Will It Cost?

  •    This book contains forecasts of steadily increasing allocation of K-12 educational resources toward meeting the goals of technology in education. It is clear that it will cost a great deal to achieve those goals. Some of the needed funds can be obtained by reallocation of funds currently being allocated to other purposes. Major additional funding from other sources will likely be necessary.

       At the current time in the United States, perhaps 1.5% of school budgets is being spent on information technology hardware, software, networks, infrastructure, and support systems (U.S. Office of Education, June 1996). Already, however, there are schools that are spending 5% of their budgets in these areas. Over the long run, even this 5% figure will prove to be inadequate.

       To understand why this is so, imagine a school of the future in which every student has routine access to technology-enhanced learning. These TEL resources are available to the student at school and at home. The resources are backed up by a well-maintained infrastructure and support system. Among other things, this support system provides teachers with the inservice education and technical support that they need to continue to grow on the job.

       In terms of 1996 dollars, the average cost of public education in the United States is about $6,000 per student per year. Ten percent of this amount is about $600 per student per year. Now, imagine how far $600 per student per year will go in terms of:

     

    1. Providing every student and teacher with a powerful portable computer and a full range of computer productivity tools.

       

    2. Providing every classroom with a technology infrastructure that includes scanners, printers, camcorders, desktop presentation, and network connections.

       

    3. Providing every student and teacher good access to the full range of TEL facilities both in and outside of school.

       

    4. Providing maintenance and repair staff, as well as other technical support.

       

    5. Providing continuing inservice education and support for teachers.

       

    6. Providing ongoing curriculum revision and curriculum development to keep pace with the continued change in the technology.

       Even 10% of the school budget is not enough to provide all of these facilities and services. Thus, over the next decade we will see a steady rise in the average percentage of the K-12 educational budget that is going into technology. Ten years from now we will see a number of schools spending well over 10% of their budgets for such technology.

       The work of Henry Becker suggests that 10% is far too low an estimate of the needed resources. In Becker's (Fall 1993) article "A Truly Empowering Technology-Rich Education-How Much Will It Cost?" in the Educational IRM Quarterly, he analyzes technology costs based on schools that are making exemplary use of computers. He breaks the costs into facilities (such as items 1-3 in the list given above) and staff (such as 4-6 above). His conclusion is that the staff costs will exceed the facilities costs. This is consistent with a rule of thumb from the business world that hardware, software, and other related infrastructure make up about half the costs of providing employees with computer facilities.

       Becker suggests that for an average school to have reasonably up-to-date computer facilities and a good support system might well cost 30% of the current school budget. He compares this with the costs of implementing other types of major changes to the school, such as costs of implementing Ted Sizer's Coalition for Essential Schools model for secondary school organization and instruction. The costs were not a great deal different from what Becker feels would be necessary to support exemplary use of information technology.

       Notice the huge discrepancy between what Henry Becker is predicting for the eventual costs of information technology in education, and David Perkin's suggestion that to have a good chance of success, educational changes should not cost too much. This huge discrepancy suggests that full integration of information technology into our educational system faces a very difficult path.

How Long Will It Take to Get There?

  •    Few writers seem to be willing to make predictions about how long it will take to thoroughly integrate information technology into our educational system. Will we be there 50 years from now? A major part of the difficulty is that we face a moving target. Information technology is changing quite rapidly, so it is not at all clear what one might mean by "thoroughly integrate information technology into our educational system." It seems safe to say that this integration will not occur during the next few decades. That is, the pace of change of information technology will far exceed the pace of change in schools attempting to adjust to information technology.

       Think back to earlier in this book where we were talking about the impact of steam power and the Industrial revolution in England. Fifty years into the Industrial Revolution, the economy of the country had been transformed by steam power. However, electrical power, the internal combustion engine, and the jet engine had yet to be invented. The Industrial Revolution was still in its infancy. A number of technological breakthroughs would occur during the next hundred years, but these were not evident to people at that time.

       It is highly likely that the same situation exists for the Information Age. For an example, consider the field of Artificial Intelligence. Alan Turing, a pioneer in the development of computers, provides us with a 50-year historical perspective. Alan Turing helped to develop the first electronic digital computers built in England during the early 1940s. He was a brilliant mathematician and an early contributor to the research in computer and information science. In 1950 he posed a test for Artificial Intelligence. The test is an imitation game, and has come to be called the Turing Test. The idea is to develop a computer program that interacts with a human via computer terminal, and that can consistently fool the human into believing that he/she is interacting with a human being. Turing predicted that within 50 years, by the year 2000, the computer field would have achieved such progress. He made this prediction at a time when there were only about 20 computers in the whole world and the first commercially-produced computer had not yet rolled off the assembly line.

       Today's fastest computers are far more than a million times as fast as the computers in 1950. An immense amount of progress has occurred in programming and in Artificial Intelligence. Many people and groups have attempted to develop computer programs that will pass the Turing Test. Indeed, there is a substantial prize being offered to the first person/group to achieve this feat. So far-no winners.

       Will the next 50 years bring us walking, talking robots that readily pass the Turing test? Will these robots have human-like intelligence, be multilingual, and be able to carry on a learned conversation about any topic that happens to interest a human conversationalist? Will such robots surpass humans in their problem solving and research skills?

       Will the next 50 years bring direct neural connections between human brains and powerful computers? For example, will part of the education of a child include brain implants of computer memory chips and processing chips? What would it be like to have one's brain augmented by a few billion bytes of factual information and a high speed processor?

       Clearly, the previous two paragraphs are currently just science fiction. Will this type of science fiction become factual in 50 years? A hundred years? A thousand years? Never?

       We are approximately 50 years into the Information Age. The next 50 years will bring many times the changes we have seen in the past 50 years. While some of these changes will be orderly progressions from current technology, others will be major and unforeseen breakthroughs. Some of the ideas that we now think of as science fiction will become factual.

Conclusions and Recommendation

  •    We are at the very beginning of a major change in education. While the basic goals of education will not change much during the next few decades, our methods of working to achieve these goals will change substantially. There will be a major restructuring of educational funding in order to support putting 10-20% or more of school budgets into information technology.

       Impetus for change can come from any stakeholder interested in education. A small number of determined parents, for example, can cause major changes in a school system. However, a larger and more broadly representative group is usually more effective. If you are working to increase the use of information technology in a school or school district, you may want to form a team that has the same types of representation that are needed for long-range strategic planning for information technology.

       Long-range strategic planning provides tools for examining possible changes and systematically addressing the change process. While many schools have a long-range strategic plan for information technology, most such plans are woefully inadequate. Almost every school and school district can benefit by developing and implementing a more careful and ongoing approach to long-range strategic planning for information technology.

     

 



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