DAILY INSIGHT: Dump-truck model

By Jon Castelhano, CIO Advisor

Back Up
Models haven't changed much over the years when it comes to implementing technology in our schools. I have not been perfect by any means, but have learned a few things along the way that I use as guiding questions before making implementation decisions. However, circumstances often seem to get in the way and decisions are made that produce large, blanket purchases of technology that is hastily thrown into classrooms. We have seen this happen many times and on such a large scale that it gathers negative press when things don't go oh-so-perfect. My concern with the dump-truck model is the negative impact it could have on the smaller rollouts that generally take more effort to set in motion.

Don't get me wrong, there are any number of large rollouts around the world that have been well planned and executed and remain a model for others to follow. It is those scenarios that we need to celebrate and hold up as examples to promote the importance of providing our students the relevant environment they deserve. The recent publicity that LAUSD has received with its billion-dollar iPad initiative is one that is too big to fail. Without being involved in such a gigantic project, I can only reserve judgment on why they have had issues, but it has drawn attention and gives the naysayers fuel that is unfairly used in other situations. LAUSD will work out its issues and find success—it has to—and it will benefit other educational technology projects in many ways. Many of us do not have the resources that larger districts possess, and having a successful model with resources to share is important for success outside of LAUSD.

Take Steps
I did a quick search for "steps for implementing technology" and had a wide range of returns, which included a variety of business world ideas also. One article that held my attention was titled "Eight steps for implementing a technological overhaul," written by Ken Tysiac and highlighting the work of author and consultant Geoffrey Moore. Although the focus was business, many of his eight points easily cross over to the K-12 environment and I have highlighted a few below that I feel are very relevant to implementing a successful technology implementation.

  • Determine which tools would have the biggest impact on effectiveness in those key moments with clients.
  • Calibrate ambitions with their organization’s technology adoption tendencies, such as whether employees tend to be innovators, pragmatists, or conservatives.
  • Recruit to the effort first those employees who tend to embrace new ideas.
  • Engage with outside help to design and prototype the first new tools for communications and interactions.
  • Focus on user experience as the critical acceptance criterion.
  • Get feedback from early adopters to create the case for applying the system to more pragmatic, less enthusiastic adopters.
  • Align the technology to solve a particular issue that causes the pragmatists pain, and do whatever it takes to solve that issue.
  • Once pragmatists are convinced, deploy a global rollout.

Moore's ideas were addressing a specific need for client-employee relationships and did not include the initial employee input on the best tools to address the need, which is something we rely on in the K-12 space, or should. But the idea of recruiting the high flyers that are always willing to embrace new ideas and listening to their feedback is critical.It is difficult not to take advantage of grants, overrides, large funding sources of any kind when they present themselves. My hope is that the dump-truck model is put in perspective and the audience, early adopters, and their feedback is kept in mind before that familiar sound is heard...beep...beep...beep.

Jon Castelhano is director of technology for Apache Junction USD in Arizona. This blog is cross posted on his blog, This and That.