From Now On
The Educational Technology Journal

 Vol 12|No1|September|2002

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The New TCO

by Jamie McKenzie
(about author)

© 2002, Jamie McKenzie
all rights reserved.

This is a preview summary of a chapter from Jamie McKenzie's newest book, planned for shipping in November of 2002. The full article will also appear in ther December issue of Multimedia Schools.

Chapter 10 - The True Cost of Ownership

When most schools and districts install networks, they are unlikely to appreciate fully the wide range of costs accompanying the installation. Some of these will be dollar costs. Some will be organizational and psychic. When major costs and impacts arrive unannounced and unanticipated, they may cause embarrassment and damage. It makes good sense to look ahead without rose-tinted glasses.

One way to expand awareness is to adopt an approach from business called “The Total Cost of Ownership” (TCO) - a model that is well documented and translated into school terms by CoSN, an organization that supports schools in their efforts to bring networks into schools in ways that will actually enhance learning. (CoSN presents strong TCO support at

The main thrust of TCO is to identify all of the primary elements required to make any innovation succeed, no matter what the organization. Each of these elements, so the theory goes, may be essential, much like key stones in a curved archway. If we pull out one or two stones, we know the entire archway is likely to come tumbling down - or in the case of innovations, fail to lift off the ground at all. Applied to the launching of innovative programs, TCO suggests that failure to fund several key elements may fatally undermine the success of the venture.

Valuable as TCO may be as a tool to increase district awareness, this chapter suggests that TCO as it is usually applied to school technologies by CoSN and others does not adequately address other critically important costs that could have major implications for district and school success in broader terms.

For this reason, this chapter proposes a broader view - one that lists and describes all of those missing TCO elements without which the educational technology innovation may fail, sputter and even do damage to the educational programs of a district. It is meant to supplement and enhance the good work already done by CoSN on this issue.

The Key Elements

In Planning Good Change (McKenzie, 2001) I outlined a model for technology planning that put student learning and curriculum at the front of the planning process (see figure above). In a chapter of that book, “First Things First” (also available online at, I explained how school and district leaders may orchestrate those key elements in a cycle of invention, implementation, testing and adaptation.

We have learned in the past decade that the installation of equipment is a relatively straight forward task. The winning of enthusiastic support and the daily appropriate use of these new tools by classroom teachers is quite another matter. Few districts have managed to identify or fund the robust measures required to enlist such broad-based support.

This chapter is organized into six major sections, each of which identifies challenges and costs that many districts typically neglect when completing their technology planning efforts.

1. Learning Resources not Included with the Boxes
2. Organizational Impacts & Management
3. Network Management & Development
4. Network Resources
5. Research & Development
6. Spirit and Support Building

The full text of this chapter will appear online in FNO after the December publication of the Multimedia Magazine issue.

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Credits: The photographs were shot by Jamie McKenzie.
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