I’ve come home early today from my new job within a Faculty of Education at a University. Entirely because the quality of the technology I have at home far exceeds the quality of the technology I have at work. The following suggests that this little anecdote highlights one of the contributing factors as to why the quantity and quality of ICT integration in schools is less than good.
There seems to be broad consensus that the quantity and quality of the use of Information and Communication Technologies within schools (and I’ll add universities) sucks. Sure, there are some really brilliant work being done by a lot of talented educators, but those contributions form but a very small percentage of the overall education system.
There is also broad consensus that the quantity and quality of ICT integration must significantly improve. The Australian government is apparently spending $2 billion dollars to achieve this, a not insignificant amount. We have to be ready for the digital world.
The wrong end of the stick?
As part of that funding Australia has the Teaching Teachers for the Future project.
aimed at enabling all pre-service teachers at early, middle and senior levels to become proficient in the use of ICT in education
As always there are some good people doing some good work in this project.
But it also seems to be fundamentally flawed.
I’ve heard the rationale for the TTF explained this way:
- It’s obvious that ICT integration in schools sucks.
- It’s obvious that new teachers (as well as existing ones) are somewhat sucky at using ICTs.
- Hence there must be flaws with the preparation new teachers are receiving at University.
- So, we need to fix this
by building the ICTE capacity of teacher educators and developing online resources to provide rich professional learning through exemplar packages. The project involves all 39 Australian teacher education institutions.
I don’t deny that there may be some flaws with the preparation new teachers are receiving at University. In fact, I’m likely to create some of those flaws in my new job.
But having a special project with additional funding to create exemplars is not going to create a long term transformation.
Limitations of the school/university environment
One of the reasons it won’t create long-term transformation is that it will do little to change the environment within the institutions. An environment within institutions which is struggling to keep up with what is happening outside.
For example, I’ve just been employed as an academic in an Education faculty. I’ve been employed with a focus on ICT integration. I’ve been employed at a time when the Government is spending $2+ billion dollars on the Digital Education Revolution (including the TTF) and when my new university has a mantra of “digital first” (i.e. when designing learning experiences think about digital experiences first, rather than on-campus etc first).
Given this context, you might expect that the ICT resources provided to academic staff would be designed to engage with the demands of the broader context.
But no, the technology I provide myself at home is better than what is available at work
- At work I have a Windows Desktop PC with a MOE that includes an out of date version of IE. I can only work with this machine in my office.
- At home I have a Mac Powerbook with all the latest software and all my papers, data, software etc. It goes with me whenever and where ever I need it. Including to work where I use it instead of the Windows PC.
- At work I have a network connection for which the Twitter URL shortener (http://t.co) is blocked. Hence I can’t easily follow all the useful resources my tweeps share.
- At home I have a network connection that is as fast as the one at work, but without the filtering.
- At work I make do with 17″ Dell monitors that struggle to output a horizontal resolution of 1200. It’s an ergonomic nightmare when the monitor at your eye level has a worse resolution than your laptop screen below eye level. You either make do with restricted screen space or a cricked neck.
- At home I have a 24″ Apple Cinema display that will do a horizontal resolution of 1900. Something that makes all the difference when you’re reading and writing papers, websites, blogs etc.
When such a gap exists between what is happening within an educational institution and what is happening outside, it must have ramifications.
If ICT integration is so important, why do I have better tech at home?
Better provided tech or a paradigm shift?
The “solution” to this problem doesn’t necessarily mean that the mean stingy university should give me better technical tools. This might be an indicator of a change in paradigm. Rather than assuming that the university has to provide me with all my technology, perhaps it’s time for the university to work with the technology I already have.
I don’t think that the paradigm shift has happened yet, but the whole BYOT/BYOD movement is starting to be suggested of one likely future.
Either way, there appears to be a gap.