The authors compare education today to banking in the early 1980s, just before ATMs transformed the scene. Just as devices like the cash register have now become extinct, textbooks are giving way to internet-based educational tools. Within five years, the authors say, schools routinely will use the web for their curriculum, administrative, and staff development needs.

After an estimated $20 billion investment in technology infrastructure during the past few years, the authors predict that 2001 will begin to mark a profound shift from building infrastructure to providing solutions. Moreover, the trend will be for schools to pay annual fees for these solutions, which most often will be managed by outside companies instead of schools themselves.

Three factors are responsible for driving this shift, according to the authors: the push for educational accountability; the development of web-based applications, which are easier for schools to customize and manage than other media; and the shortage of high-quality tech support staff in schools.

Two types of applications in particular will become commonplace, they say:

  • “Accountability solutions,” or applications that enable educators to plan and align curriculum to state and local standards, as well as test students’ abilities using the same software.
  • Education portals, or huge sites that offer a complete range of school district solutions.

As schools rely on increasingly involved solutions, they’ll begin to outsource their technology functions, sticking to their core purpose of teaching. Furthermore, technology will cause school systems to rethink the current trend of site-based management, and schools will need to adopt a more central decision-making process when it comes to technology applications.

For this shift to work, school leaders will need to learn how to manage contracts in areas such as technology. In addition, training and staff development will need to account for 30 percent to 50 percent of a school district’s technology budget