Tuesday, January 5, 2016

How To Change The Education System: Race With The Machines

The cost of IT in education is clear but its effect is far less so - students, computers and learning is controversial to say the least!

The nature of IT has changed significantly over the time I have worked in education. In the last decades of the 20th century IT was rare and the education system was one of those places where you could learn about and use computers. Since the turn of the 21st century IT has become pervasive in the lives of our staff and students. Our students have "grown up digital" - they are used to using computers, smartphones, the Internet, the Web, social networks, social media, messaging apps and a whole lot more everyday and all the time - IT is part of people's personal and public life.

While IT in society develops and progresses apace (even exponentially) IT in education hit a wall at the end of the 20th century, flatlined and entered an induced coma. Time has stopped for the education system and it still dreams of IT like its 1999 - the the world beyond the dreamer is but a whisper, anything that might cause waking is blocked out and everything is assimilated into a Web 1.0 push\broadcast content delivery and testing PC model.

When I started teaching educational IT and management IT were separate - educational IT was diverse, exciting and full of potential. Today educational IT has been unified and appropriated by and for management and the education industry - its standardised, mundane and used for the measurement, management and control of staff, students and institutions.

The education system has a crisis of relevance with zombie IT - a monster mash that is complex, expensive, rigid, and slow moving – increasingly beneficial to the corporate education industry but increasingly ridiculous and damaging to education and learning.

The students view ... "education is not utilising technology effectively" - they note that "technology plays an important role in their everyday life but not when they are in education". They notice that on-line assessment simply mimics traditional assignment practice and ask for social, community and discussion type assignments and assessments. They note that smartphones improve ease of sharing and information access but note that there use is in education and learning is usually banned . Students ask that they be allowed to use their smartphones as this will be helpful in making their learning more effective. Students are aware how social media is widely used and established in their lives but that that the education sector is only now starting to see its potential for learning - the students ask that education use social media as a platform for sharing and in so doing boost learning. Students note that today a number of technology options are available that can boost the learning experience and make it more flexible, easy, comfortable and effective for students but the education system is not utilising technology effectively.

Its time for the education system to wake up and interact with the real world - a world where machine assistants we carry around with us everywhere do things for us.

In a race without machines we are bound to fail - technology (or at least the right type of technology) always provides an advantage - from the use of the wheel, through the use of arrows in warfare and even in the humble pub quiz - if you have a smartphone .... you can simply search for the right answer. Education without technology is nonsensical and damaging.

In a race against machines we are bound to fail - people are not machines -  there is no way the average person can beat a calculator - leave mechanical tasks to the machines.

In a race with machines we have a chance to succeed ... future generations will have to live in a world full of machines - we owe it to our children to prepare them for this. Our education system should use its time, energy and resources developing us as humans - leave mechanical tasks to the machines - we need to use and collaborate with machines as appropriate.

We need 21st century pedagogy matched with 21st century technology!

Its time for education to take back IT from management, use appropriate technologies and race with the machines to develop people as humans.

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