I hope that you had a chance to read my interview with Cliff Kraeker yesterday. It’s been a few years since I’d had a chat with Cliff face-to-face but we maintain regular conversations via social media. He’s always a good person to push my thinking. As I read his responses to my questions during editing for the blog post, it also brought back some pretty fond memories of learning and thinking from days gone by.
Unfortunately, my “Interview series” of posts have the same title. They all start as “An interview with …”. It was intentional to make them all clump together and also point out that the focus was on the interviewee and their thoughts and not some sort of theme that I had worked for. But there was so much rich content there that I could have used the “buying IBM” quote as a title and it would have worked. Another word that kept rolling through my mind was “insular”.
There really was an important quote from Cliff in the interview.
The ultimate question still seems to stand. Does Information Technology Departments (IT) dictate to education what they can do or does education dictate to IT what needs to happen and then IT makes it happen?
That thought occurred again when I read Alfred Thompson’s “Interesting Links 4th of July 2016” post this morning.
An example of an IT failure. What is the mission and purpose of the IT department at your school/district? Apparently I am not the only one who believes that “A school IT department has only one major priority, supporting teachers so they have the tools to teach.”
IT Departments in a school district have a huge mandate. Keep every piece of technology running and make it suitable for administration and classroom use as it’s needed. I know the challenge; I managed our IT Department for a short period of time and I worked hand in hand with them as a classroom computer consultant for a number of years.
It wasn’t easy at the beginning. In the beginning, computers were management tools that somehow had weaselled their way into the classrooms. Now, instead of doing word processing and the odd spreadsheet, students were expecting to take virtual trips across Canada, peek into rain forests, create multimedia news reports, share their successes with the world through blogging, learning how to do things by watching a YouTube video, write their own software and test it on a school computer, share documents from home to school, send creations to printers (2 and 3D), instruct a robot how to do things, teachers create their own websites/blogs/wikis and so much more. You can fill in your own needs. In Ontario, the situation escalated as software was licensed by the Ministry of Education, school districts licensed their own titles, parent groups would provide money to buy above and beyond the board standard, pilot projects from inside and outside required even more specialized attention, and so much more.
Over the years, we worked together melding curriculum needs with IT concerns to make sure that things would work reliably. We would bring in classroom teachers to work with the huge proposed system image to hopefully make sure that everything worked before it was rolled out to the system. It was a frustrating time; people take these things so personally and any suggestion either way was guaranteed to be second guessed. But the overwhelming goal had to be to make sure that there was a picture of a young learner in everyone’s mind and their learning satisfaction was the ultimate goal.
In the interview with Cliff, he commented on a number of things done in addition to internal planning within a district – regional and provincial ideas. Nobody had a monopoly on how things could/should be done and, together, we were that much better. Rather than being “insular”, we were ready to embrace ideas from all over the place with the net result being everyone was in a better and more educated position.
In the great computer timeline, we are at an interesting time. Windows 10 and Mac OS have never been better. But they’re no longer the only game in town. There are huge numbers of Windows XP machines that can’t be upgraded. Do they just get recycled or does a progressive solution rely on installing some version of Linux on them to maintain an adequate supply of technology for classroom use? Chromebooks seem poised to take on the world with their lower price and impending ability to run Android applications. Does the educational learner need all the power of a traditional computer to do what they need?
Summer time is always a good time to refresh everything. For a couple of months, there really aren’t little fingers at the controls. Who’s paying attention to what the next year offers? Will it be business as usual with tried safe solutions or is it time to pay attention to what’s happening in the education and tech world and get on board?