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Biggest EdTech Question: How?

compI had a conversation with a young principal the other day. He has sixty staff, teaching K-5 level students, and he was looking for technology ideas. I had just written something about using apps in the classroom, and felt pretty good about the direction classroom technology was headed, so offered some ideas. I began with mobile devices… tablets… and talked about using them for not only going to the Internet, but for working text, images, audio and video. I said that using them for daily formative assessment and beyond that, for large data collection was not only good for kids and teachers, but pure gold to administrators and at parent meetings. He listened patiently, and then said, “My staff shares 3 interactive whiteboards, and I don’t have money for more technology.”

When he asked, “What can I do?” I said something like, “Let me think.” I had nothing. How do you get technology if you have no money, and haven’t figured out how to afford it? I made an attempt, talking about possibly doing some bring your own devices, along with some software that would do some classroom connecting and assessing, but at K-5 with a staff and students with very little technology learning savvy, that’s a big call. I even talked about the possibility of using some last generation tech—but talked myself out of it, as I said it. Using older technology, because it’s cheaper, while it can be a start, isn’t what I should be sharing with anyone as a possibility today. Heck, outfitted with old tech is really starting behind.

I also discovered, as I tossed out possible solutions, that this administrator could only deal with certain, preferred and selected, by the district, technology providers. In other words, he couldn’t go outside the preferred list to seek other possibilities, no matter how good they were—or how good the deal. He also confided in me that some of the technology specialists had quietly skirted the edges of those constraints to do some exciting things, but it wasn’t for general knowledge or for the good of the entire district—just for a few individuals.

I don’t know enough to give all the possible solutions to his problems, if any, but I do know enough to understand that this young administrator was lost, trying to seek the right technology tools for his students and staff—and for that matter—any technology for his students and staff. Further discussion revealed that beyond the technology, even the traditional classroom essentials, like paper, were difficult to come by, and often their purchase came out of educator pockets. What century is this?

I know that those, who are a lot more intelligent than this post writer, can offer positive advice for these lost, but still hopeful education tech seekers. I know we hear success stories from those that have figured it out, but it seems to me that there are many more stories like the one I’ve told, where administrators and educators are tech helpless because they don’t have tech, and students are learning in an early 20th Century way. Wouldn’t it be helpful to offer them a blueprint or better—a guarantee, of some sort, along with some infused technology, as a normal course of events… as a normal expectation of the 21st Century classroom? I know that I’m not the first to hear a story of frustration like this, and not the first to ask for something to be done, but the next time I hear someone on stage talking about how wonderful their classroom is, I’ll think of my conversation with this young administrator. I’ll ask, “What about those who have none, and want some? Can we do something, before another student and educator’s year goes by?”

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34-year veteran educator, ed tech author, and education marketplace reporter.

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