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Archive for December, 2015

Why schools don’t need computers…or maybe do

Posted by jturner56 on December 12, 2015

Another year is coming to an end, and with it reflections of just how far we have come on our digital journeys in schools. Introducing coding or digital portfolios, which have been around for decades, shows just how little we have moved in key areas. It may be sexy to advocate new technologies as progress, but where does digital fit into the bigger school picture? The latest fad – coding – may go in similar ways to previous technologies; via ill prepared structures, preparation and support aligned to ill considered objectives.

Evidence of the inability of digital technologies to progress valued learning in schools abounds, with the latest courtesy of Larry Cuban – “I Gave My Students iPads–Then Wished I Could Take Them Back.” Against this contenders such as 3D Printers, Maker Spaces, Personalized Learning solutions and the latest Horizon Project inevitabilities abound.

So where does digital lie in the education equation? A good starting point might be the NSW Study – High Value-Add Schools: Key Drivers of School Improvement – that identified five key elements (non of which require digital per se):

  • collaboration
  • professional learning
  • whole-school goal and strategies for change
  • effective teaching strategies
  • student engagement
  • high expectations for achievement

Perhaps there is a pointer in the latest US National Education Plan, which highlights leadership as a necessary requirement to create a “culture and condition for innovation and change.” In schools overwrought by overloaded, over committed , and over embedded industrialised curriculum, forcing ‘innovation’ from the the outside will always be pushing uphill, in constant risk of rolling back.

Even then, as personal technologies engender new new learning opportunities, the pressure on schools to accommodate will only increase. But then again, this also has been known for over three decades. Schools and School systems meanwhile continue to accept assimilation of digital technologies even as personal learning through digital generates new accommodations.

High Tech High is a good example of looking at technology in new ways to support clear objectives, as highlighted in the film Most Likely to Succeed. Not all schools will want to be like this, nor should they be. But for any school a minimal condition, clear vision and objectives need to be aligned to leadership in learning direction and technology direction working in unison.

Even then, as Dave Zwieback explains in Beyond Blame: Learning from Failure and Success – in any systemic change, any change will contain failures. How they are evaluated will determine ultimate success or failure.

So how does your community stack up? Before judging the tech, this might be a better starting point. Then you might be in a stronger position to judge appropriately what value you might aim to add through digital,  and against what ends this can be evaluated.

With constant evolving technologies this remains the key question.

Best of Christmas Wishes to all.






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