Let's face it...online testing makes sense and common core standards has driven online testing. I'm not a curriculum scholar, I'm just a former teacher, a dad, and nutball about education technology and education reform. One of the consequences, intended or unintended (I wasn't in the smokey back rooms when the decisions were being made, so I don't know what was intended and what wasn't) of online testing was that schools and districts now had to examine the proliferation of devices in their classrooms to accommodate the masses of students to do testing. Never mind that we should already be teaching digitally (that's a whole other topic that I can't cover here) and that we should've diverted spending to a more digicentric environment a long time ago...but I stray from the topic. School leaders were faced with the real logistical nightmare of having enough devices to actually perform testing. So a vast majority of them said - "get me more devices" and they ran out and bought iPads, Chromebooks, shilled for donations, put in VDI and thin client technologies...and some of them actually realized that the superhighway for them to actually connect those devices was just as important, but hey - switches aint sexy. Schools are now dealing with their actual infrastructures and bandwidth to allow for the ubiquitous access to the 'web".
Step 1 - Build Your Switch/Route/Wireless Network
School leaders, I implore you to partner and work with the manufacturers and the skillful partner networks to build the right solution for your infrastructures. Those things include the core switch, the router, the access layer switching and the wireless networks. I like to standardize with well established companies so that I know that the tax payer dollars (in most cases) are being maximized and that they receive their proper ROI (return on investment) by evaluating their TCO (total cost of ownership). And if you haven't done this by now, you are WAY BEHIND. You can't do it with the budgets you've always had, budget dollars will need to be reallocated, pay now, or pay later the future is upon us. Remember, it is not enough to just put the infrastructure in place, it is like a good garden, it will need to be tended to, no you don't need a full-time Network Administrator, I said it was like a good garden, not a 1,000,000 acre farm.
Step 2 - Design an Ecosystem
I guess I should just apologize up front for all the earthy references, I guess I'm a farmer and country boy at heart, but schools are life, and learning is a lifelong endeavor that requires constant nurturing. What do I mean by "design an ecosystem"? I mean that the days of learning for 50 minute increments and moving on is over (though most of our schools still have traditional bell schedules, seats in rows and the sage on the stage). It is our job as educators to take our students where they are and guide them through their educational journey...try to do that with paper and pencil! Kids learn at home, at work, in school, at the coffee shop, or when they are just hanging out. They communicate via new mediums every day, first it was email, then it was text, then facebook, then twitter, then snapchat and so on and so on. Their ECOSYSTEM is the Apple App Store or the Google Play Marketplace...everything they need at a tap of a screen...all in one place. Then they come to school and we have a textbook for this, a web site for that and, I know its hard to believe, a worksheet for that. We want to develop an educational ecosystem for our students that is "tap easy" utilizing the best resources that we can find and customized to the learning styles of the students we are coaching and guiding. Google has a great start on this, Stone-Ware has an interesting offering, and Apple is a competent pretender in the space. The bottom line is that it is our job to take the resources that we have adopted and design the ECOSYSTEM for our students.
Step 3 - Coach the Teachers
If I have to write a whole diatribe on why you need to develop long-term, job-embedded, meaningful professional development for your teachers in order to transform the way students learn and teachers guide I'm going to have to take a year sabbatical, because the research is lengthy and the evidence overwhelming. DESIGN A SYSTEM TO SUPPORT TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT.
I've run out of time...but tune back in for my next post - Curriculum, Devices and more on the Digital Ecosystem of a Student.
I am Doug Jones and I have been working in the Education Industry since the late 1980's. Working both in the public and private sector I have been intensely focused on the intersection of technology & information systems on education and learning since the mid 1990's. The thoughts here are my own and do not represent the values and ideals of any current, past, or future employer or client.