Tech & Learning is launching a new series called, “Ask SchoolCIOs” (#askSchoolCIO), in which our advisors offer their inside tips on a variety of issues. In this first feature, we asked our advisors: What’s the biggest mistake educators make when trying to convince their CIO to support their tech purchase wish list? Here’s what they said.
I never want to hear, “I want it because my co-worker, etc. has one.” Tell me what you are planning to use it for and how it will benefit your students.
SCOT GRADEN, SALINE AREA SCHOOLS, MI
Often a teacher who approaches with a request for new technology hasn’t considered the total cost of ownership or “TCO.” When a teacher presents an amazing deal on a desired piece of classroom technology, it’s important for them to also understand the cost of the consumables and the overall durability of the product. That 3-D printer at an unbelievable price? Well, the filament to actually make artifacts may cost $300 a spool. My advice to teachers who want the goods: do a little homework on the product, understand the basics of TCO, dig up a few reviews, and then make your request based on what will serve you, your students, and the district best in the long run.
ANDREW WALLACE, DIRECTOR OF TECHNOLOGY, SOUTH PORTLAND SCHOOLS, ME
The biggest mistake teachers make with me is when they think they can purchase it off of a Walmart or a Target list instead of going through the correct purchasing procedures.
KAREN FULLER, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER, KLEIN ISD, TX
Have some form of metric that will demonstrate whether the technology has an impact or not, and whether the addition of these technologies aligns with the curriculum and tech departments’ long-range plan.
DOUG JOHNSON, AUTHOR, PRESENTER, CONSULTANT
The biggest mistake I see is when teachers don’t explain how buying the technology will improve teaching or learning. What is the pedagogy behind the technology? How will this benefit students? Have they researched other options and other similar products? This is all-important information—pedagogy must drive technology.
DAVID ANDRADE, EDUCATOR, EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY SPECIALIST AND CONSULTANT, EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATOR
Education is not an enterprise private business. We are not making a profit; our product is people. I think we fall into traps with the “Total Cost of Ownership” or “Return on Investment” arguments. I would shift this metric to a “Total Cost of Learning” that will pre- and post-assess those “future-ready” skills that we are trying to enhance. Too often technology initiatives are tied to academic test scores, which aren’t a valid way to measure those results.
CARL HOOKER, DIRECTOR OF INNOVATION & DIGITAL LEARNING, EANES ISD, TX
The fact that you have a technology wish list is an issue. What teachers need to do is focus on teaching and learning. Determine what students need to be able to accomplish when they leave your classroom, school, or district and then work back from there as to how to provide that instruction for all students. As we build both deeper and broader curricula to allow for more personalized learning, we will need to have more options than to simply teach to the center of the class’s ability.
STEVE BAULE, SUPERINTENDENT, NORTH BOONE SCHOOL DISTRICT, IL
The biggest mistake educators make when trying to convince their CIO to support their tech purchase wish list is not having the CIO or Information Technology [staff] involved from the onset. IT cannot be expected to provide support if we are brought in after the fact or purchase.
DEBBIE KARCHER, CIO, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, FL
The biggest mistake I have seen is that teachers come to me with a singular idea in a silo. They see a great use of technology for one project they are doing. This is both the beginning and the end. As CIO, I see part of my job as connecting dots, but also to help teachers see past their one project. Technology is not a bell or whistle, [but] rather a tool, like a pen or pencil. When it is the right tool for the right job, we will see growth and deeper learning happening.
JASON EPSTEIN, CIO, WORCESTER ACADEMY, MA
One mistake I see is that all stakeholders (teachers, administrators, students, and parents) are not always taking into account the privacy and security of the student data that is involved (or required) for the use of some of the apps and services on their wish list. I think that this happens partly out of lack of awareness and partly because it gets lost in the excitement of the search for the “shiniest” new app or online service. The ubiquitous lists of the “10 must-have apps” that are pushed at teachers via Twitter and through edtech blogs certainly don’t help.
PAUL BARRETTE, DIRECTOR OF TECHNOLOGY, SMITHFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS, MA
I see five basic mistakes when teachers ask their CIO for new technology: (1) they fail to consult their leadership; (2) they do not align the purchase with the District Strategic Plan; (3) they do not align the purchase with the Learning Technology Plan; (4) no provisions are made for professional development; and (5) the plan does not include/consider sustainability beyond initial purchase.
JOHN WILLIAMS, DIRECTOR OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, METRO NASHVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS, TN
First mistake: asking about the product after you committed to buying or it’s been delivered. Include your tech person from the start to at least verify if it is compatible with the school’s infrastructure and environments. Second, have an idea of what you are trying to do with the technology and don’t just ask for it because it’s new or everyone else is using one. Third, when bringing in new technology, don’t expect IT to provide the professional development/ training. While we are glad to assist with acquiring and installing the new technology, we probably aren’t ever going to use it, so don’t expect us to teach you, too.
GEORGE J. WEEKS, DIRECTOR OF TECHNOLOGY, GLASSBORO PUBLIC SCHOOLS, NJ
More often than not, when schools implement technology, the procurement of the hardware and software is a small fraction of making this work; professional learning with milestones/outcomes must be introduced or the technology will just be for those who are passionate in the schools.
COBY CULBERTSON, DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOLS , IA
I think the worst mistake of all is not to ask at all and to presume that the answer will be “no.” Users need to be mindful that CIOs sometimes don’t know what they don’t know and welcome someone walking in the door [with] excitement in their eyes, wanting to try something new. Asking is usually the start of a valuable dialogue.
MARIANTHE WILLIAMS, RIVER DELL DISTRICT, NJ
A LOT OF TIMES TEACHERS AND OTHERS HAVE AN IDEA OF A GREAT PRODUCT THEY WANT TO BUY, BUT WHEN ASKED HOW THE PRODUCT IS GOING TO BE USED TO ENHANCE LEARNING, SOMETIMES THEY CANNOT EXPLAIN WHAT IT IS THAT THEY HOPE THE PURCHASE WILL DO. I SUPPOSE THIS IS JUST THE SHINY OBJECT SYNDROME THAT WE ALL TEND TO FALL FOR, BUT IT IS CRITICAL THAT WE PURCHASE WITH A PLAN FOR IMPLEMENTATION.
STEVE YOUNG, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER, JUDSON INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, TX
I WOULD SAY THE BIGGEST MISTAKE THAT IS MADE WOULD BE EDUCATORS NOT COLLABORATING WITH THEIR PEERS BEFORE PUTTING THEIR WISH LIST TOGETHER. COLLABORATING AS A TEAM AND TALKING THROUGH NEEDS AS OPPOSED TO WANTS USUALLY RESULTS IN AN OUTCOME THAT MAKES SENSE EDUCATIONALLY AND, THEREFORE, PROBABLY SOMETHING THAT, AS A TECH DEPARTMENT, I SHOULD BE SUPPORTING IN THE CLASSROOM.
JON CASTELHANO, DIRECTOR OF TECHNOLOGY, APACHE JUNCTION USD, AZ
IT’S IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS, INCLUDING BANDWIDTHS WHEN PRESENTING A WISH LIST. OFTEN TIMES THE WISH LIST IS FANTASTIC AND WILL HELP MOVE FORWARD THE INTEGRATION OF EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY, BUT THE IMPROVEMENTS TO INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDED TO SUPPORT THE REQUEST MAY BE A LONGER-TERM BUDGET ISSUE.
JENNIFER HARRITONWILSON, DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL, REMEDIAL, AND ASSESSMENT SERVICES & CIO, HALDANE CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, NY
THEY FOCUS ON THE HARDWARE OR SOFTWARE, NOT ON HOW TEACHING AND LEARNING WILL IMPROVE AS A RESULT OF THE PURCHASE.
MATHEW SWERDLOFF, DIRECTOR OF INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGY, HENDRICK HUDSON SCHOOL DISTRICT, NY