Pernille Ripp, an avid blogger, asked a question that many educators have been thinking about in relation to SmartBoards. She was asking for feedback on the technology and was asking for evidence that they were a valuable way to spend money with increasingly tight budgets in schools. The comments were intriguing and shared comments both for and against their implementation.
Obviously from her writing, you could see that this was a division initiative and that perhaps the conversation was not had in the first place with some teachers. This is not to say that the ideas from the leaders were not well intentioned as I am 100% sure they were. If anything is ever implemented on a division basis, there is obviously a belief that whatever it may be will be beneficial to students and no child should be missing out. The intention is not what I am questioning, but the process is (although again I am not certain of how it was rolled out.)
We are seeing more schools going to 1-1 environments, massive implementation of SmartBoards, iPads, etc., yet what is the vision behind this? Derek Hatch on Connected Principals wrote about this same idea and stated, “We need to spend some time examining what is important and what role technology will play.”
Shouldn’t the first question we ask be something similar to, “what opportunities and environment are we trying to create for our students?”, and then move from that point? We need to ask more what the purpose of school is and move from there.
I am reminded of this Prensky quote about the failure of some “tech” initiatives in schools:
“Just adding technology, however, will not make this (success) happen. In fact, in some cases, laptops have already been added and removed for having “failed.” But the failure in those cases was neither of the students nor of the technology, but rather of the pedagogy.” Prensky, Teaching Digital Natives
For example, if we are wanting students to be able to collaborate more with one another, is the SmartBoard the best way to facilitate that objective? If we are trying to have the students create more, is this the tool that will open that door? As my own school division moves forward, these are some of the questions we will need to answer.
And let’s make sure that the questions we ask impact our students first as that is who we serve.
I wish that every decision I have made as a leader has focused on these ideas first, but I would be lying if I said that was true. I remember pushing my own principal to purchase a few class sets of Senteo Clickers for our school and I still could not justify that purchase five years later.
As I have gained experience though, I am realizing that we have to start with questions first, instead of answers. Find the “why” of what you are doing, make sure that you can clearly articulate this to whoever is asking, and then start putting the pieces in place. Doing the reverse of that process is not best for our kids, could waste a lot of money, while also losing the confidence of those you serve.
Doesn’t sound like a good way of doing the business of school.