25 ways to make yourself unpopular: #23 Be pernickety

All too often these days there is so much to be done, and so little time to do it, that we have to adopt a “good enough” attitude. That’s fine most of the time, but not always.

I’d like to address this question: what is it about the education technology provision in your school that makes it feel genuine? I’m not talking about authentic learning here, although that is important.  I’m referring to what you might think of as “background stuff”. Perhaps an acting analogy might help here.

One of the things I enjoy looking at when watching a TV drama or a theatre production is the “business”. This is defined by the OED, in the theatrical context, as “Action as distinguished from dialogue”. It’s the sort of thing which, if done well you don’t notice, but if not done well makes the performance seem wooden, and just, well, an act. Thus “business” might consist of a nurse checking a chart, or the head waiter in the background of a restaurant scene beckoning for the wine waiter to attend a particular table. It mustn’t be so overt as to grab your attention away from the main action, but it should be detailed enough to lend colour, interest and authenticity to the scene.

To transfer this concept to the world of technology in education, I think you have to take the risk of making yourself unpopular by paying scrupulous attention to a lot of seemingly unimportant details. For example:

  • Are all notices produced with a computer? Sorry, but I don’t think handwritten notes on equipment are acceptable.
  • Are all computer-produced notices error-free? It’s awful to see nicely crafted announcements spoilt by a spelling error.
  • Are displays of students’ work up-to-date and nicely presented?
  • Does all loanable equipment come with a (simple) how-to guide?
  • Are the unwanted print-outs in a computer room disposed of properly?
  • Are there plenty of resources for people to access? For example, computer magazines, lists of links on an easily-accessible page in the school’s VLE or Learning Platform?
  • Is there plenty “going on”. For example, is there a specialist workstation for high-level video editing, or a super-dooper colour laser printer, or examples of different kinds of equipment that staff and students may use (or all of these)?

I don’t think those 7 questions are the only ones that could and should be asked, but hopefully they’re a start and convey a sense of what I mean by being pernickety and taking care of “the business”.

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