OK, so it doesn't have the same ring as The Empire Strikes Back, but it is really important. I've talked about the SDLC, or the Systems Development Lifecycle, before, but I was at a conference the other day when I was reminded of its importance.
For a lot of us, the SDLC is IT 101. Identify a problem, gather requirements, develop solutions, test solutions, roll out the best solution, and maintain the solution. Even our state frameworks for technology education refer to the "Engineering Design Process", pictured here:
It's taught in a variety of ways and with jargon specific to a given industry, but the key idea is that you can't solve a problem until you fully understand a customer's requirements. I went to a leadership summit last Friday (yes, I know it sounds like one of those painful bits of professional development with a dismal motivational speaker, but this one actually turned out well, with concrete action steps to be taken by the participants...go figure) and the facilitator had never heard the term SDLC before. He's an old history teacher, so I forgave him.
However, the topic came up because we were, among other things, looking at IT leadership in the district (or the current lack thereof). Several elementary principals were upset because one proposal for an elementary tech refresh was floating around the district, despite the fact that none of them had been consulted regarding their needs. Fortunately, the proposal was just that: an idea courtesy of a particular vendor; nothing had been implemented. Their concerns were quite valid, though. How could this tech refresh serve them and their students if the people doing the purchasing didn't understand the needs of the elementary students and teachers?
The purchases would merely be more in a series of purchases for the sake of technology, rather than to actually enhance education. Fortunately, someone listened to my blog and the position of Technology Director for the district was created recently (actually, as much as I'd like to take credit, I think the idea that we desperately need someone thinking in a cohesive manner about technology in the education enterprise finally reached a critical mass among parents, teachers, and administrators). One can only hope that this person, whoever he or she may be once the job is posted and filled, actually knows what the SDLC is and doesn't neglect the extraordinarily important pieces of clearly defining both the problem and the requirements before launching into a solution.