By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga
I recently saw a commercial for an electronics store that caught my attention. The premise of the commercial is that technology is updated so rapidly that your most recent purchase quickly becomes obsolete. In one of the segments within this commercial, a man realizes that a 4D television is “coming soon” as he stands in front of his house while his brand new 3D television is being delivered. To add insult to injury, a cute little girl, I assume a neighbor, runs around his yard mocking him, “You bought the wrong TV sillyhead!” The other segments in the commercial highlight similar disappointing realizations. In one, a lady blurts out, “I just bought this one!”
Needless to say, this is a fairly entertaining commercial. After all, we can all relate to buying something, only to realize that there exists something better or less expensive.
So how does this relate to technology in schools? Well, after watching this commercial, you might feel like going to the store to “buy the latest.” If you are a technology leader, you might feel pressure to ensure that your district has cutting-edge technology. Perhaps you will want to replace computers across all your campuses. And then, it hits you! “How am I going to pay for this?”
The truth is that most school districts cannot keep buying and buying all the latest devices. In my experience, I have seen many technology directors try to do this and it just doesn’t work out.
I have had many teachers and administrators come up to me, over the years, excited about the newest technology. My question to them is, “How do you plan to use this?” Often, I get a synopsis of a recently viewed commercial or of some article. I will then probe a little further, “What type of students are you targeting with this technology? What grade level were you considering?” Generally, the end result of the discussion is that the individual succumbed to the marketing ploy of the commercial.
Please do not misunderstand. I am not criticizing the excitement of the individual. I too have seen a commercial or read an article and thought about how it could be used by students and or teachers in the classroom. I applaud anyone that looks for new and different tools in education. However, I go back to my original question, “How do you plan to use this?” School districts cannot afford to buy technology simply to keep up with the latest. As the electronic store commercial states, technology is always being upgraded. It all must be planned out otherwise the technology might just end up stored in a closet in its original box, unused.
Here are some tips that I offer for technology directors in relation to purchasing technology:
- Purchase five year warranties with as much hardware as possible. This will extend your replacement cycle considerably without too much more monetary expense. Rarely, is there a genuine need to replace hardware sooner.
- Do not lock into purchasing from a single vendor on a continued basis. Competitive shopping will get your district the best price.
- Keep in mind that some technologies will not fit the needs of your district. Be sure to do some research and call references prior to purchasing. Invest your time up front. Time spent here will save much frustration for teachers and administrators across the district down the road.
- Ensure that you include teachers and administrators from all levels when evaluating a particular technology.
- Never rely solely on the word of a vendor, even if your relationship is strong and positive. Every vendor will speak to you for one reason. That reason is for them to make a sale!
- Most importantly, make sure that a plan actually exists for the technology under consideration. The plan should include opportunities for implementation and evaluation throughout the life of the plan.
In the end, commercials are a great resource for learning about technology. I only caution technology leaders to ensure that it is reason and logic that guides purchases and not hype. Technology leaders have a tremendous responsibility in ensuring that their school district has the most effective technology available.