The Importance of Establishing a Proper Foundation for Your Future K-12 Technology Needs
According to a 2018 report from the Education Week Research Center, the majority of school leaders positively view the introduction of technology into learning and believe that it can help most in the areas of personalized learning and student engagement. This belief has led to an increase in government spending to integrate technology into their schools. In 2010-11, overall spending for education technology in the US reached $632 billion, and that figure has only gone up since.
Even though technology spending has increased, finding money to fund these technology needs still does not come easily. For example, while the state mandated Building Condition Survey (BCS) that is conducted every 5 years assesses the physical conditions of a district’s architectural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, it does not include the technology infrastructure and related IP-based systems that move and use data throughout the district. With the addition of budget cutbacks that many schools have been facing, some districts have turned to bond issues, either their own or through New York State's Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA), to obtain additional funding.
To help schools achieve their technology infrastructure goals, we work with technology consultants. For example, for East Rochester Union Free School District’s most recent Capital Improvement Project, we partnered with Archi-Technology to provide technology consulting services for their current SSBA project needs. From a building level, Archi-Technology’s process is three-fold:
Assess the existing conditions with a Technology Conditions Survey (TCS).
Propose improvements based on the survey and provide a rough cost estimate to fund improvements.
Work with the district to develop a 10-year Comprehensive Technology Plan (CTP) that is broken into multiple projects for implementation with funding source suggestions.
The district technology goals are grouped into 7 categories, with the infrastructure and the network connectivity being the first two goals that need to be met before any other district goals can be accomplished (Figure 1):
Building Communication Systems
Equipment & Devices
Community-based/Anywhere Time Learning Needs.
The goal of the Comprehensive Technology Plan is to provide school districts with a strategy on how to best implement each goal and what timing to consider to create a more level long-term spending budget.
Organizing by district goal also helps schools create a clear plan so that the technology that is being installed is done so in a strategic way. This ensures that technology foundation needs and any data security issues/conflicts can be addressed ahead of time, saving precious time and money. For schools conducting their Building Condition Surveys (BCS), the projects that get prioritized as a result are a great opportunity to make sure that your technology infrastructure (pathways, spaces and cabling) and network connectivity (wired and wireless) needs are addressed and integrated at the same time. By taking a proactive role with your technology goals/needs, future plans can then be implemented much more smoothly and with less cost later on by bypassing temporary and potentially expensive solutions.
Existing school technology infrastructure that was installed in the 1990s is not able to support today’s learning needs. The infrastructure that many schools use today oftentimes does not deliver nearly enough bandwidth to accommodate new classroom technologies such as smart boards, wireless paging systems, tablets, etc., but also leaves gaping vulnerabilities in data security. Even something as small as an unstable room temperature due to the lack of a controllable air conditioning units can shorten the lifespan of your network hardware, costing your school district more in the long run due to having to replace your equipment more frequently. Assessing your district’s current technology infrastructure in your next Building Condition Survey ensures a reliable, scalable physical network that accommodates future technologies while maximizing your investment.