Cut through the Confusion with our new NYS K12 Technology Planning Resources web page

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If you’re confused by all the technology planning required by your New York State K12 School District, you’re not alone. If keeping track of ever-changing technology systems wasn’t enough, NYS school districts are confronted by additional challenges for technology planning including that needed to apply for the district’s Smart Schools Bond Act allocation.

Archi-Technology, an independent technology consulting firm, is helping more than a dozen NYS school districts cut through the clutter to develop Comprehensive Technology Plans, Instructional Technology Plans, and Smart Schools Investment Plans that take a holistic, integrated approach towards goals, gaps and funding sources.

Over the past year, we have developed a number of educational pieces and enablement tools to help our K12 district clients grasp key technical concepts and approach the planning process with efficiency and collaboration. These include:

  • Infographics that convey key concepts relating to technology systems within a district with an emphasis on the “hidden” technology infrastructure you don’t see that is responsible for moving data within and between buildings.
  • Enablement tools including technology meeting checklists and SSIP timelines and sample calendars.

This material is available to your district on our new NYS K12 Technology Planning webpage at no charge and with no required registration.

We hope you find the information helpful and welcome the opportunity to discuss your district’s technology planning challenges.

In the News: Comprehensive Technology Plan presented to Central Valley School Board

cvcsd-logo-lgOur thanks to the Times Telegram of Herkimer (NY) for their news coverage of Archi-Technology’s presentation of Central Valley School District’s Comprehensive Technology Plan to the Board of Education on Oct. 20.

Read the article, then visit our website for more information about our Comprehensive Technology Plans for NYS K12 School District.

Wireless Infrastructure Systems

Elmhurst (Ill.) Memorial Healthcare telecommunication rooms house switches and equipment that deliver Ethernet-based applications throughout the hospital. Image courtesy of Panduit

This article from Health Facilities Management was recently shared with me and while it’s focus is on Healthcare Facilities, it’s strategic perspective on the value of a Cable Infrastructure is applicable to all facilities.

Over the past 20 years we have seen first hand how strategically and proactively designed spaces, pathways and cabling systems can help organizations establish an effective foundation on which they can reliably support the variety of systems that now require IP connections.

In recent years, we have been working with a number of school districts throughout New York State as they establish just such a foundation to facilitate the delivery of education using 21st century hardware and software.

http://www.hfmmagazine.com/articles/2374-wireless-infrastructure-systems

 

NYS K12 Schools in need of Comprehensive Technology Plans (CTPs)

Like just about every other facet of contemporary life, technology has woven itself into the fabric of today’s New York State public school districts from instruction and courseware to daily operations including safety and security.

As such, we must recognize the need for a more strategic approach to the design and implementation of technology systems and related infrastructure in today’s K12 educational facilities.

Failure to do so will result in wasted resources and disappointing attempts to integrate technology into modern day classes and curriculum.

One primary issue of concern is the lack of understanding regarding the “infrastructure” needed to reliably support technology. Without a sound and robust underlying infrastructure of structured cabling, pathways and spaces, attempts to incorporate technology into today’s schools  are destined for failure. This is as applicable to design teams that simply throw some cables and conduits on a drawing and call it a “technology design” as it is to service providers that “upgrade” the network without first considering the necessary supporting infrastructure.

The issue is based on poor communications, not bad intentions; the IT and Construction/Facilities industries speak different languages.

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This graphic shows the relationship between a K12 School District’s Comprehensive Technology Plan (top), supporting material such as ITPs and Technology Conditions Surveys (middle), and resultant Funding-specific plans (bottom).

An important step towards a solution is to develop a Comprehensive Technology Plan (CTP) that takes a holistic view of how to bridge the gap between the district’s current technology conditions and its longer range goals. Some of the items that need to be addressed in a CTP include:

  • All district planning activities including Instructional Technology Plans (ITPs), mission statement and goals, BOCES contracts, and capital projects.
  • Instructional (student computing devices, whiteboards, projectors) and non-instructional (security, data communications, PA, etc.) technology systems.
  • Cable plant and network infrastructure needs to support today’s technology systems.
  • Funding Sources over a 10 year timeframe.
  • Technology refresh rates and related budgets.
  • Professional development of the teachers who will use the technology in the classroom and the IT staff supporting it.
  • Actions Plans by both academic year and district goal.

The graphic above shows the relationship between a district’s CTP and related elements including ITPs, Technology Conditions Surveys, and Funding plans.

Has your district developed a Comprehensive Technology Plan?

If so, please share your comments and experience. If not, here are some resources that might help you get started.

Planning to Succeed for K12 Technology

AT-b-ComprehensiveTechPlanAs summer begins to wane, the team at Archi-Technology is busier than ever working with a number of upstate NYS School Districts and their Architects. Many of these activities are related to conducting Technology Conditions Surveys (TCS) that assess a District’s technology systems, much like a Building Conditions Survey that looks at traditional architectural and MEP systems.

A TCS is, of course, a precursor to the far larger objective of developing a District’s Comprehensive Technology Plan that starts with the findings of the Technology Assessment and ends with the District’s objectives and goals. In between those two points there are a variety of other District-wide planning activities that will provide critical input for development of the Comprehensive Tech Plan. These other planning activities include:

  • 5-Year Capital Plan
  • Instructional Technology Plan
  • Smart School Investment Plan (SSIP)
  • Professional Development Initiatives

Each of these plans effect development of the Comprehensive Tech Plan, not only to assure that the goals and outcomes of each plan are addressed in the comprehensive version, but also for the funding of specific technology infrastructure, systems and components.

For example, while Smart Schools Bond Act District allocations can be used to fund technology infrastructure and certain Communications and Security Systems, you may need to look to your District’s 5-Year Capital Plan for funding of distributed and integrated AV systems.

This two-page PDF illustrates the relationship of a NYS K12 School District’s Comprehensive Technology Plan and other planning activities (pg. 1) as well as how they act as funding sources for different types of technology purchases (pg. 2).

I hope your District finds this information helpful in its Technology planing efforts.

Is there a Technology planning tip or resource you’d like to share? I’d welcome your feedback and ideas.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of the summer.

Discuss your District’s technology challenges at NYSASBO Expo Booth #130

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On behalf of Archi-Technology, I am looking forward to the annual NYSASBO (NYS Association of School Business Officials) Summit and Expo.

The 64th Summit runs Sunday through Wednesday, June 7 – 10, in Saratoga Springs, NY. I’ll be staffing Archi-Technology’s booth (#130) at the Expo portion of the Summit Monday and Tuesday.

This is both an exciting and challenging year for NYS School District Business Officials given passage of the Smart Schools Bond Act in November and the resultant $2 billion available for facility and technology upgrades and enhancements.

As independent Technology Consultants with 20 years experience working on education campuses, we act on behalf of facility owners to bridge the many gaps between technology and construction. In fact, the issues facing Districts around the State are familiar to us as they parallel the last burst of statewide K12 technology investment in the early 2000s.

I would be very interested in discussing your District’s current approach to Technology and Smart Schools Investment planning which will be based, in part, on the findings of this year’s Building Conditions Survey.

Archi-Technology is currently working with a number of Western and Central NY School Districts to provide services that may be of interest to your District including:

If you’re attending this year’s NYSASBO Summit, I hope we get a chance to meet —or see each other again—to discuss your District’s technology-related challenges.

TomRauscherIf you’re not attending but would like to talk, please call or send me an email.

Thanks for reading and have a good rest of the week.

— Tom Rauscher, President, FCSI

Preliminary NYS Smart School Bond Act Guidance is now Available!

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School districts around NYS can finally learn more granular details about the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014.

Released on Monday afternoon, the Smart Schools Bond Act Implementation Guidance describes:

“…the process through which school districts will receive their allocations, which will be distributed on a reimbursement basis, the components of the Smart Schools Investment Plan required by the Smart Schools Bond Act, and eligible expenditures under the law. In addition, the guidance provides the following information:
1. Overview of the State Review Process for Smart Schools Investment Plans
2. School District Application Process
3. Smart Schools Bond Act Allocation
4. Allowable Expenditures by Category
5. Requirements for Stakeholder Involvement
6. Inclusion of Nonpublic Schools
7. Treatment of Smart Schools Bond Act Plans and Funds”

As independent technology consultants, of particular interest to us here at Archi-Technology is the following passage:

2.2 School leaders are encouraged to engage in strategic planning for use of these funds to build long-term capacity in their districts. Districts may find it useful to identify leaders in education technology to identify best practices.

I hope you find the attached PDF useful in your K-12 NYS School District technology planning and, on behalf of Archi-Technology,  we look forward to learning how we can assist your district.

Is it the right time for a Security Assessment?

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Since our Technology Conditions Survey (TCS) includes assessing your Security Systems and your future Smart Schools projects can include high-tech security improvements, now is a good time for a Security Assessment.

Fully eligible for state-aid reimbursement as a BCS Additional Service, a Security Assessment goes beyond Security Systems to provide a more comprehensive review of all your physical security components. In other words, do you have everything you need in place to keep your buildings, staff and, most importantly, your students safe?

Security is only as reliable as the weakest link and systems can’t do the job on their own. Many other items related to physical security such as doors, windows, lighting or even landscaping could be the weak link.

Problems with people, policies and procedures also may be the reason an incident goes undetected or isn’t handled properly. A Security Assessment from Archi-Technology provides an objective look at these “softer” components of school security.

One approach that I’ve been considering is that many of the items needed to reduce the risk of vandalism, violence and theft—while improving communications on a daily basis—can have the added benefit of being used in a crisis situation to save lives.

It makes sense to me to take advantage of available state aid to see how your school district is prepared to handle everyday events or the rare crisis situation.

DonBrownI’d like to hear your thoughts on School Security or the value of a Security Assessment.

— Don Brown, P.E., Building Technology Systems specialist

What’s In Your Five-Year Plan?

AT-Blog-TCS-5YearPlanIn New York State, a School District’s Five-Year Plan should include recommendations for correcting items that were found to be deficient during its Building Conditions Survey (BCS). The Plan should include enough information to help plan how capital funds should be spent during the next five years.

But not all of the items in a Five-Year Plan are from deficiencies uncovered during the BCS. Many recommendations are included because the item or system does not or will not meet the District’s current and/or future needs. This is especially true for technology items.

Technology Condition Surveys, like those provided by Archi-Technology, establish a baseline for capabilities that meet minimum requirements but this leaves a lot of room for recommendations. Many technology-based initiatives need to be considered to make good strategic decisions in a Five-Year Plan.

A technology system that receives a passing grade today could be totally unprepared for future capabilities needed to support initiatives for student learning, mass notification and security. Whereas a boiler may only be mentioned every 20 years in capital planning, some technology item(s) should appear in every Five-Year Plan.

Some examples:

  • Currently installed Wireless Access (WA) points capable of supporting the 802.11n wireless networking standard with a single category 5e cable could receive a passing grade in the survey but future (recommended) WA points should be compatible with the 802.11ac standard and be wired with (2) category 6A cables.
  • Currently installed telecommunications cabinets mounted to the floor or wall with proper working clearance, dedicated power, an isolated ground and cable management could receive a passing grade as a telecommunications space. However, for future spaces we would recommend a dedicated Telecommunications Room with environmental conditioning for ease of maintenance, to lengthen the life span of electronic components, and to ensure the security of the telecommunications infrastructure.

DonBrownDoes your Five-Year Plan include technology items? Do you think it should? Let us know.

— Don Brown, P.E., Building Technology Systems specialist