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Let’s stop misspending education technology dollars

by Kelly Walsh on June 16, 2010

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A lot of schools have over spent on, and under supported, interactive white boards and other education technologies.

I was fascinated by this article yesterday in the Washington Post. The article is a follow up on a prior piece in the Post that explained that “a view is emerging that the large amounts of money schools are spending on instructional gadgets are not necessarily improving student performance.”

The article also has good things to say about education technology and how it often engages students (even if only due to the “gee whiz” factor), and it cites the “thousands of teachers who have made excellent, creative use of whiteboards and other ‘gadgets’”, but it also discusses how “enormous sums of money are being spent on this (and other) technologies without correspondingly thorough and thoughtful professional development.”

As an advocate of Education Technology, some readers might be surprised to hear me agree with some of the thoughts expressed in this article, but frankly, when money is used poorly in the name of education technology, it’s a step backwards for everyone, not an improvement.

Obviously I agree with the idea that education technology can make a difference in education, but I also agree that technology is by no means a solution in and of itself. I worked for over 20 years implementing, supporting, and managing Information Technology in businesses in the manufacturing, sales, and distribution sectors before moving to education. Successful technology expenditures in well run businesses are commonly measured by their Return On Investment. Why is this same type of measure so often not applied in education? Of course, in education, the “return” should be measured first by improved learning outcomes, as opposed to financial gains, but the underlying concept is sound and it is essential to managing education expenditures well.

In the private education sector, there seems to be a higher tendency to apply best practices from the business world to management fundamentals such as those involving investments and expenditures, but it seems that in the public education sector, proven techniques from the business world are often overlooked or discarded. While we can all agree that it is important that education never take a back seat to profits, surely that doesn’t mean that educational institutions can’t leverage successful, sound management concepts.

Investments in technologies such as interactive white boards, student response systems, and lecture capture systems should be managed using commonly accepted practices known to help facilitate such efforts through to successful implementation and impactful results. These investments must be vetted, stakeholders must be bought in to the process, goals need to be clearly defined and communicated, training and support allocated for and provided, and so on.

Without these fundamentals in place, we’re throwing away tax dollars (or private school tuition fees), misdirecting teacher’s efforts, and wasting opportunities to position students for success. Enough already.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Education Technology – Don’t Lean On It, Leverage It!
8 Engaging Videos Advocating Better Integration of Technology in Education
5 Reasons Why Educators Need To Embrace Internet Technologies

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a faculty member at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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