Thursday, November 30, 2017

EdTech Planning and Funding

It's still November, and we've already begun the process of planning for next year's EdTech purchases. In some ways we have it down to a science. What's five years old? Time to replace it. Recycle those things that don't work very well anymore and re-purpose the rest. Then ask for input from administrators and teachers as to what they perceive are their EdTech needs for next year. Compile all of that and then contemplate changes or additions. Then prioritize, knowing funding will never cover everything but wanting to fulfill the most requests we possibly can.

That all seems pretty straight forward, but here's where the difficulties always arise. It's the answer to the email or the form field or interview question that asks something like:

Exactly what are students going to do with these devices or programs? How will the technology increase or at least enhance student learning?

I informally evaluate the state of our instructional strategies in classrooms and the understanding of the potential of technology for learning from these answers, and honestly, it's disappointing some years. Research, reading, mechanical tech skill development, weekly or standardized assessments, canned curriculum, and writing papers aren't very good answers. While yes, students should and do use devices for these purposes, these uses don't come close to realizing the potential of technology for learning. Tech is only a substitute for the same old way of teaching and learning, meaning tech's desirable but not really necessary, rather than tech's a trans-formative way to learn in ways that were never possible before, under which circumstances tech becomes a necessity.

Take a look at the SAMR model that describes a way to analyze how students are using technology in the classroom. Kathy Schrock has many resources related to SAMR: While all student tech use doesn't have to approach the redefinition level of this model, some of that use certainly should.

Take a look at the new ISTE Standards for Students: There is almost no correlation from the student uses listed above to the potential these standards provide for student learning. Students collaborating with others outside their town or state or country, creating musical compositions or business models, or contributing to the solution of real life problems are very real, viable, trans-formative things students can do with technology.

Finally, take a look at the other initiatives in your districts. How does technology integration fit in? It shouldn't be an isolated, add-on activity anymore. It should be intrinsic to learning. The excuse that teachers are too busy with other things mandated by the state and the district doesn't fly anymore. Technology is, can be, or should be a part of every other initiative in a district. It's how business is done in the real world, and the real world needs to be reflected in the work our students do in school.

Can you argue your district doesn't have enough technology to easily implement some of the instructional strategies I'm suggesting? You bet. This would certainly be true of my district. However, that becomes a lame excuse when the request for more EdTech is not based on transformation but is based on students doing research, taking assessments, accessing canned curriculum, and practicing mechanical tech skills. Continuing to use traditional and often antiquated instructional strategies may require a certain level of EdTech access, but it isn't a very compelling way to persuade those in charge of funding to prioritize and spend more money on EdTech.

Think about it.