By Dr. Ramiro Zuniga
I recently had an interesting conversation with fellow technology professionals regarding an increasingly common technology conundrum: too many technology solutions.
Today, there are so many technology choices available to administrators and teachers in schools. At times, this makes selecting the appropriate solution a more challenging task. Other times, it results in having technology tools on hand that are not used. I have had conversations with teachers who admit to having unused equipment or software in their closets. I have also seen firsthand the difficulties that technology personnel experience in trying to keep up with emerging technology.
So how does this come to be? In a word: pressure.
Perhaps the greatest pressure that educators face is the constant drive to increase student test scores through the use of technology. Add to this the pressure from parents wanting their children to be ready for a technology-driven future. Then you have technology solution vendors that bombard educators with never-ending emails promising great things from their products. And finally, educators have to contend with the reality that a simple Internet search will literally reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of products proclaiming the same functionality.
So how can this be prevented or better managed? In a word: focus.
Educators should focus on:
- adopting an attitude that is less reactive to the aforementioned pressures,
- taking a district-wide inventory of existing technology solutions,
- determining which existing technology solutions are not being utilized,
- determining the reasons for the non-use of existing technology solutions,
- determining which existing, underutilized technology solutions should be eliminated and taking action on that determination,
- thoroughly evaluating any new solution to ensure its effectiveness prior to purchase,
- finding vehicles through which effective technology solutions can be publicized and made available to all and reducing any roadblocks to their utilization
- meeting regularly to determine how to expand or reduce technology solutions as needed
It may seem obvious that reducing unused technology is an appropriate course of action. This, however, is counterintuitive given the overwhelming desire to increase the presence of technology in schools. Even when certain technology is shown to be unused, reducing technology is still a strategy that is difficult to sell. After all, nobody wants to give up technology; everybody wants more and more.
Taking the time to thoroughly evaluate a technology solution prior to purchase is also a difficult strategy to implement. Although it is more likely that a technology solution will be implemented successfully after a comprehensive consideration, many are concerned that a lengthy process does not provide results soon enough.
It goes without saying that ensuring effective technology purchases and the continued use of those purchases is a difficult task. It should be noted that this task is not to be carried out by one individual. This task should be carried out by several educational leaders, perhaps members of the district technology committee. Using a technology committee to establish long-range planning can prevent much long-term frustration. Needless spending can also be controlled through planning.
At the end of the day, it is not about how much technology is in our schools but about how effectively it is being used.