Strategy for Realizing the Potential of “Digital”

Report • February 2011 • By Ted Kolderie

Cover of Paper

‘Digital’ carries the potential to improve learning. But, potential alone won’t sell district management on bringing it into schools. New technologies are most likely to be adopted when decisions are made at the school… when schools are given autonomy.

“Digital” carries potential, but habits run deep

Those familiar with digital technology understand its potential, believe in it. Understandably they’re enthusiasts for it. It seems logical to believe the superintendent, the district central office, will also be enthused, once they understand what this new hardware or this new software can do.

Districts and schools are deeply vested in traditional ways, which are hard to change. So their tendency is to take up new technology essentially to automate existing processes.

Realizing digital will be disruptive, unsettling

Digital is disruptive. The personalization of learning that it makes possible is a radical break from the course-and-class model of school with its technology of teacher-instruction. Personalization would change school, change teaching and change learning.

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It is true that districts today are feeling an economic squeeze. But the easiest response for any organization is always to cheapen the existing model. It’s a lot harder to develop a new model. So it’ll be more difficult than many believe to realize digital electronics’ potential to improve learning.

Success will require a radically different strategy. What might that be?

Start where schools make decisions, then consider rearranging “the system”

Go where the schools are able to make the decisions. Beyond that: Arrange for the schools to be able to make the decisions. Technology gets taken up most rapidly in a user-driven system. So work to turn K-12 into a user-driven system; the schools, their teachers and their students are the ‘users’.

To many in the digital industry this will seem bizarre. They will argue they must take the system as it stands; so, must market to management.

E|E argues the harder way is the better way.