When designing systems to move useful bits to people in most business settings, IT professionals can make certain assumptions about the abilities of the people who will be interacting with the systems. It is also probable that those people will have clear and well-bounded needs; workers in specific offices need the software and data to fulfill their role, but they do not need any other software or data. This makes the work of configuring IT and data a predictable task. The IT professionals, workers, and leaders concur on the technology and data needs, and it is possible to test those needs are met before the systems are deployed for use.
In schools, there is a far greater range of users of IT than in most business settings. Students have emerging skills; some of the youngest IT users may be unable to read the labels on graphic user interfaces. Teachers also design a wide range of lessons that use technology. Teachers in most classrooms plan two types of activities for students. One is the well-known and standards-based curriculum which includes skills and lessons that are predictable in the same manner that business users have predictable needs. For example, teachers and their students may need specific systems to review and practice the mathematics curriculum. The other is less predictable. Teachers plan research or other activities in which the data they need and the software they need for students to demonstrate their learning cannot be known until they begin the studies.
For those involved with IT decision-making, the unpredictable nature of teaching and the flexibility that teachers need may introduce conflict. Educators need to request changes as they discover what they need; in some cases, these requests arrive at the most inopportune time. They alone, however, can determine what they and their students need. For IT professionals, the lack of testing and the changing requests are unfamiliar. School leaders are responsible for understanding these conflicts and deciding who “wins.” Sometimes teachers must be patient, and sometimes IT professionals may need to make changes they had not planned.