As a superintendent who supports the infusion of technology in education and seeks to provide 21st century skills for our students, each year finding the funding to support and expand educational technology becomes more difficult. My district is suffering from a “perfect storm” of declining enrollment, a state budget crisis, and being a part of ground zero for foreclosures. As we ponder the crisis before us, the special interests line up and begin their lobbying efforts. Balancing the competing priorities of class size, music, counseling, libraries, athletics, technology, and safety becomes an almost impossible challenge.
- “Don’t forget the role of libraries in information literacy,” shout the librarians. “Oh, and while we’re at it, don’t forget the award you got for supporting libraries.”
- “How can students suffering from emotional stress be expected to meet state standards?” ask the counselors.
- “Music helps build reading skills,” shout the music teachers. “We took our cuts last year.”
- “Many of our students will drop out if we cut sports,” moan the coaches.
- “Class size reduction is what allows our student to develop basic literacy,” remind the primary teachers.
- “I can’t afford printer cartridges now,” complain the teachers who also remind you that you promised them Smartboards.
What’s a superintendent to do? I strongly believe that our students need access to technological tools if they are to learn in a Web 2.0 world. We can’t continue to put tech orders on hold, cut tech support, or fail to provide the basic supplies needed by those who use the technology to support instruction. Certainly technology should suffer its fair share of the hits. But just because we can save large amounts of money by postponing or canceling tech purchases doesn’t mean we should do it.
It’s my job as the instructional leader of the district to advocate for and support the infusion of technology into the curriculum. Teachers won’t use technology that is unreliable due to lack of tech support. Students won’t gain the skills they need for the new workplace by using paper and pencil. Our very future will suffer dramatically if we are forced to use 20th century tools in a 21st century world. To my fellow superintendents I say, “Buck up, cowboys. Find the funds to support the technology. We may need to reprioritize and look at our world a little differently, but we can’t afford to cheat our students by not supporting them with the technology they need to learn 21st century skills.”