Sunday, February 20, 2011

The School of the Future!

Back to ranting I'm afraid, had a bit of a bad week ICT wise and need to let off some steam. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my school (in fact, my Federation of schools) is looking to replace its ICT system. Now, with the rise of the cloud, the cheapness and availability of mobile devices, the steady decline of MicroSoft and the inevitable rise of Apple and Open Source (read Linux) via Android, you would think this would be a no-brainer and indeed it is. We are going for a Windows 7 network! What? Apparently, core ICT (that which is taught in the classroom) need certain programs (MS Office) otherwise they cannot do their job properly (please insert your own snarky comment here). Also, ICT support think that this is the best solution (ie they are too lazy/stupid to learn another system or fear they may lose their jobs when we get a modern system that people understand and just works). So, here in 2011, in a school originally built under the Building Schools for the Future program (BSF,more on that later), we are about to install a 25 year old, intrusive, limiting ICT system just so we can teach typing and keep a few know-nothing MSCE qualified dorks in a job. Way to go. As a result of this, our highly successful 1:1 Netbook program in year 7 and 8 is likely to come to a halt (money being spent on 25 year old operating system and equipment) which also means that our Project Based Learning curriculum in year 7 and 8 will also come to a halt. Brilliant, a decision by a team of people who don't understand real ICT, swayed by a company desperately trying to get rid of old technology ruins 5 years of hard work.

Now, my school was completely rebuilt a few years ago under the BSF program. It really was impressive when it opened and seeing the kids faces as they entered for the first time is a vision that will stay with me for a long time. Almost as long as the look they had when they saw the ICT provision. Huge monolithic Dell computers with 20 or so wires hanging out the back and trailing along the ground to floor boxes in the middle of the room.
No cameras, no video cameras, no music recording software, just MS Office and some crappy old "educational" programs. So much for the future. There was some light shining on a gloomy reality though, we had Exchange e-mail. No more logging onto a clunky client to check e-mail, we could do it online or via push notifications. We could sync our calendars, and send invitations to meetings and find people in the address book (especially if you had iPhone/iPod Touch or later, Android devices), I was never more organised. This week I learned we are losing our e-mail system and will more than likely go with a system designed for schools (ie. They couldn't sell it to industry as it is rubbish) that will likely require a client (Windows only?) and won't do push notifications.

Towards the end of the week I was in another school working with a colleague who is successfully using Google Docs to deliver screen casts and worksheets to pupils. We where sitting in a shared office and I mentioned saving worksheets as PDF's so that students could view them on their phones (certain Google domains being blocked by the school due to their unsuitability) and was greeted with a chorus of "we don't allow phones in school". OK, fair enough, except that I had counted at least 20 kids lined up outside with phones (this is an inner city school, kids don't leave home without at least 1phone). I was also informed, when tried to show a webpage on my iPad, that the school wireless network was turned off (in case the kids worked out how to get onto it!) and another colleague chimed in that PDF was inappropriate as kids wouldn't know what they where and I/We should stick to using PowerPoint.

Building Schools for the Future, please excuse me whilst I step outside and shoot myself.

Edit I am not a Windows hater, to be honest, would be just as upset if they where introducing a Mac or Linux network. Why? Because I think ICT is much more than document creation and storage. Mobile devices are the future, sure qe still need a few desktop or laptop machines but these shouldn't form the backbone of our system and neither should some sort of fixed, serve based network. Kids need to learn now to access information, assess its accuracy and reliability and communicate their own thoughts to others. This can be done via mobile devices and the cloud.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Geordie Science said...

Ban PowerPoint for teachers!

RandomNoiseGenerator said...

Whilst we are at it, ban Office full stop. I understand the need to produce documents but honestly, all we ever teach is the modern day equivalent of RSA Secretarial Skills! A colleague of mine set his department the challenge of going a whole month without using Office (MS or Open Office). Kids used Zoho, SlideRocket, Google Docs etc and loved it. They did the same sort of work but because it was done online and using something different, they put a bit more effort in and used the embed code to actually share their work rather than keep it hidden on the c:// drive!