Hello, It’s

Melissa Chotiner

. Last week I had a chance to sit down and chat with

Joel Backon

, the director of information technology services and history teacher at Choate, one of a small number of independent boarding schools in the



Joel has been in this position for 14 years and mentioned that starting next year, he’ll be switching roles to focus on instructional technology (and teaching history). It was interesting that he sort of mentioned this in passing and towards the end of our meeting. As if it is not that big of a deal – but to me – it seems like a huge deal. Why? Because all technology is not the same – and this is something I think we are starting to recognize and appreciate in education.

The technology schools use to – say – manage administrative tasks – is not similar to the technology used for teaching and learning. While some of these programs may integrate with each other, they don’t perform similar functions and often, they are not used by the same people on campus, which is why it’s curious that they are sometimes lumped together – to be managed by one person or one department. However it seems this is gradually changing. Joel mentioned another colleague at a nearby independent boarding school who is also transitioning to focus on instructional technology.

I think this is a great and big step in the right direction – because Joel and others given this new focus will now have the time and bandwidth needed to plan and implement strategies for the role of instructional technologies. 

What is becoming more and more apparent – is that technology is not the hard part – figuring out a strategy or a plan for the technology is the bigger job. How will we use this technology? How will we show and encourage others to use it? Without a plan – it’s possible and maybe even likely that the technology will not be used to its potential. For example at Choate only 40% of the faculty post course materials on their Blackboard site. The reason for this is not that uploading documents is hard, it’s because teachers are already so busy with the abundance of jobs and responsibilities they have on their plates – it’s hard if not impossible for them to find time to fit even one more thing in to their already packed schedules. With more people like Joel given the charge to help teachers implement the technology, and make room for its use, I think there’s a greater chance of its success in the classroom and for its use to enhance teaching and learning. It won’t be one more thing to get to – it will be the thing to get to so you have time/space for one more thing in your day. 

Please write to Blogfeedback@blackboard.com and let me know how your school is accomplishing these things.


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