Technology is integral to developing students’ 21st-century skills, as digital learning has become nearly ubiquitous in U.S. classrooms. Public schools now provide at least one device for every five students, spending upwards of $3 billion on digital content annually. However, technology may not be integrated evenly across a district’s schools. Without clear steps outlining how technology should be adopted into classrooms, many teachers may not prioritize technology use and could miss out on a valuable way to improve students’ learning and achievement.
To address these challenges, district leaders should develop a plan for integrating technology to meet organizational goals. A technology integration plan should align with the district’s vision for technology use and describe how various technologies will be adopted and rolled out. Before outlining an integration plan, administrators must first evaluate how students and educators are already interacting with technology and determine the district’s digital needs in order to identify specific areas for improvement.
Districts can use needs assessments to inform this part of the planning process. Needs assessments can help districts determine current levels of technology integration, identify gaps in existing resources, and determine stakeholders’ readiness for using new technologies. In conducting needs assessments, administrators may ask key questions to determine if technology is well distributed and deployed across the district, and how technology integration can be improved.
Key Questions to Ask When Conducting a Needs Assessment for Technology Integration
Teachers are responsible for bringing a district’s objectives into the classroom and effectively applying them to their curriculum. To successfully integrate technology into student learning, it is crucial that educators understand the district’s goals and the technology being introduced, and feel comfortable adopting it into their teaching plans. A careful evaluation of teachers’ digital literacy skills can provide valuable insight into educators’ understanding of technology and the training needed to ensure effective classroom integration. Administrators can ask the following questions to ensure early teacher sign-off:
- Does the district have data on teacher technology literacy skills and comfort with using technology while teaching?
- What professional development opportunities related to technology have teachers availed themselves of over the past two years?
- Are teachers comfortable with leveraging the technology tools to help meet individual student needs?
Evaluating overall student performance and digital literacy is key to tailoring a technology integration plan that meets students’ skill levels. Schools whose students do not meet the district’s standards and benchmarks may need additional training and support than those who achieve the established academic milestones. Adjusting technology integration based on student success and literacy can help tailor the experience to students’ strengths and provide more focus to areas that need improvement. Administrators can ask the following questions to understand how students interact with technology:
- How are students performing against standards and benchmarks on various assessments?
- How prepared are students to use digital learning tools seamlessly in the classroom?
- What are the plans for new students as related to technology literacy and familiarity with the devices and tools?
Information Technology Team
A school’s information technology (IT) team may already have an advanced understanding of the technology being used and how to support educators and students in using their devices. However, IT teams should not only be seen as departments that fix what is broken; their presence in the planning stage of the technology integration process is crucial to understanding a district’s digital needs. IT teams provide the first level of understanding on how devices are distributed and deployed in schools, how educators and students are using the tools, and can provide insight on how the district can promote long-term technological sustainability. Administrators can ask IT teams the following questions to better understand their district’s technology use:
- Does the district have a thorough inventory of devices?
- How are the devices deployed within each school?
- How has the district planned for long-term sustainability?
Access to Tools and Content
Finally, assessing schools’ access to technology tools and digital content can illustrate the efforts already being applied district-wide while determining areas that need additional support. There may be discrepancies between educators who have eagerly adopted digital content and devices into their curriculum and those who keep to more traditional methods, making clear communication of district goals critical to school-wide adoption. Understanding each school’s distinct needs and strengths and how they relate to the district’s technology goals provides valuable insight into how technology is and is not currently being used by students. Administrators can ask the following questions to determine what access to technology students already have and where it can be further incorporated:
- What education technology tools are currently available to enhance education for all students?
- How has digital content already been incorporated into the curriculum?
- What technology resources could be obtained through procurement opportunities at the district?