Systems of Support Supporting Educator Excellence through Technology and Strategy

Creating a Process for Determining Technology Needs

I’ve had my eye on a new iPad mini for the last couple of months. I really like the size, and the clarity seems so much better than the iPad 2 I have now. The only thing stopping me from running out to the Apple Store and picking one up today is that I know I don’t really need it (and it’s pretty expensive).

iPad Mini

www.apple.com

I often see schools struggling with similar issues. Many times there is money left over at the end of the year, or a certain percentage of funds set aside for technology, so schools will hit the buy button on technology they’ve been wanting.

Don’t get me wrong, having more iPads or other devices available for students (and teachers) to use is great, but when purchasing these devices it is also important to consider what comes along with them. For example, in the case of iPads, there is purchasing and installing apps, maintaining, buying accessories, training students, training teachers, and so on. All of this for a device that may not have truly been needed in the first place.

To help prevent this from happening I often talk to school leaders about the importance of doing a needs assessment before moving forward with purchasing technology. If you read last week’s post where I discussed the Haddon Matrix, this would be part of the “Pre-Event” when working towards successful implementation.

While a needs assessment may be created by a combination of administrators and technology leaders, it is important to make sure that the teachers who are expected to implement the technology on a daily basis actually take it. You can find a number of resources online to help create this assessment by doing a simple Google search. For example, I found one report based off of a needs assessment conducted by the Nevada Department of Education (scroll to the end to see the questions asked in the assessment) that did a good job of determining what technology educators currently had access to and how comfortable they felt with it.

While that is a great start for finding some questions to consider using in your assessment, I think beginning with a few higher level questions is even more beneficial. For example, start by asking what current initiatives are going on in the school or department, or what area(s) students need to improve in the most. The answers to these questions should lead into more specific questions about what technology can help to fulfill those needs.

Once the answers start to come in, be sure to have a team ready to collect and make sense of the responses. This information can then be summarized and used as a checklist when the times comes to purchase new technology. This process will need to be scaled up or down depending on the situation. For example, purchasing technology to be used by all teachers across the district will require more planning and input from end users than purchasing something for an individual classroom.

The purpose of this post is simply to get schools thinking about their current process for deciding what technology is needed. Many of you may find that there is no process. If this occurs, hopefully this post will give you some ideas on where to start. For those who already have a process in place, please share any links to resources, guides, assessments, etc… that you may have already created in the comments section below so that others can benefit!

About Jason Carroll

Jason has trained thousands on Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning concepts throughout the United States and beyond. His focus is on integrating research based practices into the work he does and helping others ensure that what they are doing works. He specializes in assisting people to bridge the gap between operation of technology and actual implementation. Jason is a published author, has taught Instructional Technology and Universal Design for Learning at the University level, and spends a significant amount of time on e-Learning and blended learning initiatives. He is a graduate of the Assistive Technology Applications Certificate Program (ATACP) from California State University at Northridge and holds a Masters in Business Administration. Currently Jason serves as Product Marketing Manager for North America at Texthelp Inc. where he oversees new product launches and speaks nationally on a variety of Assistive Technology topics.

3 Thoughts on “Creating a Process for Determining Technology Needs

  1. Jason,
    I have recently been “chosen” as the Assistive Technology coordinator for our very small school system in Indiana. I attended your presentation sponsored by the PATINS Project this winter, and appreciated your information and strategies.
    My question is “Once the CC has determined that an Assistive Technology assessment needs to be conducted to determine if a student would benefit from AT, what is the procedure or form that is most useful? Is there an actual Assistive Technology Assessment that is commonly used?

    Thanks for you response.

  2. Hi Pat, thanks for the message. Back when I did AT Assessments often I ended up creating a process that worked for me. If you are just starting out I recommend having a look at the SETT Framework developed by Joy Zabala (http://www.joyzabala.com/). I found that gathering all available information about the Student, the Environment, and the Tasks before even considering the Tools was very useful. If you are looking for helpful forms WATI.org is an excellent resource. Just click Supports – Free Publications and scroll down to find forms divided by area of need. Hope this helps.

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