Hello Schools, Heard of The Internet?

Young boy showing his grandfather his tabletCollaborating online

Teamwork is an important skill our children need to learn from a young age. For centuries, our schools have grasped this…sadly offline only, that is.

The internet has empowered all of us to collaborate in ways we hardly imagined a decade ago, yet using digital tools to bring new efficiencies to teamwork is a concept being neglected by our schools. This priority is lost in the dust kicked up by the “Coding in Schools” kerfuffle:

The Coding Kerfuffle is a red herring.

I accept coding in primary school isn’t an achievable overnight challenge. I think it’s absolutely critical we sort it out as quickly as we can and organisations like Code Club are here to help. But there’s “low-hanging-fruit” for schools, something that can be made to happen almost overnight with little to no investment, but what’s holding them back?

Forgive my cynicism in saying that most primary school ICT teachers live within the confines of their training and comfort zone which sadly is almost limited to:

  1. Microsoft Office, and
  2. The Dangers of the Internet.

But something equally important is getting lost in all this noise: schools appear to be ignoring something they should have stepped up to quite a while ago: it’s called collaboration technology. Have a read of this published by MIT.

I am a co-founder of a startup that is on a mission to disintermediate the travel industry. Big dreams. We’re doing it on a shoe-string budget thanks to the Internet and the tools that we have at our disposal. I spent the morning working with my colleagues, we all had valuable perspectives, and we shared those. We were sitting in different places in Europe. Five of us making changes-to and commenting-on the same document in real time. We use the Google Cloud in our business.

Yet, when you look at the average ICT room in a school, chances are: all you will see is Microsoft Office.

Are children working at school with their peers, collaborating online?

Collaboration should be in the classroom (across the syllabus) and at home, not just in the ICT room. Few schools use Google Docs because their Microsoft Account Manager is rubbing his hands in glee: commission cheque in hand. Of course, the easy medicine to serve to Schools is make them believe that Google (or even just the Cloud) can’t be trusted and everything needs to be locked down and controlled behind a FIREWALL. (Just so that you know, the Google Cloud is practically free to use by educational institutions!)

I am a great fan of Euan Semple’s work. Euan and I are collaborating on an exciting project soon to be unveiled. We were talking this morning about similar themes and I noted something he said:

“Fear is the last bastion of IT Fascism.”

Schools just swallow the Microsoft medicine.

Fear erodes the prospect of change and progress. Safe is easy.

But, playing it safe is costing our childrens’ education relevance and advantage. Do you think that’s responsible upbringing?