Are Schools Consumers of Technology or Electronics?

May 2014: I had an interesting lunch today with a smart group of IT Professionals (all women) and we were discussing why, after countless and often fruitless efforts to encourage young people, particularly girls to consider a career in IT – why we are failing miserably.  Now before you moan about – oh no, not again about a career in IT, let me outline what I believe some of the issues may be.  I may offend some, but to be quite honest, I’m not overly concerned if I do and if it generates the slightest bit of debate then all the better.

For many schools, consuming ‘electronics’ and calling it ‘technology enabling’ their students would be stretch at best.  Schools are issuing iPads which are merely being used as an alternative delivery system.  This may lighten the load of my daughter’s school bag, save some trees perhaps, yet scrolling back and forward through a pdf text book is far from taking advantage of technology.  I am a constant witness to her frustratingly referring to “the back of the book” to check her answers.  I would argue that it is easier to flip between pages in a printed text book – after all, that’s all of us over 40s were doing when we were at school!

The ICT industry, as I have been involved with for over 25 years needs to shoulder some of the blame – with all the technology innovation going on, we can’t even develop truly intelligent reference and educational material.

Business systems manage to have see, learn and try functionality, so why not our schools?  Why pretend we are bringing technologies into schools when we’re not? In 2014, we are well passed pimped up PDF readers which do not actually enhance the learning experience any more then printed text books do! There are countless other examples.

So how are our children suppose to get excited about a career in technology? I am not sure.  But we are now transitioning out of a generation where many parents (who are still the single biggest influencers of the careers their children will undertake) were perhaps negatively impacted by technology – either losing their job as a result of technology, were frustrated with their IT Help Desk or they hear about all those jobs being outsourced overseas.

Many schools, be they public or private are making uninformed assumptions as to what a job in ICT is all about.  The industry has made several attempts to engage with the Principals Association, Career Guidance Counsellors, teachers and the like and many just don’t want to know. Why more schools don’t see that demonstrating how their adoption of technology is actually assisting in the learning experience and using that as a tangible and quantitative point of difference is beyond me.

Some may think that this is another of my exaggerated rants and I would loved to be proved wrong.  So bring it on, show me some great learning and education examples and let’s communicate this in the broader domain.   Who knows? Children may actually get excited about the real power technology can have on their learning experience beyond social media!

Fulvio Inserra