Why ed tech is like Thanksgiving

Here's a hint: It's not because we have much to be thankful for.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

Thanksgiving is almost upon us.  This has always been my favorite holiday, even after I became a vegetarian a while back (Tofurkey anyone?).  The sheer volume of food and drink appeals to my most Bacchanalian instincts and even the hustle and bustle of preparing a giant feast gets me revved up.  

Of course, such a feast is not without its drawbacks.  Dishes, Rolaids (how do you spell relief?), more dishes, a few proton pump inhibitors, unruly relatives, and another antacid or two precede the pumpkin-pie, mashed potato, Tofurkey-induced coma.

It is, in fact, a bit like Ed Tech, especially for us K-12ers.  I've noted in a couple of recent blogs that our town and school committee are being forced to finally dump some substantial funds into technology.  Scary letters from our regional accreditation group can do that.  Suddenly, after years of re-refurbishing refurbished, recycled, and ridiculous (if only this were spelled rediculous) computers, I'm finally being given budgets with 6 numbers in them to spend ASAP.  Woo Hoo!  It's Thanksgiving, but instead of looking for the best deals on sweet potatoes and Tofurkey, I'm calling my friendly Dell rep!

And just as I will this Turkey-day, I'm going to gorge myself on IT.  I'm going to spend every last dollar of those 6 digits and do something really meaningful in terms of a tech refresh.  And once all of the boxes are opened up, all of the Styrofoam packing is jammed into dumpsters, all of the system CDs are shoved into a desk drawer, and all of my users are happily typing away on genuinely working machines with spiffy flat panel monitors with high-speed connections to our new Gigabit backbone, reality will set in.  More Zantac will be washed down with Mountain Dew and, as usual, the idea of lifecycle funding will creep back to torture me.

Sure, I could set aside some of my current budget for maintenance costs in the leaner times which will no doubt come when we avert the present crisis.  However, we all know what will happen to that money if I don't spend it before the ink dries on the purchase orders.  It'll be gone.  Just like my Tofurkey.

As Marc Wagner pointed out recently in a response to one of my posts (and as he and I have both noted repeatedly), one of the first line items to go is lifecycle funding when times get tough.  Will I try to make wise investments now?  You bet.  I'm focusing as much on infrastructure, high availability labs, and server-centric computing wherever possible to stretch my current windfall.  But things break, technology changes faster than I can type, and we didn't get to our current computing crisis because of consistent technology funding, year after year.

Am I going to spend this money faster than you can say Plymouth Rock?  Of course - I'm not stupid, contrary to the opinions of some of my readers.  But I'm also going to use the pressure from the state and our accreditors to highlight the need for ongoing, real funds, wisely spent on technology.  Hopefully this will become what we educators like to call a teachable moment and the taxpayers, school committee, and administrators will have the foresight to prevent future technology crises instead of freezing my budget every October.  I'd love to believe that this round of funding is just a fresh start to make lifecycle planning realistic.  Until I see my budget for 07-08, though, I'm going to eat as much pumpkin pie as my stomach can hold.  Anyone have a Prilosec?

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