IT value in education

Recently, New York Time had an article on evasive nature of value of IT investments in classroom. Kyrene School District in Arizona spent roughly $33 million since 2005 on various forms of information technology in classroom. Yet, the reports says, scores in reading and math have stagnated in the district, while the statewide scores have risen. The articles goes on to offer several different perspectives as to why it might have happened. One perspective says that technology spending for education is waste. Another perspective says that we have wrong measures. The third perspective is that we need to change other things to see the impact of IT spending.

This feels almost like deja vu. This is exactly the question that the entire MIS community has been trying to answer in the business context. It was called IT productivity paradox. There were people who believed that it was a matter of better technology. They believed that if we designed the system better, we would see the impact. Then, there were people who believed that it was a matter of user acceptance. They believed that individual users needed to be convinced about the usefulness of the tool so that they would accept the tool. Other believed that we needed to implement it better. They believed that if we had more user engagement, top management support and better training, we would see the value from IT investment. Out of this, we had so-called “change management” consulting practice. Then, there were people who believed that it was about changing the organizational routines and organizational structures. They believed that we needed to mangers need to pay closer attentions to existing norms and rules as they tried to bring technology into the organizations. Finally, there were people who believed that the measurement was the problem. In other words, they felt that simply if we could measure the outcome better, we would see the improvements in business performance through IT investment. All of these provided very rich understanding of how IT may or may not help organizations improve their performance.

Perhaps, people who are trying to solve this paradox can read this very rich body of research before they start spending their time and efforts to understand what is going on here. I am pretty sure we can learn a lot from just reading them.

Professor | Writer | Teacher Digital Innovation, Design, Organizational Genetics Case Western Reserve University

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