In its purist form, I subscribe to the idea that technology can and will eventually solve all of the world’s problems. Many of these problems are things like lack of resources or poor distribution of resources. It doesn’t take a massive leap of imagination to think that we’ll eventually be able to resolve those through technologies such as those in Star Trek.
However, at the same time, I disagree with the constant shoe-horning of technology into schools, and into places it need not be. Basically, I am constantly seeing technological solutions to non-technological problems in education.
Questions such as ‘can we ban Jim from the internet, as he was messing around in his IT class?’ or ‘how can the teacher monitor what every child is doing in their IT class?’ are a distraction from the real problem here - lack of consistent policies and lack of planning.
In the first case, if a student was misbehaving in their maths lessons by entering numbers that spell out words on his calculator instead of working, would we ban them from using a calculator? Or would it be dealt with via standard behaviour policy with detentions etc…?
Would we design a woodwork room with a dark corner where the teacher couldn’t see what the students were doing with their saws? Or would we design the room to be open and have it so a teacher can see what every child is doing by merely lifting their head up?
Why are these principles ignored when it comes to ICT? Why do ICT rooms get designed in rows, or in bizarre shapes, so that a teacher cannot see what is going on with all the computers without using a specialist piece of software, which takes them away from teaching and turns them into
prison classroom guards?
This thinking extends further too, and it goes right to the top of the education tree in the UK. The introduction of VLEs, interactive whiteboards and electronic classroom voting systems have, in my experience, been universally handled badly. Instead of seeing a need and working to fill that need, a shiny new technology has been spotted and a teacher has waxed lyrical about it, leading to others demanding that tech in their room, only for it to end up as a bulletin board for homework (which they also get in their lessons), a painted surface to project onto or a way of wasting 10 minutes of a lesson setting up a kit when ‘raising hands’ would do the same job.
Don’t get me wrong, I love technology - that’s why I work in IT, but I also hate waste. Without proper planning, and end to end thinking, we’re destined for year after year of misdirected spending and poor performance in IT and education in general.