The Guide to Technology Audits for Educators: Making the Case for Upgrades
Much like financial audits are an independent, typically third-party review of an organization’s financial records to ensure compliance and accuracy as well as to provide a picture of the overall financial health of the organization, a technology audit serves the same purposes but focuses on the technology used by an organization.
A technology audit may seem like just another laborious process conducted out of necessity or to comply with regulations, but these audits prove beneficial for educators in many ways. A comprehensive technology audit can help you determine whether your current technology plan is effective, assess against national standards, and even help you to advocate for funding in order to meet the goals set forth by your district.
Technology audits have become increasingly relevant in recent years as educational institutions continue to increase technology integration in the classroom. And for those that are behind the curve in adopting the latest educational technology, an audit can be just the resource educators need to convince administrators that upgrades are a worthy investment. To help educators make sense of technology audits and learn how to use these tools to make the case for technology upgrades, we’ve created this in-depth guide packed with useful resources to help you understand technology audits, learn the various reasons why technology audits are necessary, navigate the audit process, and use the findings to your advantage.
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What You’ll Find in This Guide:
-Understanding Technology Audits and Technology Integration Models
-Why You Need a Technology Audit
-Internal Technology Audits and Ongoing Technology Integration Initiatives
-Tools and Examples: Putting Technology Audits to Work
Understanding Technology Audits and Technology Integration Models
The following resources offer information on technology audits, how they’re used, and the various technology integration models that are used in modern education. These resources illustrate how integration models enable educators to achieve growth and explain the various levels of technology integration in today’s classrooms.
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Using the proper technology audit model, schools and districts achieve growth and realize returns on investments including both student achievement and technology assets. This Survivor’s Guide to Technology Audits takes an in-depth look at what educators and administrators can expect from a technology audit and the proper models for achieving growth.
Some models consider technology as belonging to one of three levels: literacy use (teaching about technology), augmentative/integrating use (teaching with technology – whether the use of technology reinforces, augments, or substitutes a traditional teaching approach), and transformative use (teaching through technology – when the activity or learning can only be completed with technology). This simple audit tool can be used within classrooms and in broader applications to monitor the effectiveness of a technology program informally, or in-between formal, independent technology audits.
Another model is Puentadura’s SAMR Model, which considers technology at four levels: Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition. The Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) Model is designed to see how technology might impact teaching and learning. This resource explains, “While one might argue over whether an activity can be defined as one level or another, the important concept to grasp here is the level of student engagement. One might well measure progression along these levels by looking at who is asking the important questions. As one moves along the continuum, computer technology becomes more important in the classroom but at the same time becomes more invisibly woven into the demands of good teaching and learning.” Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura’s website includes a variety of other resources related to integrating technology into the classroom, and this resource offers more information on the SAMR model.
Some educators believe that teachers should focus on creating instructional opportunities that target both higher-order cognitive skills (of Bloom’s taxonomy) and also “design tasks that have a significant impact on student outcomes (SAMR).” In this resource, Kathy Schrock explains her views on SAMR and Bloom’s and addresses approaches that incorporate both models.
The use of any technology in an educational setting should improve the process or the outcome. The National Association of Secondary School Principals points out that it’s not better or worse to work at one level over another, but the key is to “connect the tools and processes used with the targeted level.” A technology audit can help educators determine whether their approaches and targets are in line and reveal areas for improvement to better achieve student outcomes.
The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington attempts to clarify the relationship between the big picture elements and how they work together, addressing the fact that many of the failures in education technology are related to the integration of technology. The latest version of this graphic ties various educational technology tools and initiatives to the SAMR model.
Yet another model to consider is the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) Model. The model focuses on the way these three elements “relate to teaching in a technology enhanced learning environment.” Dr. Matthew J. Koehler, editor of TPACK.org, explains this model in more detail in this resource.
Why You Need a Technology Audit
Technology audits are carried out for a variety of purposes, ranging from recognized deficiencies in effort to identify root causes or paths to achieving desired outcomes, to determining whether investments in technology assets are producing ROI and generating data for technology grant proposals and advocacy efforts. The following resources provide information on these and other reasons for conducting a technology audit.
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Technology audits can reveal deeper-seated issues within school districts, allowing both teachers and administrators to work collaboratively towards positive change. For instance, this report discusses how a technology audit in one school district revealed several underlying issues including “access, pressure to cover content for standardized testing, and a strained relationship between the Information Technology department and the faculty.” This knowledge allows school districts to take action to remove barriers to technology implementation.
The goal of a technology audit is improvement. This presentation by Larry S. Anderson, Founder and Director of the National Center for Technology Planning, emphasizes that real leaders welcome a technology audit as an opportunity for improvement; technology exists to support learning and people and must begin on a local level.
There are a multitude of reasons for conducting a technology audit. This article from K12EduBuzz identifies 10 compelling reasons for a technology audit, including assessing your district’s or school’s (or even your classroom’s) technology program against state or national standards, examining the attitudes and perceptions of technology users and measuring their satisfaction with the current technology program, uncovering urgent priorities that should be addressed, and more.
One independent technology audit conducted for the Newberg School District in Oregon revealed nine priorities, one of which was to equitably distribute technology across the district. The audit findings, compounded by a security issue which resulted in the district eliminating a number of older devices from their technology assets, led to the district purchasing 850 new devices and increasing their device-to-student ratio.
Classrooms aiming to achieve the 21st century classroom standard can benefit from a technology audit. An audit can help educators identify visions and goals, as well as to explore the current status of technology and identify what assets and resources are needed to achieve these goals. This article describes the infrastructure, data systems, educational technology resources, and other measures necessary to implement the plan, as well as the importance of professional development.
Technology supports the assessment of complex competencies and is encouraged by the Office of Educational Technology as a means to assess 21st century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity. This resource from the Office of Educational Technology takes a look at assessment practices and how technology plays a role in assessment in modern-day education.
Educators and schools sometimes buy into the common misconception that if the right ingredients are present, the desired outcomes will follow. This is not always the case, as BLEgroup points out in this article using the example of 1:1 computing. As this article explains, effective 1:1 computing is really more about educational delivery than about achieving the 1:1 device-to-student ratio. Technology audits offer value in these circumstances, allowing schools and districts to determine whether the ingredients (technology assets) are being used adequately to achieve desired results.
Technology audits provide data that can be utilized for a technology grant proposal. Educators, schools, and districts able to verify their needs with concrete data generally have higher success rates securing grant funding. This presentation from the Capitol Research Education Council (CREC) by Scott Nierendorf, Director of Educational Technology, and David Wu, Director of Information Technology, outlines the process for using a technology audit to align vision with practice.
Internal Technology Audits and Ongoing Technology Integration Initiatives
Technology audits may be conducted by an independent, third-party auditor or internally by team members representing various roles within the school district who serve on an audit committee. These resources offer information on internal technology audits and how internal and external audits may be used cohesively as part of an ongoing initiative to improve technology integration.
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Educational institutions, such as school districts, can at times benefit from employing similar practices as other types of organizations in terms of the use of technology. For instance, some organizations utilize a team member designated as a “Technology Champion,” who leads the internal audit process and tools for an organization. This resource from TeamMate highlights key insights from TeamMate’s 2015 Global Technology Survey, focusing on the role and impact of Technology Champions.
Many school districts employ a technology director. This individual is responsible for turning the results of a technology audit into a comprehensive plan for improvement and growth.
Some school districts utilize independent, third-party technology audits, largely considered the gold standard by educational technology experts. Others choose to utilize internal team members to form committees for internal technology audits, while still others utilize a combination of the two, relying on internal technology audit committees to monitor ongoing use and make recommendations and third-party audits for a true and unbiased evaluation of the district’s progress towards specified technology goals.
Simpler auditing processes can help educators identify shortcomings, needs, and opportunities within an individual classroom. This list of 10 assessment questions can be used to evaluate your classroom’s use of technology and identify areas for improvement.
A quick-and-dirty technology audit enables schools to determine the current per-student spend on technology. While many who perform the calculation described in this resource are surprised to learn how much they spend on technology, this article also discusses methods for improving utilization in order to maximize your investment in technology assets. Several methods for analyzing your use of technology are described in this article from LEARN NC.
Tools and Examples: Putting Technology Audits to Work
The following resources provide tools and concrete examples of technology audits in educational settings, including resources outlining how the results of a technology audit are being used to improve outcomes and achieve goals, specific examples of surveys and how they’re used for technology audits, the use of technology audits to gain insights on specific areas of concern, and resources to enable educators to advocate for improved technology integration in the classroom.
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One school district in Illinois is making learning a more interactive experience and updating its technology infrastructure. Following a technology audit in 2014 that found that schools in Teutopolis Unit 50 were not using technology to its full advantage, an initiative called “Techtopolis” emerged with the goal of better integrating technology into Unit 50 classrooms, with the overall goal being to “make Google Chromebooks available to all Unit 50 students in grades two through 12 by the 2016-17 school year.”
Technology audits typically include surveys and questionnaires sent to and completed by teachers and administrators within the district or area being audited. This resource is an example of a teacher questionnaire used by a third-party auditing organization. Findings from these completed surveys provide auditors with insights into how technology is currently being used within the school, district, or individual classroom, offering a perspective not easily obtained without extensive in-classroom observation.
Independent, third-party auditors may recommend methods for improving utilization and better integrating technology into the classroom in their final reports and recommendations. Additionally, some offer general advice, such as this resource from Marzano Research, an archive of Tips for Teaching with Technology broken down into Beginner, Emerging, and Innovating Tips.
Technology audits often focus on specific questions or points of concern within a school or district. This example of an audit report for Northbridge Public Schools discusses the results of an audit investigating two primary concerns: how the current systems impact student achievement and how effectively the current systems support staff. Findings are discussed in four key areas: infrastructure, staffing, teaching and learning, and leadership.
Rural schools, in particular, may often benefit from a technology audit that can illustrate where rural schools and districts stand in comparison to other districts across the state or nation. This article from The Hechinger Report discusses the digital divide in America’s rural schools and efforts to integrate technology into education. As many as 25 to 30 percent of students in the two-school Colorado district discussed don’t have Internet access at home. The article explains, “It’s not about improving test scores—last year, every single one of Edison’s elementary students was deemed proficient on the state’s math exam. Instead, the goal is to expand the students’ horizons and prepare them for college and the workplace, where technological literacy will no doubt be assumed.”
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) aims to empower connected learners in a connected world and advocates for the effective technology integration. The ISTE website offers abundant resources for educators and educational leaders who wish to advocate for educational technology within their schools, districts, or states. For instance, this guide to organizing and holding a meeting with a policymaker or staffer aids advocates in making compelling arguments for a technology audit or purchase that will further educational technology goals. The ISTE Journal of Research on Technology in Education (JRTE) is a valuable resource for obtaining the latest research insights on relevant ed tech research from around the world.
Whether you’re working in a rural district that has fallen behind the curve due to accessibility or budget issues or you’re an educator in a bustling urban school district, there are many compelling reasons for technology audits in every classroom, school, and district. As technology continues to become increasingly prevalent in today’s classrooms, making the most efficient use of technology assets and ensuring that desired student outcomes and learning objectives are achieved are top priorities for many districts. Technology audits not only clearly identify areas for improvement, but can offer valuable insights into specific measures that will improve outcomes and provide essential data for building a case for technology
Author - HSI Staff