Technology and Schools: the Shift from Liability to Asset
All too often in K-12 Education, technology assets are more highly valued by the fiscal services office than by a school or classroom of learners. Without question, many tech components are costly, both at the time of purchase and throughout their duration of use. But frankly, what does this have to do with schools and learning? Why do we spend so much time dialoging and debating the costs associated with technology? Busses, textbooks, training, parent involvement rooms, school buildings…..and on and on, cost as much or more than the technology placed in today’s classrooms.
And yet, even with the added burden of tightening budgets, few are rejecting the idea of keeping busses safe and well-maintained, or using dollars for updating or building new schools. Though the complex budgets of public schools are beyond the scope of this article, it gives one cause to pause when you really stop to think about the huge emotional value placed on technology acquisition in schools.
So, why are some items more accepted and viewed as more necessary?
The answer may be found by taking a closer look at the actual history of technology use in schools and classrooms. Possibly there is a very valid reason why many educators, parents, district representatives, and community members cry foul when they hear about a school district spending chunks of money on technology- they have little belief that the purchase will be of value to the educational outcome of the learner the tool is purchased to serve.
Quite simply because almost every single educator has been directly faced with the reality of watching technology go to waste at a school site and when every day is a struggle, few people are comfortable with anything viewed as fiscal waste. All too often the true capacity of technology not realized in teaching and learning- at least not before the tool becomes obsolete. To make matters worse, many times the outdated tools begin to be used in classes and schools, when the relevancy for young students is all but absent.
Face it. You are reading the sad, honest truth. Schools have spent an incredible amount of money on hard and soft services and have rarely noted the cost transferred to practice and educational benefit.
Possibly this is why we are still spending so much time discussing how technology may be of support in the school or classroom of tomorrow. Consider for a moment how often corporations and successful businesses stop to wonder if there is merit in purchasing technology. This simply does not happen. Sure, they will consider the best tool for the job or the best method to leverage the future (as best as they are able) but none of them are wondering if a computer will help their employee or client to be more effective and efficient.
It almost seems ridiculous when considered in this frame of reference.
So, I propose a call to action of sorts- a shift in thinking, and a renewal of paradigm. Rather than wondering if the money is worth it- let us change our focus to what the real need is- learning. From there- everything else will fall in place- who will benefit and how can we best meet needs…effectively and efficiently.
In almost every instance I can imagine, technology will play a close role. However, this does not have to lead directly back to the same conundrum as before, thinking that there is not a way to escape the cycle of waste that has wrought educational technology.
Like most successful endeavors, when the thinking begins to change, actions and outcomes begin to change as well.
So, to begin, consider where you are heading as a district, school, or classroom. Instead of simply listing what technology is trendy, on a list of requested items, or already in an existing yet ineffectual plan; start fresh. Build in a set of supports for this plan and then start to define the necessary tools.
Today’s Educational Technology is smarter, faster, easier, more relevant, and less expensive than ever before. The questions should no longer be about if we should spend money on technology- but how smart planning will build infrastructure for student learning.
The time for change is now. This call to action may be less of a revolution and far more of an evolution- but for those that take time now to address the world of Educational Change and Academic Rigor- technology will be an essential and integral part of your Organization’s success.