How to prioritize IT district initiatives from faculty, parents, and admins

March 10, 2020

For the IT department, district budget time often means getting pulled in many different directions by teachers, administrators, school boards, and community members.

The widespread integration of technology in schools creates opportunities for exciting new tech and education initiatives (EdTech initiatives), but that also comes with the necessity for increased focus on risk prevention and cyber security. This means IT now plays a large role in a variety of district-wide initiatives, from implementing new software to supporting curriculum and ensuring student safety.

When it’s time to make decisions about the EdTech budget, you may be faced with competing requests for things like:

  • New curriculum adoption
  • A full 1:1 roll-out
  • Equipment upgrades
  • Increased cyber security measures
  • And more

It can feel overwhelming to try to balance each group’s desires, especially when you’re already dealing with ensuring the district remains CIPA, COPPA, and FERPA compliant—all with limited resources and budget. Here are guidelines to help you prioritize the many EdTech initiatives presented to you.

Audit your existing technology

Before making any decisions about new hardware or software, examine your district’s existing technology infrastructure.

In particular, take note of:

  • Legacy devices, software, or other equipment
  • Existing infrastructure issues or security concerns
  • Device/software incompatibility
  • Areas where technology management can be simplified

Your review may reveal initiatives that quickly move to the top of the list for this year. It may also help you eliminate initiatives—if the current classroom equipment meets the majority of faculty and student needs, you may push a request for new equipment down on the priority list.

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Assess the total cost of ownership

When considering a tech implementation, look beyond the upfront cost to assess the total cost of ownership.

Total cost of ownership includes not only the cost to purchase and implement the technology, but also the financial impact it may have on professional development, technical support, sustainability, and quality learning experiences.

How will this new technology better enable your staff, faculty, and students? Where will it increase efficiency or reduce barriers in the current process?

If there is evidence that the new technology will bring savings in the long-term by removing teaching roadblocks; reducing back-and-forth with IT; or supporting the district in reaching curriculum goals, it may be worth prioritizing.

Consider the cost of not doing an initiative

For each potential technology initiative on your list, ask yourself: What is the risk or cost to the district of not doing this EdTech initiative?

Failing to update software or meet compliance standards may put your district at an increased risk of cyber attack. Pushing off an upgrade for outdated hardware may increase inefficiencies in the classroom, or time spent troubleshooting IT tickets.

This can go hand in hand with assessing the total cost of ownership. When you consider the long-term positive impact of a new tech solution alongside the potential cost of skipping this initiative, you can better determine whether the project is a valuable use of EdTech budget.

Is there a clear plan or curriculum for how this will be used?

Investment in new technology can only bring a positive return if staff, teachers, and students actually use it. Before implementing a classroom solution, talk to the teachers or instructional technologists who will use it on a daily basis.

Teachers know firsthand what they need to support their curriculum requirements and their students. Ask if they can foresee any potential roadblocks to using the proposed technology. Listen closely to their feedback.

If the tech isn’t user-friendly or faculty doesn’t buy into the benefits, this can lead to:

  • Lack of user adoption
  • Contract cancellation
  • Additional time spent getting support from IT
  • The need to repeat this initiative again next year

In other words, your investment may be in vain. Engage with your faculty and other end-users in advance to gauge the likelihood that a classroom technology initiative will be well-received, adopted, and ultimately bring a positive return for the district.

Once you determine priorities, communicate to all stakeholders

No matter what you prioritize with your EdTech budget, it’s important to keep all stakeholders and the general public informed of the why behind your choices.

It’s inevitable that you will disappoint at least one group by not making their initiative a top priority. Providing transparency into the reasons behind your district’s technology decisions is essential to getting buy-in (and reducing resistance) from all groups of stakeholders.

Post on your website or send out a communication to share some of the above factors for the initiatives you’ve chosen to pursue. This could include the total cost of ownership, the risk of neglecting them, and the strategic plan for how they will support the students, faculty, and district.

By engaging with stakeholders throughout the process, you can help everyone understand your decisions to allocate the EdTech budget to initiatives that will bring the most benefit to your district’s true top priority; the students.


Topics: CTO

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