“Why Schools Make Bad Buying Decisions”
Anyone walking around the iNACOL symposium would likely overhear a conversation about how a school or district started a blended or online program by choosing its technology first. This will inevitably lead to poor and ineffective implementation. The Los Angeles ipad situation, which we commented on here and here, is the most recent example that is often discussed.
This seems like such a common story that the question naturally arises--why does it happen? Why do (apparently) smart people make poor decisions?
Why Schools Make Bad Buying Decisions addresses these questions, and provides valuable insight into the decision-making process. Among the article's observations are that "Brand" all too often has been a substitute for quality, "there's nothing like a "Gartner" report to guide schools," and "buying consortiums haven't worked."
I agree with all of these points, and especially the observation about the lack of success of buying consortiums. I would also add that, of the products and services that must be procured to implement online or blended learning, the technology--and especially end-user devices--are the most prominent, and the ones that many people believe that they understand best. District superintendents and school board members may not know exactly what online content looks like, or what blended learning professional development entails, but they probably know what a laptop computer is. They may also believe that tablets are cutting edge and exciting, and therefore buying tablets for use in their schools seems easy and innovative.
It is incumbent on everyone involved in online and blended learning to repeat, early and often, that the technology, and in particular tablets and laptop computers, are only a very small part of a successful implementation. Technology is a tool, and there’s no single tool that is best for every situation.