I think many people over forty have a problem with technology and the older you are the more technology seems difficult to understand. We always seem to be playing catch up as the NBT ( next big thing) hits the market. New and converging technologies appear and we often feel powerless in the face of the tsunami of technological innovation. We look at the shiny new device and note immediately that it is smaller and much faster than its predecessors; does more things or claims; looks sexier and is relatively cheap. How can any of us keep up with this relentless innovation and development cycle?
Spare a thought then for schools. They face an enormous challenge in providing the most appropriate technologies for students and teachers. The struggle to stay current is taxing and exhausting and the probability of poor decision making is high. For the past twenty years school leaders have struggled with the challenges of providing a range of ICT tools for their learning communities.
But is this where we should be focussing all of our energies?
Over the Christmas break, I read Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson. This is a warts and all account of his life and achievements and well worth the read. One thing really struck me though as I read the book and it was something that Jobs himself came to understand in the early part of this century. He had spent his entire life pushing the boundaries of technologies – the relentless quest to build a better computer and a successful company – Apple.
In early 2000 Jobs decided to delete the word “computers” from the company name because he realized that Apple was not in fact, a technology company, it was a “lifestyle” company. Apple technologies had begun to revolutionise the way people live work and play. iTunes, iPhoto. iMovie and most importantly iTunes were reshaping the music, movie and the publishing industries. The old ways were gone and vanished quickly. All the technology did was to enable this change to take place.
If you want further evidence of this seismic shift pay attention to car advertisements. You can now personalise your car, it can match your moods or the “other you” as one car company claims. The car is incidental, it is the lifestyle that is more important. Notice how other tech companies like Apple and ACER are dropping the direct reference to computers in their names. The technology has become invisible – it’s how you use it that is significant.
And the ones who really understand the shift that has taken place are young people. Technology has allowed them to live their lives very differently to previous generations. Technology allows them to express who they are, how they learn and how they communicate.
Before the arrival of Facebook, Twitter and IM, school was the place to socialise while learning. What is school to young people today, does it offer the same level of opportunities and engagement for self-expression and independent learning? Do young people see school as an integral part of their lives or is there an alternative? And is school just another aspect of their lifestyle?
As we prepare for another school year, perhaps we need to be thinking about making schooling the next big thing for today’s learners.