Our school board approved the district’s budget for the next school year last week, something that most other districts do this time of the year. Part of the budget in our system, and probably others, is the annual ritual called the Instructional Technology Plan. Except that I noticed that the word ‘instructional’ is missing from the title of the document. Finally, some truth in advertising!
Reading through the 40+ pages of the document, it’s hard to find anything about using technology to make teaching kids better, easier, faster, or even more fun (what a radical notion!). The plan is full of talk about network architecture, wires (and this year the lack of wires – wireless), and boxes. In fact the largest single piece of the whole plan is for the installation and maintenance of an “instructional management system”. That roughly translates into online attendance and an electronic gradebook. A database system that allows teachers to access instructional materials and track student progress is being installed but is rather complicated and totally unusable in elementary school. The name says “instruction” but none of this will do anything to improve teaching and learning.
The biggest problem with the plan is that it’s largely put together by the technology office, not the curriculum office. It’s driven by technology not by curriculum. Which is the problem with most “technology plans” I’ve seen. Take a look at what Jamie McKenzie has to say on his From Now On site and read Larry Cuban’s book Oversold and Underused (link to pdf file of the whole book). You’ll find my district is not unusual in its misplacement of priorities. I guess that’s a little consolation.