When considering technology investments, it's easy to get caught up in all that data. If three words have dominated organizations' IT environments in recent years, they would be: efficiency, efficiency and efficiency. When we think of the things that IT has the potential to improve, it's tempting to jump to things like automation and lower total cost of ownership (our business just saved a ton of money by revamping the data center!), but technology can change the very fabric of the organization. The education sector has provided a good example of this, with iPhones, iPads and eBooks making strides in classroom learning, schools still have some room for improvement.
How can schools learn to use technology better?
The problem may revolve around how we think about technology in schools. Traditionally, the focus is on control and creating firm policies to limit risk. Caution is good, but paranoia kills IT-enabled innovation. No IT employee likes to feel like he or she is handing over the keys to the kingdom, but teachers must be a part of the IT decision making process. Here are five ways schools and teachers can get more value out of their technology:
1. Use technology to empower teachers
This may seem obvious, but it's tempting to reject certain tools just because they weren't designed for teaching. However, many of these technologies can be a cost effective way of engaging students. Facebook and Twitter are good examples, and social media is achieving some notable successes in the classroom. Education IT professionals should find out what teachers are using and keep them aware of best practices, whether that is how to stay away from Twitter scams or developing a mobile application for learning.
2. Make IT a part of the lesson plan
It's easy to get a new tool and then leave it packed away somewhere, but that's not a good approach to adopting new technology. Teachers can make technology a more active part of the classroom by writing it straight into the lesson plan. In addition to the growing number of free resources like Khan Academy, Ted Talks and Crash Course! on YouTube, it might be beneficial to share ideas with the IT department and see what technological options would be available.
3. Consider open source
Open source may be most associated with software development, but the idea has taken off in the technology world and has since been applied to everything from Facebook's data center design to the United States Postal Service. The point is that open source technology is a powerful tool and its momentum has made it just as secure and reliable as traditional software.
4. Use online portfolios for evaluation
Remember having to hunt through cluttered backpacks and lockers to find that one paper? The days of binders and notebooks for that end-of-year portfolio project may be coming to a close – you can now host all those documents online and evaluate students directly. Not only is this easier on students who can see their grades with a quick search, it's more eco-friendly since it wastes less paper.
5. Don't forget standards
Too many rules get in the way of innovation, but it's still important to have some standards. Otherwise, how do you measure academic progress fairly? When considering new technology, outline which academic standards it could meet, just like teachers do when they write lesson plans. This may require discussions between educators and the IT department, but what better water cooler conversation topics than academic standards and classroom management software?
What technology do you see making the greatest impact on the classroom? How can we get more schools on board with it? Let us know in the comments!