I would classify Apple Inc. as a successful enterprise. They appear to be doing alright for themselves. Steve Jobs – who passed away today after battling pancreatic cancer – played a significant role in traversing the gap between the technology and the general consumer.
Apple Inc.’s success, however, comes not from selling technology, because there are plenty of businesses doing that, but instead from selling the idea that their products were a lifestyle choice and helped to improve the quality of the owner’s life. The selling of an idea or perception is not new – think Kevin07, President Obama, weight-loss programs – the list goes on. Apple Inc. advertisements were about what you could do with their products, rather than what the products themselves were made up of. Apple Inc. made technology not about the hardware specs but about how you and I, the consumers, could use their products to better enjoy your life and communicate and interact with others.
In education, we’re not about selling anything – are we? Students are not our ‘clients’, parents are not ‘shareholders’ just as teachers aren’t our ‘customers’… Or are they?
I would argue that what we need to be doing more of to eventually improve the learning experiences and opportunities for students is – shock!, horror! – sell our products in a better way. Our products are many and they are diverse; an engaging and challenging curriculum, a safe environment that promotes diversity and tolerance, an organisation that fosters respect, co-curricular activities that expand horizons, professional learning opportunities that are relevant and timely…
Narrowing this discussion to technology- I’m interested to discover how we can better ‘sell’ the benefits of technology in supporting the teaching and learning that is happening. In my opinion, the best way to achieve this is to focus our attention on the purpose and ease of use of the technology available. To better engage students with their learning experiences we need to better define how and why we use technology. In some cases, we need to totally change our own perspective of technology so that we can get a better handle on how it might improve the learning experience for our students.
This means looking past the idea of having the ‘best of the best’ technology and having a closer look at how we use the resources to improve students learning experiences. What is the purpose of the resource? What processes do we have in place for using it to generate the maximum benefits for students? Can the resource be adequately supported?
This idea intimately involves the teachers themselves. Getting the technology is one thing, getting the time, policies and support right for them to use it to its greatest potential is a whole other problem.
I think the answer to this problem lies in the ‘selling’ analogy again.. Businesses like Bunnings Hardware and Apple Inc. offer 1:1 support, workshops and lessons that allow interested people to get advice on how they can use the products to achieve their goals. This type of approach may work in the school environment – particularly if it is students doing a share of the ‘teaching’. Imagine teachers attending a small group workshop on using Collaborative Spaces in the Ultranet, the session being run by students. The potential for a real learning community to develop is very exciting.
Ponder these questions:
Does technology enhance the quality of learning in your classroom?
Do you collaborate and learn from your colleagues, share resources, and access the collective knowledge and resources on the Internet?
Are your lessons more enriching and engaging through your use of interaction, multimedia, and creative authoring tools?
Are your students more inquisitive, analytical, and creative as they use technology to collaborate, create, and apply their learning in real world contexts?