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Putting the IT in Green

As editorial director at 1105 Media's Education Group, I oversee T.H.E. Journal, which covers technology in K-12, and Campus Technology, which focuses on higher education.

While both sets of readers ultimately have as their primary mission the support and improvement of student learning, they go about their work in entirely different ways. So it's not often that I see a strong convergence on issues between K-12 and higher ed IT--until this month.

April, the host month of Earth Day, provides an annual occasion for T.H.E. and CT to cover sustainable IT practices as well as the strategic role IT can play in the greening of its institution. What struck me as I edited both magazines is that while IT departments are increasingly doing a good job at greening their own backyards, they're still fairly siloed when it comes to involvement in larger sustainability initiatives.

I admit up front that my "evidence" is purely anecdotal, and is based on how hard it was for our reporters to find IT people who could speak to this strategic involvement. School IT leaders are definitely busy lowering IT's own footprint through the cloud, virtualization, remote management systems, and so forth. But they seem to be less than involved in more systemic green initiatives, which often find their home in departments such as facilities and transportation. It has been a surprise to me how often we learn that facilities and IT don't talk to each other, or that IT is not involved in helping design LEED-certified schools.

I realize that the "I" in IT could stand for instructional or for information, but there's a role for both instructional and information technology in the greening of schools. Green schools, we learn from an interview with architect Wendy Rogers on page 17, can obviously use technology to save energy, but the buildings themselves can provide vital data that teaches students about eco issues and, more important, about the environmental consequences of their daily actions.  

Schools have no choice but to find ways to operate more sustainably--from both economic and environmental points of view. And helping students understand the complexities of planetary ecology must be an integral part of a 21st century curriculum. Information and instructional technology should be at the heart of these efforts.

IT staff can help institutions assess where they are leaking energy and money; engage with facilities to create smart buildings that teach as well as conserve; be part of the team that designs LEED-certified schools; work with curriculum planners to grow world-class online learning opportunities that will both save energy and engage learners; and provide students with the right tools for learning how to be better, greener global citizens.

If your IT leaders are part of this green revolution in your school or district, please tell me about it at mailto:[email protected].

About the Author

Therese Mageau is the former editorial director of THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].