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Many education IT leaders want more time to learn and implement the technologies they were already using or trying to use.

The surprising/unsurprising things education IT leaders have to say 

Many education IT leaders want more time to learn and implement the technologies they were already using or trying to use

Key points:

Sometimes, when you ask a question, you get an answer that’s surprising and completely expected at the same time.   

That’s what happened when we surveyed education technology leaders, and not the people you may think of when you hear that description. Not entrepreneurs, investors, and pundits. They get plenty of ink already. Instead, late last year and into the first portion of 2024, we surveyed information technology leaders in schools–the people in the IT departments who work to make technology work. We asked questions to the people for whom innovation and disruption turn into to-do lists. 

Our survey wasn’t long or overly detailed. Squeezed by security threats, daily demands, and new deployments, they have enough to do. 

And although some of the answers surprised us–and they may surprise you–many of the responses make perfect sense if you step back a pace or two and review through a wider lens. Which, honestly, is why we asked. 

The first response that fitted the surprising/not surprising pattern was when we asked scholastic IT leaders to think about the mix of “all the technologies used in schools and classrooms.”  

Perhaps not surprising to many of us involved in schools is that more than two-thirds of education technology practitioners said they were not lacking technology solutions. The largest group within that said the mix of tools was fine as it is, and the remainder implied by their response that they couldn’t keep up with what was needed to fully understand how to use them all effectively.

If you think about it, this makes sense. Those who actually manage education tech are doing the grind. They are stretched, feeling underwater 10 days out of 10. 

That conclusion was reinforced when we asked them what they would “want most for the school or classroom.” This time, there was a more surprising answer–most did not want more funding. Just 28 percent listed financial resources as their top want. The most common answer was time–our education technology teams wanted more time. Thirty-one percent (31 percent) said that, above all else, they wanted more time to learn and implement the technologies they were already using or trying to use. 

On the same question, 22 percent also said they wanted more training and support around technology solutions, which is a version of time. So, if you add those two–training and more time directly–a majority (53 percent) wanted space and support, not money. 

Surprising, maybe. When is the last time you heard anyone in education say they did not need more money? The answer should send a strong message of how seriously our school IT leaders need the time and support to do their jobs–they are more or less willing to pay for it. 

To be clear, the IT leaders we surveyed are not anti-tech. It would be really big news if they were. In fact, when asked about how they felt about education technology in general, a resounding 92 percent said that edtech, when used right, “makes teaching and learning better.” 

It’s that level of endorsement that ought to open some eyes about where our schools, teachers, and technology experts are right now. They very much love education technology, but clearly do not want more of it. That says a ton. 

The results we see in the survey data echo what we hear from clients and partners all the time. For those who have to do the doing, the tech is great, but the pace and space are increasingly incompatible. 

We liken it to one of those self-serve sundae bars. The ice cream and all the toppings are amazing. But sometimes, we need time to digest what we ingest. Sometimes, there’s already too much on our plate to even contemplate adding more. That’s how our school IT departments feel. That’s what they’re telling us. 

For those of us who work in education or in education technology, the lesson ought to be that we need to invest much more in the support, training, and management of our technologies, especially for the heroes in IT departments. They need the time and space to do the jobs we’ve already asked them to do before we can reasonably ask them to do more. And that we, collectively, need to spend time making implementation and management of our technology maximally easy and effortless. 

Honestly, that does not feel like too much to ask of ourselves. We all know that none of us can do what we want to do without the help and consistency of IT leaders. They are literally indispensable to the mission of every other education technology leader. And it’s past time that we ask them more questions, listen to their answers and center them in our planning and development. 

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Laura Ascione

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