Ed or Alive is still taking shape, so you can expect some random topics
for the next few weeks. I'll likely keep talking about general dorky
technology, though this issue I've decided to talk about something I'm
extremely passionate about. And it happens to be something that every
person that has a child (I don't) should be interested in. Sorry, no
cool new iPads this week!
Throughout my career working in public
sector technology, I have accidentally become somewhat specialized in
education. Don't get me wrong, I don't claim to be an expert though I
certainly have some experience. Generally, the average techie knows
that public sector technology can be somewhat of a slow or sinking
ship. And honestly, I've seen many more projects fail than succeed.
Given next to nothing budgets, and very little time for innovation,
education always seems to be a late adopter. And most of the worst
budget situations seem to be in K-12, which is arguably the most
critical period of any human being's development.
that said, I realize how far education has come. Throughout high
school, I can remember only having about 15 minutes a day of computer
time. And the PC's were not much more than an Atari with a keyboard.
And the time was, shall I say, not very productive. I'm pretty sure I
played Leasure Suit Larry for the majority of it --what happened
to that game? Our educators were still no more than hobbyists at best.
Not to take anything away from them, but they had no idea that what
they were teaching us was already obsolete. Needless to say, we have
come along way in the classroom.
enterprises, many school systems have huge, complex information systems
with their own independent IT organizations. They operate much like
low-budget corporations with many different offices, branches and
divisions. The IT departments typically treat the business as
"customers" with service level agreements, help desks, etc. For all
intents and purposes, they are much like a separate company. IT staff
usually have more focus on the technology, rather than the business side
of things. Of course this is not always the case as there are
occasional committees that foster the business/tech relationship. But
in my experience it's like going to junior prom when the clicks hang out
with each other, and not many people actually get to make out. By
making out I mean doing some real business. Um...er...you get my
I have yet to meet someone in the education sector
that hasn't been hit with budget concerns. Especially over the past two
years. In addition to their standard operating dollars, their tech
funding is either dwindling or nonexistent. To me, this begs a serious
question: Why is one of the most important industries in our country
suffering from lack of funding? The very place that we should be
targeting our tax dollars has been seriously neglected.
question that I have heard over and over. I have worked with some of
the largest school systems in the country, and they seem to be in the
worst shape. Smaller school systems have the ability to be more agile
and flexible in tough times.
Higher Education is no stranger to
budget cuts either. My alma mater hit hard last fiscal year and there
were serious layoffs and cuts across campus. The difference is colleges
and universities have an abundance of innovation and research, allowing
them to transform and develop new ways of doing things. Historically,
universities also have been the breeding ground for new, disruptive
technologies. Some include little projects you may have heard of:
Napster, Facebook, to name a couple. Many of these projects have been
built on free, open platforms, allowing complete customization for each
implementation. This is inherently an issue for K-12, as there is very
little research allocated to these types of projects, and they typically
do not get far off the ground. Or they have multiple stops and starts
that eventually exhausts resources.
Education of Tomorrow
clear that other countries around the world have made education a high
priority. They are embracing technologies that are open and freely
available. Open platforms have
been around for decades, though have been slow to expand in many ways. I
have been toying
with them with it for much of my adult life. But over the past 2
years I have seen an explosion of growth. With the help of some major
corporations like Google, Microsoft and IBM, we are seeing more and more
devices coming out. In fact, there are millions of users that likely
have no idea their Android device was built on Linux.
Knowing there are virtually very low cost (or free)
technology resources available that could potentially catapult the
entire global education sector is fascinating to me. Over my next few
posts I will dive deeper into this, and how these tools can change the
landscape of the Digital Divide.