I had a great meeting with one of the elementary schools in my district today. The principal turned over most of a staff meeting to me today in part for some training and professional development, but largely for a discussion of technology in the district.
I have to admit, having taught in the high school for 5 years, I was a bit out of my element at the elementary level. As I headed into the school, I passed one of the high school teachers who was picking up his own kid. He didn't reassure me much as he said, "Welcome to the third circle of hell." Of course, he's an English teacher who really loves his job (as long as it involves teaching upperclassmen), so I chuckled and walked through the door.
I have a really solid understanding of the technology needs of teachers and students at the secondary level. I have all sorts of ideas and best practices for classroom integration, slick software, projects, and technology-related curricula for the older kids. This particular school, though, is K-3.
So I started off the meeting by first explaining our new approach to allocating technology resources in the district. As I've noted before, the district has never had a technology director, so technology budgeting largely came down to wrangling between building principals. For the first time this year, we'll be defining district-wide technology requirements and clearly articulating a plan for the use of the technology we purchase.
By the end of our discussion, the had a good understanding of how money would be spent each year (it won't simply be a dollar amount per student or whatever money could be squeezed from a budget; schools would have lines for specific items and to address specific needs as negotiated between me, the principals, and champion users). Better yet, I had a much better understanding of how they envisioned using technology in the classroom. What applications had they seen in workshops, read about, or used in the past? What projects could you do with a computer and a first grader?
One teacher had used an interactive whiteboard in her previous district and had great ideas on how to use them with younger children; I had always considered them to be 6-12 devices.
Did they walk away thinking that they would have everything on their technology wish lists waiting in their classrooms next September? No, definitely not (at least, I hope not). Did they understand my approach and give me a lot of valuable information to make budgeting decisions? You bet.
The systems development lifecycle they talk about in freshman computer science, engineering, and IT courses is alive and well. Long forgotten in our district, but alive and well this year. Everyone remember the first steps? They come in various forms depending upon your field and the instructor, but they can be summed up universally as defining requirements. Lucky for me, since my draft budget is due this week, I walked away with a pretty good set of requirements for IT in the K-3 space.