Alive in the Swamp

For the past five years we have been working with our ‘learning partner’ Michael Fullan.  Michael has acted as a system coach/mentor, helping us to sharpen our focus and stay the course.  The benefit of having Michael as our learning partner is that he has a deep understanding of system change but is at arm’s length from the day to day work.  He brings a balanced perspective that  challenges and motivates.  It’s a long road but we are starting to see change where it counts most.

When Michael was here with us a few weeks ago, he shared his latest work ‘Alive in the Swamp: assessing digital innovations in education’, co-written by Katelyn Donnelly on behalf of Nesta and New Schools.  I think it’s one of the first times that I’ve seen technology in the context of system change and not as an acquisition.

As Michael and Katelyn write:

Up to this point, technology has not impact on schools. Billions have been invested with little thought to altering the learning system.  There are also potentially destructive uses of technology on learning; we must be aware of distractions, easy entertainment and personalisation to the point of limiting our exposure to new ideas. We focus not simply on technology itself but on its use.

And so the question is how do we assess the impact technology is having on the learning and on system change?  The authors have developed an Index that allows system leaders to ask relevant questions in the areas of pedagogy, technology and system change. It Canoes_on_water_in_swamp_areachallenges system leaders and policy makers to focus on HOW technology is making a difference; how it is supporting ‘collaboration and effective interaction.’

This doesn’t mean that schools investment in technology has somehow been a waste.  On the contrary, we need to ensure the technology works to support good teaching.  What we do know is that technology as a tool in the hands of great teachers has the capacity to be transforming.

If you’re wondering why the ‘swamp’ metaphor, it’s based on the understanding that technology is part of today’s learning ecosystem today; interconnected to pedagogy and system change (with students at the centre) but the waters are still murky.  The framework will hopefully help schools and systems navigate their way through the challenges.

 

Comments on: "Alive in the Swamp" (1)

  1. Attila Lendvai said:

    Hi Greg,
    Fullan has created a great PBL Driving Question! From an accountability perspective, we do need to see if the massive amounts of money we’ve invested into digital technology has made a difference. It will however be a difficult task to separate the impact of home technologies and alternate access. Add to that mix, the rise of digital professional learning for teachers via Twitter, Edmodo etc and the assessment becomes even more convoluted! You could however take the complete opposite perspective and ask, “Do we really need to assess the value of IT – isn’t it obvious and inherent? We’re providing the same tools our kids already have at home?” Schools never evaluated the expenditure or use of pencils, white boards, overhead projectors or photocopiers? Yet the difference is that we have never expended such amounts as we currently do on IT. Knowing Michael’s thoroughness, I look forward to reading his conclusions.

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