By Mark Winegar on Wed, 10/24/2012
"We have an obligation and a responsibility to be investing in our students and our schools. We must make sure that people who have to grades, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible." - President Barrack Obama
Are you considering an investment in educational technology? Big or small, you need a way to evaluate your options. I've seen a lot of winners and losers in my time and you might just profit from an old-timers advice. So, listen up!
The first question you ought to ask yourself is "Does this technology serve a purpose?".
There is nothing worse than investing in some gadget that serves no purpose. It just sits there reminding everyone of a foolish decision. Don't let that happen to you like the President of a large community college did when she equipped a theater-sized classroom with an instant response system no one ever used. Twitter and Facebook on smartphones would be better alternatives these days but I like a simple show of hands.
So how do you know when technology serves a purpose? You know when you set out to solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity at hand. For instance, a business school may experiencing a long-term decline in enrollment and high absenteeism caused by external factors may want to look into offering more blended learning opportunities. Or, a high school with a large expenditure on paper may want to consider alternatives to printing such using softcopy (electronic) handouts and exams. These are problems to be solved.
Once you identify your problem or opportunity you need to set a realistic objective. Our fictional business school may set their sights on increasing enrollment by 5% a year after implementing a new blended MBA program. The mythical high school my set a goal of reducing their printing expenditures by 25% within the next year. The true value of an objective is in its power to focus our attention on the problem at hand. It's a benchmark we can compare actual performance with.
My boss used to say, "That which gets measured, gets done." and it's true. Measure often so you can fine tune your progress and take corrective measures when necessary. Most importantly, it gives you opportunities to celebrate progress. Celebration can be a powerful motivator.
Always avoid the temptation to invest in solutions in search of a problem. That path leads to waste and embarrassment.
That said, I'll close for now but we have much more to discuss on this topic. We will continue next time by discussing user-friendliness.