Sunday, August 10, 2014

Six suggestions for effective, large-scale technology deployment

Guest post by Chris Casal (A more detailed version of this article was cross posted at The Casal Operating System)

If you haven’t heard, another story of technology gone wild was recently shared in this WNYC article “Why Hoboken is Throwing Away All of its Student Laptops.” As is the case with other failed technology initiatives in places like Liverpool, and Los Angeles, the problem is not the tech, but rather the ineffective deployment and implementation strategy.  

If you don’t want your school or district to end up in the headlines after purchasing technology, follow these six suggestions to make implementations more effective:

  1. Require detailed plans for implementation, use, and scalability
    • Who is in charge? What will students create? Plan for repairs and updates. Plan for time beyond grant funding
  2. No more specific grant money
    • By this I mean grants that say "laptops" because that might not allow for buying carts, wifi access points, servers, replacement chargers, external mouse, etc.  - Some of these peripherals, like a mouse, can be necessary items to meet IEPs for students with disabilities or other tactile issues with trackpads
  3. No more order deadlines
    • Forcing order-by dates results in students potentially missing out on impending hardware upgrades, price drops, small-scale pilots to verify use, etc.
  4. Allow for roll-outs over time
    • Buying 1,000 iPads might be great, but are you ready to get all 1,000 boxes all at once? Is there a plan for unboxing, provisioning, distributing, etc.
  5. Allow for pilots
    • Allow for deliberate deployment in small batches as part of a pilot. Start with enthusiastic teachers. Make sure the devices truly work the way anticipated, before making a large purchase.   Start small, learn from mistakes, and grow from there.
  6. Build in flexibility based on research and evidence
    • Make the money & plan flexible. If you are testing two devices and one shows pitfalls,allow for phasing out the less effective device and moving forward the one with which students and teachers had success.  

One-size-fits-all, large-scale deployments with restrictive guidelines and short timelines will always lead to Hoboken-like situations. To succeed technology implementations need to be planned, tested, and purposefully rolled out to properly trained staff.

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