One of the benefits of not being at the cutting edge of computer technology is that one can learn from the mistakes made by early adopters. In a survey of its readers, Technology & Learning found that educators, school technology specialists, and administrators ranked their technology mistakes, from least to most common, as purchasing the wrong or inferior equipment, lacking an integrated technology plan, insufficient tech support, and insufficient staff training.

Here’s a quick look at how easy it is to fall into these traps:

1. Wrong or inferior equipment. Problems here often arise from seeking a bargain on equipment without being aware of the implications of fast-moving technology. Buying last year’s computers or accepting them as gifts can result in unreliable equipment or computers that can’t use current software or search the internet quickly.

2. Lack of a plan. By and large, this problem doesn’t occur today—at least, not at the district level. However, it can still play havoc when details of a technology plan are not well thought out or followed. Lack of a plan may lead to the wrong equipment problem, such as when schools switch from Apple to PC systems, or vice versa, while chasing a bargain. Sometimes, it comes about when teachers are not consulted on key decisions, such as where to place phone outlets in classrooms.

3. Lack of quality support staff. This is a tough problem to fix, given the competition for IT staff among other schools, as well as business and government. In addition to the obvious dilemma of not having enough qualified tech-support staff, several district tech administrators said they fell into the trap of either hiring people who weren’t qualified, or hiring IT people who didn’t understand the needs of a school. For example, the advanced features of a word processing program that is appropriate for a business environment might be too complex for children.

4. Lack of, or ineffective, staff training. The top issue of today, said survey respondents, and one that requires careful attention to educators’ needs instead of a top-down approach to tech purchases.