The technology infrastructure within a school district will consist of many components depending upon the goals, objectives and resources of the district for integrating technology into learning and administrative functions. There are a variety of approaches and issues that need to be considered within the classroom, at the building level and across the district.
The following is based on a collection of data from a variety of school districts. These scenarios are intended to provide examples for other school districts in the planning process. The scenarios will briefly describe the technology plans and the methods used to implement the technology plans.
The types of things that need to be considered are described below. While many of the items may be of interest to many districts, not all items are necessarily consistent with district goals. The items listed here are meant to create discussion during the planning phase to help avoid the omission of essential components or long- term needs which should be considered when creating the initial infrastructure.
The following items are directly relevant to the classroom and may vary from classroom to classroom depending upon the curriculum focus, number of students, and resources. Items for consideration include:
1. Number of machines per student
2. A machine dedicated to the teacher in the classroom
3. A machine which the teacher can use at home to prepare materials
4. Network access for students that bring their own machines to school
5. Software for the curriculum applications in the classroom
6. Projection equipment to enable the teacher to present materials to the full class
7. Video tape players and TV sets should be considered in each room
8. Capability to support the use of other portable peripherals like laser disc players should be planned
9. A shared printer should be in each room, and possibly a color printer
10. All machines should support Internet protocols and multi-media capabilities, which is quite common with most current configurations
Some educators suggest that 5-8 computers in a classroom is sufficient to support many of the classroom activities that are now being used. This afforded the students the option to work on different tasks during the day, some of which may involve the use of computer in the classroom. Teachers will need a machine at home to develop materials, identify network resources and receive/assess student work which created electronically.
Schools with limited financial resources may prefer to start with a single machine in a classroom for use by the teacher. As financial resources become available additional machines and features can be added to expand the capabilities in the classroom.
Careful consideration needs to be given to designing the networking needs of the building. This includes the number and type of wires to pull through a building, and the ability to support adding new capacity for many years. The ability to easily move equipment throughout the building and re-configure the use of rooms needs to be considered from the beginning to avoid re-wiring in the future.
A number of districts are investing in video servers and video networks to support the growing use of video materials. The multi-media nature of the World Wide Web coupled with traditional activities in developing video materials (through recordings with video and still cameras as well as digital animations) requires a method for storage, indexing and access to the vast archives that are being created.
New networking technologies are emerging such as ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) which will support the integration of digital data and video. A plan for supporting current needs while adopting new technologies must be considered to ensure long-term growth in support of applications in learning.
A school district will want to consider items that have broad impact across all or most of the buildings in the district. Items for consideration include:
1. Internet access for all buildings
2. Administrative support environment
3. support staff for installation and maintenance of technology
4. support staff to analyze network usage; and design and plan for growth
5. Professional development plan for all staff- teachers, librarians, administrators, etc.
6. Security of equipment and personnel
7. Acceptable use policies and procedures
8. External consultants to provide everything from planning, to general advice, to infrastructure designs, to installation, to ongoing support
9. district-wide software purchasing for bulk deals
10. Community outreach and collaborations
A district-wide training and support program needs careful thought and planning to ensure that teachers have the help and support they need, when they need it.
A district technology committee should exist with members of the community as regular participants. The community members should include parents, business people, telecommunications representatives, local college representatives (staff and scientists), school board members, etc.
School Districts should work closely with their local community. The local community can assist the schools with the adoption of technology in the planning and implementation phases.
Schools can also open their doors during non-school hours to support community learning opportunities. This will in turn help schools to raise the level of awareness and understanding among the community of the benefits of technology in education.
The remainder of this chapter addresses the issues of creating data networks within school districts.