If you read this blog post, you might get an insight in to a fascinating little secret from within the realm of k-12 education. You see, in most countries of the world there’s been a vast investment (billions of dollars) in Information technology – sometimes broadened to Information Communication Technology (ICT).
So, what’s the secret? The clues are in the following article written by a prominent US educator;
Across the world, in rich and poorer countries alike, in state and private sectors, billions of dollars have been invested in hardware, software, training etc. related to ICT – and in too many places, the children never get to really use it effectively! The article highlights a couple of important issues;
a) training teachers to use ICT and purchasing hardware/ software etc. doesn’t mean that anything very significant or substantial will have changed for the children (they get a more professional looking worksheet!). Seeing teachers using technology shouldn’t be mistaken for believing that the learning process has changed for the pupils.
b) teachers today are still, to a great extent and in many places, fixated on issues of ‘control’. The issues of being the ‘sage on the stage’ are still very much alive and refuse to die. As a result, all the time teachers see putting IT in the hands of the children as a loss of control, then the greater the likelihood that little will change.
On the latter point, I well remember, not so very long ago, the school i came across where a one to one tablet programme had been introduced. After some parent complaints it was discovered that many of the teachers were in the habit of collecting the tablets from the pupils “so that we can all concentrate.” Then, they would tell them, “If you’re very good, I’ll let you play on the tablets for 20 minutes before you go for lunch.”
Clearly, when so many of us started to get truly excited by the potential for what ICT can do and be in the classroom, how it can be a vehicle for personalisation of the learning experience previously only dreamed of – this was not what we were looking for.
We’ve seen ample evidence of what can happen, across countless countries with the introduction of interactive white boards. These, as teaching and learning tools, had great potential to bring real enhancements to the learning process, student attention and motivation, understanding and speed of learning. However, the problems all too often started with the fact that the decisions to install such boards came from a marketing position rather than an educational position. The net result was that when they got used almost entirely as an extension of the teacher’s ‘showing and telling’ traditional methodologies, nobody really batted an eyelid. sadly, as a result, they became very expensive white elephants, paid for through school fees.
The earlier article alludes to something that I’ve personally witnessed in this as in many other scenarios in schools – in the words of the great Peter Drucker, “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.” Where ICT has been used genuinely to change the way learning happens, to bring real personalisation it’s been because an individual or a handful of individuals were prepared to change things despite the system (not necessarily because of it!) It takes a certain degree of zeal to ride out the problems and challenges, to question and challenge oneself and to step out of comfort zones to try new things.
As long ago as 2011, it was very clear to me that these enthusiastic pioneers existed and were doing work that really mattered to change education, as evidenced by one of my blog posts from that time:
The Global Collaboration In Learning referred to in that article is still very much active and bringing amazing educators together to share ideas and creativity around the ideas of utilizing ICT to change the way children learn;
Incidentally, those interested will see that the next conference is due to take place from Sunday 13th November to Wednesday 16th November, online, free of charge – certainly a great opportunity to put in the diary. From the website it’s also possible to dip in to the vast archive of material from the past conferences.
The driving forces behind all these initiatives have included many people. However, one who has long stood out for me as a pioneer and a tireless worker to share information about educators bringing real innovation and change is Steve Hargadon. Here’s an article from a couple of years ago sharing some of his concerns about what’s wrong with education today and why we need to be looking to bring about real change:
Among many other things Hargadon has been responsible for one of the most prolific series of podcasts with interviews with educators who are making a difference. You can get access to the archive here;
A vast range of interviews going back to 2006/07!
The reality is that too much of what’s happening in education today is not serving children well. Too many could benefit from education that treats them as individuals and enables them to learn in ways that are more appropriate for them. It’s time to find the monomaniacs, to share their stories and ideas and to multiply their numbers. There should be no prizes for simply doing ‘yesterday’s education’ but doing it incrementally 1% better. We have to be ready to reform and to rebuild the plane whilst flying at 35,000 feet.