Technology Strategic Plan Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
General Tech Plan Questions
Support/Tools (Hardware & Software)/Infrastructure Questions
Instruction/Pedagogy/Professional Development Questions (coming soon)
1:1 Program Questions (coming soon)
Funding Questions (coming soon)
1. What is the District’s vision for technology in education?
The District aims to provide a rigorous and relevant instructional program delivered by high quality educators who use innovative, research-based strategies to enable students to participate in a global environment. It envisions students who are engaged in meaningful learning and teachers who serve as leaders and partners in their learning goals. Technology prepares students in our rapidly evolving world for the challenges of high school and beyond, and helps to build critical 21st century skills, such as communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. The District is committed to providing teachers with these powerful tools and students with these critical learning opportunities.
2. What are the major components of the Tech Strategic Plan?
The broad goals of the Technology Strategic Plan involve coordinating efforts to increase equity and access to technology tools, and to provide effective professional development in the innovative use of those tools. The plan covers four major areas: Instruction/Professional Development, Tools (hardware/software), Infrastructure, and Support. It includes target device ratios, replacement cycles, a five-year timeline, and the funding needed to achieve plan goals. Maintenance of existing and new equipment, additional network and wireless needs, support personnel, and effective planning for training and professional development are also important considerations of the plan.
3. What is the difference between this “new” Technology Strategic Plan and the 5-year tech plan posted on the District website?
The previous Tech Plan (2012-15) was required by the state and various federal agencies in order to get funding for programs such as the Microsoft Voucher program and E-rate (telecommunications and technology discounts for schools and libraries). It was based on a required template and after being approved, would generally not be revisited for the duration of the plan. This new Technology Strategic Plan is intended as a “living” document that will be revisited, revised and adjusted over time. It serves as a guide toward certain goals to ensure we are fully considering all the components of successful technology integration in education.
4. How are Mill Valley schools currently equipped with regard to technology?
In the 2013-14 school year, student device ratios at the elementary schools ranged from 1.4:1 to 2.3:1. The overall ratio was just under 2:1, which is pretty impressive. The way technology is distributed and the types of technology (e.g. tablets vs. laptops) varies by site, which is why the plan calls for consistent and equitable levels of access.
5. What are the grade level ratio goals and how were they determined?
The District Technology Advisory Committee (DTAC), composed of teachers, librarians, administrators, and a Special Ed rep, discussed various options and weighed the need for tablets and laptops. The ratios were based on a consensus recommendation from DTAC, taking into account instructional needs, age/grade appropriateness and financial considerations. We acknowledged that we may need to revisit the ratios and other choices as technologies, usage and demand change. The ratio goals will be phased in over a three-year period. A chart of the ratio goals is below.
1 cart/5 classrooms
1 cart/4 classrooms
1 cart/4 classrooms
1 cart/4 classrooms
1 cart/grade level
6. When will the Tech Strategic Plan be updated? Will the target ratios and/or refresh cycles be adjusted? What allowances will be made for the rapid change in technology?
The Tech Strategic Plan will be reviewed annually by DTAC to determine whether our target ratios and refresh cycles are sufficient, and to consider the availability of new technologies. A critical component of the plan is this annual chance to reflect on the current state in order to make adjustments and improvements. Projections and figures will be updated approximately every February. Parents will have the opportunity to offer input through surveys for the District’s Strategic Plan refresh.
7. What do the plan costs include? What about accessories?
Plan costs include student hardware, accessories (such as keyboards), instructional materials (software, apps, eBooks), teacher and administrative hardware, maintenance and repairs, support and professional development. PTA contributions fund student hardware. All other items will be funded by other sources.
8. When will hardware purchases be made?
During the first couple years of the plan, as we move toward our goal ratios, purchases will be made in January and June. Once we fully reach our goals and are on a regular maintenance and replacement schedule, purchases will happen primarily at the beginning of summer.
9. Is MVSD coordinating with Tam Union High School District?
Yes. In October 2014 we had an introductory meeting with TUHSD’s Senior Director of Instructional Technology to discuss the 1:1 Program and articulation between 8th and 9th grades. TUHSD is continuing to explore different options for technology integration, and we plan to have other meetings to coordinate our efforts.
10. How does the District compare to other schools regarding the implementation of technology and 1:1 programs?
Schools vary dramatically in their approach to 1:1 programs, tech ratios and professional development. Implementation is dependent on a variety of factors, including funding, district size and goals. We have come across a number of programs at both public and independent schools, and have considered the most applicable best practices in our plans. Because there are so many differences, we are forging a path that we feel will best fit our environment. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
11. What are we doing for students who don’t have Internet access at home?
For certain families who qualify, Comcast has a program called Internet Essentials, which the District promotes. This provides very low cost access. The District will survey families to determine who may need extra assistance and will work directly with them.
12. How can we insure this plan will be successful?
Technology was the highest strategic priority for the District based on results of a survey of parents and staff, so the desire and momentum exist. With a methodical plan that involves all stakeholders, and includes hardware, infrastructure, professional development and support, as well as a reasonable funding mechanism, we feel that implementation will be successful.
13. How will the District support parents and educators in the most effective ways to manage Internet-connected devices at school and at home?
The District plans to offer parents resources regarding best practices around device management at home. This may include parent information nights, as well as information on the District website. Topics will cover filtering, content and activity monitoring, screen time guidelines, and good care practices. Parents of students in the Middle School 1:1 Program will be offered additional educational opportunities. Parents are encouraged to set their own home standards based on family values and priorities.
14. Has the District considered a device use contract that both parents and students will sign?
The District has a “Computer and Internet Use Agreement” that parents receive in first day packets and sign on behalf of their child. We are working on updating District forms and policies for Fall 2015. We recognize that increased use of technology requires more specific expectations and clear communication with students and families. Beginning this year, each elementary librarian implemented a “kid friendly” Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that describes how to care for devices and appropriately use technology resources. For the 1:1 Program at the Middle School, there will also be an additional AUP that both parents and students sign.
15. Are there any planned security measures, such as remote software monitoring, that will be used with student devices?
The District currently does not intend to install any monitoring software on student devices. We are, however, exploring tools that would allow a teacher to monitor a student’s activity while in class. The District also employs an Internet filter, as required by law, which works while devices are connected to the District’s network. The filter also records the device history. We believe that education around Digital Citizenship is the most important aspect to keeping students secure and protecting their privacy online. We plan to install software on iPads that will limit the ability to download apps and restrict other capabilities, similar to parental controls. We also encourage parents to investigate security and control measures for home networks.
16. How will the District determine if the plan is a success?
Apart from reaching our target ratios, some other indicators of success would include teachers using technology to differentiate instruction to reach different types of learners, and students taking charge of their own learning while demonstrating their knowledge and mastery of subject matter in new ways. The District plans to use a pre- and post-survey tool with students and teachers, starting at the Middle School, to measure certain factors such as satisfaction and engagement with the 1:1 program. Through DTAC, we will also be gathering District-wide feedback on the Tech Strategic Plan.
Support/Tools (Hardware & Software)/Infrastructure Questions
17. Are there plans for expanding tech support or instructional support as the number of devices and usage grow?
Yes, we plan to add a Tech Support Specialist in Year 2 (2015-16). While each site has an assigned Tech Support Specialist, expansion will allow us to dedicate specific support for the 1:1 program as usage and the number of devices increase. We also anticipate the need for additional instructional support over time, and this will be dependent on teacher need. Current support involves one dedicated afternoon per site as well as other visits dictated by tech requests. In the future, this could be revised as needs and devices change.
18. How will the District handle the wireless infrastructure upgrades at each school to account for the greater quantity of devices plus increased network traffic?
The District’s wireless infrastructure has the capacity for one wireless access point (WAP) per classroom. Each WAP can handle about fifty connected devices. To expand the system, we would only need to purchase more WAPs. Our Internet bandwidth was upgraded during the summer of 2014 from 100Mbps to 400Mbps. We monitor usage, and our current peak is around 100Mbps, so there is currently room for growth. In the future, as we approach our traffic capacity, we will investigate options for increased bandwidth.
19. Is the refresh cycle for teacher laptops different from that of student machines?
Yes. The currently planned life for a teacher laptop is four years. It is five years for a student laptop and four years for an iPad. Since the plan will be reviewed annually, these could be adjusted in future depending on experience and need.
20. Will teachers get iPads?
Teachers in the 1:1 program will get iPads. For other elementary teachers, iPad assignment has been a site decision. All classroom teachers will have access to an iPad, if needed, for instruction, whether is it dedicated to the teacher or one of a set in their classroom.
21. What is the plan for desktops?
Desktops will remain in the libraries, Special Ed classrooms and the Middle School computer lab for student use. Other student desktop computers will be “retired” over time.
22. When devices are re-issued, what is the reconditioning program? Will this happen over the summers?
For iPads in the Middle School 1:1 program, devices will be updated over the summer, but we do not currently plan to wipe them, as students will generally keep the same device from year to year. For other devices, such as teacher laptops, which may be used in elementary carts, or MS iPads that may be cycled down to the elementary schools, the devices will be wiped over the summer and re-distributed.
23. Why does the plan call for the Middle School to have one laptop cart per grade level, which is low compared to the elementary schools?
Because all students at the Middle School will have a personal device when the plan is fully implemented, the need for laptops will be significantly less than in the elementary schools. Experience from other 1:1 programs indicates that with experience, students and teachers are able to make use of the full capabilities of a tablet, including for content creation. In some cases, laptops are essential for high-powered software that is not yet available for a tablet. We feel that over time, however, tablet capabilities will only increase, just as laptops became more convenient and powerful enough to do tasks that were previously possible only on desktop computers.
24. Who is responsible for software plans, software purchases and software funding?
We are still finalizing a consistent process for vetting and selecting software and apps. Teachers, librarians, administrators and tech staff are all involved in the decision-making process. Funding comes from both site and District sources. The software purchase plan will be similar to other processes for acquiring other instructional materials.