We are the emTech partners, but we are also university professors in the Institute for Interactive Technology in The College of Human Environmental Sciences, The University of Alabama. Therefore, we sometimes involve our graduate students in these activities. We also have Associates, other professors, who work with emTech Consulting. No matter the composition of the team, at least one of the partners always leads the audit as the team leader. Everyone who participates with us has experience in international schools as a teacher and/or an administrator. Typically, our audit team consists of 2 or 3 members, who make the site visit to the school.
How does emTech approach an audit in a school? One of the consulting activities of emTech is to conduct school-based technology audits and to help schools develop technology plans. For several years, as emTech, we have helped schools around the world look at their technology plans in terms of how the technology can enhance teaching and learning. Because those of us in emTech were classroom educators and administrators BEFORE we became involved with technology, we see the technology as just another instructional tool. In our view, planning should emanate from the curriculum and the school's vision for its students, not from hardware developments. What teachers teach and how they organize their classrooms for instruction should be two of the driving forces behind technology planning. The ultimate benefit that can be expected from a comprehensive technology audit and review of the technology plan is that the students served in the school will receive the best and most appropriate exposure to technology in the context of a strong instructional environment.
We also approach an audit in terms of the goals of the school, a comparative study of other like-class schools, and the overall school-community environment. We spend a great deal of effort and time listening to various segments of the school community in order to determine their vision for their children and the school. The emTech audits lay the ground work for a consensus about how the school and the community should plan for future technological developments and their integration into the school environment.
What is the procedure used for an audit? The typical audit begins with a extensive communications between the contracting group and the emTech team. These communications, primarily as email exchanges, focus on exactly what has motivated the school to begin this process and what the expected outcomes are (e.g. a plan for the board and community to support a major funding measure, a self-study for determining the mission for the school as it faces the next century, a self-study for accreditation, etc). Pre-visit activities include the collection of basic planning information within the school community. Surveys are sent to collect information from students, teachers, parents, administrators, and various community members important in the school environment. These forms are collected in advance of the actual site visit. Also inventories of resources, school mission statements, faculty development plans and any other planning documents are required from the school as part of our pre-visit preparation.
We provide the survey packet (ideally using online surveys) and a cover letter that is intended to introduce the project to the school community, in addition to introducing our group. We make every effort to let all school participants know who we are and why we are asking for the information.
The second phase consists of a site visit to the school by a team of 2-3 members for a period of 2-3 days. During that time, team members examine facilities and existing technology tools. They also conduct structured interviews (focus groups) with individuals and small groups. A schedule of the specific visits is always developed in advance by our team and the school hosts. If appropriate or desired by the host school, we also offer to host a quick introductory faculty meeting the first day of the visit and/or exit meetings with any groups deemed appropriate by the hosting group or director. One night the team tries to be availale to the director for a brief meeting; the team uses the evenings, otherwise, to coordinate and review, as most site-visit teams do.
The final phase is the development of a comprehensive report, reflecting the data collected with the surveys and site visits. The report includes recommendations, typically, in the areas of hardware acquisition, professional development, curriculum integration, policy development, and technical support. This report is presented to the director for dissemination at his/her discretion. We continue to provide online support, following the delivery of the final document.<>In all phases of the project, the emphasis is on using technology to enhance the school's mission by coupling it with strong educators and clearly identified educational goals. By focusing on students and not the technology itself, the audits become dynamic planning documents, not mere listings of equipment or shopping lists for future purchases.
Sample Introductory Letter to Faculty Prior to Site Visit