I’ve had an “Ah ha” moment.

I volunteered at our church’s kids’ consignment sale last week.  I do this two weeks a year, and it is by far my favorite volunteer experience of the year. This year, however, we really embraced the technology available to a sale such as ours; we ordered new laptops and purchased innovative barcode and scanner software and hardware. What impressed me most about the process was that we identified our need to better our sale, researched options, shared them with the volunteer committee, and made sure everyone was on board. We recognized that asking consignors to embrace this type of technology would take work and communication.  We tried to come up with scenarios and educated consignors on how to address them, and we worked alongside the company that sold us the technology (in fact, the owner was there the last two nights learning from us to make his product even more functional and versatile). Volunteers met at the church early, tested out the software, and checked out the experience weeks beforehand. We offered communication by both email and phone to answer questions. And the result was a smoothly running sale. We problem-solved as we went; the frustration level with this new technology was minimal.

I realized that what made the experience so remarkable was essentially the “professional development” and “training” related to the goal of our sale and the end result. This is no different from what we want to occur in our schools: the implementation of technology that is relevant, understood, and enhances the overall experience.  We must understand the technology as well as we understand how to use a teacher’s manual.

The sale’s success suggests that we were on the right track. And it’s a great reminder for me as I meet with teachers and plan future professional development experiences, especially those related to technology.  Using technology for the sake of using technology is ineffective and goes against our mission and goals of 21st century learning experiences. As Seattle Academy’s Joe Puggelli said, as outlined in the NAIS A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future, “We do not allow the technology tail to wag the academic dog.”  Identifying a need or skill and incorporating innovative, relevant, and well-designed technology to advance the learning experience is a vital characteristic of a school of the future.