5 tips to get started with technology planning

By Max Frazier and Doug Hearrington 3/10/2017 Essential Conditions

Whether your school, district or state has a stand-alone educational technology plan or integrates this plan into its cycle of improvement planning, it’s good to start with the essentials. What are the essentials, you may ask? The ISTE Essential Conditions are a research-based set of 14 critical elements necessary to leverage technology for learning.  

There are two ways to start technology planning using the Essential Conditions. The first option is to use ISTE’s Lead and Transform Diagnostic Tool to assess your alignment with the 14 Essential Conditions.

Another way is to use the tried-and-true SWOT analysis process in which a representative and knowledgeable group of stakeholders assesses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) faced with regard to technology for learning and teaching. When following the SWOT analysis process, use these five guiding steps.

  1. Create a matrix for each of the Essential Conditions similar to the one below.
  2. tech plan 1


2. Identify the SWOTs for each of the Essential Conditions by brainstorming or analyzing the condition from multiple perspectives. This should result in a group of short statements describing the current conditions. Generally, strengths and weaknesses are internal to the organization and opportunities and threats are external to the organization. Occasionally, however, opportunities and threats are internal. 

Gather evidence to support your statements. It is important to note that no actual analysis takes place at this stage. You are simply trying to identify the current state of affairs.

3. Create a TOWS matrix for each of the Essential Conditions. TOWS is a different way to organize your SWOT statements for analysis. A TOWS matrix contains the previously identified statements about current conditions at its top and sides. You can follow the format outlined in the table below. This will get you ready for the key stage of the process.

tech plan 2

4. Enter the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats on the TOWS matrix. Ask your stakeholders committee to devise strategies in the four areas:

  • Ways to minimize weaknesses and avoid threats
  • Ways to minimize weaknesses using identified opportunities
  • Ways to use strengths to minimize threats
  • Ways to use strengths to maximize opportunities
    tech plan 3 (2)

5. Let stakeholders vote. After doing this you will have an extensive list of strategies for each of the Essential Conditions. There will likely be too many of them to implement or plan for, so you'll need to prioritize. One way to do this is to give committee members 21 stickers (14 Essential Conditions + 50% = 21) in the shape of small circles or dots. The stickers represent votes for priorities. Put the strategies on wall charts and let everyone place their dots on the strategies that they believe are most important for implementation.

Ask everyone to place one dot on a strategy in each of the Essential Conditions. People can place the remaining seven dots on any strategy in any condition they wish to see prioritized. This will result in a list of priority strategies for each of the Essential Conditions and an overall prioritization list.

By implementing these strategies in your plan, you will have the essentials covered and you'll be on your way to implementing a well thought out technology plan.

Max Frazier and Doug Hearrington wrote the ISTE book The Technology Coordinator's Handbook, Third Edition. Max has more than 35 years of experience working in schools. He has served as a middle school teacher, university instructor, educational technology specialist and technology coordinator. He received a doctorate in educational administration and leadership at Kansas State University and is currently an associate professor in the School of Education at Newman University in Wichita. Doug is a educational technologist who is passionate about the transformative promise of technology and the power of quality research to foster change. Doug’s 23 years of experience in education and educational technology, including a doctoral degree in this field, give him a unique ability to bridge research and practice.

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