Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Top Ten Barriers to Adoption of Innovative Technology in Schools

It was the early nineties. In those days, I worked for an incredibly exciting technology company, one that has since removed the word "computer" from its name. Many of us in the company's R&D group were passionate about emerging commercialization of what had formerly been called the ARPA Network. Imagine a hyperlinked network of computers enabling anyone, anytime, anywhere to access all of the world's information! Unfortunately, all of the major vendors still believed that they could somehow own this "online service" opportunity, such as by providing better, proprietary content: America Online, Microsoft/MSN, Compuserve and Apple each had proponents of this belief. That "no one is in charge" of the Internet was incomprehensible. Indeed, when one of our Programs embarked on an experiment where we connected a T1 line to a school, to see what would happen and how it might be used for learning and teaching, we were told by a senior official in K-12 Marketing that it was an ill-advised, boutique project, since schools would never have that sort of bandwidth!

In those days, "using the 'net" meant learning FTP, Telnet, Usenet, Gopher and such. Most people outside of the computer science community found these applications to be esoteric and inaccessible. However, within R&D we were contributing to sponsorship of a new application being developed at the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications, called Mosaic. Mosaic enabled non-techies to browse the emerging world wide web -- what most people now mean when they say "Internet." I was charged with organizing a demonstration to try to ensure that our senior decision-makers really understood the significance of this new technology and would continue supporting the project. The meeting was to be at 8:00 AM. My team stayed until very late the night before, setting up equipment, testing the Internet connection to the room, bookmarking the URLs for compelling examples, and so on. When we left for the evening, everything was working well and we were ready for the big event.

Alas, at 7:45 AM the next morning, as the various Vice Presidents were wandering in, we discovered, much to our dismay, that the network was down. Fortunately, we had ordered food and beverages; no one would attend a meeting if you did not offer food and beverages. I was getting ready to do a tap dance, while we continued frantically troubleshooting. The computer was fine, the cable was fine, the wall outlet tested good, and there was even working Internet in other rooms in the building. Finally, at 8:05 AM or so, we found it, just in time to capture most of our audience before they left in disgust! In order to plug in the coffee pot, since there were not enough power outlets, the custodian had unplugged the router. After all, it was just a box in a closet that no one seemed to be using, so unplugging it shouldn't matter.

The reader might be thinking, "Sure, but that was a long time ago. People know better nowadays." Unfortunately, that would be incorrect. Even recently, we have seen trouble tickets in schools where a teacher actually unplugged the power to the classroom switch in order to plug in their laptop, and then reported that the network was down. And we frequently encounter schools where the copier, fax machine, and server cannot all be operated at the same time without blowing a fuse.

My point is that there remain serious barriers to successful adoption of technology in schools, challenges that might not seem to matter, until you have spent some time in the trenches. Here are my top ten. In homage to David Letterman, I'll count backwards; but in honor of Kernighan and Ritchie, I'll end at zero.

#9. Unenlightened Assessment
#8. Passwords
#7. Financial Disincentives
#6. Proprietary Lock-in
#5. Regulatory Environment
#4. Parents
#3. Systemic Resistance to Change
#2. Inadequate Professional Development and Technical Support
#1. Insufficient and Inequitable Access
#0. Budget

Most of these barriers require further explanation; I will elaborate in future posts. I also hope to suggest some ways to overcome the challenges. Some barriers, such as those posed by well-intended parents, simultaneously suggest a glimmer of hope. And, no doubt, I have missed a few. Readers are encouraged to share comments, both to remind us of barriers we have overlooked, and to help find ways to tear the barriers down.


  1. I live every day in education an environment where a lack of understand coupled with a lack of desire to acquire understanding or attempt the most basic troubleshooting causes excess stress on the technology support system.

    Regularly I am called to fix an emergency problem b/c someone hasn't checked whether or not a power cord has fallen out, or a chord that only fits into a single hole is apparently uninstallable without a degree in computer science.

    I'd add to your #9 Blissful ignorance.

  2. So true! Then there are the cases where both ends of the same patch cable get plugged into different ports on the same switch by a helpful passer-by ... it shouldn't be so easy to bring down an entire wing!

  3. 300-175 exam braindumps test4actual.com provide latest and updated braindumps with Actual Exam Questions & Answers for new syllabus of Cisco 300-175 Exam.

  4. In allowing employees to see the whole picture and understand better how individual goals fit into the company's business objectives. This can create a energized and engaged employees, thereby raising the business productivity of the company.
    Gigabyte Z370 AORUS Gaming 5 review

  5. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn’t disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought you’d have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you weren’t too busy looking for attention.

  6. Now you can win free stuff online, free giveaways, enter every day to win latest iphones, smartphones, macbooks, laptops, accessories, technology and much more at https://ifreegiveaways.com/

  7. You completed a few fine points there. I did a search on the subject and found nearly all persons will go along with with your blog. perpetual fostering

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. This information is meaningful and magnificent which you have shared here about the Innovative Technology. I am impressed by the details that you have shared in this post and It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. I would like to thanks for sharing this article here. Test and Tag Adelaide

  10. A well-detailed article with such an interesting article. Keep up and thank you for sharing. insta stalker

  11. Yet another factor behind the trend where more and more people are opting for sandstone paving is the aggressive marketing by the (now many) vendors of such sandstone-based paving. Paving Amarillo TX

  12. An understudy clarifies that innovation is utilized in her first year to turn in tasks, take an interest in conversation sheets and sites, CBT Web Scraper and Email Extractor Software

  13. Web hosting offers you the opportunity to put your web site online, when you think about it; it's the only way you can do it. No matter how large or small in content your web site happens to be it has to go onto a web server. best web hosting providers of 2020

  14. Innovation over the long haul is insignificant". That is the thing that a client of mine disclosed to me when I made an introduction to him about another item.Pressfarm

  15. As a rule, the first innovation ended up in the garbage dump. Innovation, hence, is an empowering agent whose extreme offer is to make upgrades to our lives. To be important, it should be utilized to make developments that are driven by circumstance. https://mrdetechtiveblog.wordpress.com