DAILY INSIGHT: Vote for Your Biggest Technology Hurdle

By Rob Mancabelli, CIO Advisor

What is the biggest hurdle to innovative technology use in schools? The nominees include time, staffing and money – all good candidates – but my entrant in this race is the classroom. It gets my support because it’s a deeply entrenched system, and I think those are the toughest impediments to change.

A quick anecdote in support of my nominee. In his bestselling book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell reveals that more professional hockey players are born in January, February and March than in any other months. This is not an accident of statistics, but rather, an accident of systems. The cutoff age for Canadian junior hockey is January 1, so kids born near that date are almost a year older than their peers. They are bigger, stronger and more coordinated, so coaches give them more ice time and start them against better competition, putting them on a faster treadmill toward the NHL. To be clear, any kid can still make it to the pros – but the system stacks the deck against the ones born later in the year.

In very similar ways our 19th-century classrooms stack the deck against innovative technology use. I’m talking about common practices such as teacher-centered lectures, paper textbooks, non-collaborative activities and standardized assessments. If you introduce potentially innovative technologies into this model, they become, at best, an “add on” or a “tweak,” such as using an interactive white board instead of an overhead projector to display information instead. Like the Canadian hockey player born in December, innovative technologies might succeed in spite of the classroom, but the odds are slim.

In future posts, I'll discuss systems you can implement to transform these traditional classrooms into modern learning spaces where students build networks of teachers from around the world, sift and select important ideas on the fly, and collaborate globally—places where students use technology to drive their own learning in ways never before possible. I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas about ways to displace these older models from the scale of a single school to districts with 100,000 students.

So let’s get the conversation started. What’s your nominee for biggest technology hurdle?

Share your thoughts on my blog, Spare Change.