Education vs ‘The IT Department’

Blocked websites, filtered networks, devices with limited functionality are the bane of educators. We seem to be locked in constant battle with IT departments. In a world awash with information, connections and collaboration, school IT environments are often built around control and limited access. Teachers find great online resources at home only to discover that the site is blocked in their school because it mentions the word ‘game’ or because a filtering program has decided that the site is unsuitable for education.

It begs the question. Who is driving technology in education? Surely the technology should be enabling teaching and learning practices. Too often it seems that education comes in a distant second to the IT guy. Teachers are frequently being told to re-think their approach to technology because of ridiculous controls and limitations being put in place by the IT department. (I’ve even been to a school where they were proudly showing their iPad management software that allowed them to disable the cameras on the devices so that students would not be distracted!)

Road Closed

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Dictated software environments by people without any knowledge of current education practices are all too common. Our IT department recently told me that our Standard Operating Environment had everything a teacher needs. (Apparently teachers only need Microsoft Office, Picasa and some burning software.) In the same conversation I was told to stop encouraging teachers to use online tools and resources as that would take up too much bandwidth. They went on to say that schools are not doing their job with technology because students in senior secondary still can’t use Excel properly.  Hello IT people, office suites are not the be all and end all of technology. Nor can using Excel be seen as an important life skill.

I believe much of this comes about by the general belief that everyone knows what is best for schools and education. This is not limited to technology. One needs only look at the politicians making important decisions about education when their only knowledge of school was gained by the few years they spent as a student. (I’ve been to see a doctor on a number of occasions but I don’t see myself as an expert on medicine.)

It’s time for technology in education to be driven by educators. It’s also time for school leaders to force the move beyond the control model to one of technology as an enabler for education. Technology is not evil. It will not stop children from learning. Stop blocking internet sites and start educating. My four year old son uses the internet. Sometimes he comes across things that are not appropriate. We don’t take the internet away, we spend time helping him learn how to avoid inappropriate content and to develop safe online behaviours.

Technology should be there to enhance education. Education should not be hindered by lack of technology or dictatorial controls that take away the functionality of the technology.

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