It’s never been about the technology. When I first began working with independent schools as NBOA’s leader, every school I visited was touting how many smartboards it had installed in its classrooms. I even recall a friend of mine, whose daughter attended a public school in independent school-heavy Washington, D.C., leading a fundraiser so that school could purchase a smartboard. It was clear to me then that the technology arms race was in full swing, and a smartboard in every classroom was a proxy for the cutting edge of education technology.
The problem? Because most faculty weren’t trained on how to integrate smartboards into lesson plans, they served mainly as modern chalkboards, destining their lasting impact to the same fate as the Walkman. This illustrates the fundamental fact, laid bare in this issue of Net Assets, that when it comes to independent school education, it will never be about the technology in the classroom. It will be about what it has always been about: the people, the classroom faculty and their connection with students.
Over the years there has been frustration on all three sides of the ed tech debate. In one corner is the school’s technology champion touting how the latest and greatest tool will transform the learning experience. In another corner is the business officer who tries to identify the resources, in an already strained budget, for the investment that could ensure the school’s currency in 21st-century learning. And in the third corner is the teacher, who despite decades of classroom success is pressured to “use the technology” with little support or time to do so successfully.
This paradigm emerged out of good intentions, but it is not sustainable. How do we break the fever?
Q: Smartboards going the way of the Walkman – isn’t that just the nature of how products evolve?
A: Indeed. But what strikes me in particular is the speed at which technology changes before we ever realize its full potential. It feels as though we only just begin to work with a certain technology and then it’s replaced. This brings into sharp focus the financial investments independent schools make in these endeavors.
Q: What is your wish for technology’s impact on education?
A: When I was working in higher education, I came to know Educause, whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology. Their definition of ed tech’s impact really resonated with me. “By facilitating deeper student engagement in learning, emerging technologies can support current trends in learning design, including improving the way we assess how students learn and what they are learning. Simultaneously, these technologies have the capacity to draw students into wholly new and richly vivid learning experiences.”
Q: What excites (or concerns) you about your daughter’s use of ed tech in this school year?
A: Mainly, just keeping up with her. I think many parents today are challenged by raising a “digital native.”
Once again, the answer is the people — in this case, you and other leaders at your school. Let’s take a collective breath and work with our colleagues to identify technology tools that will integrate and enhance the learning experience in our classrooms, that are aligned with our programs and mission, that are within our school’s financial resources, and that we can support with professional development that empowers faculty members to personalize and enhance the student experience.
As you will read in the following pages, NBOA consulted with our friends at the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools (ATLIS) to help explore these issues. Your school can also engage in this kind of partnering to move forward, invest wisely and support faculty along the learning journey ahead, which advancements in technology will surely continue to propel exponentially. It’s about our mission, our students and, yes, our people.
Ed Tech’s Classroom Payoff
The Right Stuff: Attracting and Retaining Tech Talent
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