Date of Publication: March 1994
Larry S. Anderson, Founder/Director,
National Center for Technology Planning
John F. Perry, Jr., Associate Director,
National Center for Technology Planning
Research conducted by the National Center for Technology Planning (NCTP)
revealed that fewer than 30 percent of America's schools possess a written
technology plan that is integrated into the curriculum. Although an
increasing number of schools are considering the preparation of technology
plans, relatively few educators know how to develop a technology plan that
ensures success. Most school board members and district administrators
confess to being confused about what strategic planning involves
Just as a cookbook has recipes that, if followed generally, will lead to
delicious cuisine, a technology plan has the potential for providing
directions to success. The preparation of an effective plan should evoke
the same type of devotion to excellence that one might recognize in the
kitchen of a fine chef as he/she works arduously to craft a delicacy. All
the necessary ingredients must be gathered and handy for incorporation
into the feast being prepared; however, not even the finest quality
ingredients will yield the desired dish unless the recipe is explicit and
is followed during the cooking activity.
The National Center for Technology Planning (NCTP), established in late
1992 for the expressed purpose of assisting schools throughout the United
States in their technology planning efforts, has amassed a large quantity
of written technology planning documents. The documents, generally
referred to as the "technology plans," vary widely in size, appearance,
and scope of coverage. Certain essential principles exist, however, that
serve as benchmarks to success.
Technology Plan Defined
Prior to achieving success with a technology plan, one must understand
rudimentary concepts of what a technology plan is--or should be.
Definitions differ depending on the person with whom one is talking--in a
similar fashion that one's definition of chicken and dumplings will
differ depending on the correspondent. Perhaps the unifying thread will
be that "the way we do it" is best.
Cook (1988) asserted that the best examples of planning are based more on
the collective intuition of the planning committee than on so-called hard
data. Many cooks would give testimony that their intuition, that feeling
of "just a pinch of this" or "just a touch more salt" is what provides
the deciding difference between a bland dish and a delicacy; succulence is
not always attributable to the specificity of the recipe.
Rather than concentrate on the many specific elements that are to be
enumerated within a maximally-effective plan, the focus should be on major
points. Later, after the "big picture" is conveyed and understood, a
planner will be able better to address the minor, yet still important,
A technology plan often is a document, and nothing more. Thankfully,
however, in effective schools, the plan is merely the physical
manifestation of a major planning effort that focused on improving all
segments of instruction, using technology in a natural infusion process.
The plan, ideally, shows to the total community that the school is
dedicated to a particular goal, or set of goals, that will benefit the
learners affected. Every good plan will include an aggressive thrust that
extends beyond the range of "the ordinary" into a level to which the
entire community must strive. The plan will cause all concerned to
"reach" for the good stuff.
For purposes of this paper, a technology plan is defined as that written
document that represents the very best thinking accumulated in a
particular environment (school building, district, state, etc.) for the
purpose of studying technology infusion, then recommending direction for
the future. Carlson, Gardner, and Ruth (1989) discovered that innovations
and advancements in computer technologies often are excluded from
organizations' long-range plans. Such does not have to be the case; in
fact, planning offers an opportunity for educators to commit to writing
the direction they envision for their organization. The optimum plan will
embody the dreams, aspirations, and visions of individuals involved and
interested in maximally-effective education for that community.
Steps in the Recipe for Success
As is the case with an effective recipe, whether for an exotic dish or an
informal casserole, certain steps must be followed during preparation in
order for the desired result to be realized. Too, if those who partake of
the product consider it to be succulent and irresistible, others will
want to share the recipe and enjoy its excellent taste. A technology plan
must be prepared with certain steps in mind.
To ensure summative success, a technology planning committee must be
established. This committee must represent every aspect of the school
community--teachers, administrators, staff, business leaders, civic
leaders, homemakers, and, yes, students. A key point to remember is:
"involve all stakeholders." Herman (1988) suggested that committees should
be developed to promote ownership and collaborative decision-making.
Members of the committee must perceive their participation to be of
importance to the community; thus, the physical surroundings in which
meetings are held should be conducive to productive work. Each committee
member must be provided with sufficient resources to perform assigned
tasks. The committee chair must communicate clearly to committee members
the purpose and goals for which they are convened.
The committee chair should give a "state of the school" report so all
members will understand current conditions in the school and the extent to
which technologies are used for instruction and administration. Weak
areas, as well as areas of particular strength, should be illuminated so
they can be addressed in the plan. One might think of this step as
Information appearing in the progress report may, or may not, be included
in the final technology plan. If the committee feels that these
background data are beneficial, they should be couched in such a way that
any reader gets the clear picture that the report reflects historical
information. Planners should be wary of introducing information into the
plan that indicates hopelessness.
The technology planning committee will work most efficiently and
effectively if the workload is distributed among its several members.
Hart (1988) recommends using several small groups to begin the planning
process. One by-product of this approach is that each individual
develops ownership in the process and the subsequent plan that emerges.
Each member of the committee must have specific responsibilities. To be a
member of a committee is not enough by itself; one must take seriously the
responsibility that comes with appointment. The outcome from this
committee will be a working plan that leads the school district in
application of various technologies to the instructional process in every
grade at every school building for all students in the entire district--no
small task. When each person performs his/her task at the level of
excellence that must be expected, even demanded, the document that emerges
will represent clearly and accurately a vision that can lure all involved
into a bright future.
Cooper (1985) recommended that individuals who participate in planning
identify major trends affecting the school district. When the group has
agreed upon the identified trends, members can attack trends and see what
their impact will be upon ongoing implementation enterprises.
Establish Time Frames
The technology planning committee must have a clear idea of the length of
time required to prepare a written plan. Of course, this includes their
understanding of all the prerequisite activities and considerations that
lead to finalizing the planning document. Peterson (1989) reminded that
an organization simply cannot know what it is doing and what it intends to
do unless it establishes and monitors periodically its goals--and the
concomitant time in which it measures achievement of goals.
Accomplishment of this requirement ensures that strategic planning
Time frames to be considered for adoption include, but are not limited to:
length of time it takes to assign committee members to subcommittees;
assessment of district needs; assessment of district technology inventory;
assessment of district physical facilities; polling vendors to determine
what technologies and related peripherals are available to address school
needs; creating draft documents in the variety of areas addressed in the
plan; acclimating district personnel to changes that may be recommended
in the plan; educating community members; ensuring equitable
representation by all constituencies in the district; preparing a
financial proposal on costs; preparing a financial proposal for supporting
investments required by the committee's recommendations; first-year
implementation of the plan; potential for a phased-in approach to
implementation; full implementation of the plan; evaluation of the plan;
evaluation of the planning process; evaluation of the implementation
process; evaluation of district personnel's response to implementation;
and modification of the plan to incorporate findings from evaluations.
Establishment, and subsequent publication, of time frames helps to ensure
that the technology plan will be implemented successfully. When committee
members understand time frames and can communicate them to the community,
chances for success are increased and avenues of support are more readily
Set Target Dates
Target dates are essential for a technology plan to be successful. When
time frames are considered and consensus is reached within the committee,
the chairperson should entertain input for dates on which certain specific
accomplishments can be expected.
Members of the planning committee will achieve individual and collective
goals if well-defined dates are established. A member may be given, for
example, the task of assessing a school's security status. If the ensuing
report is scheduled for presentation at a specific meeting time, chances
of acquiring and using that information have been increased significantly
merely by setting a date (Green & Lamb, 1993, Malone, 1989). Use of Gantt
or PERT charts can be considered to improve clear understanding of target
dates within the committee.
Consensus among the population affected by an organization is essential
but may be difficult to acquire. The technology planning committee,
however, must accept full responsibility for ensuring that the maximum
consensus possible is gained. Many avenues exist, and models are
available for review, for achieving broad consensus within the community.
The successful plan benefits every aspect of education in the local
environment. When the planning team ensures that all players are
represented appropriately in the plan, chances are improved that clientele
and participants will "buy in" to ideas contained in the plan. An
effective plan will address needs of all segments of organizational
life--administration and instruction alike (Fasano, 1987). One element
cannot be represented to the exclusion of the other.
Various techniques may be employed in the quest for consensus. The plan,
when complete, must be explained fully to all stakeholders who are
involved, directly or indirectly, in the school. While the plan is being
put together, consensus may be gained by ensuring maximum involvement by a
wide collection of constituents. Those who "pay the bill" with taxes and
other contributions must see the long-term benefits of the plan's
implementation. If they sense a reasonably high level of participation,
they will adopt ownership in the concepts and will give consensus gladly.
At this phase, the plan should be written. This section takes the least
explanation, but it evokes the most hard work. Here is where "the rubber
meets the road"--results of difficult decisions emanating from long hours
of examining and debating data must come forth into a document that is
defensible. Specific considerations must be guaranteed to appear in the
plan. The plan, in turn, should appear in various places within the
Elements of a successful technology plan will find their way into the
organization's budget, curriculum, and job descriptions. The technology
plan will not achieve maximum usefulness if it resides as a document all
alone, totally separate from other written materials from which the
organization acquires its direction. When the technology plan is part of
a larger picture, specifically, the overall strategic long-range plan, the
goals, missions, and visions embodied therein will be part and parcel of
organizational activities--the plan will be integrated.
The committee chair must remain cognizant that this document will be
perused by a wide assortment of school supporters (Dewess, 1988, Malone,
1989). The writing, therefore, should be above reproach. The plan
should have a pleasing, professional format so that a positive, sure image
is projected. Care must be taken to guarantee that any terms familiar
only to educators are explained in sufficient detail that anyone who reads
the plan will understand the intended meaning. Often, a committee will
elect to present complex information in a pictorial form, usually in a
chart or graph. The document should be bound in such a fashion that
modifications can be performed without destroying the integrity of the
As the committee organizes the sequence of the planning document, one
element to receive special treatment is the executive summary. As a
general rule, the executive summary will appear at the beginning of the
plan. Several readers will not have time to peruse the entire document,
word-for-word; therefore, it is prudent that the executive summary appears
first and portrays a clear representation of what the committee intends to
convey to the public. Main points may be highlighted in a variety of
fashions; perhaps a bulleted list is deemed most appropriate, maybe a
sidebar is most effective, or a boldfaced text printed in a variant
typeface produces the desired result. In any event, the executive summary
should be given a place and appearance of great importance in the planning
Educators are reminded by Smallen (1989) that planning, not just talking
about planning, is necessary if optimal pedagogical use of hardware and
software is to be realized. As trustees of public funds, educators can
ill-afford to ignore this fact.
Implementation of the technology plan depends on wholehearted support from
all members of the school community. Only when teachers are attuned
appropriately to purposes of the plan, given sufficient ownership in ideas
and opportunities for growth through the plan, and provided the level of
training they deserve will they ensure full infusion of technological
concepts into the curriculum and its related activities.
Administrators in the organization, if committed to the plan, should make
available all resources possible to see that implementation is realized.
This may mean that role models are located and placed in strategic
positions so teaching faculty may gain strength by seeing effectiveness
demonstrated. Fledgling teachers and staff will be better able to put the
plan into full action if all the perceived obstacles are removed and a
reward structure is put into place so that all players may achieve success
while the plan is working, too.
Proper evaluation of an activity is essential: this is an accepted notion
among educators. Certainly, then, the technology plan should be evaluated
from numerous vantage points. While the plan itself should be
scrutinized, activities surrounding the plan deserve perpetual evaluation,
informally, and periodic evaluation, formally.
First, the planning process should receive evaluation. Committee members
should evaluate their effectiveness and should encourage an external
evaluation of the process through which they went to arrive at the
implementation phase. At this point in the planning cycle, personal
feelings must be set aside so that accurate reflection will yield
beneficial feedback to invigorate the system for the next round of
planning. Committee members will benefit from provocative input.
The planning document should be reviewed annually, with the most stringent
review coming at the end of year one (Peterson, 1989, Randall, 1991).
Subsequent reviews must take into account any recommendations that have
been made during precedent evaluations (Tashner, Riedel, & Hutchinson,
1991). All aspects related to planning and implementing the plan ought to
be scrutinized--vendors, training of personnel, the reward structure,
incentives, equipment compatibility, curriculum infusion, resource
materials, professional development, public relations, administrative
participation and support, auxiliary services, special needs student
services, architectural requirements/modifications, networking, and
financial/budgetary matters. Recommendations should be included in the
annual report presented by the committee chair.
Role of Teacher Education Programs
The main focus of this treatise is upon the planning document, reflective
of interaction among all components in the planning cycle. Teacher
educators, though, have a tremendous responsibility, because we have an
opportunity to create an environment in which preservice teachers may
learn about and experience most aspects of technology planning.
Increasingly, teacher education programs require some computer literacy
training (Arntson, 1991). Beyond that, a few are providing continuing
experiences for preservice teachers to use the knowledge and skills
learned in literacy classes for projects and activities that strengthen
relevance of technologies to their learning. Some few institutions
guarantee that students create technology-oriented teaching materials and
share those with fellow preservice teachers, often using the Internet as a
Teacher education, as a whole, faces a challenge to provide opportunities
for preservice teachers to understand basic planning concepts along with
their technology-rich experiences. If students graduate from programs in
which they have learned the benefits of planning and are well-equipped to
fashion even the most rudimentary elements of a technology plan, they will
improve sharply the possibility of an education agency's implementing
successfully a sensible technologically-inclusive program. A side benefit
of preparing preservice teachers in this regard is that the training
institution will, more likely, have a good plan of its own.
Resources for Planning
Technology planners do not have to concern themselves with scavenging
every single piece of information necessary to help them create and
implement their plan. Numerous resources exist to make their job much
easier. No single source can provide all the aids, though; materials
exist in a wide variety of locations.
The National Center for Technology Planning (NCTP) was established to
serve as a repository for exemplary technology plans, as well as a place
to acquire planning aids, public relations announcements, checklists,
professional development opportunities, and to engender discussion and
debate relative to a multitude of aspects surrounding planning. Planning
documents have been procured from national and international sources;
these have been placed in an archive accessible on the Internet via
anonymous ftp, gopher, and by using the World Wide Web (WWW) to access the
home page at Mississippi State University (by loading a
URL--http://www2.msstate.edu/~lsa1/nctp). In addition to the online
access, NCTP staff provide consultative assistance to schools,
communities, and higher education institutions.
The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) operates a gopher server
(digital.cosn.org) that includes networking and technology planning
assistance. Hundreds of practitioners are available, too, to give advice
through the CoSN discussion list on the Internet. The Special Interest
Group on Teacher Education (SIGTE), as a part of the International Society
for Technology in Education (ISTE), conducts lively discussion on their
listserver operated by Neal Strudler at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas
The Scholastic Network, accessible through America Online, provides many
technology planning resources. Along with offering downloadable
technology planning documents provided to them by the National Center for
Technology Planning, Scholastic Network operates a forum aimed at
technology planning, specifically. Questions on planning, as well as
technology implementation are welcomed.
Commercial computer manufacturers offer planning kits. Apple Computer's
"Teaching, Learning, and Technology" is available in both videodisc and
QuickTime CD-ROM format. IBM Eduquest has a technology planning packet
that can be acquired from a regional Edu quest office. Both of these "for
sale" resources contain a template that an organization may simply fill
in, saving many hours of laborious polling, consultation, discussion,
writing, and evaluating. The drawback to this approach, however, is that
the educational agency will have produced a document that may be called a
plan, but the true plan for the future has never been envisioned by the
school. Such an approach is rejected vigorously by wise technology
The desired outcome of effective technology planning is that the most
appropriate technologies are infused in the most natural manner into a
maximally-effective instructional or administrative program so that all
parties concerned have equitable access and achieve world-class benefits
from routine use of the technologies. Such a view is much like the
desired outcome of an effective recipe: the consumer acquires excellent
nutrition from a succulent dish prepared by an experienced cook who used
the most appropriate utensils and appliances according to specific
instructions (allowing user-adopted variances) in a relatively hassle-free
environment to such an extent that others, even the consumer, want to know
how he/she prepared the dish.
As educators use acceptable procedures and practices to create and
implement technology plans successfully, other professionals will seek
advice for their plans. Like gossip, the word will spread. One goal of
leaders in the field of planning is to ensure that the highest quality of
information attainable is spread among schools. If this recipe for
planning is followed, then disseminated throughout the country, students
in our nation's schools will enjoy a richer, more challenging, rewarding
Arntson, L. J. (1991, Fall). Technology and the future of education:
Strategic planning for the 21st century. The Balance Sheet, 73(1), 22.
Carlson, C.K., Gardner, E. P., & Ruth, S. R. (1989, Summer).
Technology-driven long-range planning. The Journal of Information Systems
Management., 6(3), 24-25.
Cook, W. J. (1988). Bill Cook's strategic planning for America's schools.
Arlington, VA: American Association of School Administrators.
Cooper, H. A. (1985). Strategic planning in education: A guide for
policymakers. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Boards of
Dewess, P. (1988, Fall). Information technologies: Shaping state
policies to serve rural learners. Continuing Higher Education Review,
Fasano, C. (1987, October). Information technology in education: The
neglected agenda. Paper presented at the Australian Education Conference,
Perth, Western Australia, Australia.
Green, A., & Lamb, B. (1993, April). Information technology and initial
planning education. The Planner, 79(4), 33-36.
Hart, T. E. (1988, January). Long-range planning: School districts
prepare for the future. Eugene, OR: Oregon School Study Council.
Herman, J. J. (1988, October). Map the trip to your district's future.
The School Administrator, 45(9), 16, 18, 23.
Malone, G. (1989). Issues of hardware acquisition for K-12 education.
THE Journal, 17, 59.
Peterson, D., (1989). Strategic planning. (Report No. ER41). Eugene,
OR: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. (ERIC Digest Series
No. ED 312 774)
Randall, R. E. (1991, May). Trio of telecommunications projects are
paradigms for rural education. THE Journal, 18, 71-72.
Smallen, D. L. (1989, April). Infusing computing into the curriculum:
Challenges for the next decade. Academic Computing, 3(8), 8-14.
Tashner, J., Riedel, R., & Hutchinson, E. (1991). Using today's
technology and planning for the future: Computer education at Appalachian
State University. Computers in the Schools, 8, 139-142.
Larry S. Anderson is Founder/CEO of the National Center for Technology Planning, P. O. Box 2393, Tupelo, MS 38803 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
John F. Perry, Jr. is Associate Director, National Center for Technology Planning, Columbus, MS 39701 E-mail: email@example.com (check for ongoing accuracy of this email address)