Does Tech ACTUALLY Help In Primary Schools?

New year, new headline. Well… old headline with a new yarn.

This time it’s a story from the ABC, talking about the divisive contentiousness of BYOD programs in Victorian primary schools. Technical struggles, amplified inequity, varying interpretations and expectations of what BYOD actually is, parents questioning why they need to purchase expensive devices, and general broad spectrum shine-coming-off.

Naturally, it turned up on social media in an educator’s discussion group. Naturally, stories about positive impact emerged. Naturally, the comments invoking the boogeymen of screen time and cyberbullying emerged. It occurred to me that nobody was looking at it from a whole-community perspective, and it sounded quite familiar from my PD experience in schools that have attempted to do BYOD to their community, or outsource BYOD to their students.

(Disclaimer – I’m copy-pasting from a Facebook comment thread here in an effort to capture the writing I spend time thinking about and repost it in a place more accessible to those looking to disentangle themselves from the Zuck’s tendrils.)

If the parent community’s reacting like that, chances are the school’s done a pretty bloody average job of making a case for 1:1.

Sounds to me like they rushed to it, and made it all about the device and what the device can do, not the learning itself.

I’d guess they’ve focused on those year levels that will have student-owned devices without building a fresh set of expectations on the characteristics their learners will develop from kindy.

I’d also guess it’s a bit opt-in for staff, and the mental shortcuts of received wisdoms like “kids’ll know more than us” and “screen time isn’t good for them” aren’t challenged and interrogated at a whole-school level.

I’d guess that in the learning they have planned the tech isn’t absolutely indispensable.
Lastly, it sounds like it took these parents by surprise – doesn’t point to good communication.

Further down the thread, the OP posted again to summarise what she’d taken from it – still quite stressed about endless change to the tech environment, the heavy-handedness of top-down policy, and general lack of cohesive direction. Her summary was still peppered with product names, and while she did mention pedagogy, it was wrapped up in a proprietary platform.

Still fraught with difficulties if your endgame is successful and sustainable 1:1. Fraught with difficulties because the conversation about learning is still secondary to the conversation about everything else. Here’s my response.

The problems with saggy 1:1s are ALWAYS nouns. The backbone of successful 1:1 is ALWAYS verbs.

Programs that are about MacBooks or iPads or Surfaces or GSuite or O365 or Edmodo or green screens or apps… once the novelty wears off and the same old activities are taking place made easier by the new tools, your people will get bored.

Programs that are about critical thinking and creative problem solving and multifaceted communication and managing projects in mixed environments… they’ll take longer to establish but they won’t suffer fatigue like the quick flashy ones.

It should be painful in parts for your organisation to get there – you’re shedding a lot of dearly held things, and growing new stuff.

Time (as in taking the proper time to get there organically) is absolutely crucial, but in doing that you can diminish the money question to only cases of genuine hardship.

You’re right though – if the infrastructure doesn’t work or works in a way that gets in people’s way, it’ll get back-burnered.

At the end of the day, I’m picturing two broad kinds of 1:1 environments, best summed up like this:

There are schools that are incredibly conscious of not stepping on their staff’s toes, and rally around reassurances like “we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” or “it’s just a tool,” that end up looking like the diagram on the left. Their 1:1 program (a term I far prefer to “BYOD”) is layered on top of what’s already going on – adding to workloads, and forever being an afterthought in all bar a few classrooms, often led by people who get frustrated and move on.

Then there are the schools on the right-hand side of the diagram. They’ve recognised the disruption that personalised, connected technology has had in every other domain of society, and they’ve stepped over the notion of wheel-reinvention to ask whether the worthwhile destinations can be reached by road. Their 1:1 is everywhere, it’s embedded in their day to day processes and it’s the baseline upon which other decisions can be made.

I’ve definitely got more to talk about along the lines of the painful growth for whole schools, but that’s a story for another post. Or series of posts.

Or you know… life’s work.

By | 2017-01-24T11:50:42+00:00 January 18th, 2017|Education|1 Comment

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