Colin's Sandbox

#aktechplan Vision

by on Nov.15, 2013, under Technology Planning

I confess – I have been remiss in doing my due diligence when it comes to this week’s post.  I think that’s because the scope of the essential question “What is your vision for technology in schools?” is just so, well, broad!  I had a hard time taking out my critical tech-planning ginsu knife, slicing and dicing through various net resources like a chainsaw through ice, in order to reveal the “ONE TRUE TECH VISION”.  I should add “according to Colin” because I’m sure the answer is going to be different depending on the circumstance.

So here I am doing an onsite as part of my work, doing what amounts to a recon job to get a better feel for what’s going wrong with a certain [unnamed] district’s Internet experience at various sites.  It turns out that the key skill here is to listen more than actually do.  I’m used to probing around networks, trying to put various gauges on things, troubleshooting problem areas, but in this instance the boundaries of the problem are murky, the data, anecdotal and fuzzy.  Different teachers have different ideas about what they would like to do here and some of them feel thwarted by a poor Internet experience.  I don’t want to paint a picture of doom and gloom – I see some really *good stuff* here and there seems to be quality processes in place, etc., but some of the network foundation just seems rocky.  Doing networking in Alaska is not easy – even marginal bandwidth is expensive, oftentimes high-latency, and prone to frequent outages. Instead of doing the really cool tech stuff ™, support staff are forced into the unenviable role of the firefighter brigade at best, and bandwidth cop at worst.  I’ve been there – not fun.

This got my mind turned to good ol’ Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, often depicted as a triangle with the basic needs such as food, water, and breathing at the bottom.  Moving up we find the need to feel secure in various ways, and as we climb further up we encounter more abstract (and yes, fun) concepts such as friendship, self esteem, morality, and yes, even creativity.  Ask any carpenter or builder and they could go into a long impromptu soliloquy on the importance of a good foundation before you can worry about all that other stuff, like doors, walls, windows, and a roof.   If you haven’t guessed it by now, I think technology integration in a school should keep a similar principle at heart.  Without a stable, reliable foundation folks are just going to get frustrated with technology and choose not to use it at all.  Morale starts sinking.  Because I got an “A” in my High School psychology class that one time, I feel qualified to throw another term out at you: Learned Helplessness.

So my vision for a practical tech plan in AK: a stable, well defined technology environment that allows for ample space to grow and evolve.  That may sound a little short-sighted and perhaps limited, but I’m not sure that it is.  Is it truly possible or desirable for a tech plan to be this truly all-encompassing vision of how it is all to play out, or is what we’re shooting for more of a stable foundation where ideas can organically take root, flourish, adapt, evolve, and if they aren’t beneficial to the garden, be culled?


5 Comments for this entry

  • colin osterhout

    The fire brigade mentality comes about whenever there’s just too many high priority alarms going off that you can’t carve out X amount of time per day to turn your attention far enough into the future to do planning, integration, evaluation, etc. In my case, after the fires sort of die down you’re left with what might be called the crash after the adrenaline rush, and it’s hard to focus again. My friend called it “Hospital Mode”, where the situation in normal whenever there’s an alarm going off.

  • Tiffany Pickrell

    OH MY GOODNESS!!! “Learned Helplessness” is such a rampant trouble! I think, at times, teachers can even pass this onto their students. The thought, “I don’t feel comfortable with what I’m doing, so I’m just not going to do it,” doesn’t have to be said, just modeled, before it will catch on. It certainly is something to be conscious of. And what would you do with yourself, Colin, if everyone was efficient enough with their tech use that you were no longer the fire brigade?

  • colin osterhout

    I like your point about the right vs. privilege. For any school nowadays I think its absolutely necessary to have a solid connection, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it’s a utility on the same level as water, electricity and sewage.

  • Chris C.

    I wish I thought of that. I made no mention of the network in my tech plan and it would all go up in smoke without a “chuck norris” powered network. I still believe that connectivity is coming around to be a right more than a privilege but Alaska is going to be a difficult game board to complete for the internet. I wonder if there is a way to use the HAARP* project in Gakona to transmit to the whole State one day.

    *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Frequency_Active_Auroral_Research_Program

  • Thomas

    I like it! Keeping it simple and important. I think people like to get into the specific technologies, apps, hardware, and the like, but we really need to just get the basic foundation in place before tossing in everyones dream of iPads, Kindle Fires, and laptops in the mix. Not to mention wireless interactive projectors, SMART boards, and everything in between.

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