Is it success to install bright shiny new computers that operate super fast and run the latest operating system and in the process lose the use of teacher and student software, tools, and lesson plans that can’t run on the new OS?
Or how about this?
I asked the leader of a networking services team, “What differentiates your networking services from those of your competitors?” He responded without hesitation, “Our team only works with K-12 networks. We have been doing this so long that we know how to “bullet proof” the network better than anyone else. We plug all the holes, we lock down the network in ways that kids can’t get around.”
Is it success to tie down a network to the point where teachers and students can’t use the A: Drive; can’t load software on the C: Drive, have the “right click” mouse feature disabled, can’t attach peripherals, can’t use applications like Skype, have little storage space for projects, cannot create and/or store podcasts, videos, blogs, and wikis; while having little or no access to “approved” applications and files from home or locations outside of the school?
I would have loved for the networking services leader to tell me, “Our team works only with K-12 networks. We have been doing this for so long that we know how to provide “open and reliable networks” better than anyone else. We provide access to all the tools and features you need to do your job, the tools that our competitors take away and lock down, and we are clever enough to do it in a way that doesn’t compromise the reliability and safety of the network and the data it holds.”
Now that’s a networking service that I would buy without hesitation.
But let’s not blame the technical staff for all our problems…we are the ones that have made hardware “King”. Given limited budgets how often have we opted for hardware over the “poor step-sisters” software and professional development. How many of us would drop $30,000 to $50,000 on a new switch to move data at faster speeds; but balk at spending the same amount on a piece of instructional software, or put the money towards professional development.
I’ve seen a number of super expensive, “state of the art” networks: new machines, gig to the desktop, server farm, fiber to the Internet…running Microsoft Office, Inspiration, and Explorer as the key instructional apps. Is it success to have a network costing hundreds of thousands to create and maintain…to run a simple word processor and browser?
Then there is the case of the district with more than 80 applications on the hard drives. The Director of Technology asked that they all be brought forward because he had no idea how many or what was being used by the staff…none, some, all? So where was the DOT’s attention and energy focused? Hardware. Software was an afterthought. “Just bring it all over to the new system, that way I won’t have to worry about it.”
This is a call for us to re-focus on the purpose of educational technology. This is a reminder to invite the “stepsisters” ….instructional software and PD to the “big dance”.
Let’s adopt a new definition of educational technology success: powerful instructional software, used by well-trained teachers and students, running on supportive, reliable, and accessible networks.