Important Ed Tech Book Reviews

Just in Time Technology


 From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 10|No 5|February|2001

Before Cart

© 2000, Jamie McKenzie
About the Author

This article first appeared in the December 2000/January 2001
issue of the Classroom Connect Newsletter

Some schools are struggling with CBH (Cart Before Horse).

Too many toys, too much technology, too little talk of learning. We walk through the school and see little use and little return on investment.

If schools make wiring classrooms the goal, they are putting the cart before horse. They end up with the screensavers’ disease. They put most of their funding into equipment, design the network in ways that do not serve learning and fail to provide the human support services that will lead to robust and daily use.

What are the indicators of CBH (Cart Before Horse)?

Take this quick quiz. If you answer "yes" to more than five of the following questions, your school may need to switch things around, restoring program, curriculum and student learning to the prominent positions they must occupy when planning networks to change daily practice so as to enhance student learning.



Indicators of CHB


1. The teachers in my building were not asked how they would like to use the new technology before it was purchased.


2. Computers were distributed quite evenly across classrooms — the same number for each room regardless of purpose or activity.


3. Computers were placed in the classrooms without asking teachers where they wanted the units.


4. Teachers are discouraged from moving computers about from classroom to classroom, sharing units.


5. Most decisions about the technology program are made by people outside the school.


6. The focus of the technology program is on the learning and use of software such as spreadsheeting, word processing, PowerPointing and Internet browsers.


7. A substantial number of the computers in the building go unused much of the day as teachers continue on with regular schooling.


8. Teachers are provided with less than 5 hours of paid professional development each year to help them use the new technologies.


9. Teachers are provided with less than 5 hours of paid program development time each year for them to build technology enhanced units like WebQuests and Research Modules.


10. There are not enough technicians to keep things running in a robust and reliable manner.


11. There are no teachers on special assignment available to model technology rich lessons and team with teachers wishing to integrate technologies into their programs.


12. There are no subscription information products on the network (such as periodicals and databases) other than the free Internet.


13. Teachers do not have display devices in their classrooms to show students what is on the screens of their computers.


14. There are no laptop carts, flotillas or COWS (computers on wheels) to supply critical mass — sufficient computing resources to do something worthwhile.

Click here to download print friendly version of the above table in Microsoft Word™.

Reversing Cart Before Horse

It is never too late to restore student learning and curriculum to primacy. The following strategies are suggested as a way of shifting the emphasis to where it belongs:

  1. Stress Curriculum Leadership — It pays to put curriculum leaders in charge of technology programs if you want to see an emphasis upon learning. Ask systems engineers and people with a business perspective to support what the educators plan for students.
  2. Identify Models that Support Standards WebQuests, Research Modules and similar approaches engage students in exploring essential questions related to state curriculum standards. Time devoted to these activities should translate into better reading, writing and thinking performance. The San Diego City Schools make substantial use of WebQuests (see, and the Baltimore County Public Schools employ Research Modules (see Many other deserving models focus on student learning, but schools should select just one or two and then devote professional development to their successful implementation.
  3. Provide Time for Professional and Program Development — Market Data Retrieval reported for 1999 that 61 per cent of American teachers enjoy just zero to 5 hours of professional development annually for technology related learning (p. 122). If schools expect to see frequent daily use with a clear focus on state standards, they will devote 25 per cent or more of their technology budgets to professional and program development, engaging all teachers in 15-45 hours of learning and unit development annually.
  4. Accommodate a Range of Styles — We have growing evidence from Becker (2000) and others that different types of teachers require different approaches. If we offer "one size fits all," we will see continuing skepticism, reluctance and disengagement. (see "Reaching the Reluctant Teacher" at
  5. Provide Support Services — With too few technicians, we suffer from Network Starvation (see ) We also need to provide mentors and coaches to support the success of classroom teachers (see "Adult Technology Learning: Creating Learning Cultures with Just-in-Time Support" at
  6. Deploy Equipment Strategically — When we move equipment around to where it will do the most good, we optimize return on investment and give teachers the critical mass of resources necessary to deliver a technology enhanced lesson. Thin and inflexibly distributed networks are unlikely to change daily practice. (See Laptop carts and wireless notebooks hold great promise.
  7. Use Assessment to Guide the Program — If we keep track of what is working and what is not, we can discard the ineffectual and stress what is working. (See and ).


Becker, H. and others. "Internet Use by Teachers," 2000, University of California at Irvine.

"Technology in Education, 1999," Market Data Retrieval, Shelton, Connecticut.

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Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie.
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