One of my favourite television shows of all time was “The Practice“. It was a show about lawyers and one of their strategies was “Plan B” which would be used in certain occasions as part of the defense strategy. It made for great drama and I remember the phrase “We’ll Plan B them” just as if I’d watched the show last night. I’ve adopted the term myself and use it to represent alternative plans.
If you know me, you know that I’m a big Minnesota Vikings fan. I’m not a Favre-come-lately. In fact, my first purple football jersey was purple and featured the 44 of Chuck Foreman. That bring backs great memories of Fran Tarkenton and Bud Grant. Last night, the Minnesota Vikings had to kick in their own “Plan B”. With the winter weather, we’ve all seen the collapse of the roof of the Metrodome, the playing home of the Vikings.
So, what was their “Plan B”? They hopped onto an airplane and played their game instead at Ford Field in Detroit, the home of the Detroit Lions. As we now know, this strategy was not friendly and they lost badly.
Last week, the Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee hosted its annual Symposium for technology leaders in the South Western corner of Ontario. We hold it in the heart of Ontario’s snowbelt where it’s not uncommon for huge storms to pick up the moisture from a yet to be frozen Lake Huron and dump it on places like Grand Bend, Strathroy, and London! It has never happened but what would happen if a keynote speaker that we invite from warmer places was unable to attend? Well, we have our own “Plan B”, a closely guarded secret that would implemented if necessary.
In both of these cases, “Plan B” would be less effective than the original.
In the use of technology in schools, I can’t help but wonder if we aren’t stuck in a perpetual “Plan B”. My Faculty of Education students recently came back from their placements and expressed their frustrations with their teaching environments. At the Faculty, we work with dual boot iMacs with the Mac OS on one side and Windows 7 on the other. On each partition, we have access to the entire suite of OESS licensed titles. Everything that’s available is installed and functional. The machines are also equipped with an area that allows us to install things on the fly, if necessary. A good example of this would be Microsoft’s Small Basic which wasn’t available in time to ask the technical to have available for us. But, we needed it for a recent practice lesson and so the student teacher mounted a sharepoint on the instructor’s computer and we all accessed the installer from there and were up and running in seconds. There’s a “Plan B” that worked.
Is that the norm or the exception in a typical K-12 classroom? Hardly. The reality is that you need to plan at least a year in advance for the use of technology and then hope that all is good to go when you need it. If it’s not, do you have the ability to put a “Plan B” in motion? If not, why not?
Typically, the answer lies in the way that technology is managed in schools. Rather than having realistic support levels, we generally have enough support to just get by. In my previous post “Time to Consider 2.0“, I made reference to a posting that helped you discover if your technical support was 1.0. I just received a rash of emails from folks who wanted to try this or that and were unable. Like my faculty students, they had planned their lesson at home or read about it and wanted to try it in their classroom and were unable. So, what’s their “Plan B”?
Maybe it’s time that we revisit the original plan. Plan A? As long as we continue to purchase industry equipment equipped with full-featured operating systems designed for every conceivable option, we’re going to be locked into this perpetual loop of doing things. Is it realistic to use a computer and network so bloated and locked down that even the process of booting requires alternate entertainment? I’m really intrigued with the instant boot and full access to technology that iPad and now the Google CR-48 provides. Somewhere along the line, we’ve had to modify expectations about what computer technology can do for the classroom. I can’t help but think that we need to be rethinking and regearing to reflect a more usable and reliable experience. I’m really enjoying reading of the successes that people are having with iPod and iPad pilot programs. The CR-48 is too new to have reports but it may well be a viable solution that gets students up and running and on task.
Imagine a educational technology world where “Plan B” isn’t necessary!
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