A Question of Scope and Compromise

Some trailing thoughts from the ECIS 2008 Technology Leadership Conference in Prague.

By far, the best question I heard at the event was the following: “Why are asking the same questions after 20 years of technology integration work?” Overall, I think this is a fair question, but it is a difficult one. If the same problems and issues continue to circle back, perhaps our approach to the challenges is somehow wrong.

As I think about this, I’m reminded of the Open Classroom concept that was popular in the 1970s. Research showed positive effects from the architectural changes, and I’d surprised if there weren’t open classroom schools that continue to thrive. In the same vein, however, I’ve been to several schools built in the 1970s to the Open Classroom design, and then had walls added in to split the classrooms again a few years later. The philosophy of the design didn’t stick– there had to be compromises.

Maybe there are no parallels with “the promises of technology to revolutionize education,” but it’s always worth looking for similarities. Maybe the most important is that of strategic compromise. Much of the Open Classroom concept (at least as reflected in the architecture) seemed to be “all or nothing,” but really a compromise was needed for successful integration. The promise of a revolution makes it sounds like everything changes, but should it?

As I’ve noted before, it would be good if we had a clearer picture of “victory” in terms of technology integration. In some schools, it could be a lot of technology used throughout the entire day. In other schools, it might be much more targeted but fully focused on higher order thinking skills. Each school might be different, but the technology should support a broader philosophy instead of trying to create one.

Anyway, it was a great conference. At the end of the month, I head to NY for the NAIS Annual Conference. I also believe I’m doing a session at the Lausanne Laptop Conference in July titled “When One Size Doesn’t Fit All.” (More on this later.)

As for now, it’s time for a walk on Hampstead Heath, and then a morning reading and coffee session at a coffee house with the family.

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