A How-To Guide Based on Interviews with Ed Tech Leaders

These days, it’s almost impossible to pick up a newspaper or magazine and not see at least one article on global warming. To many people, our planet’s climate is on an unsustainable trajectory. For those who feel we must act now, the debate on sustainability is unsettling. How can naysayers deny scientific projections and empirical evidence? But those with doubts see far more subjectivity than objectivity in all the reports and analysis.

The  Subjectivity of Organizational  Sustainability

Analyzing the sustainability of an ecosystem is complex — and  yes, sometimes subjective. Things get even more complicated when that ecosystem is an organization. Within organizations,  we invoke the notion of sustainability all the time, from the meeting room — “It’s unsustainable for operations to support this project any longer” —  to the boardroom — “We need to change our strategic course  to ensure long-­term financial sustainability.” The role of each person in the organization, and the relationships that person has within and to the organization, can influence how that person assesses the sustainability of an initiative — or the organization itself. This is particularly  true for non-­profits, where there is no bottom-­line metric to analyze and compare the  performance of distinct initiatives.

Sustainability in the Educational Ecosystem

The educational ecosystem is coming to grips with  a sustainability crisis. The finances of running a school are more challenging than ever, as revenues are not keeping up with expenses. The projects schools are launching are getting more complex, whether by constructing new spaces, investing in expensive technology, or layering new instructional content on top of old curricula. Meanwhile, the emotional struggles for professional educators are numerous: stagnate wages, long commutes, and insufficient resources to name just a few.

At Ed Tech Recruiting, an executive recruiting firm for educational institutions,  we see this challenge of sustainability in nearly every hiring project we support. Schools create lofty vision statements and put forth bold job opportunity statements, but then reality sets in. Salaries are not sufficient to recruit top talent. And innovators  willing to take a pay cut are often dismayed by a host of adverse conditions: a lack of discretionary resources, a skeptical culture toward big initiatives that try to scale and an environment focused more on  day-­to-­day operations than multiyear strategy.

This document is our attempt to explore some of the critical sustainability topics facing educational technology in schools.  We hope that readers will reflect on the trajectory of their learning institutions or the influence of their educational technology company, and be willing to self-examine processes and policies that are not sustainable.  Although academics are first and foremost about exploring and discovering great ideas, we must never forget that our educational ecosystem, like our planet, comprises finite and precious resources--be they physical, human, or emotional.  We, the educational leaders of today, must do everything we can to create a more sustainable ecosystem for the educational leaders and learners of tomorrow.