We Know How to Get It Right!

Numerous colleagues, organizations, and One-to-One Institute are researching the return on investment of education technology.  I realize this blog preaches to the choir and that there are volumes of information out there on this topic; however, I am amazed at what little quantitative data exists from a myriad of education systems that are leaders and early adopters of technologies.

It’s clear that we move at the speed of sound with this work because of community’s demands and required response to this urgency in schools.  This is surpassed by the pace at which technology and information race across our landscape.  It is true that we can do only our best with the time we have to digitally transform schools.  We must insist on high quality professional learning and find ways to acquire, refresh, maintain, and sustain education technology. Personnel and time are limited.

We can be more nimble about how we study the planning, design, development, and efficacy of implementations – which means using systems that ‘work’ (i.e. the Project RED Model©), and understanding the financial and student achievement sides of return on investment.  We educators ‘get’ the value side of education technology.  We are intimate with the 21st century skills and knowledge necessary for world success and student growth.  Business, industry, parents, and caregivers are convinced of the efficacy of education technology rich ecosystems.

As an executive director of secondary education in a large suburban district, I could have done benchmarking with middle school teachers, students, and parents when we implemented our one to one program.  Our solid formative assessment program could have provided evidence of students’ achievement.  Ongoing surveys could have told us students’, parents’/caregivers’ and teachers’ perspectives on topics relevant to the one to one progress.

The one to one classrooms could have become our action research spots with their same grade counterparts as control groups.  Granted, we weren’t scientists, but we could have formulated a simple mathematic formula to compare and contrast along key factor measures such as: student attendance, discipline referrals, assessments, research and problem solving abilities, etc., etc.  I would have that informal information at my fingertips today.

There are several disconnects regarding that district project.  If systems had been in tact (if we knew then what we know now) it would have made a profound difference in the success and sustainability of the initiative.  First, the one to one proof of concept was driven by a superintendent.  He understood and believed in the need to engage education technology.  The leader put in play ‘challenge’ grants for teachers and schools that showed solid plans for instituting high quality technology programs.  Many across the district took advantage.

However, the leader’s cabinet was not fully on board.  There weren’t many shared conversations.  The leadership team didn’t understand enough to support, in concept, the one to one initiative.  Most of these school administrators didn’t research the program and they were not provided ongoing communications regarding ‘why’ this would be an important event in the district’s life.  McREL’s leadership research tells us how this was a major caveat (McREL 2007).

Next, the district’s head of finance would attend meetings of the curriculum and operations teams – but as a group they never engaged in a shared visioning experience where the silos could put their voices and concerns on the floor and begin to understand one another.  This, ultimately, would be a key reason for the project abandonment.

This superintendent was way ahead of the curve considering the norms at the time re: edtech. This was not a wealthy district but one whose leadership was very interested in futures to best realize how to serve the school community.  Unfortunately, communicating and honoring relationships with administrators outside his ‘kitchen’ cabinet weren’t qualities of this leader.

The superintendent’s successor was a person who did level best to ‘undo’ the former supe’s initiatives….the one to one being an example.  The point here is that if we had the informal or formal data to ‘prove’ the need and efficacy of the project, we would not have likely witnessed its demise.

Over the past seven years I have connected with many educators, technology staff, CIOs, CTOs, superintendents, virtual school executives, researchers, and other ed-tech experts and practitioners.  There is a much richer body of research around education technologies and one to one programs.  Project RED (2010) of which I am a co-author is one such resource.

We now have data to show how implementation of meaningfully integrated technology has facilitated learner growth, allowed for cost avoidance, reallocation, savings and other funding measures.  We can do more to ensure everyone in the education space understands this data.  This can be most expeditiously accomplished if district key leaders ensured their teams had the knowledge and built ‘visions’ around it.

Leslie Wilson
Chief Executive Officer
One-to-One Institute

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