DAILY INSIGHT: Six laws of tech adoption, Law #1

Defining the Law of Scarcity
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Defining the Law of Scarcity

By Gary Shattuck, CIO Advisor

In my last blog, I summarized what I considered to be the 6 Laws of Tech Adoption with the promise that I would elaborate on each law in subsequent blog postings. This is the first of those elaborations—the Law of Scarcity. The Law of Scarcity refers to a lack of technology resources in a building or classroom. Henry Becker in 2001 indicated that a teacher is much more likely to embed technology into their lessons if they have 5 to 8 computers in their classroom. Shattuck’s research ("Understanding School Leaders’ Role in Teachers’ Adoption of Technology Integrated Classroom Practices," Educational and Media Technology, 2010) reinforces this point. In other words, if the technology resources are not available, the teachers are not going to embed technology. This just seems like common sense, but we have often chastised teachers for not using technology, but do we ever examine the quantity and the quality of resources available before passing judgment on our teachers? Another Becker research study questions whether all computers are equal. He concluded that “roughly one-half of the installed base of school computers lack a modern operating system.” ("Running to catch a moving train: Schools and information technologies," Theory and Practice, 1998)

Likewise, a year ago at a small technology conference, I was making a presentation about the schools’ leaders’ role in teachers use of technology. In the Q &A session at the end of the presentation, I made the comment that bandwidth is a critical element to teachers using technology-embedded lessons. A tech director spoke up saying that he could not afford to increase his bandwidth. My response to him was that he “could not afford not to.” Everything, from instructional resources, to testing, to research, to administrative functions, to communication and collaboration, needs bandwidth. If we are going to provide our students with a 21st-century education to make them college- and career-ready we need to provide them with an adequate amount of bandwidth.

Last year, on a visit to a Minnesota school district, I discovered they had schools that relied on only 10 MB bandwidth. When I questioned some district officials about this, their response was they decided to spend their money on computers instead. They were missing the point. A computer is useless without an adequate amount of bandwidth to access their online resources. This is the Law of Scarcity. Without an adequate quantity and quality of technology resources—whether it be computers or bandwidth or other resources—technology will just be window dressing and not the essential component for a 21st-century education.

Gary Shattuck is the director of technology and media services at Newton County Schools in Covington, Georgia.