I really enjoy using technology to create, explore and communicate. I can and have spent hours at a time playing with new scripts, experimenting with audio and video and following a research thread down various offshoots.
But there are a lot of people that approach new tools and technology like a right-handed person feels about trying to write with their left hand. You’d get better with practice — but why would you bother?
As I finish a convalescence and energise myself physically and mentally for a new year, I want to ensure that when I conduct workshops, write articles and papers or introduce colleagues and learners to a new tool or service — it’s because there is a compelling case for them to give it a go.
So if you’re an innovator at your institution and feel like you’re pushing uphill, perhaps pause for a moment and ask yourself some hard questions:
1) What problem does this new technology solve or how does it take a current practice and improve it?
Surely education is a sector where continuous improvement should be built into the goals of every organisation/institution. What are your organisation’s Vision statements (what it ideally wants to be/achieve) and Mission statements (how it’s going to achieve the mission) How does it know it’s on track? What is expected of you as an individual within the organisation and how do you personally measure success?
2) What is the learning curve and what is the return on investment or ROI? Not just monetarily, although you may have to justify this in terms of time spent for learning and training.
Will it result in more effective learning outcomes for learners and where’s your proof? Will your suggested innovation expand options, save money on more expensive software/hardware, save time?
A new software program might take time to master, but if the end result is better learning outcomes, time savings and/or monetary savings — map that learning time against the benefits. To strengthen your case, make sure the benefits tie back into your organisations/institutions goals.
3) Is the new tool the best one for the job at hand?
Consider these examples:
A 55-year old is just starting out with computers and gets confused sending email attachments. She wants to learn more about using computers and the internet but is afraid she’ll break things. She thinks she has a broadband connection.
What would you do to maximise her learning outcomes?
Your professional development budget has been slashed, but you need to provide learning opportunities to your staff. You have to justify the expense and demonstrate results. Your staff is a mix of early adopters and technophobes.
What is the most efficient and effective action you could take?
Some foreign language students in your class seem to be struggling to keep up. There are a few other students in the class who are also having comprehension issues, unrelated to language issues. This has always been a tough subject but it’s not something you can water down.
What could you do to most efficiently improve things for the majority of your learners?
This thinking – setting goals, keeping outcomes front of mind and benchmarking success – is coming out of my research into my own personal business plan. These concepts aren’t earth-shattering, businesses have used them for decades and call them by any number of acronyms and jargonised terms. Educators know they have to determine the learning outcomes for a course or presentation before it begins.
Take this thinking and apply it to any case you want to make about a tool or technology that excites you. Then, if you have a case whereby the time/effort/money invested to learn something new will yield measure-able benefits that map to your goals — you know you’re on a winner.
Correct my thinking please — I know this is messy – but I still wanted to publish it. I was going to publish it on my work blog, but it was too messy and personal for that.