Technological Infrastructure- How are we doing?

According to the Texas Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020, “The infrastructure of a school is the critical element of support for all four critical element of support for all four areas of this plan: teaching and learning; areas of this plan: teaching and learning; educator preparation and development; educator preparation and development; leadership, administration, and instructional support; and infrastructure for technology.” If the plan itself declares that the success of the entire program rests on infrastructure, I would think it is safe to assume it’s fairly important. The infrastructure (as far as technology in schools is concerned) strives to be described as “on-demand access for every student, direct connectivity available in all rooms and web-based resources in multiple rooms. All rooms are connected to WAN. They are fully equipped with appropriate technology.” (Found here)

While I am certainly not a wise, old sage that has been around forever (I graduated high school in 2005), I don’t remember my days in school fitting this description. Rather, I remember each classroom having a computer or two, usually in the back, always powered off. Teachers had a Dell, complete with CRT monitor and ineptly named “Quietkey” keyboard, but it was only for taking attendance or, in the case of one savvy Economics teacher, showing clips from The Simpsons. (Thanks, Mr. Klingbeil, I will never forget the Law of Diminishing Returns for as long as I live because of you!)

However, even a cursory glance at national, state, and local data would suggest that we are indeed moving in the right direction. In the 2005-06 school year, 48.3% of respondents described themselves as “developing tech,” meaning there are 5-9 students per computer, about 50% of classrooms have Internet, and most additional resources are shared. 42.7% classified themselves as “advanced tech,” meaning there are 4 or less students per computer, 75% of classrooms have Internet while all rooms are at least connected to the LAN/WAN. Only 2.5% placed themselves in the “target Tech” category, as described in the first paragraph. One year later, the “developing tech” category shrunk to 39.3% as “advanced tech” surged to 53.3% and “target tech” increased to 5.2%. The next year saw some growth, but not near the level of the previous year, with “developing tech” moving down again to 34.9% of respondents, “advanced tech” increasing marginally to 57.2%, and “target tech” growing to 6.7%. In just a couple of years, the technological infrastructure necessary to make changes has seen a marked increase. At my own campus, we have increased within the “advanced tech” category each of the last three years. At this pace, next school year our campus will be at the “target tech” level for our infrastructure. This, in the midst of a campus that is certainly not built with computers in mind, as it is nearly 60 years old.

It is encouraging to see marked progress in this area and trends across the board that support the idea that technology is an invaluable tool in our educational system and we must have the infrastructure in place to be able to use it. In the same way that a car can get you from A to B without the use of roads, it is certainly a faster, more efficient process to use roads that have been designed with the car in mind. By expanding the actual infrastructure, with the learner in mind, we not only move towards the coveted “target tech,” but improve the learning and accessibility of our students. It is very difficult for teachers to use and implement tools that are not available to them!

If you are an educator and you have ever thought to yourself, “I wish they could see/do/experience this” (whatever this may be), technology may provide the vehicle for you. Districts, however, need to provide the roads.

A Google slideshow about the STaR Chart prepared for the faculty of Moore MST Magnet School can be viewed here: Moore MST Magnet School STaR Chart Explanation

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