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Hawaii Hits the Books with 5-Year Education Technology Plan

Brook Conner, CIO and assistant superintendent of Hawaii’s Department of Education, discusses the IT strategy for the state’s students, teachers and school administrators.

Seven months ago, Brook Conner joined another enterprise as a C-level IT executive. But this time, his organization isn’t interested in turning a profit.

The former chief information security officer for Estee Lauder Companies joined the Hawaii Department of Education as CIO and assistant superintendent. He sat down last week with Government Technology to discuss the five-year technology plan unveiled by the Department of Education and its Office of Technology Services in March.

Hawaii, unlike other states in the nation, operates as one massive school district, rather than a state comprised of hundreds of school districts. Hawaii’s Department of Education, Conner says, is on par with the size of a Fortune 500 company with 45,000 full-time and part-time employees and 180,000 students spread across 259 schools.

Under the five-year technology plan, capabilities are a key component and are grouped into three broad categories: playground, instructional and enterprise. And within these broad categories, Conner said approximately 20 capabilities have been identified that need state-of-the-art, cost-effective solutions.

For example, the playground category includes capabilities relating to lesson plans, project portfolios and personal learning, while instructional encompasses tracking student programs, and federal and state information sharing. The enterprise category includes such capabilities as network, identity, and device management, financial management, and human resources management.

Hawaii’s DOE is currently running a number of these capabilities in its schools already, Conner notes, but the department needs to assess them and ask whether each one is running well — is it patched, automated, and does it maintain good security? A second characteristic the capabilities will be evaluated on is whether the technology can be upgraded, so the agency does not get saddled with legacy systems it cannot innovate on, Conner said. And the last characteristic these capabilities will be evaluated on is whether it is improving the lives or academic work of the students.

Every technological improvement made will undergo an evaluation, as part of the final piece of the technology plan, Conner said. The DOE plans to tackle it through these steps, he added.