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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Tech Approval Process?

I continued to be challenged by the technology approval and purchasing system at my school.

I'm trying to figure out what to do.

The current system includes the following:
  • When you see an app or program you'd like to use, fill out a lengthy form that requires significant information and research.
  • The form goes out to a large number of tech specialists and leaders for review and approval.
  • The approval or non-approval usually occurs sometime in one to two month's time.
  • Work with multiple systems to purchase, upload, and set the program in process.
There are many challenges to this process including the following:
  • It's difficult to know about the worth of a program before trying it out with children. Often when you try out a program, you decide right away that it's not so good, it's great, or somewhere in between. I believe this should be the first step.
  • The form process is not matched with the purchasing system, hence the response is often, "No, we don't have the money for this or perhaps we'll have the money next year."
  • The system doesn't match the fluidity of new apps and programs. Apps and programs are steadily beginning, evolving, and ending--it's a fluid process that doesn't match the more static form process.
  • The multiple leaders and tech specialists who approve the technology often don't know the students your teaching or the specific standards deeply so they may not understand why that app or program is relevant at this time.
  • The process is very different from curriculum selection and design processes used with regard to other tools such as books, manipulatives, field experiences, expert visitors, and other learning design. I wish the process was more similar to how we choose good books to match our curriculum. We are free to choose the books we'd like to use. We try them out, share with colleagues, and continue to use if worthy or discontinue if the book results in less impact. Our book selection is guided by our experience and education, protocols, reviews, research, and share. 
  • The process does not allow for steady, responsive teaching. Identifying an app or program that will be engaging and beneficial to a child today cannot wait two months. In two months the child, teaching needs, and schedule have changed.
  • Apps and programs are created to be responsive, ready teaching tools. When used well they can serve to invigorate personalization, individual teaching/learning paths, and differentiation. However to do this requires fluid, timely, and open share and use. 
  • I believe that purchasing systems for all materials in a school including apps/programs should be an ongoing process, not a once-a-year event. In order to be responsive and to save money too, school purchasing would benefit from a manager who is able to use the money well, make use of sales and incentives, and respond to educators' needs. As it stands now, many teachers just spend their own money to buy school tools, programs, and materials since the lengthy and time consuming systems for purchase hinder the ready response needed to teach children well. Fortunately many PTO's help out in this regard by giving teachers some freedom and support to purchase worthy materials. 
I was the first teacher to try out the form process years ago. After multiple hours with the first form, I realized the program that I waited about a month or so for approval for was not a good fit. So it was about 10 hours time for a 15-minute analysis to realize it wasn't a fit.

Similarly this summer I identified an app that I wanted to use. I had the time this summer to investigate the app with depth, but didn't want to invest the time only to hear that I couldn't use it. The app was recently approved, but now it's the school year and there's less time for exploration so it's on my waiting list and I will explore during the winter break as I've pushed the learning experience back to the spring. I may have planned for this in the fall, but I had to wait.

Also, the other day, I was needing a really engaging tool to keep a few students in the learning arena. I know of some that were not approved in the past, and another one that's share settings were changed thus losing the engagement. I wrote about the need for the tools, and I was told to fill out the forms again for the tools not approved in the past (about a 10 hour process including needed research, rationale. . .). Yet, I could use those tools now and I know those tools would really benefit the learning/teaching agenda. But, I can't have them now, and won't have them if I don't put in the significant form-filling time to advocate for each and every app and program.

Perhaps I am wrong in not finding the current system supportive. Perhaps I'm the only teacher in the system who find this cumbersome and not forward moving with regard to teaching well, but my research and experience shows that as educators we need to continually have the flexibility to reach out and try new tools and programs to respond to students' needs in timely, engaging, and empowering ways. Given our mostly time-on-task with students' days, we need greater flexibility and ability to add apps and programs as needed to support students during our early morning, evening, and weekend planning time.

I'd like this system to run with protocols rather than a strict, time-consuming, and lengthy form system. I'd like for teachers to be able to fluidly try new tools to readily respond to students in order to build engagement, empowerment, and a strong, blended education. Then when tools are deemed profitable, engaging, empowering, and rightfully educational we could share and look for ways with leadership and technology to extend the use of that program or tool. 

I'm putting my thoughts here to chart the issue. I'm open to naysayers' commentary and education. I want to learn what's wrong with my ideas here with regard to fluidly choosing and using tools to teach well. In the meantime, I'll share this point of view with leadership again as I have in the past. I hope to learn more about this issue and gain some perspective, or even better, positive change. I will ask leadership to guide me with regard to advocacy and teacher voice in this regard. I want to follow the paths set in my system that allow teachers to voice interest, concern, new ideas, and questions to further what we can do to teach our students well.