The Texas Long Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020, has some fairly ambitious goals for technology in Texas schools over the next ten years. One of the easiest-to-define areas in the plan is that of infrastructure. The plan outline envisions that every school in Texas have state-of-the-art infrastructure by 2020, and that the schools and districts maintain that state-of-the-art status constantly. The plan specifies a "high-performance infrastructure to take advantage of new technologies" (p. 35), and talks of ubiquitous high-speed connectivity, safety, security, flexibility, scalability, and reliability. Campuses and districts will integrate voice, video, and data, and be able to host large volumes of digital content, and powerful applications. Teachers and students will have easy access to tools, anywhere, any time, and will work collaboratively with a strong sense of community. Teachers, parents, and administrators also will have anywhere, anytime access to data and information about student success and school operations, and technical support will be readily available. The vision even calls infrastructure "the critical element" in the implementation of this long-range plan (p. 35).
Statewide, only 6.7 percent of districts in 2007-2008 identified themselves as having achieved this idealistic state, up from 5.2 percent who made the same identification the previous year. Some 57.2 percent, however, said they were at the Advanced Tech state in the most recent data, up from 53.3 percent in the previous year. At my own campus, our infrastructure is progressing, receiving successively higher marks in each of the three most recent years, but we remain in the Advanced Tech stage. In order to make the leap to the final stage, massive capital investments would be required, the district's philosophy regarding firewalls and necessary bandwidth would have to be reworked, and large numbers of additional technical and instructional support experts would have to be hired – all during a time when school funding in Texas, and especially in my own district, is being squeezed more tightly than ever.
There is some hope, that economies and efficiencies may be achievable, however, to help with these challenges. Verizon Business cites its top technology infrastructure trends for 2010, many of which will benefit schools:
- Enterprise Social Networking. As Texas moves toward a vision of a more collaborative and collegial culture among its students and its teachers, this trend will help move us in that direction.
- Cloud Computing. A movement toward webs of networked computers, paired with offsite resources to take over some computing tasks, may help with the need for increased computing power and bandwidth in a way that does not significantly increase costs to districts.
- 360 security – As network and cloud security becomes more advanced, secure, and dynamic, this improved ability will help schools and districts increase and maintain the safety and security of their own data and systems.
- A move from telework to telepresence, and seeing is believing - While teachers have never been able to telecommute, a move toward telepresence and the advent of more effective software and systems for videoconferencing in business will translate easily to more, and more effective, distance education for schools.
- Increased wireless applications – as more wireless opportunities are developed, this will help schools serve students in more dynamic settings, as the computers and experiments can leave the classroom and travel to less traditional settings on- and even off-campus.