wasting bandwidth since 1999

New Version… Not Necessarily Better

In his comments on yesterday’s early morning rant on the state of instructional technology, Miguel makes some very good points about how school districts like ours are being “swallowed up by a “new” vision of tech use in schools”.

We’re now at IT 2.0*. In IT 1.0*, it was all about what teachers could do with technology in the classroom, productivity and publishing. NOW, IT 2.0 is about administrative uses of tech to enhance data-driven administration, top-down control of technology use by others, limiting liability and ensuring asset management.

Of course, there are still some teachers using technology as a creative tool for teaching and learning. But in terms of money and priorities, priorities around here have shifted to technology projects for, as Miguel puts it, “control rather than direct instruction”.

Over the past decade, we’ve spent millions for computerized attendance, grading, and curriculum systems (none of which play well with our student information system from the same company).

Additional large chunks of cash have also gone to various software packages to generate practice standardized tests and for accumulating student numbers, analyzing the data and publishing pretty reports.

And teams in the district are now working on building a system for individual education plans (IEPs) and a portal project with the goal of stitching all this stuff together (into something Dr. Frankenstein would be proud of).

You could make the case that all these applications contribute to student achievement by making teachers and administrators more efficient. And I wouldn’t argue with that (well, I wouldn’t if everything actually worked).

However, don’t call it “instructional” technology when these systems have little to do with teaching and learning.

* I’m pretty sure he’s kidding about claiming a trademark on these terms. :-)

instructional technology, teaching


  1. Diana King

    As usual, you have hit the nail on the head. And you probably already know that we SBTS are often frustrated by the contradiction between what we are supposed to do (help teachers integrate technology into instruction) and what we end up doing (counting equipment and training on those district-mandated programs). Of course, the trend you have identified has largely been driving by NCLB.

    I keep wondering if and when the pendulum will swing back. Guess I’ll be gone before it does.

  2. Anthony Hardwick

    If I am not mistaken, this is right your backyard as well.

    I am sure its an awesome implementation of data gathering and presentation and tech infusion. How much gets down to the kids, I am not so sure…

  3. Patrick

    As usual I enjoy reading your posts, and I will offer a somewhat different perspective from the school level point of view- these tools are essential in enhancing classroom instruction and student learning. Common online assessments, the data, and staff develpment, and interventions that follow have the ability to facilitate a higher level of instructional planning at a pace that was not possible before. It’s far more than being just “efficient.”

    Common online assessments also quickly break down the classroom barriers that some teachers build around their rooms and the traditional excuses made when resisting changes and improvements to teaching. The data speaks for itself- and when technology makes it so easily and quickly available, and comparable to other data- it’s very powerful.

    Combined with data from standardized tests, student data, and curriculum resources, this “IT 2.0” makes instructional and administrative planning much more efficient than previously possible- and that has direct impact on student learning when used correctly.

    The concept of “instructional technology” in education has changed- it’s embedded throughout school operations and it’s part of everyday business, and is no longer limited to classrooms, students, and teachers.

    That’s why it’s IT 2.0- it includes, not excludes, the previous version IT 1.0. But now the challenge is for technology specialists to not only know how to work in the classroom, but work with administrators and on a larger scale- to make sure that data has direct impact on classroom teaching.

    And the fact that technology is embedded in so many aspects of education only emphasizes the growing importance of our leadership role that is beyond simple instruction.

    So IT 2.0 is better, but like many new releases of software, may require more skills to use it properly.

  4. Mark

    Here’s an interesting quote from the Montgomery County Assistant Superintendent for technology, cited by Anthony above:

    “I like shopping, for DVDs-I probably have 1,500-2,000 CDs and hundreds of DVDs. I don’t have time to watch them, but I buy them.”

    That’s just priceless, and a perfect analog for what happens all to often with technology: people become enamored of some whiz-bang thing and then it collects dust.

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