resisting the lure of new gadgets

Let’s remember that technology is about people

The World’s Leading Learning Technology Event’ hits town next week.

I’ll be visiting Bett 2015 at London’s Excel Centre to catch up with the latest innovations for education. Along with some 35,000 visitors, I’ll be wowed by new eLearning solutions and ways to transform education with innovative platforms.

But let’s not forget: it’s the Non-Gadgety Challenges that will improve our use of educational technology.

I’ve heard this, time and time again, from Further Education and Skills managers and practitoners all over London, at countless workshops, communities of practice and discussion sessions.

They want to see a cross-organisational approach, and better understanding of each other’s specialisms

It’s hardly surprising.

And now, the ‘foremost community of IT leaders’,  the mighty US Educause,  endorses the human approach. In their list of 2014’s top IT issues  they urge everyone to take responsibility, not just techies, so their top ten technology issues start with people issues:

* an Organisational Approach is top, so learners are not disadvantaged by silos and empires.

* a partnership between IT leadership and institutional leadership – so management can both understand and support.

* better support for curriculum staff AND IT staff comes next – again, let us first learn how to use better what we’ve got.

If this is the view from across the field of North American Higher Education, then they have caught up with something known by every London FE or Adult learning provider I’ve spoken to, particularly when confronted with a pile of shrink wrapped, project-funded gadgets that are apparently about to transform learning and teaching.

* Next comes Big Data – making use of what we know about people as the act of learning creates its digital footprint.

Relegated to 7th in the list of technology issues is the first gadget issue – the desperate need for more WiFi and broadband to manage the explosion of personal devices.

The last three are the usual suspects of every learning provider organisation’s todo list:

  • explore the potential of online delivery
  • scale up IT procurement in the hope of reducing costs – and put it all in the cloud
  • keep the whole setup safe and free from danger (er… see above)

So what does this tell us?

Teachers are disenfranchised by rapidly changing gadgetry.  We all are – I’m marooned inbetween phone contracts and a locked handset right now.  And Windows 8 interface made us all struggle.

People want to feel connected to each other. They also recognise the changing role of the techie, no longer mainly providing desktops on desks, now tasked with managing identity and broadband as people take charge of their own devices.  And hopefully being freed up to help explain more how these things work.

Conclusion

So let’s make 2015 the year we really grasp what lies behind the way we use technology for education, and focus on the people involved.    See you at Bett 2015 on the 21st Jan.

Julian

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