Martin’s Weblog

Education: What technology wants

Suppliers and institutions may want technology to enable a control, expensive rarity model with proprietary and protected features. People may want technology to enable freedom and choice with a cheap abundance model with open features (except of course where rarity and expensive are a feature of identity rather than function – think “designer” fashion). Initial phases of new technology are often balanced towards the supplier/institution and then competition shifts balance towards what people want from technology. The balance between supplier/institution and people will continue to play out into the future according to contexts but ultimately what technology wants ends up being what people want.

Information technology wants to be personal, abundant, cheap, easy, convenient, open, small, mobile and connected – “resistance is futile”.

The balance of technology in education is weighted to the institution – we depend upon institutionally provisioned hardware and software from data centres and servers to “end user” computers – this is an expensive, resource intensive, centralised and locked down model struggling to meet the demands of what people want from technology.

Continuing on the current trajectory every room will be eventually be an IT suite or every student will have a college computer – how could I provision, support, maintain and secure up to 20,000 computers – we need a new approach. Educational technology must seek a lighter, simpler less resource intensive approach to technology – it must learn to let go of technology, step away from the diminishing returns on the technology treadmill. Instead, education should provide a platform for technology use – a feasible and sustainable model for the next era – the “fifth wave of computing” – personal, abundant, cheap, easy, convenient, open, small, mobile and connected.

The traditional response is for education to provide resources but better choices can usually be readily selected by people from the web. Education needs to de-institutionalise and reduce its own technology – allow the balance to shift to personal  technology by exploring DIY and self service approaches.

All our learners have on-line presence and identities – why provide institutional versions – allow learners to use their own resources and on-line identity. Allow learners to select their own email and their own applications – some will use Google apps, some will use Microsoft Live apps while others might prefer Zoho, Facebook office or local apps such as Openoffice or even Microsoft office. If learners don’t have on-line resources then this is an area for education, for education should be about learning for life.

Shift investment from computers and servers to the network. Shake off the ghost of internal client-server thinking – think global – think open – think web only. Create pervasive wireless guest access and increase both internal and Internet bandwidth. Encourage learners and staff to use their own IT on your guest network – let the network be our computer – let the network be the technology platform for learning

Education teaching and Education IT could both share a common new approach – facilitation. Facilitate the use of resources rather than the resources themselves. In the same way that teaching is considering facilitation, coaching, guidance styles so too could education IT.

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September 26, 2010 - Posted by | education, ICT, IT and education

3 Comments »

  1. Totally agree with this sentiment, Martin.

    We simply cannot continue to support ever growing infrastructures and bespoke platforms within the boundaries of our own organisations – especially so with ever tighter restrictions upon our ability to fund these activities.

    How liberating it will be for the learner to be welcomed into an organisation where their choice of technology is welcomed, accepted and well catered for, instead of being blocked, barred or otherwise prohibited.

    I’m surprised that what I read here is dated back to September 2010 and could still be viewed by many as ‘future strategy’ rather than ‘current strategy’. Maybe we aren’t moving fast enough… (yet)

    Comment by chri5grant | April 14, 2011 | Reply

  2. [...] chase around our networks as demands from departments fluctuate. Back in September 2010, Martin King wrote exactly this, proposing that substantial change is needed in order for educational establishments to bring their [...]

    Pingback by “Wonky learning environments” « Adventures In Learning Technology | April 15, 2011 | Reply

  3. […] chase around our networks as demands from departments fluctuate. Back in September 2010, Martin King wrote exactly this, proposing that substantial change is needed in order for educational establishments to bring their […]

    Pingback by “Wonky learning environments” | Adventures in Learning Technology | August 22, 2013 | Reply


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