I am writing you because our education system hangs in the balance. Technology is so important to the educational process, yet many of you approach it all wrong. i love technology, but it is not the be all end all answer to school's issues. The process has to be there. Can it transform a classroom? Yes, but it can because the teacher is using it to, not because of the tech that is there. You can't just throw money at the issue.
Tech is the future. It is not going away. It's just going to become more and more prevalent. You as a district leader have to start having plans that work. Tech can transforms students experience by allowing real world projects, connections, differentiation, collaboration, and so much more. It's our job to prepare students for the future. Tech is a major part of the business world so in my mind students should be using basic technology skills in every class. There are issues there though, and many districts continue to make the same mistakes. Below you will find my list:
- Tech Can Never Be one Size Fits All- Honestly, this drive me crazy. Districts including my own are buying technology products for everyone because they believe it will solve their problems. Student's don't have access? Well, we will pay for them to have it. We don't have a way to deliver data driven test to our schools? Well lets by everyone student response remotes. I am tired of it. It's not an answer. You have to have teachers that will actually use the tech effectively because it all goes back to the process. Teacher's have to have great instructional practices just like in a traditional classroom. The Los Angeles School District is a perfect example. They bought Ipads for every student, and it has become a disaster. They were so concerned with the access issue that they lost focus on the instructional practice. I am fearful my own district is headed down this path. I was in another district that purchased student response remotes for every teacher with the intent of pushing district mandated test to them. They touted the ability to use them in your class. Guess where most of them ended up? Locked in closets. It was a huge waste of money. I am fearful my own district is about to make the same purchase. I wish they would go to the neighboring district I came from to get the feedback from their failed program
- Be Creative in Solving Issues- Is access for every student an issue? Yes Is an Ipad for every student the answer? LAUSD seems to prove the answer to that is no. Come up with a creative solution to answer that problem. Maybe offer a loan program for students without devices. School districts don't need to waste money buying devices for students who can afford it.
- Innovate! Innovate! Innovate!- There are SO many great tech companies out there that do awesome creative things (Edmodo, Symbaloo, Class Dojo, Thinglink, Tackk, Touchcast just to name a few), but I see districts still so dependent on the old standard such as the Big textbook Companies (Like Pearson), and Microsoft Office. THESE ARE NOT INNOVATIVE! For the life of me, I can't see why anyone would push Microsoft Office on schools at this point. You have Google Drive which allows great access on every kind of device. They even came out with apps for IOS! The only reason Microsoft is still in schools is because of people's over dependence on them. Have them branch out. We should be killing Power Point in schools not touting it. It is the most misused tool out there. We have all been to district technology trainings that have terrible Power Point s haven't we.....remember there supposed to be the example
- Go to Each School Find the Best Tech Person, put them on an Admin contract, and have them do only tech for the school. Bingo! There's Your District Tech Team- It's been very interesting wading my foot into the ed tech job market. There are many different models, but I think the best one would be where the relationships are the closet. Take the best tech person in a school, and let them focus on only tech. Put them on an assistant principal type contract and pay scale. This person could transform a school. They would be able to be in on all school leadership team meetings and be a focus of Pd. They could go to each teacher and ask them, "What's one problem you have?" "Here is something I think might help" You would be paying them in a way, giving them a schedule, and inching them into the leadership team in a way where you would get the best people. It's time to take tech out of central offices hands and let it be a local decision. Relocate central office folks to the schools to increase the trust in them, and let schools make decisions that matter to them!
- Cultivate Your Best People and Have them Lead the Ed Tech Movement- I have seen many school districts that are the buddy system. You have to know someone to get on the team. You have to be able to "fit in to their vision". While many jobs can have the "Who You Know Factor" involved, ed tech is where you need rebels. You need people who are going to push the boundaries and take risk because that's what ed tech companies are doing. You need to give them the autonomy to try stuff. You may find something GREAT! You also need to find your best techie teachers and have them cultivate others. Have programs to get them involved. Focus them on delivering content to others rather than giving them content yourself.
- Focus on Putting the Best Tech in the Hands off the People Who will Use it!- If you know who your best are give them anything they want. If they want a class set of Ipads....give it to them! If they ant a class set of Chrome books...give it to them! They will be the ones who transform the learning experience. They are the ones who can focus on the process and practice. They are the ones who can troubleshoot themselves. By giving them what they want, you will start to get other staff members interested. They will wonder where the tech came from. They will start asking questions about what the one with the tech is doing in class. By doing this, your leading change from the ground up
- Get Rid of Every Dumb Rule Banning Student Devices in School- These are old rules, and they are going to be impossible to enforce in the future. Wearables are coming. You can't tell a student they can't wear a watch (Like the Rumored Iwatch) or wear glasses (Like Google Glass). You are also cutting off a great resource. These are old rules that should die now
- Renew Your Focus on Band-with- School networks stink. It's a fact of life. School Districts need to focus on improving this. Take some of the vast money you are spending on test and focus it on band-with. You could transform the student experience.
- Quit Blocking Modern Tools or at Least Be Consistent- I understand why their has to be some blocks in place. Trust me I get it, but blocking modern tools that can so useful to education is just dumb. Twitter should never be blocked in schools. Students can do great projects with it, connect with knowledgeable people, and teachers can build awesome PLN's. Get over the fear. We should be teaching kids how to use it as a future business skill. We should be teaching kids on how to be great digital citizens. At the very least be consistent with it, Google Pus blocking goes in and out at my school on almost a daily basis. It's very frustrating.
In closing, technology is just going to become more and more prevalent. You guys can lead the change. Make tech transformative. Teach teachers how to use it. Reject companies that are not innovative no matter how big. Remember its all about the purpose and the practice, its not an issue you can throw money at...