edtech for IT: On Collaboration

Humans have a long history with technology. It is reasonable to conclude that humans and their technologies cannot be separated. Without our tools, our species would not have become the Earth-altering species we have become. 

When reviewing the history of our technology, we see that information technologies are a relatively recent invention, but for several thousand years, we have been downloading some of our cognition to tools. We store information in books. We develop strategies for writing down numbers and manipulating them in certain ways to calculate.  

In recent decades, when we refer to information technology, we mean the digital electronic devices and the networks and systems to which they connect. The nature of these devices has changed during that time as well. Whereas school and technology leaders were once concerned with installing desktop computers with appropriate software installed on them, then they were concerned with installing high-speed internet connections in each instructions space; today, we find them securing access to cloud-based computing systems and connecting to them with a variety of devices. 

Coincident with the changing nature of IT in schools, has been an increasing need for a range of IT professionals to ensure the devices are well-chosen, functional, and used for appropriate teaching. It is unusual to find educators who have sufficient technical expertise to manage the enterprise networks that necessary for school operations and effective teaching and learning. It is also unusual to find IT professionals with sufficient understanding of learning to make effective judgements about how technology should be used in classrooms.  

In a situation in which the expertise necessary to make effective decision cannot reasonably be found in a single individual, it is necessary that decisions be made collaboratively. When making technology decisions in schools, the expertise of educators to decide what is appropriate, the expertise of IT professional to decide what is proper, and the expertise to school leaders to decide what is reasonable is necessary, but none is sufficient. (For a more complete description of appropriate design, proper configuration, and reasonable implementation, see this.) 

If the collaborative decisions are going to be sound, and result in IT being used to make school operations efficient and teaching and learning effective, it is necessary that all participants in the decision-making share a common understanding of what they mean when they use certain language. While the details of how one configures a network and accesses cloud computing services should be left to the IT professionals, both the teachers and school leaders who are collaborating with the IT professionals should have a conceptual understanding of what they are doing and how the problem must be solved. Similarly, it is essential that the IT professionals understand the variety of activity that constitutes teaching and learning and that the best-laid plans are often not what happens when students, teachers, technology, and curriculum come together.