Thinking about strategic planning for ICTs

Here is a piece I originally wrote for Interface magazine which serves as a preface for my next post which looks at some of our thinking around ICTs and e-learning at Hobsonville Point Secondary School.


Wondering where to start with strategic planning for ICTs? Here are a few thoughts to get you started.
Start with the end in mind
Before you even worry about anything technical, you need to think about THE most important factor - the student. Begin by clarifying your school's vision around what you actually want for your students and their learning. What does their learning like now? What would you like it to look like in 2-3 years time? How will you ensure you don’t limit that vision to your own level of confidence, comfort and expertise around ICTs? This vision, more than anything else, will guide your strategic planning.
So how might you do this? It might be useful to ask a few questions to clarify thinking, such as:
  • What does your student want and/or need? How do you know this?
  • To what degree do you want your students to be able lead their own learning?
  • How do you want your students to share and/or publish their learning?
  • Do you want to enable your students to collaborate and work together?
Basically, you need to start with the student. What would you (or even better, what would they) like their learning to look like?
Make a plan
Once you have a clear vision for your student’s learning, this can be translated into a plan for ICT development or redevelopment. Again, you will need to few questions, such as:
  • Do you want students to bring their own device? Why? Why not?
  • Do you want your students to have open “hotspot” style access to the Internet or something more closed and filtered? Why? Why not?
  • Do you want to control the tools and strategies that your students use by imposing a single LMS or mandated platforms? Why? Why not?
Depending on the answers, the amount of time and resources spent on each of the strategic planning areas will then vary. For example, if you want to introduce a genuinely student-led learning experience and therefore would like a BYOD policy with a lot freedom and choice for your students, this will involve investment in; a robust and reliable wireless infrastructure, in-depth and ongoing professional development for shifting teacher pedagogy from a more teacher-centred to a more student-centred approach and a lot of time and resources invested in developing the digital citizenship skills of your staff and students.
Lay the foundations
A robust and reliable ICT infrastructure can be the make or break of any teaching and learning experience that involves technology. To ensure your infrastructure is meeting the needs of the student you need to be guided by how the student will use it. Depending on the needs of the student, this will most likely include: a fast and reliable internet connection, a robust internal school network, a wireless network and some provision of ongoing technical support. As schools move to more cloud-based services for their Student and/or Learning Management Systems the need for physical infrastructures beyond the wireless one is evolving quickly. Schools can seek support in this area from the Network for Learning from whom schools and kura will be able to access affordable, safe and rapid broadband. N4L will also bring internet based services for engaging learners. Additionally N4L will provide services to help streamline school administration.
Help your teachers evolve
Often teachers believe that to make the most of ICTs in the classroom, they themselves need to be experts. Whilst a level of skill and confidence can be useful, the most important thing a teacher needs to learn is how to be open to change and how to be confident enough to let their students take charge of leading their own learning. This may be as simple as stepping aside and letting your students find and trial ICT tools and strategies of their choice. An effective way for teachers to begin this evolution is through engaging in the Teaching as Inquiry process, where by the teacher identifies the learning needs of their students and undertakes a teaching inquiry around which ICT tools or strategies may support this learning to take place, tools and strategies are trialled, then the effectiveness of the tools and strategies in relation to the meeting the needs of the learner.
Probably the single most powerful resource to help you with this is the Ministry of Education developed e-Learning Planning Framework (eLPF) which is set of resources that schools and teachers with:
  • A self-review tool for schools to gather evidence about practice
  • A 'roadmap' for building e-learning capability
  • A tool to evaluate the effectiveness of e-learning programmes
  • Resources and services to support schools as they build capability
(Source: http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/e-Learning-Planning-Framework2)
The Virtual Learning Network (VLN) is another great source of information and support. The VLN is a network of school clusters and educational institutions collaborating to provide online access to a broad range of curriculum learning opportunities for students.
Develop digital citizens
However it is not just your teachers who will need to evolve, students can often appear confident, this does not necessarily mean that their use of ICTs is either particularly safe or successful. Developing digital citizenship skills is something that needs to taught AND needs to be modelled by teachers. You will need to consider how this will be developed across the school. Will it be taught explicitly? Will it be somehow integrated into curriculum areas? In terms of finding out more about Digital Citizenship, NetSafe (www.netsafe.org.nz/) provide excellent support and guidance for teachers, students and parents. You may also like to check out the Digital Citizenship Project on wikieducator (http://wikieducator.org/Digital_Citizenship), which is a NZ based crowd-sourced set of teaching resources for Digital Citizenship from Years 1-13.
In summary, you need to define what you see strategic planning for ICTs including, develop a clear vision for learning, consider how that might impact on your planning, and then seek out the information and advice. Just as we need to tailor our teaching to meet the needs of our learners, so to will you need to tailor your strategic planning for ICTs to the needs of your school, and more importantly – to the needs of your students.

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