During a recent visit to New Zealand, INTERFACE caught up with HP’s Education Strategist Elliott Levine. Here he shares with us the worldwide trends he observes in education and ICT, and how schools can learn from them.
Schools need to stop making the same mistakes and start learning there’s a better way to embrace ICT, says Levin Elliott. It’s a blunt assessment and one you may not like. But coming from someone with his experience and background, it’s an observation that should not be taken lightly.
“When I look at technology initiatives, whether in my backyard or across the globe, there are common trends that always keep coming up. What drives me crazy is that a) that they’re there and b) that I sit and watch school systems replicate these mistakes time and time again.”
These recurring trends that schools need to consider include sustainability, student experience, professional development, and the lifecycle of the technology. A common barrier to progress is that hardware acquisition often takes precedence over curriculum planning, says Levine.
“But you need to start with curriculum objectives: what do you want to accomplish academically? Then start looking at professional development. What are the right tools? What content and programs do you want to use? After you’ve figured all that out, then select the right technology to make it all possible, because if you know everything, then you can right-size it.”
Getting buy-in from stakeholders
According to Levine, the most important area that’s overlooked is stakeholder engagement.
“For any initiative we need internal and external stakeholder buy-in from the get-go, because initiatives cannot live or die with one school official or one governing body deciding what they feel is best for everyone. It’s a shared success or it’s a shared failure, otherwise it’s just a trend that was poorly thought out and is going to be dead long before it ever has any impact.”
While schools are constantly being pressed to do more with less, he believes that often there are simple ways to stretch their precious dollar. For example, an alternative to classroom response systems, Microsoft’s Mouse Mischief, is an add-on to PowerPoint and is completely free.
“Ultimately, it allows anyone, not just the teacher, to put a little wireless receiver on their computer and using Windows 7 or newer have 25 wireless mice working with PowerPoint. Open source textbooks, such as the Khan Academy and CK-12, are other ways you can streamline and make technology go further.”
Versatility can assist in reducing spend, and Levine is confident that the newly announced HP ElitePad 900 offers the full desktop experience in a tablet. The ultra-thin and lightweight Windows 8-based tablet has optional HP ElitePad Smart Jackets that add connectivity options and longer battery life. Far from being another media tablet, he describes it as a “whole computing experience in one” and uses software and content the school has already invested in and currently uses.
“The tablet can also be serviced onsite, allowing the ICT technician to remedy issues rather than the device being sent away for maintenance.”
As for the trend of the future, it’s all about convergence.
“We’ve had mobile devices and desktops and laptops, all with different operating systems. How do we streamline it so everything works together and schools don’t incur more costs just to maintain it all? We need to give them the ability to choose the right devices, accessories, software, and content – it’s about not locking them into closed proprietary systems that often leads to a monopoly-type situation. The alternative is open platforms that embrace competition and give schools the power to choose, which ultimately means better functionality, more choice and better pricing.”
Removing barriers to learning
Looking at New Zealand’s own local educational landscape, Levine sees the broadband initiative taking away barriers to learning.
“When it’s in place there isn’t going to be that learning or research gap that exists right now. Students in the most rural, remote areas are going to have access to the same great resources as a child in the middle of an urban market, and that really levels the playing field.
“Technology gives educators the tools to provide a one-to-one learning experience, rather than relying on the one-to-many model of the past,” he added. “By giving students the exact content they need at the exact moment they need it, and delivering it in a way that matches their learning style, they are able to progress at their own pace.”
ELLIOTT LEVINE IS EDUCATION STRATEGIST FOR HP PRINTING AND PERSONAL SYSTEMS GROUP AND SITS ON THE STRATEGIC COUNCIL OF THE PARTNERSHIP FOR 21ST CENTURY SKILLS (P21.ORG). HE WAS IN NEW ZEALAND FOR THE 30TH TERTIARY ICT CONFERENCE AND WAS SPEAKING TO INTERFACE’S CATHERINE MURRAY.
© INTERFACE Magazine, November 2012