A current buzz phrase in educational administration circles these days states, when it comes to classroom instruction, “The curriculum you get shouldn’t depend on the teacher you get.” This refers primarily to the fact that some teachers still cling to outdated practices even when evidence to the contrary often exists right next door in a colleague’s classroom. I would submit that the concept also applies when it comes to the quality of technology use at the school level; that is, the technology you get shouldn’t depend on the principal you get.”
I offer the following analogy to demonstrate how this concept translates to decisions made by top administration in regards to tech integration in the modern school:
Imagine you live in a society in which you may only seek medical attention from the physician or hospital in your Medical Attendance Zone (or MAZ). You are limited to receiving services only in that area. Now, consider needing a heavy-duty procedure (like the knee replacement I just underwent) and being limited to receiving services from a surgeon and a hospital in your MAZ.
Your surgeon is new at your hospital, younger, very tech-comfortable, and entirely capable of using an MRI to evaluate what should be done. However, the hospital administration doesn’t understand the whole “tech thing,” as they call it, and refuses to provide a modern MRI machine. Nor has the administration provided training to the Head of Surgery in how to use even the hospital’s older technology so the Head can train the surgeons he/she supervises.
Now imagine your brother, who lives a few miles away, needs the same surgery. His MAZ surgeon not only has state-of-the art technology available but also training in its use. After your scan, his hospital sends the MRI data out to a company that transforms that MRI image into a 3-D model of your arthritic knee and then virtually corrects any deformity to return the knee to its pre-arthritic state. Using all this information, a set of custom cutting guides is then created for your surgeon’s use during your individual surgery.
This is exactly where we find ourselves in ed tech these days. The technology experience students at a given school get depends greatly on the district, superintendent, central office educational supervisors, and site administration. What makes the situation more serious is that we’re not talking about knee replacement surgery but about students’ survival in the future job market and the accompanying quality of life itself.
As a site administrator for 13 years in a large urban district, I can attest to the fact that in all the district meetings held to train us administrators, not one ever included or was devoted to tech integration within the classroom. I’ve known supervisors who not only knew little about technology but discouraged tech use. While most districts in the state have beefed up their tech infrastructure and put computers in classrooms, few have trained their leaders in how to integrate those resources into modern instruction.
On the bright side, there are clearly superintendents and principals who are now definitely “getting it.” Through programs like TICAL and professional development opportunities like Leadership 3.0, these leaders are building a vision and understanding of how to use technology to advance learning. Yet we still have a long way to go. Those of us who are tech pioneers and advocates need to continue to push our organizations to move ahead. To return to the medical metaphor, no school leader should be encouraging students and teachers to bite on sticks when effective anesthesia should be the norm.