It was a few years ago when I said the next foreign language in K12 education was going to be programming languages. There is no question that Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin are languages to learn in the future, but the ability to speak the language of computers deserves the same attention. Recently, I attended the California STEM Symposium, where code.org CEO Hadi Partovi highlighted the $500 billion opportunity in jobs and that less than 2.4% of college students graduate with a degree in computer science (https://code.org/promote). Moreover, he also mentioned that only 1 out 10 schools offer some form of programming classes. It is clearly evident that K12 education is not aligned with the industry demands of coding professionals.
While the keynote left many of us asking more questions, it left me rejuvenated to keep pushing the need for coding in K12 education. One of the ways we can join together is through connecting the educational community around the topic to begin sharing, questioning, and promoting the coding movement. In my search in Twitterverse, I couldn’t find a hashtag that brought the K12 community around the topic of computer science and coding. I figured the first step was to start a hashtag called #codeK12 to begin the conversation. I look forward to connecting with the K12 coding pioneers there…And if there is another hashtag that already exists, that is awesome and I will gladly join that conversation stream.
Yesterday, there was an article published on Campus Technology’s website called Is Higher Education Ready for “The Education Bubble,” and it had me thinking about implications on education in general, in particular K12 education. Although many may think nonsense, considering that there is no money in K12 (more deficit), there are some new money being tossed around to fund new 21st century learning initiatives. With the rapid growth of software development and emerging technologies, there has been a dramatic shift in where education is focusing their dollars. Many new venture capitalists are pouring millions of dollars investing in new online software and technology hardware. “Edupreneuers” and philanthropists are funding programs and reform initiatives to tackle 21st century models of education. And government is creating federal programs (dollars) to support innovation in schools and districts. While this is exciting news for educators ready to build the next generation schools and infrastructures, we also have to be prudent to watch how this industry is progressing. Asking the right questions and being vigilant in which direction or agenda people may have will be important to avoid a potential education “bubble.”
Like many Americans, I have had the unfortunate experience of going through the dot.com stock market bubble and the more recent housing market bubble. To this day, many like myself are continuing to recover from those terrible financial periods. The marketing hype machine that was behind both bubbles fooled many of us into buying into the products (stocks and houses). Now to compare those two tragic bubbles to a potential education “bubble” is a bit of a stretch, but learning from those lessons will be key to not fall into the trap of all this new technology hype.
For example, there are a ton of new money being invested in software/hardware companies to produce the next generation curriculum, assessment tools, and other interactive learning gadgets. In the past year along, I have seen hundreds of products being marketed to the K12 industry touting solutions that will raise test scores, change the way students learn, and solve issues in education. While this is exciting for technologists like myself to see a wide variety of products catering to our needs, I also at the same time begin to ask the question, who will be around in the next 5-10 years? As we begin entering the world of digital curriculum, web 2.0, online content, and interactive technologies, there has to be a point where majority of these companies will not survive. It is such a new industry and at some point, the thousands of companies touting their products will hit a tipping point and many will be defunct, leaving schools with squandered investments. Be vigilant…
The District Administration website released an article today titled SPECIAL TECHNOLOGY REPORT: The Changing Role of the CTO with a subheading of “District technology leaders are taking on greater responsibilities and contributing to the strategic vision of school systems.” It is with great affirmation that others are spreading the word about the changing role of technology in schools from an administrative level. As I have always said, the role of technology is rapidly changing and that there needs to be a new term given to the department. Below are the several posts I have written in the past related to the article above. Lets keep spreading the word!
Below is the technology mission statement I developed for our charter schools. It has been a productive summer developing the new department to serve our seven schools for the 2010-2011 school year.
We deliver 21st century technology learning opportunities that foster academic excellence leading to global collaboration, digital citizenship, and a love for learning.
- All students and staff can learn and should have access to current and relevant technology and support resources.
- Provide technology learning resources and tools to empower staff and students to participate in global collaborative environments.
- Provide quality support and maintenance of technology services.
- Research current technology best practices and provide on-going professional development.
- Encourage and promote 21st century skills and digital citizenship.
- All students can achieve technology proficiency using computers on a regular scheduled basis.
- There will be a staff technology core level proficiency framework. It is expected that all staff fill out the EdTech Profile provided by the State of California. The technology department will facilitate professional development on core level competencies.
- All students and staff will adhere to high standards of digital citizenship.
- Only technology initiatives/implementations collaborated with the technology department will be supported and maintained.
- Only school issued technology equipment can be formerly supported by the technology department.
- K12 information technology is NOT enterprise IT.
- Successful technology departments are not troubleshooting day-to-day tech support tickets, but rather empowering users and providing structured professional development.
- The more technology proficient our K12 users are, the less tech support tickets are submitted.
- When I am focused more on educational technology, I know information technology is doing its job.
- Putting technology in the classroom without proper professional development = money squandered.
- Just paying for tech support = adding more cost down the road. Tech support must combine with professional development, technology vision and strategic technology planning for successful integration.
- EdTech specialists should evolve to learn and experience aspects of information technology.
- IT administrators should observe classrooms and understand the needs of our teachers.
- “Geeked-Out” teachers + “Education-Minded” IT admins = Happy Medium!
- Content filtering is a must when dealing with federal dollars…but that doesn’t mean IT shouldn’t listen to their teachers about what you block. Both sides should be knowledgeable about CIPA.
- Responsible management of equipment by our teachers will go a long way to preserving the technology while lending a hand to the IT department.
- When purchasing technology, don’t forget their is a total cost of ownership which adds maintenance, warranty, training, and support costs.
- 250:1 workstation to desktop support technician is what I have seen typically in K12. But I have heard cases of 600:1…yikes! In comparison, a typical corporate enterprise would have a 25-50:1 ratio.
- Flexible desktop virtualization & cloud computing will save costs down the road while providing teachers content for engaging educational technology.
- Technology departments should be one of the models for 21st century learning. We need to empower our users to be constant learners, collaborators, and innovators.
- Majority of tech support tickets are user errors. I have even been told up to 80% by other technology administrators.
- The more we open our technology infrastructure to our users, the more important digital citizenship becomes a key component.
- When offering technology professional development, remember The Boiling Frog Syndrome metaphor.
- It is possible for a teacher to run the technology infrastructure of a school. I know many teachers who take on this role.
- Provide technology tools and avenues to empower users to share information and collaborate.
- The skill of patience is a necessity when supporting diverse groups of users. Don’t make assumptions about technology use, there are diverse experiences and attitudes towards technology.
- Implementing changes in technology requires thorough planning and strategy when dealing with such a diverse user base.
- Even when you are confident that change in technology is better in the long the run, there tends to be a resistance to change that dampers the process. One needs to be build a thick skin when making school-wide technology changes. Keep pushing forward and try to win the few resistors over.
- Not all users will read your first email or update, differentiate how you disseminate technology changes to the staff.
- Tech support is a thankless job.
- When users are not hollering, is it safe to assume there are no tech support issues? “All Quiet in the Western Front” or should tech support be worried that it is too quiet.
- “I didn’t get the email” = “you didn’t read the email”
K12 Public Schools – Anyone working in the technology department of public K12 schools know the limitations of resources to service our school community. In fact, industry standards state that a IT support personnel to computer workstation ratio is generally 1:250. Unfortunately, I have seen far worse ratios up to 1:600. With the growing needs of technology in conjunction with budget decreases, how does a technology department continue to support the needs of our teachers, students, and staff.
CTE Vocational Programs – In a competitive industry such as IT technical support, experience is usually the key to landing a job in the industry. Many CTE programs teach theory and provide laboratory experiences with technical support. However, the programs are generally shorter than traditional degrees and they do not offer all the practical real world experience needed to land that key job. That is why many CTE programs offer externships for their students, where upon finishing their studies, CTE students are required to spend a certain amount of hours interning in the industry.
Creating a Win-Win Situation – As a teacher at heart, I decided to create a partnership with a local Computer Systems Technician program where I offer their students real-world experiences supporting a network infrastructure. As part of my partnership, I provide technology learning opportunities for interns to learn basics of troubleshooting and managing a network infrastructure. In return, the interns extend my quality of service by having more technicians on site for my staff and students.
The End Goal – Since developing this partnership, I have been dreaming of building an authentic technology learning center where CTE interns, teachers, and K12 students have opportunities to experience all aspects of technology. I have always believed technical professional development is the key to any K12 infrastructure. The more training and professional development, the less technical support will be eventually needed. The end goal is to empower our entire community with technical agility.
- Cloud computing has eliminated many in house IT needs and made IT operations web based.
- EdTech understands the teacher and classroom needs.
- EdTech has experience in both education and technology.
- District budget costs – merge the two departments.
- Traditional enterprise IT environment doesn’t fit open collaborative school environments.
- Security concerns are not as stringent as corporate sectors.
- Network requirements are not as comprehensive as corporate sectors.
- IT departments should model 21st century learning environments.
- Web 2.0 applications are simple, effective and affordable to use.
- Finding a computer operations technician to fix everyday hardware issues is cheap.
- No need to maintain own servers anymore.
- Many teachers can run their own technology environments with proper training.
It has dawned on me that schools require a new bread of Information Technology than the traditional enterprise network. From my experience working and selling to corporate IT, the closed hierarchy lend itself to politics of control, security and money. I have tremendous respect for IT departments who have to manage secure enterprise networks spanning across the globe. However, when I look at schools, especially K12 communities, the secure enterprise network model doesn’t seem to fit the nature of a school. Obviously, we need to protect student information systems that house confidential data about our populations, but overall I feel instructional institutions need to embrace an open & collaborative environment focused on integrating technology into the classrooms.
This is where I feel the traditional IT Director may not fit the bill for school technology infrastructures. Simply put: “Whoever is in charge of educational technology should be in charge of the direction of information technology at the school.” I still believe there needs to be IT ground workers who take care of day to day technology support, but the Director of IT should be an Education Technologist who has classroom experience to bring to the table. We are at a point in education where technology is a paradigm shifting tool in our classrooms, and we need experts in both education and technology to lead the way.
I would like to coin the new department as EdIT (Education Information Technology). The EdIT director has to envision a school infrastructure that fosters 21st century skills and invests in products & training that lends itself to empowering teachers to use technology in the classroom. Why keep the two departments separate? EdTech should be driving the decisions on infrastructure, such as moving to a Google Apps environment for communication and collaboration. Not only does moving towards a cloud environment lend itself for better collaboration between teachers, it will also save money and time from an IT perspective. When we moved to this environment at our site, we saved plenty of money and time working on tech support issues while also creating an environment that supported effective real time communication.
The EdIT director will spend more time working with teachers and administrators to create the ideal integrated technology classroom environment. This will lend itself to focusing on products such as Doc Cams, SMARTboards, and Netbooks for classroom integration. It will also focus on collaborative web environments focused on wikis, microblogging, and other social media apps. The cloud computing sector has evolved to a point where traditional IT processes & job duties are no longer needed, and less time is needed to support our users. Moreover, the web 2.0 environment has evolved to make it easier for non-tech savvy users to integrate technology with little tech support. The role of EdIT director would focus primarily on professional development training with focus on technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK).
As our schools are evolving and continually to embrace educational technologies into the classroom, it only makes sense that Educational Technology should merge with Information Technology. But it will only work if the EdTech people make the decisions in the direction of all technology being put into the school.