Considerations, Challenges and Checklists

Challenges: Planning for technology systems in schools must be integrated into the overall construction master plan and construction process. 

Considerations: The important role of the district technology director will become clear as a key to a 21st-century Generation Z service application. 

Checklists: Important questions should be asked that will help focus the project design on the desired outcome of the project.

Today’s educators require technology systems to help enhance their reach and effectiveness. Administrators require technology to help ensure safety, reliability and success in support of its teachers and students. “Where do we begin?” — “What do we need?” — “How can we get it?” These are important questions for a school district to consider when they are ready to deploy 21st-century learning curriculums and technologies.

Future technology needs drive the design of current technology systems, which affects the physical design of the facility. So where do you begin? Begin with building the team.

The Importance of Team
It is important to recognize the key players of the team. When a school district partners with the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) to build or renovate a school or the entire district, it is highly recommended that the following professionals comprise the technology planning team: OSFC project administrator, school district technology coordinator, technology design professional, project architect and the construction manager.

It is important that all these professionals come together at the beginning of the design process as an integrated design team. It is critical to a successful project that the team works together side-by-side, beginning with an executive partnering session.

District Pre-planning Process: Include Technology
At the heart of this process should be the district technology plan. It’s important for the district to have a comprehensive wide-ranging plan that not only addresses the curriculum and technology infrastructure, but also future needs. Begin thinking about the district technology plan and how it will play a role in the design of the building.

Technology and curriculum should be discussed in the pre-planning phase of the overall master plan. Decisions on who you want to use technology to access curriculum or teach curriculum should be made. With “bring your own device” (BYOD), you need to work hand in hand with curriculum in the design of the building to ensure that everything will function in the next three, five and 15 years.

Connect Educational Vision & Facilities
What are the future educational programs and/or systems that will impact facilities? What priorities should be addressed regarding the educational program and facilities? What areas 
are working? What needs to be changed? The plan must include the expected educational use and outcomes, 
administrative needs, operational requirements and the total cost of operations. Examples of these include:
  • One–to-one wireless operations
  • BYOD
  • Remote learning
  • Calamity day operations
  • Content
  • Safety and security
  • Privacy
  • Hosted vs. onsite system
  • Right sourcing service contracts and in-house staff support
  • Staff and educator training
  • Service reliability and response time
  • Bandwidth availability and cost
  • Capital replacement planning and cost
  • First cost versus total cost of operations
Begin with a technology facilities assessment for your facilities. During this process your design and technology professionals will gather data, survey your students and staff, and inventory your technology equipment. Do the results of the data gathering, surveys and inventory meet with the district’s educational vision?

During the master facilities plan review take the time to determine what your district needs in the future and where you envision technology be used: Inside the building? Outside the building? You will need to consider wireless, which will be the base design for school facility technology systems in the upcoming 2012 Ohio School Design Manual, the cloud, BYOD, course management systems, physical security, digital content and much more.

Checklists, Checklists and More Checklists
There are four basic checklists available to help focus the discussions on important matters. Checklists for security, wireless, digital and the cloud provide basic considerations that should be included in the district’s decision process for the design. For these checklists and additional technology planning information, please refer to the OSFC website. Three technology planning webinars were recently held and the recordings plus the corresponding materials are located here.

The tools and processes addressed here are effective for continued use by the district. Equipment ages and become obsolete and must be replaced. Educational pedagogy evolves. The process and considerations described here must be applied in an ongoing fashion to maintain the relevance of the technology deployed in the district. Relevance is determined by the effective service level, educational outcome, and total cost of operation. This is where the decision must begin. 

Mark Wantage is Technology & Maintenance administrator for Ohio School Facilities Commission. He can be contacted at [email protected].