Sounds Like a Plan

##AUTHORSPLIT##<--->As they set out to create a new long-range vision fortechnology in their state, Texas officials are wiselyseeking input from educators at all levels.

Geoffrey H. FletcherI RETURNED TO my office with a fresh cup of Peet’s French Roast (heresy here in Washington State, Starbucks country) and surveyed the scene. I saw multiple windows of Excel and Word open on my screen, and stacks of papers spread on the desk and floor. The customary surroundings, except for one distinguishing factor: All the work involved one volunteer project, the Texas Long-Range Plan for Technology. The creation of this plan is a model for inclusiveness that school districts and states should emulate.

During my days as a bureaucrat in that state, I was one of the creators of the original Texas long-range technology plan (1987-88), and I’m honored to be a member of the Texas Educational Technology Advisory Committee (ETAC), which is crafting the new plan. The contrast between the writing of the two plans reflects the growth of technology in education over the past two decades. While both plans had advisory committees, Texas Education Agency (TEA) staff wrote the first plan based on information gathered from visits to companies and schools around the country, in addition to suggestions from experts nationwide.

The process of creating the new plan has evolved quite differently. First, ETAC functions by meeting quarterly and then using an online forum to post documents and feedback. In addition, new technology has played a vital role in providing information to the committee and culling advice from those most affected by the plan: educators from all levels. Aside from using the Internet for research and best practices, ETAC members have been able to tap the results of the Texas STaR Chart, an online tool for planning and assessing school technology and readiness (STaR). The data is critical in understanding educators’ perceptions of how well they are implementing technology, as well as determining if the proposed goals and activities of the new plan are too ambitious or unrealistic.

But it is in gathering input from Texas educators where the open attitude of Senior Director Anita Givens and her staff at TEA—as well as the power of the technology—most come into play. At the recent Texas Computer Education Association conference, educators met in forums to discuss their priorities for the plan over the next 15 years. In addition, an online survey (now completed) listed a litany of possible recommendations for the plan for Texas educators to consider. The educators were asked for their input on each recommendation. It is information from these forums and the online survey that fills up my screen and overflows my desk, as we members of ETAC try to aggregate and analyze the input to then incorporate it into the draft of the plan. There are additional provisions for involvement from various stakeholders throughout the spring before the plan goes to the state Board of Education and the Texas Legislature.

The construction of the Texas plan has embraced an inclusiveness that was also seen in the creation of the national technology plan, impressive for its involvement of students, educators, and citizens nationwide. Others in the technology community have long been leaders in participatory input, such as NetDay and the International Society for Technology in Education, which blazed this trail, creating its national education technology standards. School districts and other states can and should follow this model. Involving all stakeholders results in a better plan or policy; it also sends a message that the stakeholders are important and can have a positive impact. There is no better messageto send.

Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editor-At-Large

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.