Plan for W. T. White School Environmental Scanning
Having outlined the theme and the aims of my project, which is enabling the use of technology in W. R. White High School, as well as having presented the key participants of the technology plan implementation, the necessary resources, and the timeline of the work that will be fulfilled in this course, I need to conduct the first stage of the plan completion, which is providing the necessary informational background. Apart from scanning the W. T. White High School’s internal environment, it is also essential to investigate the external environment, which will also be fulfilled with the help of environmental scanning.
Aims of W. T. White School Environmental Scanning
Broad environmental scanning includes investigation conducted in scientific, economic, social, technological, political, and other areas (Coates, 1985). Considering the technological focus of the project, it is possible to narrow the circle of the studied questions. The aims of environmental scanning are determined by the purposes of the technology plan, which are:
- improvement of teaching and learning processes;
- use of technology in developing lesson plans;
- introduction of the electronic registering system;
- implementation of integrated applications for new business and computer courses.
Besides, it is necessary to follow the mission statement of the Dallas Independent School District, which says that the students should be enabled to get the required knowledge and skills to become successful professionals and responsible citizens.
Thus, the environmental scan of the school environment should serve the following aims:
- Internal environment
- Evaluate teachers’ and students’ attitude towards the current condition of school technology, identify its strengths and weaknesses.
- Find the internal resources and opportunities for the further development of the system.
- External environment
- Analyze the existing requirements for the teaching and learning process, curriculum design, and other processes, such as student registration.
- Investigate the existing technological opportunities for implementation of the technology plan: study the software and hardware options, their cost, benefits, and disadvantages.
- Get familiarized with other institutions’ success in the technical maintenance of educational processes.
Therefore, the general aim of the environmental scan within the borders of the technology project is getting the information for making decisions during the implementation of the project.
Participants of W. T. White School Environmental Scanning
The participants of the school environmental scanning will consist of two groups:
- Information collectors. According to the technology plan, a team responsible for the project implementation includes the following members:
- the Dept. of Comm. & Media Tech,
- Lab Tech,
- Head of IT,
- Faculty Rep,
- Student Rep.
These team members should be involved in the fulfillment of environmental scanning.
- Information providers. It is planned to involve people who share their knowledge, information, and expectations that concern the new technological system. Considering the above-mentioned environmental scanning aims, they will be:
- IT specialists,
- representatives of other educational institutions.
Collecting Information in Internal Environmental Scanning
It is planned to collect the information that concerns the School’s internal environment with the help of the interviews and surveys, and participants’ observation. When conducting the interviews and surveys, the team should take the following steps:
- Outline the information to collect based on the inner scan aims.
- Define the circle of interview and survey participants.
- Develop a range of questions for the interviews and surveys.
- Prepare a timeline for fulfillment of interviews and surveys.
- Organize the process of information collection.
- Conduction of the interviews and surveys.
- Analysis of the collected information.
- Developing the guidelines for the technology project implementation.
The second method of information collection, which is observation, implies investigating the internal environment by the team members. After observing the use of technology in the teaching and learning processes, curriculum design, and the other fields, the team members are expected to discuss to determine the general trends, strengths, and problems.
Timeline for Internal Environmental Scanning
While the schedule for implementation of the technology plan has been planned for 2012-2013, it is necessary to conduct environmental scanning before making decisions and taking actions referring to the project. Two stages of environmental scanning, which are interviewing and observation, should be fulfilled by the end of 2011.
It is reasonable to conduct interviews and surveys after observing the internal environment, contributing to making the observation independent and unbiased. The following schedule is offered for completion of the environmental scan:
- Organization of observation, goal setting, preparation. 3 days.
- Observation of the internal environment. 1 week.
- teaching process.
- learning process.
- student registration.
- curriculum design.
- other elements.
- Individual procession of the data collected during the observation. 3 days.
- Teamwork: discussion of the observation results, formulation of the general trends, development of recommendations. 2 days.
- Interviews, surveys
- Development of interview and survey questions, preparation, organization of interviews, and surveys. 1 week.
- Conduction of interviews and surveys. 2 weeks
- IT staff.
- other interviewees.
- Individual procession of the data collected during the interviews and surveys. 4 days.
- Teamwork: discussion of the observation results, formulation of the general trends, development of recommendations. 3 days.
Thus, the overall time needed for the internal environmental scanning is 5 weeks 5 days. The period given for completion of scanning is quite long, which will provide the team members not to sacrifice their routine school responsibilities.
Information Sources for the Macro-Environmental Scanning
As an institution operating in society, a school has a broad external environment with numerous links to the other organizations. Any educational institution interacts with the other agents in social, technological, economic, environmental, and other sectors, which strongly affects its operation and internal environment. The following theoretical background can be used as the framework for the scan of a school’s macro-environment:
- As an open system, a school has its inputs and outputs (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2011, p. 20); thus, the purpose of the external environmental scan is to analyze the inputs and adjust their outputs.
- The macro-environment of a school is influenced by the chains of events, actions, and decisions that are not confused but rather united by the cause-effect connection.
It is possible to notice the general trends within the economic, political, social, and other sectors that predetermine the direction of an institution’s further developments. Besides, there are trend changing events that change the direction of these trends (Kroon, 1995, p. 79). Decision-makers should observe the trends and changes in the external environment to adjust the way of teaching, organizing the educational process, etc.
Like many institutions operating within the society, a high school has a broad external environment that includes social, cultural, political, economic, technological, and environmental sectors. The inputs mentioned above come from these sectors and require decision-makers to consider them when developing long-term strategies and take tactical steps; the outputs should meet the requirements of these sectors and correspond to the function of the institution in the society. For a high school, the examples of the inputs are
- governmental regulations,
- social processes,
- political events,
- society’s educational needs,
- the volume of funding provided by the government, etc.
Although the discussed project is aimed at the technological upgrade of the school’s operation, this does not give the grounds to limit the focus to the technology sector itself. Particularly, social and cultural sectors should also be taken into account in the implementation of the technology plan. As for such fields as politics and environment, their significance for this project is lower than that of the abovementioned fields.
Sources of Information in Macro-Environmental Scanning
In scientific research, an investigator has the opportunity to use primary and secondary information sources. A primary source is an original object that has been created independently from investigators’ activity. Secondary sources contain the contribution of the previous investigators in the form of summaries, conclusions, systematizations, analysis (Hamilton, 2005, pp. 6-9).
Considering the limited budget of the project, it is reasonable to limit the use of primary sources in the macro-environmental scan. However, there are opportunities for the organization of low budget studies, such as an interview. The following events can be organized:
- Interview with a university professor aimed at estimation of requirements to the applicants’ knowledge and skills in technology.
- Interview with an IT specialist aimed at investigation of the existing technological decisions.
- Interview with a local educational authority aimed at the study of the government requirements for school technology.
- Interview with the representatives of the other schools aimed at the study of their approach to the organization of school technology.
Besides, the primary sources also include regulative documents that outline the requirements of a school’s IT system.
Secondary sources include printed materials devoted to the use of technology in school education. Particularly, it is necessary to use books, journals, and internet articles. Below, some examples of secondary sources are reviewed:
- Collis (1996) contains the articles devoted to the significance of computer use in education for the “Information Age,” educational potential of modern technology, cultural aspects of implementing IT at school.
- Kritt and Winegar (2007) is devoted to the social aspects of education and technology. It outlines the role of technology in the life of contemporary society and links it to the school education processes.
Recommendations for Decision-Makers in Changing Environment
A decision-maker needs to notice the moment when a change is necessary to be conducted and find the right direction to follow. Monitoring of the internal environment is not enough to develop an effective change strategy; it should be combined with the scan of the external environment. Investigation of an organization’s environment helps notice the trends, detect and even forecast the points of the trend change.
However, the value of the information received during an environmental scan strongly depends on an investigator’s proficiency who should be able to correctly collect, process, interpret, and use the information “from outside.” The recommendations offered below will help a decision-maker avoid mistakes in studying the external environment and make this process more effective.
Recommendations for Environmental Scanning
- Keep the focus of the investigation broad. It is necessary to take into account that different sectors are interrelated and may influence each other and the organization’s operation. For example, when studying the technological environment, it is necessary to evaluate how society’s needs impact the state of technology; in turn, economic processes may influence the social sector, etc.
- Maintain thoroughness in collecting information. When conducting surveys, interviews, and observations, an investigator should get familiarized with the peculiarities of each of these research methods. Information that has not been collected appropriately cannot be considered reliable. Procession of the collected data also should be conducted with the rules existing in scientific research. Working with the secondary sources, a decision-maker should check whether the information is up to date and its source is reliable.
- Follow the principles of objectivity. Interpreting the collected data is an important skill that an investigator should possess to avoid making mistakes. False generalizations, groundless assumptions, incorrect cause-effect connections may mislead the user of the available information.
- Maintain continuity in environmental scanning. Making environmental scanning sporadic is a mistake that a decision-maker should avoid. It is rather difficult to interpret events, numbers, indicators when there is no opportunity to observe the trends of their change.
- Fulfill the active use of the collected information. This recommendation has the grounds, as the signs of the necessity for changes are often ignored by decisions for a long time since they have been noticed. Quick reaction to trend change will result in making the organization up to date, effective, and competitive, and saving time and budget required by late changes.
Internal and External Environmental Scanning
The preliminary environmental scanning has been fulfilled after the technology plan has been developed. The focus of the scan was the advantages, problems, opportunities, and threats in the institution’s internal and external environment. The methods used in the preliminary scan include observation and interviewing.
Internal scan of the environment (strengths and weaknesses)
The scan of the internal environment included observation fulfilled by all team members responsible for the plan implementation. The range of the observation objects included such elements as:
Investigation of the condition of the School IT system
This activity was fulfilled by the Head of IT, who systematized the collected information and presented it to the other team members. It has been found that outdated software and hardware causes strong inconveniences during the lessons. Particularly, it is difficult for students to complete their assignments with the available computers, as their capacity and condition do not meet the requirements predetermined by the curriculum.
Investigation of space and existing resources
The lab tech has investigated the available resources that refer to the school IT system and has indicated a range of advantages. The school has substantial space for the physical organization of the IT system. Three labs allow locating the hardware conveniently. The space assigned for administrative tasks and the new buildings for the media center will help place the new resources with maximum effectiveness.
The second component of the preliminary scanning was interviewing. The following stages have been taken:
- The student rep has interviewed three students regarding their attitude towards the school IT system, their needs, and expectations about the technology project.
- During the interview, it has been found that two students are not satisfied with the available software and hardware. They marked a significant gap between the software they use in their everyday life and that used at school. They also emphasize that outdated hardware causes certain problems in the process of assignment completion. Two students said they support the technology plan and would like to implement it as soon as possible.The third student demonstrated weaker interest in the topic of the interview. She said her computer skills are less developed than implied by the school curriculum. She said that implementing the technology project in the learning process might cause inconvenience to her, as she will need to get accustomed to the new system, which may divert her from learning.
- The faculty rep has interviewed two teachers. The interview theme was the use of technology in the teaching process and teachers’ considerations that refer to this issue. Both teachers showed selective interest in a technological update of monitoring, teaching, lecturing, and the other processes connected with teaching. One of the teachers marked that she would need the training course, as her computer skills are insufficient for making computer-based teaching convenient for her.
External scan of the environment (threats and opportunities)
It is also planned to use observation and interviewing in external environmental scanning. By this moment, the following steps have been taken:
- The faculty rep has contacted the university professor with a range of questions that concern the use of IT in university teaching and learning. The professor said that the level of their first-year students’ computer skills is very different, and those who are fluent in using IT in learning may consider it a significant advantage. The professor also told me about professional software students face when choosing a certain university faculty. This activity has indicated the external environment opportunity: the school should take the university requirements into account and prepare students for the activities they will fulfill with technology.
- The Head of IT has begun an investigation of the existing options for the school hardware and software. This has created the opportunity to choose between several options based on the budget and the school’s needs.
- The faculty rep and the lab tech have visited the school that belongs to Dallas Independent School District. The school has an up to day technological system, and the Head of IT who was in charge of its development has answered their questions. The Head of IT expressed his readiness to consult the W. R. White High School to develop its IT system.
The use of environmental scanning
I have discussed the issue of environmental scanning with the Director of the W. R. White High School. Our conversation was devoted to technology-related strategic planning and the ways of collecting the relevant information. The Director told me about her attendance at the seminar devoted to the role of technology in modern education. She marked that she regularly reads books and articles devoted to the latest education trends and pays attention to technology-related issues. The information she obtained from the sources mentioned above has helped her indicate the necessity for implementing the technology plan.
The Director also told me about her visit to the high school located in Austin. She observed a computer-based organization of teaching, learning, and other processes within the school. She concluded that such an approach to organizing the school IT system might make the educational processes more effective.
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Collis, B. (1996). Children and Computers in School. New Jersey: Routledge.
Hamilton, J. (2005). Primary and Secondary Sources. Edina, Minn.: ABDO Pub.
Kritt, D. W. & Winegar, L. T. (2007). Education and Technology: Critical Perspectives, Possible Futures. Lanham: Lexington Books.
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Lunenburg, F. C. & Ornstein, A. C. (2011). Educational Administration: Concepts and Practices.