When Timing Made All the Difference
Which question would you rather principals ask?
1. What technology can I buy for my school with the money I have left in my budget?
2. What technology will fit best with the instructional themes and goals of my school?
Number 2 is more often the question I get from principals now in the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District, but a few years ago number 1 was the norm. I’d like to be able to say that I meant for this to happen, but honesty should prevail. This was a happy accident.
We were searching for a way to simultaneously solve 2 problems as we began purchasing and deploying large amounts of student devices across 30 schools.
Problem 1: Technology service response times and resolutions slowed to a crawl at the beginning of the school year (August and September) and got worse as our ingrained educational culture cried out for first time 1:1 student device implementations to happen at the beginning of the school year as well.
Problem 2: Teachers needed to experience 1:1 student devices for the first time in their classrooms when the pressure was off and they had already established a good rapport with their students, so they could be more flexible as they inevitably realize how drastically the classroom changes when students have that access.
To resolve both problems, we created a new technology purchasing deadline at the end of January every year. If principals put their orders in before the end of January, we implement in March. If they miss the deadline and make orders between February 1 and the regular purchasing deadline, which is May 15 for us, we implement in October.
The result has been powerful. Our 1:1 implementations have been some of the smoothest of any school district, with incredibly well-prepared teachers and excellent technology support for classrooms. By the time school starts in August after a successful first time 1:1 implementation in March, teachers have had the summer to consider the changes they saw in their classrooms and plan appropriately, making the start of the school year with devices a normal process.
Smooth implementations and well-prepared teachers translate into extraordinarily high technology usage rates. It’s not uncommon for us to see over 10,000 of our 15,000 devices on the network at the same time. We use more Internet bandwidth than districts 3 times our size. Over the last 3 years, our teachers have reported the speed of our technology support has been cut in half and the quality of our technology support has nearly doubled.
The unexpected result of principals thinking more strategically about their technology purchases has been a bonus that moves me from happy to downright giddy!