Ominous Numbers

There are some sobering educational technology statistics emerging from a January 2008, E-School News survey:

Nearly three out of four school leaders say they don’t have enough IT staff to support their needs effectively, according to the survey. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they can’t maintain their network adequately, 63 percent said they can’t plan for new technologies, and 76 percent said they have trouble implementing new technologies.

Those of us who have been advocating for educational transformation would do well to pay attention to these numbers. Without a stable and reliable technology infrastructure can we confidently make the case that using these tools will have a positive effect on teaching and learning?

If teachers take the plunge and begin using technology and shifting their classroom practices, will they be rewarded with solid and successful experiences; or will they be frustrated and disappointed with technology which is unstable, unreliable, and unpredictable?

Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said their IT budget isn’t enough to support technology assets they’ve already purchased, and nearly 70 percent said it’s not enough to meet their district’s IT expectations.

In one district with which I work, the teachers association wrote a letter saying they would no longer use the network until it was ‘fixed’. By throwing down the gauntlet and bringing attention to an issue that was being ignored by “the powers that be”; they actually forced the issue and action was taken to clean up the awful technology conditions that existed in their building.

We can talk all we want about the potential that technology holds for the future of our childrens’ education; but without addressing the growing problem of undermanned and underfunded IT infrastructure and support; it will be difficult to maintain our hard won accomplishments, never mind take bold new steps forward.

No matter what districts say, where they put their money and resources is generally an indication of what they truly value.

They understand the importance but are not as supportive financially.’ Similarly, 81 percent said IT security is viewed as a district priority—but only 38 percent said it’s funded accordingly.

On the tactical side properly supporting our educational technology investment is a must. On the strategic side, we need to give some serious thought to how we can create and document the value of edcuational technology in such a way that it would be unthinkable not to fund it properly.

pete

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9 thoughts on “Ominous Numbers

  1. Well I am the IT person at my school. We have 7 teachers. I teach fulltime, all day and in between times try to solve problems etc. I have no IT training and just try to figure it out as I go along. Luckily for me until this year the IT person in my school was not me and the person who it was thought learning by doing was good. It is so important to have people you can exchange ideas with and nut things out together.

    Funding is one issue but not the whole issue I think … if you want to make it happen you ‘learn by doing’ so when the system falls over you can try a few things. I actually would be funding was the real barrier … hidden fear to change maybe as well as funding.

    Part of an authentic learning cycle is experiencing difficulties and frustrations …. real learning for us all who are trying to integrate changing and alternative ideas into real classrooms with real children.

    OK that is a really LONG ramble but I think do what you can, try a few new things, reflect, lead where needed, support where needed, question yourself and most of all be honest…. would funding solve the issues or just ease some?

  2. Please add staff development for the technical staff. This can be very costly but they need to be kept up with what is out there. They also need time to “network” outside of their listservs. I find that is not always respected. Each training for a good intensive week costs approx. $3,000. I would recommend at least one or two weeks per tech along with collaborative meetings and sharing. I don’t think that is ever budgeted. Having adequate staffing is not the only answer – it has to be coupled with quality training.

  3. I am not horribly surprised by these numbers, but yes, they are staggering. I remember being in high school wondering what they teachers and IT people were doing because there always seemed to be network troubles. In reality, it was probably the fault of the school administrators not properly equipping or funding the educational technology department. These numbers should be seen by school administrators becuase something needs to be done to make sure that educators can continue to enhance their students’ learning.

  4. It is unfortunate to see that these numbers are so high. I realize that technology is important in our schools as im sure that everyone else does, but with so many other things happening in a school at the same time i can see how it is easy for technology to be overlooked and put in the background because it is used so often so funding goes to that which is at the forefront of our minds because what is used currently is what most are comfortable with. When things are comfortable, changes are less likely occur.

  5. I think the funding issue for IT support goes hand in hand with the need for adequate and ongoing professional development for school staff. Schools can invest all of the money in the world in developing and maintaining a technology infrastructure, but without teachers and students accessing the technology to support student learning, that investment is meaningless. So that continued investment in the technology infrastructure is seen as valuable and therefore funded to the necessary level, there needs to be evidence that students and teachers are using that infrastructure.

  6. Jody,
    I think you are right that funding alone won’t solve all the IT problems we face. On the other hand, I think we need some basic standards for our technology infrastructures and our technology support structures. I have been places were it takes more than a month to get something fixed and many, many months to get something new (hardware or software) installed. After a while people get so demoralized they just give up on things. That’s not the environment we want to create.

    pete

  7. shelley,
    Absolutely! We tend to leave our tech people out, overwhelmed by the day to day calls they need to resolve, with little concern for their own professional growth or training. This leaves every one of these folks out there trying to find their own answers to problems that might have already been resolved by others. Getting together with other IT folks at a training can put a halt to “re-creating the wheel”.
    pete

  8. Jim, KatelynM205, Lori;
    It seems we are fixated on equipment so we tend to skimp on PD and IT support. We also need to consider some new ways to deploy our networks. There are new strategies (virtualization) that hold some promise and may cut the cost of IT support significantly.
    pete

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