Saturday 2 February 2013

Refresh 2

@banana29 got me thinking about the computer refresh going on at her school last week.  We're in the same  process at my school.

In my case I'm the head of computers and trying to focus on keeping as many computers as possible in student hands. We waste a lot of machines at teacher desks to do online attendance and check email, work that could easily happen on an alternate, much cheaper and efficient device than a full desktop system, but even those changes would resolve into a desperate attempt to keep things the same.

I had a couple of my seniors do an inventory of the school.  We have over 300 desktops.  Each costs about $1500 when you factor in purchasing and insurance on them.  We have close to half a million dollars of desktop computers in our building, and every year we squirm to keep as many as we can as we are refreshed down.  If we were to drop the cost of those desktops, radically reduce the number of printers in the building (and the subsequent tens of thousands of dollars we spend each year on printing), and remove local server storage, we could easily produce over $500 for every staff member and student in the building; more than enough for a device per person, even if those devices aren't attached to specific people. Some classes with Chromebooks, some with Windows, some with Macs, some on Linux, some tablets, some laptops, some BYOD.  A startlingly wide ecosystem of technology that encourages broad familiarity with many digital tools.

Broad Based Digital Skills Development
We status quo our edtech because change is hard, and we've borrowed an educationally uncomplimentary business model of I.T..  We fight to keep antiquated desktops because many teachers barely know how to use a ready made lab, let alone what to do with a variety of hardware with various operating systems and software on them. With digital fluency removed from them by board I.T., many teachers have learned helplessness. Those that struggle against this forced ignorance often disappear into the cloud in order to avoid the stifling local computer environment... a choking environment that should be founded on learning, not on ease of management or paranoia.

I'd love to spring us free from the nineties corporate I.T. model we've been slavishly following and begin pushing widespread familiarity and fluency on digital tools of all shapes and sizes.  I dream of an experimental, curiosity driven access to technology that encourages timely, relevant learning for our students.

I fear we'll end up finishing another year still running Windows XP on five year old desktops with an increasingly irrelevant OSAPAC software image.  I suspect I'm going to escape into the cloud again to escape that choking simplicity, all while playing the keep-the-desktop-game on the management side.