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In order to develop a formal plan for technology use, Springfield Public Schools will embark on a process similar to the development of its five-year strategic plan.
Springfield Board of Education members got their first look at the process for developing such a plan Tuesday during its study session meeting. Chief Information Officer Bruce Douglas walked board members through the basics of how such a plan would be developed.
The plan was requested by board member Maryam Mohammadkhani during an August meeting — she asked for a unifying technology plan that would give SPS staff members and teachers guidance for how the school district uses computers, curriculum and software that evolves rapidly. Such a plan could be incorporated into the district’s current strategic plan or established as a separate plan, she said.
The discussion comes a few months after SPS scaled back its use of Chromebooks, mainly targeting Springfield’s youngest students by limiting how often the devices could be brought home. That policy was the result of months of discussion about what role technology should play with students.
Douglas said the development of an overarching technology plan would begin as early as next month, with a preliminary plan presented to the board around February. A final plan would be presented for school board approval in June.
When finished, the technology plan would give a sharper focus to how Springfield Public Schools would invest in computers for teachers and students, as well as the software platforms for classroom management and lessons Douglas said. It would also offer guidance for cybersecurity issues such as privacy and data protection, including a review of what Springfield Public Schools already has in place.
Development of the plan will require input from parents, students and administrators, Douglas said.
“We want to make sure we are listening to everyone’s voice,” Douglas said. “As we look at this we want to make sure we are aligned with our strategic plan.”
Board on board with preview
Members showed general consensus about the push for heavy feedback collection. Board member Judy Brunner said SPS should ensure it goes deeper than surveys.
“Each educational community is different, and every school has its own climate and culture,” Brunner said. “I hope we make sure they are heard, because their needs will be different. I love the idea of student input, but don’t limit it to (student councils).”
Mohammadkhani said as Springfield Public Schools compares ideas for tech use with “best practices” across the country, the people developing the plan should take note of how those practices are developed.
“In the future, I think it would be nice to have some clarification of who is defining best practices,” Mohammadkhani said. “To remind ourselves that for our students we get to decide what those best practices are. We can’t use somebody else’s playbook.”
Mohammadkhani said she was struck by an example of how another district started at “ground zero,” allowing stakeholders such as teachers and students to test out and play with platforms before they were purchased for use. Douglas said a similar process is used in Springfield when selecting software platforms — people in the district get hands-on time with systems before making decisions about which to use.
Board member Shurita Thomas-Tate generally agreed with the Mohammadkhani’s notion, but also said that best practices come from that work being done by others.
“Let’s be cautious, because as a board making the best decision about what happens in our district, we also don’t know what we don’t know,” Thomas-Tate said. “When we start with best practices, those came from someone who sat in a room with all the technology and determined what was best going forward.”