Having been involved with educational technology for almost 20 years, I’ve had more than my share of conversations around the issues of implementation, integration, transformation, use of technology in the classrooms. People are usually quick to point out the barriers which are mostly around leadership and pedagogy and more recently the word is mindset.
But no amount of change in mindset addresses the least talked about problem with edtech. Bandwidth.
My journeys have led me to work with some wonderful educators who indeed have a resiliency and passion for innovation. They are the ones who create work arounds when a site is down or blocked, they tether their phones to create wifi for their students. They spent hours editing video and installing apps on their student devices. While they are great champions and sometimes are highlighted, they are a problem in that leaders assume all teachers can and should act in this way.
Imagine teaching English using books with half the pages ripped out. That’s essentially what it’s like for teachers trying to use devices with no bandwidth.
Bandwidth issues aren’t talked about largely because we aren’t quite sure what the issue is. Is it a small pipe? Is it throttling? Is it that a classroom is all hitting youtube? Is the bottleneck internal or external? I don’t know the answers and am not an expert in bandwidth but I believe it’s one of the biggest problems impeding success with technology in schools. I don’t even know who to blame.
I have heard leaders treat bandwidth and technology as a luxury making statements like, “Do you want 5 more teachers or new devices?” This both a false dicohtomy and a disingenuous way of dealing with the issue. Would a leader ever say, “Do you want 5 more teachers or electricty and plumbing?” If we’re going to ask teachers to innovate, to make the most of the technology, we have to have more bandwidth. I’m hearing teachers telling me they are back to using worksheets because the bandwidth is so bad. I hear this in district after district. Forget about introducing technology to teachers skeptical about its effectiveness. You’re wasting your time and theirs.
I’d love to hear your experience, suggestions and frustrations. It’s an issue I need to learn more about and one I think we need to be advocating more than any other issue in educational technology.