Putt’s Law & School IT

Putt's Law cover
Putt’s Law cover

The situation regarding IT management in many schools is well-captured by the hypothetical (and sarcastic) Putt’s Law. According to Archibald Putt, “Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand” (Putt, 2006, p. 7). Further, Putt articulated a corollary, “Every technical hierarchy, in time, develops a competence inversion” (p. 7). While these words are intended to be humorously cynical observations, they do describe the current state of IT management in schools:

  • Technology professionals configure IT systems for students and teachers, but they are unfamiliar with emerging technology-rich pedagogy. In Putt’s terms, IT professionals are managing devices for purposes they do not understand.
  • Educators complain about the IT systems in schools, but they don’t understand the complexity of management, the potential conflicts and threats, and general chaos that can result when enterprise networks are not tightly controlled. In Putt’s terms, educators seek to manage IT they do not understand.
  • School leaders make budget and personnel decisions that impose unrealistic limits on IT professionals and they advocate for practices beyond the capacity of the available IT or are contrary to the professional tendencies of the teachers.

Putt’s Law and the Successful Technocrat: How to Win in the Information Age