In my last Blog I commented on the recent pronouncement by Apple that the new iBooks 2 textbook app will revolutionize how and what students can learn. There is no question that this and other new means of accessing information, communicating, and expressing creativity are transformative in ways we have yet to fully appreciate. My theme in commenting on innovations which understandably excite and inspire, is that while many young learners seem to have the capacity to almost organically absorb each new and improved product, large organizations unfortunately lag in comparison. It is not simply cultural conservatism, but rather certain structural and legal restrictions, which result in a cautious institutional approach.
As an example, in my last posting I referenced the need for adequate teacher training as a necessary component to any effective change in curriculum delivery. Another challenge for educators is that public bodies such as boards of education are required to make decisions using due process, which necessitates open and transparent decision-making. For example, the recent Broader Public Sector Procurement Directive imposes a detailed regime for the purchasing of goods and services, codifying ways in which public bodies must spend public funds such that the process can withstand public scrutiny.
However, as anyone with any experience with the legal system will readily acknowledge, due process proceeds far more slowly than a decision which can be made by an individual applying only their own discretion. Under the Procurement Directive, boards must segregate procurement roles, establish evaluation criteria, to be applied by an evaluation team, respect mandatory minimum timelines for posting notices and receiving responses, and be prepared to meet and debrief with unsuccessful bidders.
These requirements are designed to protect the taxpayer against imprudent or unfair purchasing practices, rather than to facilitate quick responses that can keep pace with the rate at which technological upgrades are becoming available. Tech savvy enthusiasts urge school boards to resource classrooms in such a way that the students are not dismissive of the technology, or lack thereof. However, in a climate of belt tightening and budget contractions, we may see a growing gap between what’s commercially available and what is realistically attainable in the public education system.
In my next blog I will discuss inequities in accessibility to technology, between and amongst regions, boards and individual students, which may be widening in ways that will prove very difficult to overcome.
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