We need to talk about ed tech

Talking is good. Photo (c) Michael Coghlan  Michael Coghlan

Talking is good. Photo (c) Michael Coghlan Michael Coghlan

I'm running a few sessions on a training course called Developing the role of secondary (high) computing leaders*, and I have two questions to ask in the section on technical support. I thought I'd share them with you, as they pertain to primary (elementary) school computing leaders too.

My first question is:

What happens when something goes wrong with the technology? That is to say, what is the process of getting it sorted out?"

My second question is:

No, what really happens?

The reason for that follow-up question is that systems may look brilliant on paper, and not actually work in practice. The interesting thing is, though, is that sometimes nobody even realises that it's not working.

I visited one school in which one aspect of technical support had completely broken down. It was such an arduous system that it had imploded, ie it wasn't working for anyone at all. But there were two things that fascinated me about the situation:

First, it wasn't even apparent that the system wasn't working, because on paper it looked fine. In fact, I only discovered it because, as a visitor to the school, I interviewed some students. In the course of doing so I picked up on a throwaway comment made by a 14 year old girl. 

When I followed it up, I discovered that the system wasn't working, but -- and this was the second thing I found intriguing -- every single person in the chain of the process assumed that the system was so brilliant that it was their own fault that it wasn't really working for them.

My point is this. Whether it's to do with technical support or any other aspect of ed tech -- including assessment -- the only way you can really be sure that the system is working as intended is by talking about it.