Extreme Makeover: School Edition

At what point do we as educational leaders begin to take technology as seriously as the other components of our school infrastructure?


Wince every time you hear of untrained custodians, or well-meaning students wiring buildings on the cheap. Would a Superintendent of schools or Board of Education ever allow students and community volunteers to install the heating system of the school? How about the electrical system? Alarms and security?

Keep your eyes closed tight if you know of schools that have substantial numbers of six or seven year old computers running Windows 95 or Windows 98.

Cringe when you hear of corporations dumping old and obsolete computers on schools; computers that will cost the school more in maintenance than if the school had bought a new machine. Many high schools resemble technological archeological sites…if you dig deep enough you are bound to find every model of computer since the Apple IIE.

Shake your head when you see a school district with more than 100 infrastructure support people: custodians, drivers, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, etc.; and (4) network technicians to maintain thousands of computers in sixteen buildings.

Pray when you hear of a school district that has no security budget, hasn’t audited its greatest vulnerabilities, has not updated the anti-spyware on its workstations, has not had time to apply the latest anti-virus signatures, or the latest Microsoft patches.

Pray harder if they aren’t taking daily, rotating backups (even in the summer when some staff are on vacation) and keeping them offsite; and if they haven’t a plan on how or where to restore them in case of a flood, fire, catastrophic hardware failure, or Katrina-like disaster.


It’s time to stop wincing, cringing, praying, and closing our eyes to the sorry state of much of the educational technology in this country. It’s time to put technology on the same footing as the rest of the school infrastructure. Technology should be current, ubiquitous, and well maintained.

Of course this will take money; and leadership. Where we spend our money is merely a reflection of what we value. I know we value our children. At the very least our job as leaders is to insure that the 21st Century classroom in America is competitive with the 21st century living rooms of our students.

At best, we could rethink our school structures and embark on an Extreme Makeover: School Edition.




10 thoughts on “Extreme Makeover: School Edition

  1. Pete,

    Very well said. It is time we began to view technology in the same way we do cleaning supplies, paper and other required school materials. With this being said, we need to see technology prices that will allow us to do more with our $’s. With the educational climate in a precarious state, every move is being monitored and people will be looking for payoffs that they will be able to quantify, in test score results, with short term gains that are visible being the main stay. Although we know that there will be gains, some of them are not as visible or as quantifible as people may like. Here’s hoping that the Extreme Makeover: School Edition gets us to where we need to be.

  2. Kelly,
    My hope would be that we take technology off the “what do we get for our money” track and put it on the “it’s a ubiquitous part of the school building track”…like electricity, phones, chairs, desks, heat, and plumbing…tech infrastructure becomes a basic “requirement”.

    Having said that, software applications, professional development, and the use of the infrastructure gets put to the “what is it doing for us?” question.


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  4. I agree that we need up to date technology, but with the technology MUST come adequate teacher training and hopefully teacher buy-in.

    Laptops, updated computer labs, projectors, etc. are simply tools, and without good teaching and effective integration, these tools are essentially worthless.

    When we buy the hardware, we have to make sure we don’t scrimp on the support and the training.

  5. Angela,
    No argument from me. Many of my blog posts are focused on the human beings at the heart of teaching and learning. This particular post was meant to call for a transition to technology as infrastructure. (see my comment to Kelly). If we can move technology from the center of our attention, to ubiquitous infrastructure, it will allow professional development and pedagogy to take its rightful place on center stage.

  6. My children attended a small Quaker school in the Philadelphia area that had an all-Mac computer lab and classroom computers; I worked there. The lab had practically no technical problems, and the teachers AND students were trained and encouraged to make simple repairs themselves-and they did. And there was a lot of innovation in how the computers and software were used. Of course, viruses were not a problem.
    I am now on the school board in Garrison, and I have watched our small district struggle with many of the issues you list above. Part of the problem is Windows. Part of the problem is BOCES.
    All of us in the schools need your support in becoming more self-reliant and empowered as far as our technology is concerned.


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