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My Year of Making Mediocre Ed Tech Decisions
May 13, 2012 - 9:00pm

The great thing about my job is that I get to combine theory (on how technology is changing higher ed) with practice (choosing and running ed tech platforms). The tough thing about my job is the clarity in which I see the limits of my ed tech management and decision making powers.

Any of us who have any sort of leadership role in education technology will end up making decisions that are imperfect. We will always look back on the past year and think about all the things we would do differently. The choice to embrace a career in educational technology is also a choice to accept our own limitations in the quality of our decision making.

What is important is not that we get every ed tech decision correct, but that we constantly learn from our past mistakes evolve how make our decisions going forward.  

This past year I made decisions around learning management systems, lecture capture platforms, media management platforms, synchronous meeting platforms, and mobile and digital course pack tools. I made decisions about websites and intranets. Monitors, touch screens, cameras, and screens. Storage and backups. Help desk and knowledge base software. Hardware, software, and peripherals. From the desktop to the data center, the cloud service to the local install, I get to participate in some level on the decisions about which service to go with, which vendor to partner with, which product to buy.

Some of these decisions worked out okay. Many did not.

I've learned that what is important is a willingness to make decisions in the absence of perfect information. We can never know what exogenous future forces will ultimately shape how well our ed tech decisions work out. 

We can certainly do our best, practice our most advanced techniques in scenario planning, and gather as much information and intelligence as possible. But in the end we will never be able to know everything we need to know to ensure that we are making the truly optimal call. In the end, we need to make choices.

The good thing, and the thing that is also the most challenging, is the pace at which our ed tech world moves. Companies, products and services that don't exist today may end up being vitally important to us this time next year. 

The learning technology market is unsettled and rapidly evolving. We are witnessing lots of new talent, and dollars, flowing into the educational technology sector. The best learning platform decision today may seem boneheaded and short sighted in a year. We really just don't know.

It is just this inevitability, that at least some of our ed tech decisions will end up being bad decisions, that makes our field so interesting.  


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