Systems Over Hardware
This post is part of an ongoing series of chapters from the book CHOICE. Please view this post for an introduction and table of contents. To keep up with each new chapter published, please subscribe.
1:1 technology programs are nothing new in education. Since computers first became personal/portable, the idea of giving every student a computer has been a topic in every district. Before computers it was giving every student a textbook. It's a very appealing idea. Giving every student access to the same technology and resources. Every student is on the same level when it comes to educational tools. Students can learn on and use the same tools used in the "real world."
Planning how the 1:1 program will actually work in the classroom and administratively is a very different task. The systems you have in place are more important than the technology you are using. The right systems will allow the 1:1 program to be plug and play with any technology.
The technology always changes (laptops, netbooks, iPads, kindles, etc.). Most recently, Google's Chromebook has been at the forefront of this discussion. It's a great device and very affordable. The point of this chapter is not to dismiss the technology but to understand it's not the most important part of the 1:1 program.
The system to support the technology program is often lost to people not working directly with the set up. A good support system involves everyone; technology staff, administrators, teachers, and students. It is a school culture aspect.
What are some of the components to a great system and culture?
Inventory - Very basic, but you need to know who has what. Everyone needs a shared responsibility with inventory. It can't just be one person or department trying to track down ever piece of technology in the district.
Professional Developments - There needs to be ongoing training and education around the technology. Not just a one day PD session. There needs to be ongoing learning and resources for how the technology impacts learning.
Support - A helpdesk for the school community to ask questions when help is needed. Also a self help portal to find answers when needed.
Full District Involvement - Everyone in the district has an opinion and preference. They need a voice and a say in how the program is run. It's can't just be a top down decision making process.
Full District Responsibility - A successful program requires the entire district to have responsibility for the technology, It isn't for a few members of the technology department to maintain. Everyone has ownership of the program.
If the system is well planned, well built, and well implemented it should be almost invisible to the users of the technology.
Too many times well funded project fail because the focus was just on putting new technology in the classroom. It needs to be about how the technology will impact learning.
More technology is not the solution, and is unfortunately a mindset used a lot in business and education. Throwing technology at a problem won't make it go away.
Need your employees to be more productive? Give them a smartphone so they can work on the go. Want your students to all have access to the same information? Give every student a computer. It's the wrong mindset to have. Systems over technology.
Technology hardware without a system and culture to support it is just another weight for students to carry in their overloaded backpacks.
Providing a peak behind the curtain of the thought and writing process.
If the length of this chapter doesn't make it obvious, this is a topic that is very important to any technology project. Systems over technology is a topic an entire book could be written on. Technology does nothing for a school without a system to support it.
This was one of the more difficult chapters to write. There is a lot going on here. I feel like I'm repeating myself over and over again, but the point needs to be made.
Invest in the systems first. Otherwise the technology purchased will just be another failed project, and money lost.
What are the components of a system you have seen be a success? What went into making the program a success? Let the community know in the comments.