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Articles: Technology

Computing technologies have profoundly transformed just about every major organization and field of human endeavor. To take just two examples, Apple is the largest distributor of music in the world, and manufacturing and surgery are the province of robots, not humans.

But K12 still relies on textbooks and pencil pouches. Why have computing technologies failed to transform K12? Here are our 10 barriers to technology adoption.

In 2007, a three-school district in New Hampshire started to see the first signs that its technology infrastructure was just too small for the equipment it had purchased. With 1,600 students and 300 staff members, the SAU 27-Litchfield (N.H.) School District was struggling to keep up with the increasing demands on its outdated network—from employee email, to online student testing, to multimedia applications.

11/2011 to 01/2012

Continuous training is vital to the success of any district information technology plan, because, unlike large corporations, districts don’t have specialized information technology personnel, says Dwayne Alton, director of information technology support at Lee County Public Schools in Florida.

There has been talk of a backlash with education technology. The New York Times published an article recently implying that technology in the classroom does not work, and then another on how some well-known Silicon Valley gurus prefer having their children learn by performing hands-on tasks rather than using high-tech tools in the classroom.

Lee County Public Schools in Fort Myers, Fla., performed a full migration of its data center, complete with new storage solutions, more than three years ago. With a $500,000 budget for the conversion—one-third of what surrounding districts had spent for similar initiatives—Lee County couldn’t afford bells and whistles.

Readers spoke out in the largest numbers yet for District Administration’s 2011 Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products awards. The DA editorial staff spent days sifting through hundreds of submissions and learning about new and innovative education products nominated by readers. Nominations were accepted via the DA Web site from March through Sept. 15, 2011. Each nomination required a testimonial from a school administrator to allow us to understand how the product specifically impacted a school or district. Some products received more than 70 unique nominations.

When Google+ was announced in late June, it began in a field trial to determine its place in social networking. While it's still unavailable to Google Apps for Education customers and the jury is still out on whether or not it will be right for K12 public schools, the project is designed to make sharing on the Web more like the real world—sharing different pieces of information with different people.

For the last decade, Carrollton-Farmers Branch (Texas) ISD Director of Technology Andy Berning has taken a pragmatic approach to 1:1 learning in his district of over 25,000 students by assessing the individual technology needs of the student population so as not to over-deliver and waste money. DA recently spoke with Andy to get his perspective on technology management in his district.

As districts rely less on isolated K12 data and more on digital delivery for academic and business needs, chief technology officers have a greater need for interoperability standards that allow them to assemble multiple, cloud-based tools and services into one, according to CoSN's Interoperability Standards for K-12 Education primer.

In the past five years as CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, I have witnessed tremendous growth in the use of online learning as a solution for today's students. In recent years, there is a new trend taking the best instructional models and technology tools from student-centered, online courses and bringing the designs and flexibility that online learning affords into our brick-and-mortar classrooms.

Over 150 school districts in Illinois have teamed up to share software and technology through IlliniCloud, a one-of-its-kind nonprofit cloud-computing consortium for schools. Jim Peterson, IlliniCloud's chief technology officer and Bloomington (Ill.) Public Schools' technology director, started IlliniCloud in 2009 with the help of technology company CDW. Three data centers, located in Belleville, Bloomington and DeKalb, house computer systems, backup power supplies and security devices.

Are you an "unlearner?" If not, you need to become one—fast. Of the many important messages articulated by Duke professor Cathy Davidson in her newest book Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, that may be the one that is most relevant for educational leaders at this moment.

After billions of dollars spent, the impact on student achievement of computer use in K12 has been essentially zero. The reason is: The same textbooks, the same curriculum and the same pedagogy continue to be used, but computers have been substituted for pencil and paper. Teachers have had their students use computers to search for information instead of having them go to their school library. Direct instruction is the technical term for this teacher-centric pedagogical style, but we refer to it as "I teach."

In tough economic times for school districts across the nation, might it help to cut costs further if districts required students to bring their own devices? For now the jury is out, but district leaders are trying to figure out how to support many different devices in their buildings as state and federal funds for education get even tighter than they were just a few years ago.

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