Big ideas for ed tech leaders: Don’t focus on the goal

As an education technology leader you need to have a vision, you need to have goals. But once you have established the vision and goals, it’s a good idea to forget about them. To understand why, consider what happens in teaching if you are solely focused on the goal, the end point. However brilliant a student’s piece of work you compare the standard achieved with the standard they ‘have’ to achieve – and I’ve placed the word ‘have’ in quotation marks because I often wonder exactly why they have to achieve that grade. Who says so?

Now, I know you will probably answer, quite sensibly, “the examination board”, “the district standards”, “the government” or whatever. And you would be right. But what if you changed the frame of reference in the first place? What if, instead of focusing on the end grade, to the extent that it determines what you teach and how you teach it, you devised an incredibly rich and interesting curriculum, with amazing activities and challenges? If the way student attainment is measured is any good, then it ought to enable the students to show that have attained to required standard anyway.

Now, back to ed tech leadership. Let’s say one of your goals is to raise the profile of education technology in the school. One of the yardsticks you have in mind is that you want more teachers to use it in their lessons. How likely are you to achieve that by bombarding them with emails, making constant announcements in the staffroom or continually saying to them things like “Ever thought of doing that using desktop publishing?”

A much better strategy would be to focus on making the technology so appealing to use that people will start to want to use it. The alternative is to not only annoy people, but to give yourself a constant sense of failure as you realise that, say, this week there was only a 5% increase in the number of users rather than the 10% you had hoped for.

Much better to think about your vision, set your goals, and then forget about them.

This article was inspired by To Reach a Target, You Must Ignore It, by Stacey Barr.

cross-posted at

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant with over 35 years of experience in education. He publishes the ICT in Education website and the newsletter “Digital Education."