Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

An Rx for 20/20 Vision: Vision Planning and Education

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

An Rx for 20/20 Vision: Vision Planning and Education

Article excerpt

Have you recently been involved in a technology conversion (or similar) project that seemed to be a continual series of starts and stops? Do you have a clear idea of how the technology you are buying today will fit with what you will buy next year and exactly how both purchases will support the direction your district has selected for its future? Has your district even made a specific decision as to its desired future direction?

This article looks at some technology work going on in a very large school district (Dallas Independent School District) and outlines the technique -- Vision Planning -- they adopted to help answer these questions.

* Situation Description

The Dallas Independent School District (DISD) is the eighth-largest school district in the nation. It encompasses 351 square miles in the eastern portion of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Student enrollment is 149,623 students with 8,800 teachers at 137 elementary schools and 61 secondary schools. In addition to the 198 total schools, DISD facilities include 7 year-round swimming pools, 6 varsity football complexes, 4 athletic field houses, 7 service center buildings, 10 maintenance centers and 7 administrative buildings.

The district is involved in a $275-million bond facilities program that is providing 16 new school facilities, 11 additions to existing facilities and renovation work at the remaining 173 campuses. In making these additions the district must also deal with an aged infrastructure and substantial student growth, while simultaneously delivering ever-improving services to all equitably.

Amongst the many problems that come with a district of this size, DISD administration recognized in 1992 that its technology base, a key component, was rapidly becoming inadequate. It was also the opinion of Superintendent Dr. Chad Woolery that the success of DISD graduates, to a large measure, will be determined by their math, science and technological mastery.

Given these perceived driving needs -- the current inadequacy of its computer and communications systems and the need to increase and enrich the in-class presence of technology -- DISD decided to move toward an integrated technology infrastructure. A contract was issued to a consultant to develop a "Global Overview for Technology." This document reviewed the existing structure and identified problem areas. Not surprisingly (similar findings would be likely in any large organization) this review indicated that the imbedded systems were overloaded, incompatible and restrained from expansion.

As a result a number of initiatives were begun, directed at various deficiencies identified in the "Global Overview." These initiatives included RFPs (Request For Proposals) for communications and computer systems, and for a number of administrative software systems. An implementation plan envisioned these improvements over a 5-6 year time frame. The superintendent also set up a Blue Ribbon Team (comprising independent consultants and businesspersons) to validate direction and, at a very high level, to oversee the series of projects.

* The Problem

To this point all seemed well, but one of the first tasks assigned to the Blue Ribbon Team (BRT) was to evaluate the overall program. Results of this review indicated a surprising issue. In spite of the carefully thought-out preparation of the district for its attack on its inadequate technology base, it still had not clearly identified overall longterm goals. Technology problems had been identified, but only in terms of today's environment. There was no widely understood and accepted vision of the future.

To really hammer home this point, one of the consultants on the BRT asked a meeting of several DISD top administrators what their vision was for the district. Although all shared a generalized vision of improving the education-delivery process, there was no specific articulation of that vision. …

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