The Shift to Digital Content: What it means for K-12 Asset Management

By Anna Maxin

The State Educational Technology Directors Association recently released a report, Out of Print: Reimagining the K-12 Textbook in a Digital Age [PDF] focusing on the pedagogical shift from traditional print instructional materials, to digital content. The report focuses on what various states legislative bodies are doing to facilitate this change and stresses seven key points that need to be addressed for this shift away from printed materials to take place. Of these seven points, there are two that stand out which directly relate to K-12 instructional material managers, 1) sustainable funding for devices and 2) up-to-date policies and practices.

Some school districts want to jump on board and fully embrace the instructional potential of digital content by launching a one-to-one initiative with the goal of engaging students in the classroom with handheld devices or laptop computers. With this shift, I feel a key question that needs to be asked is what does this mean for school district IT asset management? So let’s take a step back and evaluate what else needs to be in place to facilitate the success of the shift to digital content delivery.

The creation of new policies and procedures

The keys to any new initiative is planning and communication.  As stated in the SETDA report, be sure you take the time to evaluate what policies and procedures need to be put in place to get the most out of your IT asset management program, and your budget.  Policies that affect the handling and use of devices by students and teachers are the hot topics school district administrators are talking about today. However for your IT asset management program to succeed, policies and procedures must be in place that put tight control on IT assets including: asset selection and acquisition, asset ID and tagging, asset requests, inventory audits, asset assignment and collection, and asset disposal. Properly documenting and delivering this plan to anyone who touches these assets, from district administration down to the students and teachers, supports the effective management of IT assets critical for instruction.

Reevaluation of classroom technology budgets

Incorporating new, adaptive technology in the classroom changes the way we teach and the way students learn.  We have seen a pedagogical shift – a change in the mission of K-12 educational institutions to incorporate technology into the fabric of instruction.  Unfortunately, many school budgets have remained the same in how they define where instructional dollars are spent.  Instructional materials and instructional technology once had a clearly defined budgetary line; textbooks are instructional and computers are technology – easy, right?  Now, the lines between these two items are blurring; for example, a handheld tablet is a device now being used in schools across the country to access new forms of digital instructional materials. As student devices are adopted into instructional practice, educators need to align this priority with the necessary budgeting requirements to effectively implement their mission and vision for educating our youth.  The goal is to close the gap between technology and curriculum directors to make sure there is appropriate funding to adopt and support these new learning techniques.

Transparency and accountability of IT asset inventory

This last point I’m offing to you on my own as it is not mentioned in the SETDA report. However, centralized IT asset inventory data is essential to the support of a 21st century classroom– you need to know what devices have been purchased, and where they are located. This information affects multiple areas of your district, from eliminating unnecessary purchases to tracking which items are most effective for student achievement.  An IT asset management program must be put in place, with inventory software to facilitate location tracking, before you introduce hundreds or thousands of fixed and mobile learning devices into your school system. The repercussion is that you may find the shift to digital content delivery costing your district, and taxpayers, more money and causing you more headaches than anticipated.

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