Inertia and Hope
March 9, 2017
Inertia. It is defined as: 1. A tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged, and 2. A property of matter by which is continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force. I’ve worked in the education technology space for fifteen years after 31 years in public education. I’ve seen dramatic and rapid change in the speed of information, its effects on schools and learning, and a myriad of education technology hardware and software to accommodate the speed of light at which learners have the opportunity to grow and achieve in our times.
Much of the progress is due to the ‘mandate’ of online testing by 2014. When districts, that did not proactively address the implementation, began scrambling to meet the rule by the deadline, they ‘learned’ and ‘stumbled’ upon edtech information that was enlightening. That’s ‘good’ news even though motivation was not the moral imperative to best serve learners. Nonetheless, the second definition of inertia took effect – an external force caused inert districts to ‘act’.
I’ve also experienced the inertia of the education system to acknowledge, word and deed, that and how schools must be transformed to serve our youth and our future. At AASA this year, I served on a panel discussing the ‘good’, ‘bad’, and ‘ugly’ of education technology.
The ‘good’ is that more of schools’ top leaders are attentive to the moral imperative of learners’ need to engage technology tools. The superintendents at our panel session asked for guidance on deep questions and concerns about all areas of education technologies that are crucial for success. This was a significant shift from panels even five years ago where education leaders questioned the efficacy of technology tools for students.
Forecaster of Tech Tools and Trends
It is also ‘good’ that technology providers have developed hardware and software that complement learners’ needs for growth and achievement. It would be wise for districts to have a continual ‘prognosticator’ on board looking down the road to determine future technology trends and tools. This will inform regarding purchases and related ROI as schools go forward.
Leading ‘change’ for school transformation was also a key concept addressed by the panel. Superintendents sought clarification regarding how leading digital conversions is different from leading traditional 19th and 20th century schools. First and second order change must be adeptly and sensitively addressed by today’s leaders. A keen understanding of how change impacts individuals groups should drive strategies for supporting and scaffolding educators’ shift in practice for a new age.
Edtech Implementation Crisis
The ‘bad’, as discussed in our panel, is that we remain in an implementation crisis across the country. Schools continue to purchase and deploy devices without thoughtful vision, strategy, communications, professional learning and the other systems that are mandatory to successfully implementations. Project RED III research, which will be launched this month, provides evidence.
It is also ‘bad’ that the textbook publishing companies lag behind in development of digital resources that make a difference. There are numerous national examples of districts paying enormous amounts of resources on content that proves meaningless and little used in schools. If districts had hard data demonstrating these findings their purchasing practice would dramatically change.
Hope - Engaging Experts
At the same time, other urgencies exist that require vigilance and expert planning in schools. HP’s Elliott Levine and Mike Belcher shared with superintendents the ‘ugly’ side of edtech in schools. There is tremendous ease with which school printers can be hacked and affect entire networks. It is the case that while there are still districts considering robust technology initiatives there are dark web users lurking to attack vulnerable (novice?) systems. It is more important than ever that district leaders engage high level experts to ensure preventative measures for their networks. Typically district tech workers do not possess the high level of skill and expertise to address needed protective actions.
Overall, I am heartened by the conversation shift about edtech among the highest level of school leaders at AASA this year. There is still much more work to be done and understanding to be shared.`
Leslie Wilson, founder and CEO of One-to-One Institute, has served education for 38+ years in top level, key decision-making roles at state and local levels. Recognized as an international expert in education technology, Wilson is a frequent writer, presenter and interviewee. Among her many publications, she co-authored, “Project RED-The Technology Factor, Nine Keys to Student Achievement and Cost Effectiveness” which is the most broadly used research around successful implementation of 1:1 technologies in schools.
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