Ensuring Ease of Use of #edtech

The selection of technology can be a wicked problem for a community. The devices or software available are likely to have some features that are needed but are underdeveloped in the available tools, while other features that are less important will be highly developed. As a result, a poor technology selection can leave some important functions unmet, while introducing extraneous cognitive load for unimportant functions. By identifying which features are essential to both the strategic goals of the organization and logistic needs of the members, technology leaders reduce the potential for technology-associated noise. 

The perspective of the technology steward from within the organization is vital insight in decisions related to ease of use for selection decisions. An educational faculty that becomes a community of practice will comprise individuals who are reluctant to adopt technologies and individuals who are quick to adopt technologies. The relative size and influence of each of these sub-populations is considered when technology stewards advise selection decisions. In addition, the technology steward is often aware of the influences of other local or wide-scale initiatives or trends that influence that successful adoption of selected technology. 

Once the devices are selected, the technology steward plays an important role in assisting with the installation. In many cases, that assistance is quite involved as deep understanding of the manner in which the installation was done is needed for the technology steward to both provide support for users and to provide feedback and information when technicians are troubleshooting malfunctioning systems.

The installation process of large technology systems includes testing of both planned systems and testing of fully installed systems; the technology steward is actively involved in these tests. Just as teachers “complain” about technology systems as part of the planning cycle and technicians must modify systems to accommodate the complaints, the recommendations of technology stewards during testing phases of installation must be given top priority. Consider the installation of a new fleet of laptop computers to be shared by teachers working in a school. The installation plan will include software, including web browser extensions, printers, and other devices as well as the addition of bookmarks and similar tools and shortcuts for both teacher and student accounts. Early in the installation, a single machine will the configured according to the plan, and the technology steward will test this device in a manner that teachers and students are known to and expected to use it. Any misconfigurations or problems that are identified on that test device will be addressed and resolved. Once the test device functions as expected, then that configuration will be replicated on the remaining devices. When teachers and students first use the devices, the technology steward completes the second phase of testing, and identifies problems that did not appear during single-device tests. Problems identified by the technology steward during testing of the full systems are given top priority for resolution as well.