This week a number of alarmist readings from last century about the commodisisation of education, the mindless adoption of technology, and the challenge of control moving from faculty to admin.
For me though a chance to chortle about the changing technology landscape in the last 25 years. Technozealots always promise much, new software is peddled with outlandish claims, and those on the bleeding edge do advanced beta testing. Two examples: windows 3.0 and dragon dictate. Both came out full of bugs limited by the capabilities of the hardware. The result: frustration burnt hands, and a loss in confidence of the wonders of technology. Underripe technology leads to disappointment.
My working life over this time involved recommending technology based adjustments to support disabled folk. In this arena it is tempting to look to this leading edge but experience shows that caution is advisable – the support network important, the techno-resiliance of the individual, and their tools already in use are important. So why should it not be so in education? Why should universities waste time proving and testing new technologies at the expense of staff and students frustration? Why not try out the tools first in the land of the ‘back office’ if they work there and can be shown to bring utility and ease, then be free to offer this ripened fruit for wider enjoyment.
On a more sinister point how do uni’s make sure they don’t fall foul of being sold the “next shiny thing”? Companies will be consistently keen to offer solutions at low price to build dependency and bring in future revenue. Or dependency may be established by providing a cloud service without a clear exit strategy.
It’s also useful to remember that we all dump technology at the tip. My recent clearing out has included: a 486, two CRT TVs, a tape deck, a CD player, video player. This is normal. My consolation is that these were used, but they were binned while still working. Lets make sure that we invest in stuff that is useful and have a good guess at its lifespan.