Do states really need an education technology plan?

To harness the power of digital learning, we should focus more on the planning how technology will improve how students learn and teachers deliver instruction


Last week, the New America Foundation’s Chelsea Wilhelm wrote about a startling trend in state education technology planning: by and large, it’s not happening.

As Wilhelm summarized, after combing through public records she found that:

[J]ust 19 states have planned past the year 2012. Of those, five states have plans that do not include student learning objectives or professional development objectives, which in our estimation here at New America makes them fairly bare-bones, limited updates. … The remaining 30 (including the District of Columbia) have no current state education technology plans publicly available at all—most have confirmed they are not continuing with state-wide education technology planning.

As disconcerting as these findings may be, they got me wondering if a technology plan is really the right level of planning to focus on in the first place. Historically, technology planning had to do with wiring schools and making basic hardware and budget decisions. Today, with the rise of K–12 blended learning, technology planning looks more and more like instructional and curriculum planning with technology playing a supporting role in new school and classroom design. States continuing to focus on technology planning—as it’s been done historically—would seem to risk perpetuating the myth that we can cram technology into the existing instructional paradigm and expect new outcomes.

To think through what exactly we mean—or should mean—by a “technology plan,” I reached out to Warren Danforth, a consultant to the education sector in the planning, deployment, and adoption of technology to improve student learning. Danforth has 15 years of experience as a leader in the wireless industry and five years in education implementing longitudinal data systems and instructional improvement systems. He recently developed a guidebook for the United States Department of Education Reform Support Network to assist in the planning and deployment of Instructional Improvement Systems.

(Next page: Why system planning is so crucial)

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