What Happened to Your Technology in Education Efforts?

"They are investing in the wrong devices," a friend said to me the other day, "And they're going to ask me to show them how to make it work in their classroom. The problem is, they say they'll listen to me during training then but they ignore me when I tell them that this device isn't what they need now."
When I hear stories like this one, I'm struck by how often I've found myself in the same situation in the past 20 years. I remember the time when I sat around a table with decision-makers considering adoption of an integrated learning system that lacked automated nightly synchronization of users. Although i am philosophically opposed to integrated learning systems, I found it easy to sit in on this meeting and offer "disinterested advice."

Without the automated account management, teachers would have to create and manage student accounts in multiple classes themselves. "They can do it," naively shared the curriculum directors.

The curriculum directors were so in love with the idea of what a technology would do to students, they blinded themselves to logistical considerations (e.g. the vendor stated they would not have automated account management for another year, if then; the fact that the teachers were already overwhelmed).

How often do educators fall in love with an idea or instructional intervention that they ignore operational/logistical/social concerns?

The sweetest moment came a few months later, after they had specifically disregarded the caution of the technology team. They spent over $20K on a solution teachers refused to use because it added an overwhelming amount of work to their day. But was it really the sweetest moment? The organization had wasted money, time, and effort pushing a solution that was doomed to failure.

A colleague recently shared the following wisdom via an email list, and anyone who has been encouraging others to use technology in schools, will certainly recognize the wisdom.
Before any district/campus determines that they would like tech coaches on site, they really need to have established minimum expectations for tech use, growth and expectations for both teachers and students. Regardless of what official role a tech coach is supposed to play, unless teachers/students are required to use at an established minimum level, then the staff sees no need for the position, unless something breaks.  
Second thought: when you choose a teacher as your tech coach, it should be clear that this person supports tech through bridging their understanding of classroom structure, discipline, curriculum,and instructional models to appropriate tech tools/apps (etc..). This person isn't a repairman beyond basic trouble-shooting.  
This would have been most helpful in my job here. As the integrationist...functioning in this situation, I often feel like a car salesman in Amish territory. They simply do not want what I am selling, but they want me to fix what's broken. 
When I moved from my role of Instructional Technology Director to Technology Director, I held out hope that I'd escaped the problem. When it comes to instructional technology interventions, I am less interested in selling people on ideas. Rather, I simply want to ensure that they have little excuse for not achieving success.

In those situations, my role isn't that of fixer, but the person who says, "You said that if you had this, you would be able to do that. You have everything you asked for, but you're still not blending technology into instruction. What happened?"

Check out Miguel's Workshop Materials online at http://mglearns.wikispaces.com

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


Chris Betcher said…
I totally relate to what you say here Miguel.

The line about selling cars in Amish territory particularly resonated. In my job I have to deal with those who think technology is a kind of black magic that should do everything without any intervention or learning on their part, through to those that don't believe that anything could be added to what they currently do that would possibly improve it..


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