Mission Implausible: Why Tech Plans Shouldn’t Have Mission and Vision Statements

| By Gary Hartstein, Director, DigitalJLearning Network

ipadAs an education tech guy, I love helping schools with their planning. These plans should be the outcome of a strategic process and incorporate the stakeholders’ perspectives on how technology supports learning. Too often that’s not the case. Rather, the IT director, alone at his computer, produces it.

As I read through these school plans, the mission and vision statements for technology stand out. After all, if you’re planning to use something, you should have a vision that aligns to a higher-level mission. Or so you’d think. In that case, please send me a link to your school’s textbook statements. You use textbooks at every grade level and in virtually every subject in your school. And you’ve never articulated your textbook mission and vision? Oh, the horror!

Quite simply, any textbook your school buys aligns with something bigger: your school’s mission and vision for learning. Every new teacher hired, every science lab activity used, and every textbook series adopted are to meet students’ learning needs. Yet, you don’t have specific statements for those.

By starting with technology statements, we run the risk of creating a plan driven by technology, and not by learning. When technology drives the plan, it becomes more about devices and software. We miss the real driver: learning.

Instead, we need to begin with basic questions. What are the learning initiatives over the next three years? How are we supporting them? How do we support them more effectively? What do we want students to do when they finish fifth grade? When they finish eighth grade? When they graduate high school? What do they need to succeed in college and in the world? The answers to these questions shape your plan and drive the technology choices.

Here’s a six-step strategy:
1. Identify the goals — important learning outcomes.
2. Develop measurable objectives to track your progress.
3. Identify software or online resources you may need.
4. Identify professional development and ongoing learning you’ll need to provide.
5. Decide what action items you need completed.
6. Decide what to do about infrastructure, internet access, student and teacher devices, and the budget to get what you need.

We didn’t touch on software until step three, and technology until step six. Instead, you start with learning. No matter what your school’s mission and vision are, my guess is that they involve helping students become critical thinkers and independent learners, who are able to thrive in the world beyond your school’s walls.

You don’t need a separate statement for technology. You need your technology planning to align with how you teach and how your students learn. In other words, a tech plan isn’t really a tech plan; it’s a learning plan. It just describes how technology supports learning.


This post originally appeared on Blog B'Omer, where The Jewish Education Project is counting the 49 days of the Omer with daily posts of personal insights from people passionately engaged and committed to Jewish education.