Larry Cuban, one of the best critics of the way we use technology for K12 instruction, has a great post about how companies market technology to schools, an $18 billion industry and growing, and why their products are usually out of touch with teacher and student needs.
The largest part of the problem is the big gap between the people who write the purchase orders, “school district IT professionals, district office administrators, and superintendents”, and the students and teachers who actually use the products.
That is where the money is. School officers are the ones who recommend to boards of education what to buy and how to deploy devices and software. From start-ups to established companies, high-tech representatives rarely involve teachers or students in their pitches to district officers or school boards. So the paradox is that the end-users (teachers and students) have little to do with purchasing decisions.
Cuban also notes that the companies rarely observe actual classrooms to see how their products might be used. Instead they depend on surveys, focus groups, and occasionally academic research (but only when it fits their approach).
So what can be done?
Cuban offers two great suggestions. First, companies need to talk to teacher and students and spend some money on learning about what happens in real classrooms. And second, dial back the “over-the-top claims” promising to provide solutions appropriate to every school everywhere.
But that doesn’t address the other part of this situation, the people buying this stuff. The folks on our end making the purchasing decisions who don’t teach (and may never have taught), rarely if ever work with kids1, and, in the case of the IT department, are more concerned with password management and how the technology works on “their” network than whether it is instructionally sound or even useful.