Prime Time has arrived for school technology. The eRate and intense public interest have combined to give school technologists adequate resources, maybe for the first time ever. While this is a positive development, it comes with a huge responsibility that can haunt school technologists with a very peculiar nightmare: the one in which they have a couple million dollars to spend on technology—and they spend it wrong.

The eRate has led more than 90 percent of public schools to develop current technology plans, according to some estimates. Trouble is, many of those plans are too timid and short-sighted. Schools that follow such plans will find themselves behind the curve, no matter how much money they spend.

The following five planning principles will help schools make the most of technology today and tomorrow:

1. Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth. There’s really no such a thing as having “too much” bandwidth. For high-quality interaction and collaboration from school to school, bandwidth is essential.

2. Integration, integration, integration. Look for video, voice, and data services delivered at top quality over a single network to end-user equipment that can handle all three simultaneously.

3. Flexibility and adaptability. Fast, high-quality, integrated service should be available anywhere in the school building on demand, as teachers and kids need it. Flexible integrated systems should allow four-way, full motion conferencing on your existing CAT5 and 10 Mbps switched LAN—with no need for a second wiring scheme or expensive upgrade.

4. Better, faster, cheaper. Keep an eye out for services and equipment that integrate the very latest technological developments in order to offer superior performance at lower prices.

5. High-quality handholding. Few school districts have staff with sufficient expertise to keep a complex system up and running under the demands of regular use, much less handle the crises that inevitably occur. Select partners whose dedication to service and support really is a 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week commitment.