Schools and districts usually simply accept the fact that they are bound by antiquated rules, policies, and purchasing requirements that keep children stuck in the past. However, to prepare modern learners, districts must update outdated policies and purchasing practices by thinking short term.
This was one of the key takeaways from a group of innovative district leaders who came together from around the country to explore important issues at the Tech & Learning Leadership Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. Here are some ideas for how to begin.
Planning & Purchasing: Replace Long Term with Short Term
The five-year tech plan or five-year warranty requirement are no longer relevant today. The speed of change should be causing learning institutions to rethink how frequently we are assessing and updating our resources. Schools and districts must move from places with decades old furniture and equipment to ones that are agile and adapt. For example, consider moves from purchasing to leasing. Reduce cost with one-year rather than five year warranties.
Update Outdated Policies and Guidelines
This is true whether discussing furniture, equipment, software, or policies and guidelines.
For example, today, the research shows that social spaces, music, and video all have educational value, yet such resources are often still blocked in schools using filtering software they have not updated in a decade. Update the guidelines to embrace the use of these tools and change filtering policies. Bring students into these conversations.
Short-Term Subscriptions Can Keep Technology Applications Current
Some schools and districts purchase multi-year software application licenses even when products are not keeping pace with technology and should be dropped until they do. Case in point is Minecraft which has a complicated subscription structure which is not school friendly and still does not work on Chromebooks, the most popular devices in schools today. Another example is iReady which has not kept pace with the times. Because it uses flash, it is rendered useless at many schools whose more modern devices run HTML5 not flash. Short-term contracts help put pressure on companies to stay current and are only renewed when licensing, subscriptions, and functionality keep up with the times.
From Long-Lasting to Ikea-izing Classroom Furniture
The same is true for furniture and other elements of the learning environment. Flexible design with low cost items results in being less locked into an investment. Bean bag chairs. Bouncy balls. Pillows. Rugs. High top tables for conversation and working while standing up. Mobile, convertible furniture that meets the needs of the learning. One school is using $30 pop up tents as green screens for students. There are easy ways to create flexible learning environments without breaking the bank.
When it comes to technology policies, plans, and purchasing where you work, how are you addressing these issues? Are you able to plan for iteration and refresh of equipment rather than being bound by costly investments and stuck with outdated equipment, furniture, and software?
Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.
Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.