Thursday, June 26, 2008

Don't Think About IT


The biggest challenge facing successful XO implementation in Western countries is the requirement that schools think differently about computing. If you are concerned with making the XO (or any of the new generation of ultra-portable computers it has inspired) work with your district’s Exchange server on your Novell network with unchanged proxy settings, filtering software and firewalls, then it never will. Such costly I.T. ballast may not work with the children’s machine, but more importantly it will undermine the educational value of the device.

The ingenious mesh networking of the XO or the Mac’s Bonjour networking protocols make seamless collaboration free and easy right out of the box. Unfortunately, many school districts employ expensive personnel who disable this educational functionality deliberately or as a result of overly complex networks serving too many masters.

Imagine approaching the challenge of providing students with home Internet access in a new way. Instead of prevailing upon politicians or telecom companies to install expensive antennas or launch a new satellite, why not have a Mayor say, “My fellow citizens, the children of our city need you to remove the password to your home or small business wireless router so they may work and learn outside of school.”

The future requires us to think of the “network” from the kid up, not the system down. The “children’s machine” ensures that history will be on the side of the student.

This column was apparently rejected by District Administration magazine. The question of how IT is going to work in schools is a key choke-point for innovation, and there is essentially no conversation going on between ed-tech and IT, that I can discern, about how to address the issue.

1 comment:

Bill Kerr said...

agree with much of gary's broad sweep but some of the historical over simplification bothers me, eg.

"Around 1995, fewer exciting examples of school reform accompanied laptop deployment. Sure, early adopters are more ambitious, but there was another force at work The Internet offered schools a way to deliver content, test kids and monitor teachers from a centralized command at a relatively low-cost. Schools could appear modern without all of that pesky freedom or change in practice that might upset the top-down order of the system"

The reality is that both the laptop and the internet are disruptive and School restricts both of them; for me the broader issue here is that we need to look more closely at the real reasons that Schools resist disruptive technologies. I had a go at this a while back (not directed at gary but tried to do a deeper analysis) but more needs to be done with it:
technological change and systemic change