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How to apply technology in education?

Posted August 6, 2012 11:50 AM by Ted Jackson

I was reading the Sunday New York Times today, and it got me thinking about education and the use of technology. I know it is Monday and the NYT I was reading was from July 22, but I found it interesting nonetheless. The graphic in the NYT was called "Advising by Algorithm" in a pullout section called Education Life. It spoke about how Austin Peay State University recommended classes to its students.

At Austin Peay, they look first at your grades as well as SAT and ACT scores, and then the software looks at the grades of students who have taken the same classes as you. They use software to find students with grade correlations. With that information, the software can predict your grades on future classes. Then, Austen Peay looks at the requirements of your major and makes some recommendations on the courses you should take. This is pretty neat, but it made me wonder, why would Austin Peay take the time to do such a thing? This is a pretty big investment.

What is your technology strategy?

So, in the details of the NYT article, it looks like if the students at Austin Peay do not keep their GPA at a certain level, then they can lose their scholarship money. I imagine if they lose their scholarships, then Austin Peay loses students and loses money to operate. Thus, it logically makes sense for Austin Peay to develop a system that helps to secure their revenue stream. Maybe this is too insensitive of an analysis, but it is a strategy for technology nonetheless.

At Ascendant, we work with a lot of schools, both at the secondary school system and the collegiate level. We see and hear the school leaders talking about "utilizing technology" as a strategy. When we interview leaders individually, we find that they all give different answers to the question, "what does that mean?" Here are some answers:

  • We should utilize technology to drive down our costs.
  • We should use technology to help our teachers be more effective
  • We should put technology in the classroom to help students learn better.
  • We should teach students technology so that they will be prepared with a modern education.
  • We should use data about student performance to change the way that we teach students

And the list goes on. To me, this exemplifies the challenge of executing strategy. Simple words, like "utilize technology," mean different things to different people. It is important to ensure that everyone has the same definition in order to take appropriate actions and make important decisions to help execute the strategy of the organization. One trick that we use is to ask the leadership team to define the objectives in their strategy and have 2-3 sentences that fully explain the simple words in their strategic documents and their strategy language. This will help ensure that they are on the same page throughout the year as they try to "utilize technology" to execute their strategy and improve student performance.