The ICT Integration Guidebook (2008) states, “Without a shared vision, planning may be ad hoc, resources may be under utilised and there may be little commitment to implement the planning steps. Also the implementation may rely unduly on the continued involvement of certain individuals.” Texarkana ISD includes the following vision statement in its plan:
According to John See (1992), technology plans should be short rather than long term. He suggests dividing technology plans into phases rather than years. He also advises against allowing a technology plan to lock you into old technology and applications. This three year plan provides for regular revision and adjustment to accommodate the changing needs of the district and development of new technologies. Although each of the plan’s three phases are tied to a specific year of the plan, the goals of each phase overlap and permit restructuring of the plan.
Although a high emphasis is placed on internet connectivity in the district, with the district reporting 100% connectivity on each of its campuses and in every classroom, the district does not show uses of the internet which reflect the scope of its vision statement. According to Levin and Arafeh (2002), “Students report that there is a substantial disconnect between how they use the Internet for school and how they use the Internet during the school day and under teacher direction.” The technology plan does not address this disconnect.
The district plan uses a local area network to provide for the sharing of resources and files. Although the plan mentions all the important components of such a system, it does not give specifics as to the numbers of these resources in current use nor to the plan for increasing such resources as the network grows.
The district’s wide area network connects the district to the world through the internet, as well as connecting all schools together for additional sharing of resources. The districts filtering system is integrated through the wide area network, ensuring district wide compliance with the national child internet protection and online privacy protection acts.
Robert Moore (2006) reports, “A second accelerator that every school district should be deploying today is wireless networking capabilities, also known as Wi-Fi.” The technology plan calls for adding equipment to provide this resource, although how and when this will take place is not specified.
The district has a robust Student information system in place which currently generates and stores a huge amount of data relating both to the students and to daily operations such as financial reporting. Integration of this system has allowed the district to remain in compliance with the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) reporting requirements.
The district has planned for growth of this system to incorporate online grade reporting and attendance tracking.
Barker and Wendel, cited in Cavanaugh et. al. (2004), stated, “Students in virtual schools showed greater improvement that their conventional school counterparts in critical thinking, researching, using computers, learning independently, problem-solving, creative thinking, decision-making, and time management.” In fact, similar studies have shown online learning to be as successful or in cases more successful as traditional approaches to learning across much of the curriculum. Despite this, Texarkana ISD seems reluctant to integrate online distance education into its offerings, preferring the use of technology to support the traditional classroom instruction. The plan does call for increased use of online courses for staff development, but hedges around the use of it for student education, indicating that they will watch the market and implement solutions which are “applicable” to the current curriculum.
Many members of the higher education community were involved in the design and implementation of the technology plan. The higher education community utilizes Blackboard, a robust course management solution. However, the plan does not address the use of such a system, and only hints at the future implementation of online grade reporting.
Although educator preparation is one of the four focuses of the technology plan, the district plan only seems to address instruction in technology competency rather than in the integration of the technology into specific content areas or across the curriculum. In fact, a direct quote by the plan emphasizes this oversight by the plan designers:
Texarkana ISD is the only district in the area to provide a stipend to a classroom teacher on each campus for serving as the technology leader and providing hardware and software support for the rest of the teachers on campus.
According to See (1992), an effective technology plan defines technology as more than computers. With that in mind, the Texarkana ISD technology plan is distinctly lacking in any mention of technology resources beyond the computer. There is no discussion about the use of handheld personal computing devices such as iPads, web enabled phones, or other internet enabled devices. The plan also fails to address other technology resources which many schools utilize, including audio-visual equipment, webcams, microphones, and other video-conferencing tools, student response systems also known as “clickers”, interactive white boards, projectors, and the like. The plan is unclear whether this kind of technology is addressed elsewhere in a plan or even in the budget.
Schools today have access to a vast quantity of storage and resources via the internet utilizing what has become known as “the cloud”. Cloud computing allows schools to use excess storage space and resources to expand the resources at the school’s disposal, providing free or nearly free access to additional resources. The plan mentions the increased use of online storage by staff for online record-keeping and data sharing, but no other reference to cloud solutions is made. The district needs to make use of this solution as a way to save costs and to increase collaboration, student engagement, and parent and community involvement in education. Cloud computing allows applications such as online student portfolios and file sharing across great distances.
With open source solutions, districts do not have to settle for canned software packages, but can customize software for specific use by their district. In addition, most open source applications are offered without charge, saving the district money. Many are also very robust, having benefitted from the combined skill of many programmers working collaboratively on the project. The technology plan does not mention the use of open source solutions. While it states that students will make use of free online resources, it also names a specific proprietary software application which is installed on all their computers, which would seem to demonstrate the district prefers paid applications over open source solutions.
In conclusion, while the technology plan addresses many topics of interest to schools today, it fails to address many important aspects. There is also a seeming disconnect between the stated vision of the district and the priorities of the plan. Texarkana ISD has made a good start, but needs to rethink traditional education before it can produce a plan which satisfies its vision.
“ In a dynamic learning community, technology connects home, school, and the world, and supports learning as a continuous process. We believe that all students can develop enhanced thinking and problem-solving skills through the use of technology as a basic tool to help them enter the workforce and to become life-long learners” (Sullivan, 2006).
Does not address teaching staff effective implementation of technology
Seems to indicate plan to teach competency rather than integration
“ Before technology can significantly improve learning, teachers must first be competent with the hardware and technology applications that facilitate their work in curriculum and support student learning” (Sullivan, 2006).