From EdTech to Learning: How to Make Effective IT Decisions for Educators

Education technologists walk a very fine line between being traditional IT Administrators and Academic Enablers, in any school-based setting. EdTech-ers, as I will call them henceforth, are charged with balancing the needs of their learning environments from an IT organization perspective, and creating spaces where technology can be utilized as a learning tool. Beyond deploying computers, ensuring that there is a network that is robust and stable, supporting users, and even integrating things like SMART boards into classrooms- we have to navigate our way out of Technology and into Education in order to make all of these initiatives effective.

As excited as us EdTech-ers may be to bring the latest technology to faculty, staff and students- these stakeholders are often equally as frustrated with us for introducing new and often foreign instruments and processes into their world. The key then becomes looking at the way we work and the way “they” teach and learn. We cannot make informed technology decisions- no matter how fabulous the product- without understanding how faculty and staff use technology; and further, how students learn. In addition, as we begin to explore these areas, we have to also realize that there is no one way to do things. Of course there are best practices- and as technologists we often get caught up in these, as well as ITIL, etc. However most of what will be most valuable to us will be derived from asking the following question:

“What do you need?”

This applies to each of the key players in our EdTech world: do you need a way to integrate more multimedia into your classes? Do you know how to do this? Do you utilize your tablet when you prepare your lessons, or do you use a laptop? What is the percentage of students who own personal computers? Are there more students that own smartphones than laptops? Will it help you (faculty) to be able to have multiple users interact with materials at one time?

The answers to questions like the ones above will save you a lot of time and energy. It will allow us EdTech-ers key insight into our users and turn everyone into learners. Further, it will facilitate an environment where we become Learning Enablers. Faculty and staff will be more embracing when we introduce our new, fancy techy tools, and be better prepared to use them in a way that is meaningful to our students. This in turn, creates better outcomes for our students because we will address their needs in new, more effective ways.

I know its hard to resist that new touchpad All-In-One, or the shiny new tablet that, in oureyes would be absolutely PERFECT for our faculty/students. Yes, we need to keep up with the trends and make recommendations and proposals for integrating the latest and greatest tools at our learning institutions. But first we must ask what our stakeholders need- then, and most importantly- we must listen.