Fresh research showing the damage of filtering 'real world' technology
Students in schools around the world find that their research, creativity and learning potential is seriously curbed by filtering and lack of use of their own mobile and gaming devices in schools. This comes from research spanning the Americas, brought to my attention by its author, Research Consultant Kim Farris-Berg.
Kim got in touch with me to highlight the research she carried out in the summer of 2008, across the USA and swathes of South America and Australia. Filtering of sites they use at home for learning is the number one obstacle for high school students, arguably those in whom we should be able to place more trust thanks to more time learning about how to exploit the web wisely:
The digital divide between schools and 'real world' is also an increasingly common complaint across communities both well-off and poor:
This would seem to correlate with the completely unscientific but anecdotally true "Friendwheel research" I've often shown in my talks and keynotes, showing that compared to media workers and young people, who connect furiously with one another all the time, teachers and other public servants tend to connect to "the person next door", with relatively little cross-fertilisation across sectors, age-groups:
It's not as if teachers and teaching leaders don't see the potential of bringing in student devices to make up the gap, either:
Education leaders' role in transforming the obvious into the reality
However, one would have to ask why leaders aren't transforming this 'obvious' feel and understanding into action more often. Number one on that list of engagement and learning tools, too expensive for schools and education authorities to buy en masse, would be the plethora of ever-evolving, ever-entertaining, ever-educational (in the right hands) gaming consoles:
"Just 11 percent of K-12 teachers reported they are incorporating gaming into their instruction, but over half said they would be interested in learning more about integrating gaming technologies into the classroom. Forty-six percent said they would also be interested in professional development to do so. Without differentiation by gender, subject taught, or years of experience, teachers thought games could address different learning styles (65 percent), focus on student-centered learning (47 percent), and develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills (40 percent)."
We know (mostly) that it's true, that it can have valid effects and, for various reasons including incompetence and ignorance, we don't act. The buck stops, I think, with middle management, with the leaders in schools and in the subject departments in those (secondary) schools. It's not that they are necessarily people who should have acted earlier.
No, I wonder if we're not losing faith in an increasingly bureaucratic group of non-educators who currently run our networked affairs, a group that are increasingly finding their own specialism - technology and network management - eaten away by democratising technologies and the cloud, and by a more enthusiastic, creative and demanding set of users (teachers students and parents) than they, as specialists, will ever be able to support effectively.
The support, like the technology, has to become more crowd-sourced, more with the users than the managers. By failing to move quickly and creatively enough with their technology management, they, like the newspaper business, may soon find their position unsustainable in the larger scheme of things.
It's well worth taking some time out of your day to read Kim's full report, available as a PDF from the tomorrow.org site.