On Technology-Rich Schools

Schools have always been information technology-rich places. That makes sense as one of the fundamental purposes of school is to prepare students to use the technology common in the systems they will enter when they leave. When print was the dominant information technology, we used books and other paper-based media in schools and prepared students for that society. Now that computers, tablets, cell phones and web-based information and media dominate in the many aspects of life, it makes sense that those are incorporated into schools. Of course, books and other print are still very common, but responsible educators can no longer marginalize digital devices and information in their lessons. 

“The technology-rich” school is a more complicated place than it may seem, however. First, information technology (even books and writing which have been around for centuries) are recent human inventions. Our brains are evolved for social interaction and environmental observation and the learning necessary for those environments is not the same learning that happens when interacting in schools. Information technology is designed to share… well… information. Today that information is likely to be images, audio, and video when it was almost always text for the first few decades of educational computing. Learning, however, is not always about information. The result is schools have been discovering the role of digital computing devices and digital information in schools and the teaching and learning that occurs there.  

Second, educators, those who have the temperament and training to support learners generally do not have expertise in technology. Even the technology-savvy teachers who are active on social media, skilled users of information systems and productivity tools, and integrate appropriate technology-based lessons into their teaching are unlikely to have the expertise necessary to configure and manage the enterprise networks they use in school. A corollary o this observation is that the IT professionals who manage those systems are unlikely to have the expertise to make decisions about how to use technology in lessons.