Why Focus on the People?

I was at my HS reunion this weekend and a friend asked me what my blog was about. If you are familiar with Ed Tech Journeys you know that it leans less towards technology and more towards change and the human beings that comprise our educational system. Quite often, when I am at speaking or consulting engagements, I get asked why I focus on leadership issues and people issues. I’ve had a number of people suggest that if I focused more on technology more educators would be interested in reading what I have to say.

It’s simple really.

For roughly 21 years I focused almost entirely on the technology. Over the years I began to notice that when we planned and implemented technology in schools, some initiatives were successful and some failed. We and our partner districts would put almost identical technology projects in place in two different districts, or two different buildings within the same district and get totally different outcomes. Same amount of ‘stuff’, same levels of support; one install is amazingly positive, another ‘goes south’.

I asked myself, “What is going on here? What makes the difference between success and failure?”

The people.

Over and over again, when I analyzed the projects that failed, it became obvious that it was a people issue.

The problems could range from too much top down leadership from the central office, to a lack of any effective high-level leadership at all. Failure could be caused by an overwhelmed Director of Technology, or one who tries to initiate change while possessing few people skills. The issue might be a DOT or administrator that tries to do prove their value by having all the answers themselves, thus shunning outside help; or a DOT that guards and filters the information flow to top decision makers and teachers, always keeping the “lid on the cookie jar”. The problem might be a Principal or building administrator that is disconnected from technology. It might be a teachers association asserting their power, or it might be the individual teachers themselves feeling stretched to the limit and challenged by change. It could be a poisoned building or district environment where dis-trust is the norm. It could be a dysfunctional team, a Board of Ed that is not involved, or one that is too involved.

The list is endless. There are as many possibilities for failure as their are people.

As complex as it can be sometimes, the technology is the easy part.

It is people that present the challenge to success.

Maybe that’s why so much of the ed tech conversation revolves around the technology. It’s new. It’s cool. It’s fun.

Who wants to take on the difficult task of dealing with ineffective leadership and creating systemic change?

I do.

I’m not satisfied with great ideas and great technologies failing because the people involved weren’t up to the challenge. I am not satisfied with the idea that all we have to do is build it and they will come. I am not satisfied with the idea that all we have to do is make a logical argument for change and magically people will change.

There’s more to it than that.

So, Ed Tech Journeys will continue to focus on the people issues involved in transforming teaching and learning.



2 thoughts on “Why Focus on the People?

  1. Thank you! We aren’t satisified either and agree with you that we need vision and leadership to support “people” over time as they engage in change. In the absence of leadership and support we will not be successful.


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