I received a reply from Barry O’Farrell, Leader of the Opposition in NSW, regarding my DER enquiry.
Have a read:
I guess that’s a yes? What do you think?
In most wars, both sides think they are fighting for truth, justice and the ultimate success over the other side.
A lot can get lost in the “fog of war”. Collateral damage can result when the conflict spills into areas it was never meant to go. Innocent people get hurt, areas can be made uninhabitable for years, and the eventual truce can be an uneasy one.
I would put it to you that educational technology use is a battleground, where opposing forces trying to win hearts and minds quite often produce in its citizens the malaise and shell shock an armed conflict can bring.
Forgetting the debate on whether technology has a place in education for the moment – the warring parties crossed that frontier together and are now striking out behind enemy lines. What started as a united front has now taken on the appearance of two generals arguing over what move to make next, a’la Montgomery and Eisenhower in Sicily in WW2
It’s at this point that I’ll jump out of the war analogy and comment on what I see the danger facing many teachers and schools right now. Everyone has favourites. These favourites gained their status for a number of important reasons – for instance they were the best solution available at the time; it was the solution preferred by influential people; or that solution worked for the early adopters, in their setting. And in a diverse population like a school where skill and aptitude differences can be very wide, adopting a common approach can be very important to apply a culture consistently.
Most early adopters become the advocates for technology and change in their school. Their opinion is based on their experiences and what they think their setting can accommodate. Usually a school plan is built around their recommendations, which includes training, infrastructure and most importantly a “culture of usage”. Then the rest of the school flows into the space that has been created. This process doesn’t happen overnight, in fact it can be very slow. I don’t know, but in some settings it may be easy to drop a school wide platform that doesn’t work, or start a new platform in parallel with existing platforms expecting staff to be confident users of both. I haven’t worked in a school like that, yet.
One interesting aspect of the process is platform dissent. I would bet that most early adopters would argue their case for a particular platform with a “glass half full” approach. They will ignore or smooth over the imperfections of their plan to make it sound more attractive. Glitches in general population adoption would be tackled, but not seen as the end of the plan because they know there is too much invested to say “lets find a new way”. And when conversing with peers, not many will talk cons before pros. This lack of “self dissent” I feel adds to the parochialism that is seen when people spruik their favourite.
And this is where the fog of the platform wars drifts in. What concerns me most is when one side pooh-pooh’s the other, highlighting its weaknesses, what it can’t do. The breast beating can be a stimulating exercise in one-upmanship for the protagonists, but it can be a confusing and disengaging experience when it results in people start to doubt their judgement. I’ve been there before.
To me, the danger of a free for all is potentially disastrous. Not for the early adopters. They are generally skilled enough to learn, adopt and implement new strategies and tools quite easily. It’s the collateral damage they leave behind in the schools – the digital immigrants that commit to the corporate plan that isn’t the plan any more. Not being as flexible in their adaption means many may just abandon and seek refuge in what they already know.
So I would suggest a couple of things for early adopter/advocates
Apple v Windows, iPhone v Android, Moodle v Edmodo, EduBlog v WordPress, ….the list goes on. All regional conflicts around gaining supremacy. There is a comparison to football team supporters, music fans and motor racing fans that can be made here. Either/OR doesn’t always successfully sell your platform. Each side has shortcomings that are rarely acknowledged in case it cripples their cause.
So I would suggest a couple of things for early adopter/advocates.
1. Understand that other early adopters appreciate your journey, because they have travelled that path too. But they don’t like hearing that their journey wasn’t as productive as yours, as would you.
2. Most people would like the perfect platform that ticks all the boxes. But there isn’t one. Nothing is perfect, most are pretty well suited to our current educational requirements (ie. our slowly evolving but mainly Industrial Revolution education platform)
3. Acknowledge the limitations of your favourite, along with its blessings. Not just with the platform, but the deployment of it in school. People appreciate honesty.
I’d like to think that like Montgomery and Eisenhower, who were two different generals, with two different plans, but came together against a common foe, the real battle can be won together using a variety of weapons.
Just an correction/update.
I actually DID get a reply to my email to Mr Barry O’Farrell MP about his plans for DER in NSW should he win the election.
Here it is.
So, Mr O’Farrell, I guess I’d like a bit more detail.
Just a quick update on the MainNav GPS dataloggers that I spoke about in a previous post.
I tested them today in a short OzTag game. The kids wore them in the supplied wrist/ankle pouches. They seemed to allow free movement (well..none of the kids complained about feeling awkward). They were certainly engaged and interested in the experiment!
After the game, I downloaded the data from each unit using the supplied software and saved the data to .kmz (for Google Earth) and .gpx files (for Garmin Connect)
In Google Earth, I opened each track data file individually (File>Open) and they overlapped each other. By right clicking on the track itself and selecting Properties, I could change the track colour.
If you have Google Earth v6 or better, this file should should take you to my school oval, with the tracks of the kids visible in 3 colours. The zoom in is impressive , too!
In Garmin Connect, this is what the .gpx file uploaded to look like The zoom in on the track stops before you see it up close, but the other data could be useful in analysis.
I see a lot of potential uses for this in PE. As @DrAshCasey and @jaytrevaskis suggested earlier, tracking positional play in game situations is one use. If it were possible, I’d like to put one inside a ball to track and analyse its progress around a field too.
The next step will be to get the kids to understand the interface and become confident users of the devices. ( I wouldn’t say I was an expert yet, but I’m getting better).
It’s been almost a week since I Tweeted and then emailed the Leader of the NSW Opposition and his Shadow Education Minister about the future of DER in their hands, should they win the upcoming NSW election.
Today – a response!
Mr Adrian Piccoli MP, The Shadow Minister for Education, Skills and Youth Affairs, emailed me back.
I’ll pass no judgement here – but what do you think?
I am grateful for the reply, but with respect to Mr Piccoli he’s not the boss.
I’m now very interested in what Mr O’Farrell has to say.
I’ve decided to continue my tradition (well…I’ve done it twice) of asking the political leaders in upcoming elections (this time the NSW State election) what their position is on maintaining the Digital Education Revolution (DER) program.
The word is that the Labor Party will maintain the program. The word “savings” was heard during Barry O’Farrell’s speech last week. I was interested to know what that meant with respect to DER in NSW.
So here’s what I wrote to Mr Barry O’Farrell MP (Opposition Leader) and Mr Adrian Piccoli MP (Shadow Minister for Education, Skills and Youth Affairs)
Dear Mr O’Farrell and Mr Piccoli,
I am a Head Teacher PDHPE in a NSW Department of Education (DET) school. I have devoted a large amount of my recent professional learning time reflecting on and further developing my teaching based on the stellar work of the Digital Education Revolution (DER) team. This has reinvigorated many aspects of what I do daily in school. Speak to just about any teacher in NSW secondary schools and I’m sure you’ll find that the evidence regarding the changes it has brought about to the way teachers and students are moving into the 21st Century is quite compelling.
I’ve seen in my classes the experiences, resources and opportunities that the Digital Education Revolution has provided my students. Students that were not engaged by poorly photocopied, out of date worksheets now have the ability to access a wealth of appealing, reliable information that is quite often updated daily. The student’s skills in collaboration, communication, social responsibility and the creation of quality indicators of their learning and understanding have been amplified by this game changing initiative. The future that DER offers holds awesome potential, including the integration of ubiquitous technology in classroom teaching and learning. And this isn’t just in my school, but right across the State. Search #dernsw on Twitter to see some of the great work being done.
I must admit that I was worried when I heard you say recently that a lot of what you would do if you achieved government would be paid for via “savings”. I would imagine the DER program would be expensive, and it would be an attractive area to make savings in.
I was browsing your Party web site today and my concerns that DER may become part of the savings measures should you win power were not alleviated. There were only 3 items in your “Education” policy section, none of which dealt with DER.
So, what I want to know is – should you win the upcoming election, what level of commitment will you show to sparing the DER program from the axe? Additionally, will you endeavour to let it grow and flourish in the future?
You should know that this letter won’t just be between you and me. Sorry. A lot of DET people will know via Twitter and my blog that I’ve asked these questions of you. I’m sure they share my concerns and would like to know the answers too. Understanding this, if, in this socially connected world, you want to follow our conversation about this issue on Twitter, search the tag #libsder for what people are saying.
Brendan Jones – @jonesytheteachr on Twitter
HT PDHPE – Erina High School