Scenarios for Educational Technology Problem Solvers

Introduction -- Moving to a Problem Solving Mode

One of the benefits of visiting as many different school districts as we do (besides our nifty collection of airline swizzle sticks) is that we constantly are confronted with a myriad of problems faced by school and district staff as they work to make educational technology an integral part of teaching and learning. Sure, it would be easy to become more than a little depressed over the repetition of problems from one district to the next; but instead, we have focused on the fact that despite the uniformity of problems, each district tends to solve these problems in a unique way. When we hear these stories, and collect the "solutions", we end up having a rather fascinating collection of standard problems with amazing solutions.

It is often very difficult for school and district staff to move from a problem identification mode into a problem solving mode. Nevertheless, this shift becomes critical in escaping the status quo in particular if you are not exactly benefiting from the status quo. When we work with educators to discuss and identify "barriers" or "challenges" to their work, the discussion all too often ends up focusing entirely on the barriers and never moves fully into an exploration of solutions or ways to overcome the barriers. The activity we have designed around the following True Life Technology Adventures! is designed to move you fully into your best problem solving mode.

How it Works

  1. The scenarios in the following pages are all based in actual events experienced by your peers across the country. There's a good chance that you yourself have experienced something very much like what is described in many of these scenarios (coincidence, or what!).
  2. Each scenario is designed to be used as an ice-breaker or discussion starter for a school or district technology meeting. By casting common technology-related barriers into problems that need to be solved, it becomes easier to get a technology team to brainstorm solutions to their own district's problems.
  3. The meeting facilitator should read through the following problem scenarios and pick one or more which are relavent to situations encountered in his/her own district. It is usually a good idea to choose several scenarios and to divide the meeting participants into teams -- one scenario to each team. The facilitator should assign the scenarios to the teams rather than allowing the teams to choose their own scenarios. In the case of a cross-district, mixed, meeting it certainly doesn't matter if teams are composed of individuals from different districts, and actually the experience will be better with more varied points of view. Print out a sufficient number of copies of each scenario so that each team can have a copy (or print out the pdf version of this entire activity).
  4. After reading their scenario and the statement of the problem (a.k.a., Your Challenge), each team should formulate and discuss a plan of action for resolving the challenge(s). Each scenario comes with a set of things to Think About which might be used to spur discussion. Naturally, there are lots of things to think about in each scenario, so we've just highlighted a few specifics in case the team is really stumped. Teams should be allowed about 30 minutes to resolve their challenge...so they will need to think and work fast. The idea is to sketch out some key points, not to create a 5 year strategic plan. That can be done at home.
  5. Each team will need to report to the whole about its scenario and the resolution they developed. This is just a short report-out and discussion, nothing fancy. If they used the specific Think About things to frame their resolution, then that might be how they organize their report. If not, then they should just tell the full group what they came up with in whatever way they want.

Assuming the existence of about 3 teams, this activity should take about an hour from setup to report out from the last team. It might be possible to do it in a bit less time, but we find it takes about an hour to do well. The temptation will be to spend lots more time in discussion...but the facilitator should work to chanel this energy into a discussion relavent to solving actual district problems.

The Scenarios

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Last updated,March 30, 2000