The Lure of Glamornormous Projects - 5 Tips #edlead

Image adapted from
http://goo.gl/LF7U5
When I glanced at the list of blog entries in Google Reader, Doug "Blue Skunk" Johnson's blog title "Gianormous Project" registered as "Glamonormous." It immediately caught my attention because I thought Doug had read my mind again--all the way from MN, USA--and written about something I'd been reflecting on for the last few weeks.

Then, I clicked through, and realized that Doug was discussing a different topic altogether. But my confusion was enough to remind me that organizations, in particular school districts, face the lure of projects that are both glamorous AND enormous. And, then begin to implement them without real planning or thought.

Of course, technology initiatives in schools often fall into this category of "glamonormous;" this word doesn't actually exist, but I'll take a stab crafting a dictionary entry:
Glamornormous (13 unlucky letters?) -
adjectivean enormous project, full of glamour; an exorbitantly expensive project--usually involving some magical technology--that is charmingly or fascinatingly attractive to school administrators looking to score points with the community, allowing the casual disregard of "purchasing rules" and "common sense."
How many glamornormous projects do you know are finding their way into schools today, especially in the edtech arena? It would be easy to point to some particular technology (e.g. iPads, 1 to 1 with school provided equipment) that fits the bill. For example, is the project described below a glamornormous project or not?
The school saved money by getting rid of its computer labs, abandoning plans to build a new language lab and deciding it would no longer buy new textbooks. Larkin said they didn’t throw away the old books, but no longer need to buy new ones, since students and teachers can find everything they need online.
Wow, that's pretty powerful. I have to admit that of everything I've ready about iPad adoption, the most powerful words are those that appear in the paragraph above in highlighted yellow. The school saved money by getting rid of its computer labs. Of course, this has profound implications, does it not? If we toss away a computer lab, does it mean that technology has finally achieved its ideal role in schools, as a just-in-time easy to use resource that can be made ubiquitous at the expense of other critical programs and staffing? But wait...isn't getting rid of large, obsolete technologies, a good thing? I can't wait to dump my "boat anchor" technologies--Dell desktops, bondi iMac, large laser printers--in exchange for smaller, more mobile devices. Why do I feel guilty about "getting rid of" computer labs? 

Am I clinging to the past? 

Image adapted from
http://goo.gl/L5U7e
Is a project not glamornormous because it saved the District money, even if it meant cutting other "necessary" projects? It appears we have to develop some criteria for what constitutes glamornormous project, or "g-project" for short?
  1. Does the project impose a cost greater than the organization can endure over time?
  2. Does the project appeal to technology as a magical, mystical force for transformation that is not warranted in the research?
  3. Were stakeholders involved in the decision to invest in the glamornormous project PRIOR to the decision to embrace it?
  4. Did advance planning try to answer the question, "What is the instructional purpose of bringing in this technology and back it up with research and serious reflection?" (and will these ideas hold water when facing scrutiny or will school leaders postpone deployment of an initiative until the time it is politically viable?).
  5. Does this project continue to damage the learning ecology of the schools it is in? If it is change, not damage, what are the long-term effects?
I would argue that an iPad/netbook/boat anchor initiative can't be what we focus on as school leaders. It seems like an obvious observation, but it isn't so easy to carry out. I imagine school leaders like hunters getting "buck fever," that nervous excitement at the sight of powerful technologies that capture the imagination, tempted to "pull the trigger" and buy a lot without really seeing the target (the WHY we're doing this).
Image adapted from
http://goo.gl/PlCJG

5 Tips to overcome glamornormous giganticus fever:

  1. Play with new technology in an instructional setting and see if YOU can do what others are saying is possible with that technology.
  2. Control your thoughts. Don't fall for the marketing, the buzz of technology. Instead take deep breaths, exhale, and ask, "Do we really need this technology or will existing, less expensive tools do the job?"
  3. Visualize yourself successfully using technology and encourage others to as well.
  4. Do everything you can to learn about how others are using the technology.
  5. Use a variety of technology solutions, not just the one you're considering.
(these tips adapted from 5 tips to dealing with buck fever...funny, huh?)

What do you think? Are glamornormous projects as much fiction as the non-existent word, or should we make room in our lexicon for another 13-letter word?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Comments

Kaylan Shepherd said…
My name is Kaylan Shepherd and I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I am a Education major and found your post particularly interesting. The definition that you coined for "glamornormous" hit it just right. Such a perfect aid as technology, should not have to be so costly and 'take over' our teaching strategies. I really enjoyed reading over your blog. I look forward to reading more!
Emily Russell said…
Hi, I'm Emily Russell in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama.

Reading your post reminds me of a video we had to watch, The iSchool Initiative, which argues in favor of using an iTouch as a base for education in schools, replacing textbooks, paper, and pencil with it. What do you think? Is this Glamornormous? It seems like a perfect description for what he's talking about.

Though he says it will save the school money on textbooks by buying and using the iTouch, digital copies of textbooks still cost money, and then there's maintenance costs, replacement costs for broken or lost ones, and in the end it seems more complicated and expensive than it's really worth.

I liked your blog post, it put a word to something I've been thinking about for a long time.
Joel VerDuin said…
You may consider an alternative word, "Glam-normal-us" after reading Larry Cuban's post about why research and clear objectives just don't matter to decision-makers.

He states:, "When it comes to research supporting major purchases of laptops, tablets, and similar devices, such a cumulative body of evidence is missing-in-action.
So if the research pantry is nearly empty, why do districts buy iPads? They want to use hardware and software to solve difficult problems. But school boards and superintendents also buy high-tech devices because they want to be seen as technologically innovative and ahead of other districts. In this culture, the value of technology is equal to social and economic progress."

http://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/answering-the-big-question-on-new-technology-in-schools-does-it-work-part-1/

See...? Glamnormalous

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