These are generally rather obvious. The "must-do’s" are the things the state is going to mandate and you weren’t expecting, and the "can’t-haves" strike you right in the wallet.
Some states have rigid guidelines on the use of state funding for digital content, including statutes that do not allow for things like multi-year subscriptions for content. Be prepared with well-defined cost models and return on investment (ROI) numbers. Your content provider can help you with these.
If you’re in a state where the state itself likes to choose the content, be prepared to help them with their decision by providing your own due diligence that will make their job easier and make them look good for their decision.
When determining funding, remember that your timeline and transition strategy can impact your actual cost savings. A fragmented implementation will actually cost more in the long run.
As you’re making the move to digital content, you may or may not have challenges with equal access to the content across your district. A Learning Management System (LMS) can help you with this.
If you are significantly expanding your program, the issue of hardware access becomes a fairly high priority. Will each student get their own device or will they access the content in a centralized lab or will a portable cart be used to move equipment between classrooms? Each option has its own set of challenges and rewards.
When planning to expand your network infrastructure, be sure to consider how the network will be able to handle a large number of devices requesting access simultaneously, for example, at the beginning of the school day. Another challenge is to ensure that you have enough bandwidth to handle the demand of streaming media and other multimedia applications, and that the network infrastructure has capacity for growth.
To protect the student population, consider a wireless infrastructure that provides a segmented student network separate from the one used by teachers and administrators, thereby avoiding data security conflicts and protecting student information. Built-in authentication procedures enable monitoring of Internet usage while ensuring that only legitimate users are allowed to access the network.
One significant challenge with digital content is the inherent need for regular updates and maintenance to keep the technology current. Because the use of digital content is dependent on the availability of technology, it is not a one-time investment. A schedule and available budget for replacing and upgrading hardware and network infrastructure needs to be part of the total plan.
The migration to digital content can require a significant amount of work for the teaching staff. From changing curriculum to changing teaching styles, the teachers can be impacted the most by these changes, and not everyone is always so excited about it. In many schools a shift in culture is needed to make the shift to digital complete.
Professional development for digital content implementation should be strategically and widely available. Consider being prepared to meet varying teaching styles and “tech-savviness.” While initial training will be the most significant in terms of cost and time, ongoing professional development is key to long-term success.
The digital classroom brings with it a whole new level of challenges and responsibility. Direct instruction on Internet safety, search strategies, copyright, and netiquette must be incorporated into a digital curriculum. Proper training will help ensure that all students are well prepared to begin using technology every day in a safe, respectful, and responsible way.
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