Convincing a school to buy into a product called Pencil, a messaging app designed for teachers to communicate with students and their families, was not as simple as it would seem says Jason Tanz in an article Your kid’s school is missing the Tech Revolution and it’s all your fault. (Wired, February 23, 2015)
Despite the Principal’s support, overworked teachers balked at the idea of having to learn a new system and parents were skeptical: privacy issues could be an issue. Explaining what went wrong, Pencil’s CEO, Yogesh Sharma, said:
There’s all these stakeholders—the principals, the PTA, the teachers, and then there’s the district that has their own way of doing things. You’re in the middle of this crossfire and the ball doesn’t move because nobody has the ability to make a quick decision.”
Taking a closer look, Tanz commented on the struggle facing entrepreneurs and academics who are regularly “stymied by predictably sclerotic bureaucracies and overcautious government agencies” when attempts are made to introduce new technology into our schools. Instead, he notes, entrepreneurs have been taking the back door approach, targeting end users: students and teachers and thus avoiding ‘blocks’ laid down by administrators.
It’s an interesting scenario which Tanz suggests is
reminiscent of the way Apple invaded the workplace by selling so many iPhones to individual employees that IT departments had no choice but to incorporate them. Or to the way that Uber has quickly signed up so many customers that it has forced legislators to rewrite their laws to accommodate them or risk alienating their citizens.
This kind of argument certainly made me stop and think about what’s been happening in schools.
Could it be that teachers are being, unsuspectingly, manipulated?
Could it be that students are forcing change upon us?
With more than 750 million educational apps to be installed world wide on mobile devices this year, Tanz highlights the shift occurring in schools when he quotes John Doerr in The Wall Street Journal (August 21st, 2014)
The mobile technologies that have revolutionized the American workplace are now transforming our education system,” he wrote. “For years entrepreneurs and educators have been pushing to bring education technology into the classroom, but adoption has often been slow. Now the education tech landscape is shifting toward mobile devices and new, free and easy-to-use services.”
While this process sounds simple enough, the blocks to progress continue. The range and quality of new apps and services regularly leave parents, teachers, eLearning leaders and school administrators scratching their heads as they try to figure out which apps are best to bring into school programs. And, as Tanz suggests, getting teachers on board is not quite as easy as it sounds. Giving an analogy of teachers to physicians who resisted the adoption of electronic medical records, Tanz suggests that teachers feel threatened or annoyed by incursions into the ‘sanctity of their classroom’.
It’s my strong belief however that there is more to it than this.
Teachers are time poor and way too overloaded to easily adopt and adapt new technology into their lessons.”
Exploring apps to determine how they can be incorporated into the curriculum, picking up news skills and re-learning how to present lessons using new technology are all time consuming tasks. Tagging this discovery and learning onto the end of a very busy, demanding day in which teachers are constantly on call is no easy ask.
Few other occupations demand as much of their employees as does education. It is incumbent on school administrators to look at the big picture and to consider how teachers can be relieved of the constant time pressure they face. It is essential that learning opportunities which are pleasurable, enjoyable and exciting be created within the school day. Teachers should be encouraged to take up opportunities to experiment, discover and explore tools, skills, and pedagogy of their own choosing. Rather than being required to focus on per-determined learning programs prescribed by the school, teachers, just like the students in our schools, should be required to set their own learning goals and to determine the own path to achieve these goals.
In this way, teachers can become role models to their students in the exciting journey of lifelong learning.