Management: Equipment and Infrastructure

Is equipment present in instructional settings?

This question deals with the availability of up-to-date equipment (and its supporting infrastructure). User access is addressed in the following key questions. Restriction to up-to-date or multimedia computers addresses the issue of whether the installed computer base is appropriate to current usage demands. In the listed indicators, whenever computers are mentioned, only up-to-date computers are included.

Is equipment available for use by students?

The general question of access to multimedia computers, and to computers connected to networks and the Internet, has been addressed in the previous key question. Indicators for the present key question deal with student access, both to computers generally and to more specialized computer resources. Since access to multimedia computers and to those connected to the Internet can impact educational achievement, it may be important to understand the extent to which such computing resources are actually available.

Computers referred to in this key question are only those to which students have preferential access; the count does not include computers used for administrative purposes or for the exclusive use of teachers. As before, when the term computer is used, the reference is to up-to-date computers.

If computer labs are a prominent component of technology access in a given district or school, it may be important to collect additional information. Indicators for the amount of time in the school week that students spend in the computer lab, or for the percentage of classes that regularly use the computer lab, may provide more detail to round out the picture of access.

Is equipment available for use by teachers?

This question refers to computers reserved for the exclusive use of teachers, where use is not generally shared with students. This is an important issue: computer-based curriculum planning and instructional management are much more likely to take place if teachers have dedicated computers exclusively for their use, because teachers have access to the resources when and where they are needed. Similarly, it is important to know if teachers have access to portable ("laptop") computers, since their work will often be done at home after the school day. Note, again, that the reference to computers implies that they are up-to-date.

A reviewer pointed out that, in situations where teachers can dedicate any computer in a school network to their exclusive use simply by entering their username and password, questions about computers reserved for the exclusive use of teachers might be confusing. The confusion can be resolved if it is understood that the intent is to assess teacher access to computing: if a teacher can only use a computer if no student wants it, he or she does not have dedicated access. There might be excellent access for everyone in such a situation, which can be assessed by the overall ratio of computers to instructional settings, but it will not be dedicated access.

Is equipment available for use by administrators and support staff?

Decision support systems call for computers. School leaders and support staff need computers to use data management systems which in turn can have great impact on decision making, improving educational management and, ultimately, student care and performance. It makes no sense to provide technology to support instruction and not for support of school management functions.

Creating an integrated management system can benefit all users in a school or district; information can usefully flow both from the teachers and the classroom to administrators, and from school management to instructional staff. For example, computer-based attendance systems allow for immediate administrative action upon a teacher recording an absence (i.e., a follow-up telephone call to the home or parent that same morning). Likewise, aggregate information on absences, health condition, and test results for a given student may help a teacher make educational decisions.

Users might want to break down administrative and support staff into narrower categories, such as student support personnel (counselors, social service specialists, health personnel), administrative support staff (transportation coordinators, attendance officers, dietitian/cafeteria manager), or leaders (principal, assistant principal, etc.).