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Technology, Networks, Hardware: Digital Learning Framework


Technology, networks, hardware – oh my! It’s hard, okay impossible, to implement an effective digital learning initiative without the stuff! Schools are famous for having gadgets from multiple generations around, there was the overhead projector, then the document camera, now the short throw projector. They all had the same purpose but the process has changed. Those of us who have been around for a few years have seen many generations of stuff come and go. (Videodiscs anyone? We also got a little humbled by this great infographic on the evolution of technology in schools.) As most of us know by now, the stuff alone doesn’t change teaching and learning.

Technology, Networks, Hardware: Drum roll—four elements

This component of our framework refers to more than just the presence of the boxes and wires. It relates to what is available, who has access and when, and the presence of necessary structures to ensure the reality aligns with the intended plan. Technology, networks, and hardware includes four elements:

  • Equity and adequacy of devices; Availability and quality
  • Robust network infrastructure
  • Adequate and responsive support
  • Formal cycle for review and replacement

Technology, Networks, Hardware: Access for learning

While many districts have moved to 1:1 initiatives to provide access to devices for students, our framework doesn’t assume this is the case or that it’s necessary. Our guidance for devices is that they must be available when and where they’re needed for learning. This means they don’t need to be accessible to students if the educational goals and objectives don’t require them. There are still some things best accomplished with scissors and glue! Decisions about availability and access of devices should be made purposefully with the teaching and learning goals driving the decision-making process.

Technology, Networks, Hardware: Can’t be too rich, too thin, or have too much bandwidth

This past spring, we read many articles about schools and districts who had to limit instructional use of their networks during online testing due to concerns that the bandwidth was not adequate to handle the increased number of users simultaneously. It’s certainly hard to keep up, hard to anticipate how much is enough, and in some (especially rural) locales not possible to provide enough bandwidth to keep up with daily use. To ensure adequate bandwidth at all times of the school day requires consistent monitoring, planning, and funding.

Technology, Networks, Hardware: Support in multiple forms

As far as support, we focus on two features: ongoing technical assistance and training for teachers and students. We have seen many lessons get derailed because the tools didn’t operate as they were supposed to, and teachers were unable to solve the problem with 25 sets of eyes on them. Consistent levels of technical support are necessary to eliminate issues from occurring in the first place, and training in basic troubleshooting and operations can give teachers the confidence and competence they need to implement technology-infused lessons with students. When technology can’t be trusted to function and teachers don’t know how to solve the simplest of technological glitches, technology sits idle and students miss out on key learning opportunities.

Technology, Networks, Hardware: Tools we can use

We can’t even say how often we’ve gone into schools to see unfamiliar technology tools, and not in a good way! Many schools continue to use technology long past its pull date, resulting in wasted time for students waiting for things to startup, load, or open. While we don’t always have control over the budget, having a process in place to ensure students and teachers have access to the up-to-date technologies necessary for effective instruction to take place is critical.

If you’re reading this blog on a Mac LC575 (we loved that machine!), this might seem like a far off dream. Not to worry. Next week, we’ll introduce some strategies to get you started. Remember to check out TRAx to learn more about how we provide data related to school progress.



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