It’s not about the device anymore

cloud-software-devices-nocloud-200Many years ago, as a technology consultant in the education sphere, I was often asked to help schools choose between the Windows and Mac platforms.

My first response was always to ask how the school intended to use this technology to support the curriculum.

If the school indicated that their primary ICT goal was for students to learn how to write essays using Microsoft Word, or make presentations using PowerPoint, then it was clear that they would probably be best served by a basic out-of-the box Windows-Office environment.

If the school was aiming to build a deeper, more interesting and creative ‘multi-modal’ learning environment, then an out-of-the-box Mac solution was often more appropriate.

However, times are rapidly changing….

old-to-new-fad-150The question is no longer about PC v Mac - it’s about Desktop v Mobile. And the discussion is rapidly moving from considerations of what type of mobile or desktop device to choose, to discussions about the services that are accessed using the device – and, more recently, if the school even has a role in providing end-user devices.

The real discussion is about software and services that can provide meaningful and relevant support for curriculum outcomes, which devices provide access to these services, and when and where those services are available.

It is now expected that staff and students will be accessing their data on multiple devices, in multiple locations, at various times of the day and night.

Cloud SoftwareAt the moment, part of the answer to these considerations is ‘the cloud’ – using online software and services that can be accessed from multiple devices, anytime, anywhere. Of course, the other part of the answer is how well-equipped teachers are to transparently integrate access to these on-line services in their daily classroom activities.

Wireless devicesFrom an infrastructure perspective, a school’s major ICT focus has moved from the provision and maintenance of rooms full of computers connected to a local fileserver, to providing transparent network access – anytime, anywhere – to online services for school-owned, student-owned, and teacher-owned devices.

The days of computer technicians (or teachers) in each school managing user authentication and file permissions on a local server, or troubleshooting errant software installations, and a myriad other local software issues, are numbered.

Technology in the CurriculumThe focus of the use of technology in the classroom is returning to outcomes related to key learning areas, not mastering skills in using the software or the device used to achieve those outcomes.

From an ICT Co-ordinator’s perspective, and from a Principal’s perspective, ‘ICT in schools’ shouldn’t be about ‘fixing’ devices anymore – it is about managing access to online services that support curriculum outcomes, anytime, anywhere. It is about providing support for teachers integrating technology in their regular classroom activities. The device, and the network supporting the device, should become a transparent gateway to the online services supporting curriculum outcomes.

So what hurdles does a school face in moving to a new ICT model? Is your school ready to move to an ICT model focussed on ‘anywhere, anytime’ access to online services, using a multitude of devices?

  • Planning questionsIs your school’s network able to support every student and every teacher connecting 3 devices (laptop, phone/iPod, tablet) to the network?
  • Is your school’s wireless network robust and accessible throughout all classroom and administrative areas of the school?
  • Does your school have a policy for the use of personal devices connecting to the school network?
  • Can teachers and students access their school-related data from school and from home?
  • Can teachers and students access their school-related data on any desktop or mobile device?
  • Can teachers and students easily share school-related data, and collaborate with each other on group projects using that data?
  • Are teachers able to confidently identify the most appropriate technology to support curriculum outcomes?

Your answers to the these questions should assist in setting priorities in your school’s planning process…

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