A couple days ago I took issue with Edudemic for an advertorial it ran on how to manage iPads in a classroom. It was, I said, more mis-management. Now Edudemic has done it again. Its post, Three Threats of Rapid Technology Change, makes the mistake of thinking the technololgy change is about devices and applications.
If we go with that mistake then it makes sense to take about the problems of proliferation, fragmentation and obsolescence and the corresponding needs for rationalization, standardization and program upgrades. (Which is where I’m guessing the writer is going in later parts of these series of posts.) But technology change is not about devices and apps. Indeed, in my experience, it just doesn’t matter anymore what device or apps a person uses. Underneath all that sophisticated hardware and code is a set of very simple instructions–a formatted Word document is just a fancy “.txt” file–that one machine reads as easily as the next. My iPhone talks to my colleague’s Android–politely to boot.
When I was head of THINK Global School we let students work with phones, tablets and laptops–didn’t matter. We didn’t specifiy any applications. We didn’t have an intranet–we just connected directly to the web. In other words we let things proliferate and fragment. Obsolescence became, well, obsolete because when you say devices don’t matter there is nothing to grow old. We let the users manage their devices so there was no need to cnetrally manage. When my students asked what they needed to bring to class I would answer by telling them what we are going to do and I let them decide what tools they wanted to use. It didn’t matter to me if they wrote in Word, Pages, a text editor, Penultimate, an email or even on paper and took a picture of their work an SMS-ed it to me. Sometimes, a few would record their thoughts and send me a podcast or video.
And they did fine. In standardized tests (ACER) we ran as benchmarks for evaluating our program our students did as well as or better that top performing jurisdictions such as Singapore and Shanghai.
In an important way, the devices don’t matter anymore. We are, at last, getting to a point where the technology is sophisticated enough to allow for genuine democratization and personalization of learning. Standardization looks so backward.