January 26, 2009

Obama's filtering frustrations... you are not alone

When bureaucracies kick in the real world stops. Obama started work for proper last week and hit the same problems that teachers, administrators and civil servants hit every day: the technology with which he and his advisers are so fluent, the technology that helped them win the election is blocked and filtered.

What does it mean? According to a fascinating piece in the Washington Post, no Facebook to communicate with citizens including his supporters (apparently 80% of the country at the moment), no outside email accounts or address books to maintain contact.

"It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said of his new digs...


By late evening, the vaunted new White House Web site did not offer any updated posts about President Obama's busy first day on the job, which included an inaugural prayer service, an open house with the public, and meetings with his economic and national security teams.

Nor did the site reflect the transparency Obama promised to deliver. "The President has not yet issued any executive orders," it stated hours after Obama issued executive orders to tighten ethics rules, enhance Freedom of Information Act rules and freeze the salaries of White House officials who earn more than $100,000.

Officials also hit that well-trodden path of many a creative educator:

One member of the White House new-media team came to work on Tuesday, right after the swearing-in ceremony, only to discover that it was impossible to know which programs could be updated, or even which computers could be used for which purposes. The team members, accustomed to working on Macintoshes, found computers outfitted with six-year-old versions of Microsoft software. Laptops were scarce, assigned to only a few people in the West Wing. The team was left struggling to put closed captions on online videos.

Jeff Jarvis makes a separate but related point, based on discussions he had two years ago as Britain's opposition party prepared digitally for an eventual (and as yet unheld) election: if you're going to win democracy with technology, you've got to continue governing with technology.

It leaves an interesting question for Obama in office, but also a question that filters down through the country's schools, hospitals and bureaucracies: if the White House and Downing Street increasingly rely upon social, mobile and gaming tools to survive and carry out their business to their best abilities, when will the obligation hit our other public institutions?

Obama is now the first ever President to have a computer in the Oval Office, in the form of the 'BarackBerry'. He's doing what millions of teachers and students are obliged to do - use mobile devices to circumvent the slow-moving load of bureaucracy.

Is it not time that this question is asked loud and clear and repeatedly by the lobby of millions of vocal teachers already thriving on the web: when can all our public institutions join the free world?


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Actually, I thought that the new White House site was a whole lot more open than it was the last time I checked in August. Yes, it wasn't as open as the Obama campaign site was, but think about consequences of what ifs. The consequence of a what if for a government site is a lot worse than a campaign site. Maybe the frustrations of current limitations will cause them to find and use more effective methods to protect the site and allow them to open up.

I guess this is a good thing in a way - when people in positions of great power are separated from those tools that they legitimately used to obtain that power (be they teachers or politicians) someone should notice. I guess teachers are lucky that they are joined in their struggle by "the Big O".

When can all our public institutions join the free world?
When they stop being afraid. They worry about the tabloid press at the moment. Great, isn't it - educational policies dictated by the red-tops.

Obama is now the first ever President to have a computer in the Oval Office, in the form of the 'BarackBerry'. He's doing what millions of teachers and students are obliged to do - use mobile devices to circumvent the slow-moving load of bureaucracy.

Obama made great use of social media during his campaign, and hopefully he will continue to do so. The Internet and social media are becoming more and more popular, including in the educational field. I think that it just goes to show that education and culture are ever-evolving, and that we learn new things every single day. We should never stop learning; therefore, it is also important to take advantage of the educational opportunities that we are presented with. EducationDynamics has a new video that encourages people to go back to school and continue their learning process. This video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDfew0YcDTo.


Emily (EducationDynamics)

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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