Saturday, 12 May 2012

Reclaiming Educational Computing For Learning

Sources for this year's ECOO:
The mini-lab: mobilizing and differentiating the school computer lab
Dreaming of a new media lab: differentiating technology to prevent passive media consumption

I just threw my hat into the ring for ECOO12 proposals.  Last year I did a philosophical look at what the digital future holds with Dancing in the Datasphere.  There was a small but interested group who were honestly curious (and more than a little worried) about where digitized humanity is going.  I enjoyed the talk and got a lot out of it.  

Having become the Computer/IT head at my school this year, I'm constantly bombarded by how inadequate the typical school model is around information technology.  While businesses have mobilized and personalized digital access, education still clings to 20th Century ideas around centralized control.  I think I've found my focus for this year's ECOO: educators reclaiming educational computing for learning.

One problem with this is that many of the digital immigrants at ECOO tend to be platform dependent - they know how to do specific things on specific devices.  This is a great first step, and certainly puts them ahead of anti-tech Luddites or digital natives who barely understand what they are doing, but it shouldn't be the end of their journey.  There are many tools, both software and hardware, that can lead you to a  technologically fluid, collaborative learning place.  Making students access digital learning through limited hardware and software is ultimately self serving to the teacher and damaging to the technical literacy of the student.

My vision for effective computer implementation in education depends on a platform agnostic approach, preferably with a strong open source component.  Information longs to be free, and it won't be as long as you believe a single means of delivery or a single app is the only viable solution.

I write this on a Win7 laptop (that dual boots into Ubuntu too), use an Android phone and have an ipad.  At home I use a Win7/Win8/Linux multiboot PC and an imac, I'm not picky and just enjoy good design, whether it's from Cupertino or Taiwan.  The large, full spectrum display on the Mac makes working on photos a beautiful (and colour accurate) experience.  When I'm doing heavy processor work like video editing I go to the PC with a pile of cores and twelve gigs of memory.  Using the best tool for the task at hand only makes sense.

In the past year I've overseen installs on a class set of Kindles, a DD class set of ipads and 3 carts of Windows 7 notebooks, I've also beaten up several old laptops and installed Linux on them, giving them another year or two of usefulness.  The days of static, centrally controlled, singly formatted computers in shared labs are soon to be over.  Instead of the bureaucratic organization of information technology into a department of non-teacher IT experts, education will finally gain control of its own information technology.  Pedagogy, rather than convenience, will become the focus of that new paradigm.

My goal at ECOO?  To point the way towards a freer educational computing paradigm where students and teachers are free to experiment and try a variety of technology in order to  get the tightest fit with their needs and proclivities; a truly technologically differentiated pedagogy.

As Ira Socol says so well, "I'm not 'Platform Agnostic' because I'm a crazed techie, I'm 'Platform Agnostic' because I work in education, and education is about helping students prepare for any possible future, not my particular vision of a future."  

Words to teach by.