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.