Please note: These “Devil’s Advocate” posts are not my views or daily practice. However, as an exercise I think we all need to slow down and ask ourselves if we are doing the correct things in the correct ways. In order to do this, we need to take another position and argue against our practice. I am good at fighting with myself, so I hope my intent helps anyone in a technology or educational leadership role do the same.
The fact is that we need to start building IT spaces again. Maybe not labs, but spaces. The concept of sending someone into a classroom to “support” thirty students while they are suppose to be studying is flawed. The idea that some 20-30 minute activity during English class some how expand their minds and technology skills is horribly flawed. There was a time when students went to space that we designed for them to focus and do some real work. A space designed for projects that took time and planning. A space that may have had rules and controls to force them to work within a framework, as most people do in their day-to-day life.
Now, we have only the chaos of tables and laptops with small amounts of technology being infused to achieve Wikipedia searching and interactions with low-powered online or iPad apps. A movie a student can make on an iPad in English class, is not even in the same pedagogical realm as a movie that can produced on a specialised workstation.
The ability to build and tell a story with video should take a student weeks, not 45-60 minutes. Real stories are complex and require serious time commitments. Having students do everything on a Twitter-like scale is not going to produce any deep learning.
Robotics and engineering work best in spaces that are purpose built for them. Additional materials make these activities powerful. Materials require storage and management, and cannot be floating around on a campus. Projects within the discipline of engineering again take weeks to complete. They require students to put order to chaos, and they cannot be completed with an iPad or any equipment that is fragile. Computers controlling equipment need to be configured properly and should be standardised. Calibration is essential, and if students use their laptops, then every day they will need to re-adjust or re-calibrate. Instead of walking into a space and working, they will waste 10-20 minutes just getting setup.
Writing is another area where technology integration and push-in programs of all kinds have failed. Students do not need to type in school. Yes, they need to submit digital copies of work and it must be typed. However, since 90% of their third party external exams (IB, AP, SAT, etc.) are all hand written, they should be constantly writing by hand. Until the third party external exams change, schools need to prepare students to manage the given format.
Software licensing is still designed for school own spaces. Companies prefer to be able to audit specific devices in specific locations. Once a student takes a laptop home, regardless of the laptop program model, they have the opportunity to pirate software. Why take the risk? Do they really need to be using Photoshop at home? Probably not. They need to be focusing on the endless projects requiring typing and primitive online research. This is something students can accomplish with fairly low-end equipment. If they need to do a special project with media, they can work late at school.
It is time to just acknowledge that the model everyone believes in is flawed. Teachers and administrators secretly want to voice this as their opinion. Students are wasting time on small projects that have little to no scale. Students are not truly given the time and resources to master anything complex. Let’s change the model. Let’s look to the past. Let’s start making spaces and stop trying to turn every room into technology hub.