How CTOs Can Craft Technology Implementation Plans That Work for Their School Districts

March 16, 2017


The digital revolution is not going unnoticed in the world of education. Once the province of blackboards and textbooks, schools are increasingly looking to digital alternatives such as tablets and laptops. In 2015, many school districts reported budget increases to bring technology into the classroom in the following areas of IT:

  • Hardware: 46 percent of school districts
  • Software: 27 percent of school districts
  • Teacher training: 38 percent of school districts
  • Technology support: 28 percent of school districts

Standing at the helm of schools’ technology strategy, district chief technology officers are tasked with creating and implementing a technology plan in their schools. In the past, CTOs may have been considered the go-to tech repair people, but that role is quickly changing. Today districts expect CTOs to be IT experts who have stewardship of all the technology implemented and used across their schools. A school district CTO’s responsibilities have grown to include:

  • Understanding student data privacy
  • Integrating various software solutions
  • Establishing protocol for appropriate and safe use of school technology
  • Implementing district-wide technology implementation plans

The scope of creating and implementing an effective technology plan in your district can be intimidating, but the right strategic approach will ensure you set your students and teachers up for success. Here are seven questions to ask when putting together your CTO technology implementation plan.


What Technology Does Your District Need to Succeed?

The first step to implementing a technology plan in schools is determining what devices and tools will best serve your students and teachers. Here are a few different technologies teachers can use in their classrooms:

  • Internet access. The majority of high school students — 89 percent — have internet access through smart phones, and 50 percent of elementary school students in grades three through five have internet access through smart phones. With so many students online, it makes sense to find a way to integrate the internet into education strategy. Do your schools have internet access? If so, where can students and teachers access it? Does it make sense to add Wi-Fi access at your schools?
  • Tablets. Tablets can be a great learning tool. You have a wide range of options to choose from, as well. iPads are always a popular option, but CTOs can also look at the wide variety of available Android options. Important considerations for selecting a classroom tablet include ease of use, security, price and available features.
  • Laptops. If properly integrated into course material, laptops can be a beneficial tool. CTOs can consider these devices when evaluating their options. As with tablets, you will need to research brand, cost and features.
  • Desktops. Desktops are not as mobile as laptops or tablets, but they hold value in the school setting. Desktop computers could be a resource for teachers in their classrooms. Additionally, CTOs could place a group of desktops in libraries or media centers for student use.
  • Visual display. More than half of people — 65 percent — are visual learners, according to the Visual Teaching Alliance. Technology is a great way to cater to this learning style. CTOs can research audiovisual equipment, such as projectors, that allows teachers to incorporate more visuals into their lesson plans. For example, you could invest in projectors that can connect to tablets or computers.

After you have reviewed what is already available in your district’s schools and how it is being used, you can begin to plan implementation of new tools. Be sure to talk with teachers to glean their insight. CTOs should understand their students and teachers’ needs before creating their plan. After determining which technologies will make the most sense in your district, speak with other district leadership to get their support for your choices and the overall implementation plan.


How Will You Prepare Your District’s Teachers?

Technology is a fantastic tool, but all new tools require training. CTOs cannot expect digital learning to affect a dramatic change in their schools without supplying the proper training. No matter how many iPads you have in the classroom, the teacher is still the most important part of the learning equation.

If teachers are not prepared to effectively use new technology, those wonderful new tools will go unused, or they will do little to improve classroom learning. CTOs can become inundated in the technical aspects of putting new devices in the classroom, but the human element is the lynchpin of any technology implementation plan. Your teachers should be enthusiastic about adding new technology, but it is common to run into reluctant educators.

Show your district’s teachers how technology can help them in the following ways:

  • Engage their students. If students feel disconnected from their schoolwork, they will put less effort into learning the material. This is a problem teachers struggle with daily. Instead of framing technology as something that adds to their workload, demonstrate how it can help teachers solve that age-old problem. Teachers can use technology to inject visuals into their lesson plans. Students can use technology to draw during their anatomy or math classes.
  • Help them learn more about their students. Teachers are always looking for ways to connect with their students. Show your teachers how technology is a great way to do that. Teachers can use technology in the classroom to host surveys for their students and gain insight about them.
  • Spark their students’ creativity. Many students will already know how to use the technology added to their classrooms. Teachers can turn to students for suggestions on how to incorporate apps and tablets into the lesson plan. This gives students a chance to be creative and take an active role in their education.


How Can the Implementation of New Technology Strengthen Professional Development?

CTOs will focus most of their energy on how their implementation plans will roll out in the classroom, but it is important to remember that you can use new technology to support your teachers outside of the classroom as well. Many states mandate that school districts maintain professional development programs for their teachers. CTOs have the opportunity to look at their districts’ programs and determine how IT could become a valuable part of professional development.

CTOs can play an active role in offering teachers online and digital tools to meet professional development requirements. The more exposure teachers have to technology in the professional setting, the more prepared they will be to effectively use those tools to help their students.


How Will New Technology Be Distributed Throughout Your District?

Most likely, the size of the schools in your district will vary, as will the number of teachers and number of students per classroom. This means you will have to make a decision about where and how to allocate technology resources. Will each classroom receive one iPad regardless of size, or will the number of students determine the number of iPads per classroom?

Selecting an implementation team with stakeholders across your district is a good way to determine the allocation of resources. Invite people in a diverse range of roles to weigh in on the needs of each school in your district. Make sure that each school has adequate representation. Seek input from the following people:

  • A superintendent
  • Principals
  • Teachers
  • School board members
  • Library staff
  • Students
  • IT support staff

The collective knowledge from your various schools will help you build a comprehensive and practical technology implementation plan.


How Will Students Use Technology in the Classroom?

Technology is a great resource for students, but it must be used appropriately. Part of your responsibility as CTO is determining use guidelines for the technology your district invests in and spending time to implement it. Expect both students and teachers to respect the technology made available in their schools.

Appropriate use guidelines will vary depending on the individual school, but some basic rules to consider include:

  • Respect the technology. Be careful when using technology that belongs to the school. If damage to the device occurs, report it immediately.
  • Use the technology for educational purposes. Technology in the classroom is meant for educational purposes and should be used as such. Students who use these devices should agree not to use the technology for anything other than schoolwork.
  • Cyberbullying is never acceptable. More than 25 percent of teens have experienced harassment over the internet. Ready access to devices connected to the internet can tempt some teens to participate in bullying. Make it clear that your schools will have a strict policy with consequences should it be discovered a student is using school property to cyberbully a classmate.

Personal devices pose another key question to address when creating an appropriate use policy. Many students have their own smartphones and tablets. Should those devices be a part of your schools’ technology policy? It could save your schools money, but it is much more difficult to manage how students use their own devices. Your technology implementation team will also be a great resource for CTOs when building an appropriate-use policy.


Do You Have a Budget in Place?

School districts are pouring money into technology to help their students receive the best education possible, but as anyone who works in education knows, money is a limited resource. CTOs will have a set budget to work with or be responsible for creating and advocating for a budget. Some of the big-ticket items you will have to consider for in your implementation plan include:

  • Internet. The majority of the technology you want to implement in your school will likely be dependent on the internet. You will need to think about the cost of internet service, routers and any rewiring required. Remember to factor in how much broadband will be needed to support internet access for students and teachers.
  • Devices. Whether you are upgrading existing devices or buying new ones, the devices themselves will be a significant line item in your budget.
  • Software. What kind of programs will your computers and tablets need? The Microsoft Office Suite and other programs frequently used in the educational setting will be another significant expense.
  • Apps. Apps can be a great educational tool. From 2016 to 2020, the market for education apps is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 28.15 percent. There will be no shortage of app options. Be sure to budget for any new ones you would like to see used in your district’s schools.

When it comes to pitching your implementation plan and advocating for your budget, remember to demonstrate how technology will benefit schools and reduce costs. For example, if you want to put iPads in every classroom, explain how the use of eBooks is more cost-effective than physical textbooks.


How Will You Manage the Roll Out of the New Technology?

After you receive approval from the right stakeholders and the budgetary go-ahead, you need a plan for rolling out the new technology in your district’s classrooms. Create a schedule for technology go-lives, and stick to it. Each district will be different. In larger districts, you have the option of doing a pilot study of new technology in one school before implementing the new technology across the district. A pilot study will give you best practices for placing the technology in the district’s other schools.

Whether you decide to go the pilot-school route or roll out the technology in your district’s schools all at once, prepare your teachers to introduce kids to their new tools. It may be helpful to send kids home with a media-use agreement, which will bring parents into the loop and outline appropriate-use guidelines.


Are You Prepared to Maintain the Technology Once It Is in the Classroom?

Implementation is only the beginning. After your teachers and students have the technology in hand and integrated into the classroom, they will still require support. Technology, no matter how advanced, will always require updates and maintenance.

Most technology equipment and applications has a lifespan of three to five years. During the lifetime of technology, CTOs should plan for routine maintenance such as:

  • Software upgrades
  • Replacement of any broken or worn down parts
  • Cleaning
  • Regulating user rights
  • Securing stored files

Ensure you know who will be in charge of these responsibilities at each school in your district. Don’t forget to factor maintenance costs into your yearly budget.

CTOs are the stewards of technology at their districts, but you do not have to tackle it alone. PowerSchool partners with school districts to offer technology solutions that help your students grow and your teachers do what they do best. Reach out today to learn how we can help ensure your technology implementation plan is everything you hope for your district.



See how many others are using

The largest user community in K-12 education technology