ICT4ED: A solution in search of a problem? (part 5: managing change)

I returned to The Bahamas after completing my graduate coursework. Instead of returning to my old Vice Principal position I was promoted to the Board Office. I shared an office with the technical director for schools. He would continually express frustration at the teachers’ limited proficiency with the systems we were trying to implement: “I don’t know what their problem is. I’ve given them training at the beginning of the year and I’ve detailed all the implementation steps in the manual. All they have to do is read and follow the instructions!” I smiled to myself because I could hear myself saying the very same things five years prior (when I was VP we didn’t have a technical director: all those tasks were my responsibility). Truth is no matter how hard we tried, we could not get to full or even widespread adoption. We seemed stuck in an in-between stage where some teachers had completely adopted and some had partially adopted and some again had not adopted at all (we discovered that they were getting other teachers to do their electronic work for them).

Really I should have known better. Read More

ICT4ED: A solution in search of a problem? (part 4: many a slip ‘tween cup and lip)

Back when I was a High School Vice Principal I was a technology evangelist. I was definitely an early adopter – I saw right away the powerful ways technology could impact my work. I devised technology-aided systems that would revolutionize how we did school – only to be frustrated, disappointed and befuddled that my staff reluctantly if at all made efforts to implement what I proposed. “Can’t they see how it helps their teaching and the students’ learning? Can’t they see how it streamlines their work processes? Can’t they see how it helps track problems so that persistent issues can be handled more quickly and directly? Can’t they see HOW GOOD this stuff is???” I was continuously exhausted by the amount of training and scaffolding we needed to build and implement just to get the programmes started. Nor did it end there. I didn’t predict the continual training and retraining necessary to ensure some degree of implementation. More often than not my good intentions led to half-baked interventions. And we all know where good intentions lead.

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ICT4ED: A solution in search of a problem? (part 3: better than the rest)

More than thirty years ago, Richard Clark made the famous claim that “media will never influence learning” and sparked a firestorm of debate that continues to this day. Despite all our best efforts to convince them otherwise, many remain skeptical. Ten years ago I first saw the cartoon comparing workplaces now with a hundred years ago. In all but one workplace the impact of technology is so dramatic as to render the “after” picture completely unrecognizable when compared with the “before”. The one workplace that remains unchanged: the classroom. We live in an age where we are now wearing technology that monitors our vital signs 24 hours a day – the real-world tricorder – but our classrooms are essentially as they have been for a century, so perhaps Clark was right after all?

Let’s unpack that a little bit. First, the old-fashioned classroom works to some degree. Where there is one teacher and twenty to thirty or more students, the “chalk and talk” method is a lot more effective than we are willing to admit. Read More

ICT4ED: A solution in search of a problem? (part 2: the digital divide)

This paradox puts me in mind of a story I read about time travelers from 1965 who land in Brooklyn, New York in 2015 and are who are amazed by two things. The first is that everyone is still dressed in the same clothes with the same hairstyles – you mean fashion hasn’t changed in 50 years? (Thanks Mad Men) The second is the gadgets. So they find a hipster millenial talking on his smartphone. The time travellers are amazed at to see someone talking into what looks like a rectangular hand mirror. Wanting to find out more, they explain that they are time travellers from 1965 and they want to find out more about this gadget. Once convinced that they were actually time travelers the hipster was eager to explain life in the new millennium to them. “We have some of the most amazing technology. You see this (points to his smartphone). Everyone has one of these. With this I can access all the wisdom and writing of mankind. With this I can perform any calculation you can imagine. With this I can predict weather patterns halfway across the globe. With this I can communicate directly with the President of the United States. And yet … I use it to take pictures of myself and get into arguments with strangers.”

The digital divide was seen for many years as a widening gulf that was opening between digital haves and have-nots. Read More

ICT4ED: A solution in search of a problem? (part 1: the e-learning paradox)

When did product launches get to be such a big deal? My twitter feed and facebook timeline are cluttered with rumours of what the next iteration of favorite products will look like: “the iphone 8 will have hologram capability” or “amazon prime rumored to be experimenting with star trek transporters for faster delivery” or maybe “google may use cardboard box for latest augmented reality experience.” Oh wait – that last one actually happened. It seems a little over the top to me: all this promotional buzz for what is essentially a promotional event. Advertising for advertising – a bit much I think. Product launches have become the red carpet events for techies and geeks.

One recent launch caught my eye – that was the launch of Xbox one. Read More

ICT4ED: A solution in search of a problem? (introduction)

I remember the first personal computer I purchased. It was an IBM-compatible or “clone” as they were called in those days. It ran Windows 3.1, had minesweeper, and had both a 3.5” and 5.25” disk drive. It was cutting edge! Even though I paid almost a quarter of my salary for it, I felt that it was worth it. Our school was one of the first to integrate technology in The Bahamas, and I had to be sure I had the latest greatest machine to make that possible. Even in the DOS days, we were the first school to adopt a school information system. Shortly after that, our guidance counselor built an electronic transcript system in First Choice, a DOS based early productivity suite. Not to be outdone, I saw the potential classroom impact for computers, and built a test question bank and a lesson plan database indexed by topic, subtopic, and objectives. The SIS and the electronic transcript systems were both blockbuster hits! Although there was a big front-end data input investment, everyone could see how both these systems made life so much easier: no more handwritten report cards or transcripts!!!

Not quite the same enthusiasm for the question bank and the lesson plan database though. Read More