Data Visualisation #7

“A week of dilemmas”

Through this visualisation (without clear data), I wanted to represent the interactions and tensions between IT specialists and educators. The left side is meant to represent the more linear, structured and measured perspective of IT specialists at schools. The IT department does an excellent job at setting and maintaining systems, deploying resources and equipment, creating accounts, providing internet connection, and basically keep the school running with all the technological essentials. However, the structured approach of IT professionals can also treat schools like ‘businesses’, expecting users to behave a certain way, and demanding clear data to be process and analysed efficiently. But schools are not linear!

On the right side of the diagram are educators and digital coaches (learning technologists) like me. We aim to bridge the divide between the pedagogy and the technology. In my case, I’m often ‘stuck’ in the middle trying to help both sides understand each other better. I help teachers find the right ‘digital tool’ to support their teaching, training and developing resources, and trying to find the best possible solution that serves students and teachers in the best possible way.

I also work as part of the IT department, where teachers are often perceived as technologically ‘incompetent’ or ‘limited’, and the solutions offered are not always taking into consideration the different types of users at the school. For example, sharing files through Sharepoint might be a useful way of sharing assignments for student in grades 11 or 12 when working in groups. However, it would be a disaster trying to make students in grade 6 understand Sharepoint and the file sharing system of Microsoft Office, just for them to turn in their assignment.

Technology implementation at schools can be very difficult, especially if one wants to do it well! Taking into account GDPR and privacy elements, use and collection of data, evaluating tools, training users, maintaining the platforms, as well as justifying the need for a specific tool. MS Word cannot do everything!

Overall, this week I’ve been concerned by the way schools in general can be ‘governed’ by technology. The decisions of IT experts or technology developers that do not understand how learning takes place in the classroom nor the needs of the students of the students, are shaping in significant ways how teachers ‘teach’ and students ‘learn’. When some type technological practice or policy is enforced in a school to the point where it shapes or modifies the way teacher can teach (often against the teacher’s wishes), is when I wonder who has the ‘power’ in education. Who is shaping who? Technology or educators?

One Reply to “Data Visualisation #7”

  1. A very interesting diagram and reflection on the pressure poiints between IT expertise and pedagogic expertise. It’s not a dataviz exactly (as you’ve acknowledged), but I could imagine an institution seeking to generate data on these issues as a way of informing subsequent organizational changes. More pressingly, your reflections point to a troubling division in educational institutions between those who ‘do’ tech and those who ‘do’ teaching. This isn’t, in my view, just about separations in terms of skills, but fundamentally different worldviews on education and learning. One manifestation of that, as you highlight, is that some IT specialists might see education as a kind of business. I suspect this is widespread, at least in part because many technologies used in education have been imported from the business and enterprise sector. What we refer to as ‘learning analytics’ in education emerged from ‘business intelligence’ and the monitoring of performance in businesses. So your reflections here point, I think, to the current ways that business thinking infuses education, which is itself part of a long series of developments. When it comes to the issue of policy and governance these issues become even more significant: government departments and policymakers often do treat education in business-like terms, leading to widespread emphasis on ‘market competition’, ‘innovation’ and ‘performance metrics’, and the deployment of enterprise software enabling intensive measurement, assessment and ranking. The kind of mediating expertise involved in your role is essential to bridging the gaps between these quite conflicting worldviews on education – though I imagine it is immensely challenging work!

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