Saturday, August 28, 2010

An Innovation Paradox

I work with an amazing community of technology innovators. Students are early adaptors of technology and most show up with new tools asking me how they can integrate this technology into learning. Faculty member are as energized and curious as the students. By far, the most prevalent technology of the year revolves around “apps”. These small applications sit on smartphones and iPads allow the user to quickly run a single focus program to meet a social, informational or recreational need.

Great! As an educational technology geek I would love to encourage this enthusiasm for apps. But I ran into a snag piloting the iPad… network security. I ran into a snag with my new Android smartphone… network security. Because apps communicate back and forth with their developer site, our proxy server would need to whitelist every single developer site. With roughly 1000 users in the building carrying at least one mobile device… well, the math is a little beyond me but at the least it would be a full time job to keep up with those sites.

And this is the innovation paradox; schools are charged with keeping children safe in electronic environments while creating innovative 21st century experiences. I wish I had the answer for this one. I can say that for now – it doesn’t include apps.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Thinking About MultiChannel Learners

The line between casual use of technology and professional/educational use has blurred. We are not longer as compartmentalized as in past generations. We carry one Blackberry to both communication with business colleagues and play Mp3 music and audio books. We are enamored of netbooks which keep us connected to family, friends and the workplace while sitting in airport lounges. Some of us even use even Skype with our grandparents!

The school day no longer ends at 3:15. Our students are posting online assignments at all hours of the day and night. They are blogging, video conferencing, file sharing, collaborating, and creating at home, at school, in the car (hopefully not when driving!). Those of us in IT departments are on call 24/7 thanks to smartphones. Our world is no longer home - school - practice - home. We are connected to all elements at all times.

I am not addressing the moral implications of this connectivity. Whether it is “good” or “bad” to be so multi-channel connected is not my purpose. I argue that it’s happened so we as educators might as well make the best of things. If we are to engage our students and prepare them for the world of their future, we must meet them in their multi-channeled world. This does not mean sacrificing academic rigor. This does not mean abandoning the past 500 years of educational theory. This does mean being willing to release some of our patrician control of the process. This does mean engaging students within the context of their world - whether we fully understand it or not!