There is an updated version of this article.
You may not know this, but there is not a lot of difference between a Lee Oskar diatonic harmonica (the type used by blues and folk musicians) and a Hohner Blues Band harmonica. The Lee Oskar is said to have been engineered to give a “sharper” edge to the tone, which suits the blues sound, whereas the Marine Band, being slightly “softer”, works well for folk music too. Unless you’re a purist, there is probably not much in it. As someone once said:
“A difference is only a difference if it makes a difference.”
"Harping the blues", by Alan Levine http://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/So how else does Lee Oskar harmonica differentiate itself from the (as far as I know) more famous Hohner? It includes something in the box which is incredibly useful: a single sheet of paper that explains, amongst other things, the different “positions” you can play in. For example, playing a C harmonica in the key of C is known as “first position”, whereas playing it in the key of G is known as “second position”. (If you’re desperate to learn more about such arcane matters, check out the aptly named “Positions” web page.)
So what has any of this have to do with ICT?
A big challenge for ICT Co-ordinators/e-Learning Co-ordinators/Technology Co-ordinators has tended to be inducing teachers in other subjects to use the school’s technology. I think that is probably becoming easier, because the technology these days is so easy to use and attractive. But the challenge is by no means a thing of the past.
You may not be able to change the technology itself (in the short term), but there are certainly ways to make using it more attractive. The sheet of paper included with the Lee Oskar harmonica would be enough to tip the buying decision in its favour if the marginal difference in tone compared to the Hohner is unimportant and the price is about the same. Why? Because it makes life easier. You have the convenience of having the information right there, instead of having to find a web page or a book, and then print it off or photocopy it. It’s not much of a difference, but it’s enough.
So, thinking about promoting the use of educational technology in the same way as promoting any other product or service, what kind of little extras could make the difference between a colleague choosing to use it or ignore it? Here are seven suggestions:
Include instructions. Don’t assume that everyone knows, for example, how to use a digital camera. Sometimes I offer to take people’s photos in front of a tourist attraction, and if they say “yes” I do sometimes have to check that the button I think is the shutter button really is the shutter button!
Include suggestions or tips about using it. Sticking with the digital camera example, a simple list of ways to avoid camera shake when standing or crouching could be quite handy.
Include a “Did you know” sheet. If you loan out a laptop or tablet, a sheet with things like “Did you know there is such-and-such an app on this device? Just go to …” could enthuse people enough to want to further explore its uses.
Make sure it’s easy to use or book the facilities in the first place. Not many people enjoy the prospect of spending their lunch break trying to find the one person in the school that has the key to all things digital. In this day and age, I don’t see why all resources cannot be booked online.
Help! Reluctant teachers will always feel reassured if they know where they can go for help. Are there digital leaders in the school they can approach, or a help desk they can ring? Some schools have adopted the Apple idea of a genius bar, a sort of drop-in facility where you can come along and ask for something to be fixed or for some general advice. How about setting up one of those?
Include a sheet giving examples of how it could be used in different subjects.
Include a sheet listing useful websites related to using it in an educational context.
I’m sure there are many more ways to make the idea of using ICT even more attractive. There is no need for any of your colleagues, or you, to be singing the blues!