Boom or Bust EdTech

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Schools must stop boom or bust technology purchasing. Districts have to commit to sustainability planning with budgets and purchasing or technology initiatives will feel like a first-place team that wins the World Series one year followed by finishing in last place the next year. Sound familiar Boston fans?

Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington recently talked about boom and bust mentality, a fairly common economic terminology, in an interview with local sports reporter Sean McAdam. Cherington talked about how major league teams often have a habit of spending incredible amounts of money on free agents by buying everything in sight to go for winning season without a long-term plan for payroll sustainability in place. This can lead to a great season followed by a terrible season. Schools fall into the same trap far too often. Poor planning causes schools to face the same frustrating cycle over and over again.

Our Burlington team is almost always asked first about what devices to buy in conversations with school administrators and technology leaders.

Why did you go with iPads for your 1:1 program? Why not Chromebooks? 

Whether it’s polite or not – I’m really not sure – we usually answer by asking questions of our own about their infrastructure and sustainability plans.

How is your wifi? What are you going to do in two years when your devices are out of date? What is your network sustainability plan for three to five years from now?

These questions are almost always followed by blank faces and silence. This is a problem. We can’t have the lack of understanding and planning when it comes to a discussion about sustainability. Too much is at stake.

Burlington Superintendent Eric Conti has often expressed how districts should look at technology budgets and purchasing as being just another utility. You can certainly never tell anyone that we could not have indoor plumbing or heat during the winter months – just like we can’t say that our iPads aren’t working today or you can’t use the internet this week.

Schools must spend more time planning on device refresh cycles and infrastructure upgrades. They must also seek the sustainable funding for the human support of technology initiatives. Sustainability is not just for network and devices. We must plan for the costs associated with hiring and retaining talented educators, technology integrators, administrators, and IT professionals.

School technology programs succeed or fail for many different reasons but often the reason that is most overlooked is the long term planning for infrastructure growth and purchasing of new devices. For schools to succeed with the integration of technology they must stop creating the boom associated with buying lots of new stuff followed by the bust of later running a network that can’t handle applications and owning devices that no longer work. The inspiration and excitement created by new technology resources can quickly become frustration due to lack of long term planning. Boom or bust technology budgeting is a truly sustainable way to cause a technology program to fail.

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