Reading through Scott McLeod’s Dangerously Irrelevant recently, I stumbled onto this article detailing a school board meeting in Waukee, Iowa, where members authorized a university study of the district’s use of technology.

In and of itself, that’s not all that surprising, right?

It is the 21st Century, after all!

What caught my attention was the description of the board members own work with technology:

The meeting was the first time board members had used district-owned laptop computers. The laptops have sat unused at the board table for months, drawing the occasional quip from members that they might soon be outdated.

“I just wonder if the report we request is going to come back and say the laptops we got are obsolete,” vice president Larry Lyon said as he and other board members struggled to get the hang of the new laptops and Web-based agenda system…

As they conducted the meeting, members kept their eyes glued to their laptop screens, often expressing their frustrations at the unfamiliar technology.  “For those of you out there, this is their first attempt at this,” Wilkerson explained. “And there has been no training.”

In the midst of debating the technology study, Ripperger shot a confused look at his fellow board members. “I’m sorry,” he said. “My computer has beeped at me and I don’t know what I just did.”

To read about these kinds of digital struggles from educational decision-makers just plain worries me.  These district leaders didn’t seem to value—or to know how to take advantage of—technology as a tool to facilitate their own work. Not only had their laptops sat unused—there wasn’t a sense of urgency to figure out how they could be used.

I know that I’m picking on the Wakuee school board members here—and that’s unfair.

After all, ANYONE who volunteers to work on a school board deserves an instant ticket to Sainthood.  There couldn’t possibly be a more demanding volunteer position in any community.  School board representatives have to juggle diverse interests and make controversial decisions about the topic that most passionate to any voter:


And my guess is that struggles with technology are common in school board meetings across the continent!  After all, few adults really know how to use technology to make their own learning more efficient.

But if those who are in the position to make decisions about how dollars are spent or how instruction should change struggle to understand the range of ways that digital tools can be used to facilitate the work of groups or the learning of individuals, how can we expect to see opportunities for creation, communication, and collaboration facilitated by digital tools integrated into the fabric of instruction in a district?

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