The Missing Link

Over the past decade, many school systems have spent millions on computer hardware, software, networks, and other instructional tech stuff. In the overly-large school district I work for that amount is well north of $100 million. So, after spending all that money, why do we see so little use of technology in the classroom?

An article in the online version of Technology and Learning magazine has a short list of the excuses teachers make for not using the hardware and software purchased available to them. It’s pretty much what you’d expect: "I don’t have time.", "We don’t have any good software.", "I’m not a computer person.".

However, the writer only hints at the real reason for the lack of technology integration, the one few teachers will verbalize.

No one is requiring them to make it happen.

For starters, few principals and other administrators would know authentic technology integration if they saw it. They haven’t been trained on what to look for. So, when teachers are evaluated, the most rudimentary use of computers satisfies the grafted-on, check list item for computer use in the classroom.

Staff development programs also send a signal that technology use is a nice extra for teaching and learning not an essential part of it. We offer training sessions on using computers and software and then there are those on teaching techniques and instruction. Too often, the two have very little intersection.

Going beyond that, however, technology is often an afterthought to the foundations of most K12 curriculums and textbooks. Often it shows up as a list of useful web sites or as an "extension" in the supplement to a lesson. It doesn’t take long for teachers to get the message that this is something they can skip.

Of course, it’s possible my view of things is narrowed by the experience one district and those of a few friends and colleagues. Maybe in your school, technology is unambiguously woven into most aspects of teaching and learning. Maybe your principal is one who not only understands what it looks like but is a leader helping to make it happen.

If that’s the case, I suspect yours is a rare school in this country. And you need to share with the rest of us the secrets of making it happen.

educational technology, technology integration