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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Article: Internet Safety Talking Point 2

  2. 2 Thanks to GrumbleDook:

    Ephelyon (29th August 2012), speckytecky (29th August 2012)

  3. #2

    Ephelyon's Avatar
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    The attitude embodied in today's quote is becoming more and more common among senior leaders, so it's nice to see some balanced sense on the topic!

    It's important to remember that the educational function is not the only one that technology is facilitating within a school - financial management, personnel management, site management anyone? Without those processes working correctly, you don't have a school at all! I've been called in by our Finance department before when something has gone wrong with the IT facilities because, in their own words, "we can't work". As in they actually cannot continue to carry out adequate financial management until the problem is resolved.

    Consider building architecture as an analogy. There is a house, say, which is kept upright by its foundations. The house represents a school, and inside the house there are many things going on, the most prominent of which is teaching and learning. But what are the foundations actually there to enable the continued existence of? Is it what's going on inside the house?

    No. It is the house itself, the "institution" of it as it were, without which there cannot be anything going on inside at all. A different house might represent a hospital, where what is most prominently going on inside is patient care. For that house, again, the foundations' job is largely the same. Just because the point of having the house there is so that things can be going on inside it, this does not mean that we manage the foundations of the house based solely on that principle. They do not equate.

    If you need to improve the drainage around your home's foundations, say, you're not doing it with any particular regard to what you intend to do with your time at home. It's about keeping the home itself there and undamaged. It is also this purpose that your organisation's IT facilities are ultimately facilitating.

    In this sense, then, sometimes an area of the foundations (in this case, the IT system) needs developing because it simply needs developing, in a very generic sense - this is often the case in IT because the underlying technologies are so generic themselves. Something might be out of date and will soon become unsupported by the manufacturer, perhaps. Or it could be on the real back-end, such as server virtualisation, where the industry as a whole is advancing and it may be perceived that not to keep up now could be costly in the future. Attempting to tie that particular development down to a specific teaching and learning requirement would be difficult and, in any case, unnecessary. No organisation is all about service delivery, whatever their advertising gumph might suggest, because they can't afford to be.

    This might go some way towards showing up the chicken-and-the-egg question that GrumbleDook puts so succinctly. Just as the pedagogy can be agnostic to the technology, the technology is generally agnostic to the pedagogy. Yes, technology is often created, adapted or advanced in response to user requirements, be they business needs, children's education, patient care or anything else. But IT innovation doesn't always work that way - some questions to consider:

    1) Did anyone in particular ask Linus Torvalds for the Linux operating system?
    2) Did anyone in particular ask Apple for the iPhone?
    3) Did anyone in particular ask Google for Google Docs?

    (I could be showing my ignorance here, but I've found no evidence to suggest that any of these three were created solely in response to a particular set of user requirements as presented.)

    These inventors' ideas and implementations may or may not have been based on some understanding of user requirements, but either way, quite often in the IT sector we innovate because we need to or because we simply wish to, rather than because we were asked to. Some might say this shouldn't be the case, but either way it is the case, and it has been for the past few decades that IT has existed in at least its semi-modern form. Consequently, the idea that developments in school IT facilities occur solely as components of an educational strategy devised by senior leaders in response to educational needs is inaccurate, insufficiently holistic and unwise as an approach, because there will always be other factors worthy of consideration as well.

    My own little story (not suggesting for a moment that I think this applies to everyone else out there), in analogy form as I would present it to an educator:

    Consider the child - a teenager, let's say - who is inquisitive and has an interest in physics. He is fascinated by the idea of Newton's Cradle and decides to design and build one for himself. He finds out everything he needs to know, collects the materials, sketches the diagrams and finally builds the device. Having put the finishing touches to it, he hesitates for a moment in anticipation, and thenů *push*. A smile spreads across his face as he sits back and just watches it for a time. He is not interested in the practical applications of his contraption. He revels in the marvel that is the device itself: the complex interconnected system of acting and reacting forces.

    Quite a few of the people who go into IT, some of them ending up in education, are youngish men (and women) like me, who initially went into it because we were interested solely in the technology itself. The potential danger of that can, I think, be avoided by remembering that IT is such a generic set of technologies - you can do practically anything with it anyway. If you put the foundation analogy and the child analogy together, you come to where I was not too long ago, and where many others have been and will be.

    Naturally, however, where technology is applied in the workplace, its use does need to be directed and not merely whimsical as described above. Senior leaders actually have a tremendous opportunity before them to take these members of staff and develop them further, encouraging them to see both sides of the coin: the technology itself, AND its applications for the greater good. If you tell the child in the analogy above that his device is pointless and irrelevant without a practical application (that you can see), he'll stop listening to you. If, as a senior leader, you force-feed your technical whizz-kids an education-centric vision and thereby, frankly, stamp on their particular brand of creativity, they will become disheartened and unproductive.

    But, if you can share in their marvel and at the same time help them to find ways of applying their art in ways that are useful - as my employer has, to my great benefit - then they have the potential to become a tremendous asset to you and to your organisation.

    In short, the senior leader who accepts that technology in a school goes beyond just delivering education, and develops their staff and their facilities holistically, will reap the benefits.

  4. Thanks to Ephelyon from:

    speckytecky (29th August 2012)

  5. #3
    speckytecky's Avatar
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    Excellent - thanks.

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    skunk's Avatar
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    Should be "You're technology coordinator works WITH you"

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