Raleigh County was among the first public school systems in West Virginia to issue computer tablets. In the approaching school year, Kanawha County Schools students will learn with new iPads.

High school students can become certified in a variety of computer applications for free through Microsoft’s IT Academy. Office 365 provides statewide software access that might otherwise be unaffordable to many school systems.

Great new things are happening regarding technology in the classroom that promise to improve the education of tomorrow’s workforce and leaders.

And many of today’s technology giants are getting into the act. Apple is pledging $100 million in iPads and other tools. AT&T and Sprint are contributing free Internet service through their wireless networks. Microsoft is offering 12 million free copies of Microsoft Office software.”

It’s all good, right?

It can be, but while experimenting with new approaches and continually seeking better ways to teach an ever changing population, schools must be careful to not chain themselves to programs, purchases and freebies that sound great now but become ineffective burdens later.

“Schools are too often focusing on buying technology hardware and not thinking enough about how to use it,” according to Microsoft Corporation, which stands to make additional billions from the increasing sale of educational software.

“‘I bought all this technology, now what?’” said Allison Powell of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, regarding the numerous calls she gets from principals every day. “They’re buying the technology without thinking through what their specific learning goals and outcomes are, and technology might not be the right tool for that.”

Of course, every transition has its own growing pains and mistakes -- which offer opportunities to do better in the improvement phase.

But as West Virginia reaches to make great improvements in its educational system, as it should, administrators and officials must remember to not restrict their capabilities later.

“No matter what plan a district goes with, school administrators and teachers need to know what they’re all in for,” said iNACOl’s Powell.

“The vision needs to come first.”

©2014 the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.)