I’m attending FETC in Orlando and had the pleasure of sitting down with some great people to discuss some of the important challenges and opportunities our schools are facing in the near future.  One of these great people was Ken Royal, Senior Editor of Scholastic Administrator. He publishes a terrific blog - The Royal Treatment (wish I had a cool name to use for a blog!).

We got around to the subject of school modernization and both recognized the need to think holistically about the goal and to avoid falling into the trap of starting with the technology.  It’s my strong belief that schools need to start by looking inward, asking questions and addressing aspirations…as they approach change with process, common language and sustainable investment.  The technology first trap is driven by a need to drive quick and visible progress…but like any worthwhile pursuit, the easiest path is not always the most fruitful.

I described the pursuit using a shopping analogy from a recent experience. 

A few weeks ago I was preparing a meal for a dinner party.  Like any good host, I started by heading to my nearest grocer. I had lots of choices for sure and selected a variety of fine ingredients and proteins…choosing what looked good and seemed fresh.  Feeling content with my journey I headed home and laid out my bounty.  Soon after…I struggled with what to make, how to tie the menu together, how to create a menu that reflected the dietary needs and desired tastes of my guests.  Moreover, many of the recipes I cobbled together called for ingredients I didn’t anticipate, prompting a few return visits to the store.  This created stress and wasted valuable time and money.  I ended up putting together an edible meal that nourished my guests…but didn’t hit the homerun I had hoped for and probably prompted a few stops for takeout on the road home. 

I was reflecting with Ken that our past pursuits with technology in education resemble this type of experience.  Our schools have collected a lot of great ingredients (technology) to put in the hands of great chefs (teachers), who then work/struggle to optimize, train, connect and deliver powerful nourishment to their guests (students).  

As we head towards the future and as I plan my next dinner party…starting with the recipe is the needed approach.  Thinking about the theme of the meal, how many people I’ll be cooking for, what they like/dislike, and what meal is a good match for my skills, will allow me to assemble the right recipe…which will not only guide my preparation, but really refine the efficiency and effectiveness of my shopping experience and the overall impact of the meal served.

Our teachers are great cooks and certainly our students have a voracious appetite for learning.  We need to optimize their mutual success by spending time planning and asking the right critical questions…even the best ingredients (technology) can go bad if not properly prepared.