I am a tech nerd. I love education technology, and I have come to the point where I need to move into it professionally. I have been doing education technology basically as a hobby, so moving into it professionally will give me more time and resources to really put towards my passion. You would think with all of the presentations I have given, this site, and the other stuff that I have in the works, that finding an education technology job would be easy. It's not. I live in metro Atlanta, and there are only a few positions within the ed tech community. Of course, all of this comes down to the major budget gaps that districts are experiencing.
I think if you happen to be reading this blog you are an ed tech believer. It is such an important part of education, and it is one of the first areas that districts cut. Many of the districts in metro Atlanta have only a few instructional technology specialist, and some don't have any. Without these technology experts, how are schools going to support the transition into the 21st century? Why are these positions some of the first to be cut? I think it all comes down to schools concentrate on the problems of the past, and they don't focus on the future. High stakes testing has meant schools spend truckloads of money on remediation, and then they end up cutting positions like technology specialist that can prepare students for the future.
There has to be a better way, and I don't really know what it is in todays climate. It might mean schools and politicians finally have to figure out that high stakes testing is draining our school budgets. It might mean we have to dramatically raise the education and teaching level in the lower grades so we don't have to do so much remediation. It might mean we have to have new ways of funding. Whatever it may be, education technology is to important to be the first thing that schools cut. How do we get that through the school board members heads? If you can figure that out, you should be running the US Department of Education.
We have to have a new solution. Districts are buying technology without consideration of the teachers who are using them. Many times, technology is purchased in districts as a district initiative. You know what happens to many of these devices? They end up in a closet. I have seen this firsthand with a local district that bought student response systems for every teacher. I just went back to give a presentation in that district, and as I mentioned this system, there was a good deal of laughter in the crowd. Its time for a change. We need to gear technology purchases towards the teachers who will actually use them.
I think its time we put the technology in the hands of the teachers who will actually use them. What if districts began programs that basically awarded education technology on a system similar to grants? Except this time the grants are teacher based, and they are not school based. If a teacher wanted an Ipad cart, they could apply to this program. If a math teacher wanted the best graphing calculators, they could apply. If a science teacher wanted a high powered microscope, they could apply. It basically takes the buying power out of the districts hands, and puts it in the hand of the teachers. There of course would be many levels to this application, and the district would be able to decide which projects it funds.
Now if you went to this type of funding, you would have to have a application process in place. I think you could structure this process where it is both beneficial to the teacher and the district. You could have teachers fill out an in depth application that details the reason they want the new technology and gives a detailed plan for implementation and use. You would then have to have a process in place where the district could keep track of the teachers progress with the technology. This could include site visits, observations, and paperwork such as lesson plans that are turned in. This process will give the district data, and it will consistently push the teacher to innovate. It also insures the technology will be used at the highest level. If the teacher does not continue with the process, then their technology purchase could be removed from their control
What extra benefits does the teacher get? Well for one, this gives creative innovative teachers a process to obtain the technology they need to be creative and innovative. With this technology being purchased for the teacher, the teacher would also be able to take this technology with them if they transferred with in the same district. You could even go as far as having a district exchange program with other local districts that allows the technology to follow them if they go to another district.
You would also have to be innovative with some of the rules of the program. You could structure the program where the teachers who successfully complete the rigorous requirements for 5 years get an opportunity to re-up with newer technology. You would also have to have an exchange program for technology that was purchased and then taken away from educators who did not complete the requirements of the program. You could structure these pieces to be loaned out to teachers who may want to try something but do not have a fully functional idea. You could also structure this where part of the program is learning the basic maintenance and servicing of whatever devices you decide to get. This would eliminate some need for IT, but you would sill have to have some IT professionals in order to do the major servicing.
School districts have to do things differently. Budgets are to tight today, and technology moves to fast. By putting the buying power in the hand of the teacher, you are eliminating the cost for devices that won’t be used, and you are allowing the teachers to power innvoation