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Tuesday
Feb132018

Sustainable technology

For over 20 years  I have advocated what I call "sustainable technology".  Like sustainable agriculture, sustainable technology implementation recognizes that systems must be deliberately maintained, upgraded, and replaced on an ongoing basis. Technology is rarely if ever a one time expenditure; it should be treated as a general fund expenditure - not capital. The three tenets I proposed are:

  1. Not purchasing more technology than can be regularly maintained, upgraded and replaced.
  2. Rotating the technology.
  3. Having reasonable expectations.

As my district now starts looking past its initial 3-year student device rollout, we have some interesting planning to do - and it is my goal to make sure the good things that are happening as a result of our 1:1 projects and our classroom-based technologies will continue. 

We've been having interesting discussions about categorizing current equipment. A simple description I have used for many years is whether a machine is "mission critical" or "supplementary." Teacher computers, student devices needed for the completion of school work, and administrative/secretarial computers all fall under the mission-critical category and should be on a regular update basis. We have determined the Chromebooks in our 1:1 student program meet the "mission-critical" criteria. 

Mission critical equipment that has been replaced but can still be used, is supplementary. Those Chromebooks, for example, that are over 3 years old may still have some life in them and can be used as loaners, by educational EAs, or in other places where high reliability, speed, and functionality is not as important. 

The second set of categorizations we've been developing (thanks to my great instructional technology coordinator) are describing a piece of equipment as:

 

  • Tier One: Mission Critical (repair with purchased parts)
  • Tier Two: Supplanted (repair if inexpensive to do so)
  • Tier Three: Use until it dies, but do not resuscitate (repair)
  • Tier Four: Remove from inventory due to security issues (no longer upgradable)

 

Using these definitions of purpose and of machine status, we can make sure that we squeeze every bit of goodness out of each machine without creating reliability problems for users.

I expect some would call me cheap. But I also recognize the value of small class sizes, good support personnel, and other non-technological educational resources. Maybe sustainability is not being cheap - just responsible.

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