Technology in Education

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My daughter is in the eighth grade, and the school she attends has introduced a number of technology items this year. I think this is great and want to definitely encourage them for doing this, but I have a number of issues with the way this technology has been integrated, deployed and used.

Problem 1: No discernible strategy.

Somewhere along the line decisions have been made that simply seem to make no sense. The students are provided iPad mini’s, but use Dropbox for files and Google Apps for office automation applications. Sounds very fashionable, but not very practical.

Here are some of the issues with this. Now each student and teacher has to maintain at least 3 accounts (iCloud, Dropbox, and Google). Content creation into Google Apps on an iPad is a less than optimal experience. Of course you have no keyboard so data creation is complicated at best.

Possible Solution: Pick an ecosystem that covers your use cases and go all in. If you are going to use Google for email and office automation, then pick Android or Chrome OS. If you are going to use Microsoft, then pick Office 365 and Windows. If you choose Apple, then use iCloud, iOS and OSX. As soon as you mix and match you are actually using the weakest parts of each ecosystem.

Problem 2: No predetermined use cases.

It appears that each teacher and each student is left to fend for themselves on how best to use and implement each technology use case as it works for them. The issue with this is that it is often not an efficient use case and they miss huge potential use cases because they are simply ignorant of the capabilities of the technology.

Possible Solution: Iron out the use cases in advance, get faculty buy in, and phase out antiquated paper based workflows that introduce a good deal of cost and overhead that can easily be eliminated in a paperless workflow. Be consistent.

Problem 3: Fashion accessory versus tool

Technology is not a fashion accessory. Technologies are tools in a tool box. If you treat it like a toy, it will be used like a toy. It seems that iPad’s were chosen not due to how well they fit the use cases, but it was because parents want the kids to have iPad’s.

Possible Solution: Examine the use cases and apply the correct hardware and software to fit those use cases. Treat the technology like you would a spiral notebook, pencil, and protractor.

I think it is great that technology solutions are being introduced at younger and younger ages, but these solutions are treated as non-essential games, luxury items and applied in an inconsistent way matching few if any use cases, it will be hard to sit back and honestly say that these experiments in education failed later.