From Cruft to Useful Stuff

From Cruft to Useful Stuff

As physicists in the 1800s at Harvard worked on projects before the influx of new technology, they began to pile up any old equipment that grew unnecessary and annoying. Imagine a room full of tweed coats and wiry gray hair with piles of equipment grown rusty on the windowsill and you get the picture of what became known as ‘cruft’.

Today, techies and programmers work to remove ‘cruft’ - the unnecessary - by removing crufty annoyances like old code and old software to make your experience of viewing this website, for instance, much better. 

Step out of the techie world and into many schools and cruft has begun to fill the windowsill.

It's cruft that causes teachers, parents, and school leaders to become overwhelmed when new technology is added to the curriculum. To avoid this burnout, school's need to throw out a lot of cruft and focus on one long-term technology integration curriculum that ties in all stakeholders.

It's impossible to try to stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest and it's a bit too exhausting for teachers to try to learn new technology when a school replaces the programs every three years. 

For technology integration to work, all stakeholders in a student's education need to be involved. Think holistic and try to pull motivation from multiple streams to get students, parents, teachers, and school leaders all on board to use the technology.

Think beyond the student. Who else needs to be motivated to use this technology? 

If the ultimate goal is to get students to use the technology to enhance learning, then consider motivating more than just the student. How can the technology help improve the lives of teachers, parents, and school leaders? 

When all of these stakeholders invest time in learning the technology because it helps them, it makes it far easier for them to want to share this helpful technology with the students. Cruft becomes useful stuff. On top of improving the quality of life for parents and teachers, this modeling shows students how the skills we are teaching them are being used in the "real world". 

Consider sharing a few digital literacy tips for students and parents on the school's website. For instance, share a program like Evernote as a super-easy way to help students (and parents, school leaders, and teachers) organize their bookbags. With Evernote, students can search for any notes, including photographs with words, to find anything. It makes that super-messy book bag appear neat and organized even for the most disorganized students. And of course, it's free. 

The goal aims to get as many as possible excited to benefit from the school's technology integration (Tweet this!). Ask yourself, is the community using this? Are businesses using this? Will employers ask students to use this? Will this help students be entrepreneurial?

Think evergreen. Right now, Google is an evergreen example of a digital-literacy platform that students, businesses, and the community use. Many education companies fail to realize this and provide edu-programs to schools that are great for learning, but not necessarily tools that students will be able to use after graduation. 

Consider thinking quality over quantity. It's overwhelming to think that schools are responsible for jamming everything a student will ever need to know into the school curriculum. How silly to think that twelve years of schooling should fill a life’s worth of  education. Instead, successful school leaders think about creating life-long learners - students who will be able to build an engine instead of operate it, find any information when they need it, and have the yearning desire to grow like an evergreen.

For many schools, the products are there. We just have to show how everyone can benefit from using them. 

What do you think? What software or programs do you use that students, parents, and school leaders can all benefit from?