Wishin’ and Hopin’
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IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE A “BOOMER” like I am, you may just remember Dusty Springfield’s megahit “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” circa 1966. But boomer or not, you probably know that when it comes to successful technology implementation, wishin’ and hopin’ is not a very effective mindset. In fact, I am continually surprised at the way so many institutions go about the process of finding and choosing their technology solutions. So often, the journey—from assessing need, uncovering solution offerings, building a shortlist, and finally, narrowing solution options to the single best choice—is experienced in a vacuum, and that’s a mistake.
While it is true that no one technology solution “fits all” (and adopting a solution simply because others are moving to it is undoubtedly a bad move), there is untold benefit to be had from firsthand knowledge of other schools’ experiences with products and vendors. Savvy technology vendors know this and go to incredible lengths to foster user meetings, many of which have become huge, slick productions. But they’re confident that sharing challenges, experiences, and solutions is the best way for users to get the utmost from their technology choices. And for the vendor, a strong user group community means precious feedback regarding improvements and impediments, from those who are closest to their products on a daily basis.
The same kind of “user group” is just as essential—if not more so—to the education community. Only through comparing experiences with technology and the pursuit of the “ideal” products for our needs, can we get closer to what we really need, in a timely fashion. Sharing these experiences at user group meetings or education technology conferences is one way to find out what challenges our peers are facing (we may be facing them next!); how they are self-assessing need; and how they are arriving at their technology product/service shortlists and solution choices. Association events, webinars, blogs, forums, chat rooms, and seminars are all worthwhile ways to try to share this kind of information. And it goes without saying that you should request a listing of the installed user base (not just the “reference list,” which may be biased) from any vendor under consideration.
Importantly, I want to draw your attention to another way to “listen in” on the challenges your peers are facing with their technology choices; an excellent way to compare their thinking about need vs. vendor with your own. It’s our endpage in this publication—Wishlist/ Shortlist—and it has been specifically designed for the purpose I’ve outlined here. If you haven’t had a chance to visit it, do head to it now. On the left-hand side of the page, you’ll discover the challenges one of your peer schools/districts is facing, and the self-assessment process being undertaken to decide on the best technology investment to meet that particular challenge. On the righthand side of the page, you’ll see the shortlist of vendors under consideration to meet the need, and the reasons those vendors made the list.
Visit our Wishlist/Shortlist every month, and you’ll find help for the issues you’re grappling with today; the Wishlist/Shortlist archives on our Web site (thejournal.com) can help prepare you for those challenges you’ll be facing in the future. And don’t forget to send in your own Wishlist/Shortlist, so that your peers can thank you for helping them to stop wishin’ and hopin’ about their owntechnology choices.
Katherine Grayson, Editor-In-Chief
What have you seen and heard? Sendto: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.