Why We Get Technology Wrong in Schools

I have been struggling to clearly articulate  what happens when we (teachers, administrators) lead with technology rather than learning. Using Simon Sinek’s concept of starting with why is helping my thinking in regards to the negative implications of treating technology as a driver of school reform.

Sinek teaches us that successful leaders and organizations start with why and work their way out to the how and the what.


golden circlesWhy do we do what we do?


How do you do what you do?


What do you do?



However, when thinking about technology and schools we aren’t asking the questions and we aren’t asking them in the right order. Typically when discussing technology integration, particularly implementing a 1:1 initiative the process goes something like this:

Q: What are we going to do to have our students be 21st century learners?

A: Let’s do a 1:1

Q: How will we do this?

A: (Here is where educators spend lots of time and answers vary) iPad, Chrome, bring your own

Q: Why do we need a 1:1?

A: Save on textbook money OR (equally popular), because the neighboring school district has a 1:1

The result of this approach?

  • Confused teachers and students.
  • Little or no change in teaching and learning practices, tools serve primarily as expensive replacements for worksheets
  • Little change in student learning


What would it look like if we followed Sinek’s approach?

Q:  Why do we do what we do?

A:  Our job is to prepare our students to work successfully / be productive in the world they will live in

Q: How will we do this?

A:   We need to teach them to collaborate, create, problem solve, communicate, etc.

Q:  What do you do?

A: We will need to figure out the best pedagogies to help us provide students opportunities to collaborate, create, problem solve, communicate, etc. We will need to consider tools that help support this kine of teaching and learning.

The results of this approach?

  • Teachers and students who have a vision and purpose for using technology
  • Investigation and shifts in teaching pedagogy
  • Increase student outcomes

We have to start asking the right questions in the right order, our students deserve that much.






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