Thursday, September 21, 2006

IT & Education

Another day, another flight. [I wrote this yesterday - Wed - but it holds true for today too!] And so I find myself reading an old copy of the Guardian on this easyJet flight across to London Luton.

A surprising number of stories caught my eye as I flicked through the Educ@guardian insert.

I work in an industry that is keen on standardising Business to Business (B2B) interfaces between suppliers, not to mention B2C for customers too. And I'm in a company that is internally tackling application integration issues and exploiting the opportunities that Service Orientated Architecture brings (as well as suffering the downsides).

So it was with interest that I read that Becta, the government's education technology agency, is aiming to publish and enforce standards to "govern interoperability of all [educational] IT systems."

The transfer of a child's educational record between institutions (as they switch school or college) - vertical interoperability - as well as between applications within a school - horizontal interoperability - is problematic. Getting suppliers to adhere to a common standard will help move details of addresses, assessment data and attendance without loss or rekeying.

So Becta is amending the US Schools Interoperative Framework (Sif) for the UK educational model, and will trial some inplementations with a set of Birmingham schools.

Interoperability and common data schemas have long sat beside software reuse as part of the software engineering utopia. Great theories that are incredibly hard to realise.

Let's hope Becta can take some meaningful baby steps before trying to run.

Stephen Heppell's Back and Forth column caught my eye too. He argues that too often schools don't put enough emphasis on the C in ICT. Communications.

Pupils are adept at using SMS, MSN, podcasting and blogs. But they're also starting to collaborate using the emerging tools (like Bebo, YouTube etc), publishing final projects online and getting ideas from peers.

He points out that "collaboration and communication - whether with parents over coursework, or with peers sharing homework assignments - is all too often classed as "cheating" ... as a result of this obsession with the individual, out UK star performers are very rarely team players ... Our prime minister is nowadays criticised for being too "presidential" and not "collegiate" enough."

As our children learn to instinctively collaborate, schools and the educational curriculum shouldn't try and stamp it out.

(And Heppell didn't have to mention Web 2.0 once!)

The final snippet sat at the bottom of page 11, underneath a picture and a description of the futuristic Saltire Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, supplying 1800 seats, a 600 seat cafe, 600 PCs and laptops, 54 megabit wifi, some inflatable igloos, together with a lot of books for students to study in a productive environment.

David Hearnshaw asked and answered the question: will podcasting finally kill the lecture?

The answer was no. Audio is not enought. Audio linked to evolving diagrams and summary words is much better. Hearnshaw has delivered Computer Science lectures on enhanced CD for a number of years - carefully constructing explanations of new concepts to suit this one-way medium.

But he thankfully concludes that it takes two-way communication to complete the learning. If you can't stick your hand up and ask a question - in a lecture (or a tutorial after watching the CD) - then students will miss out.

If I'd more time I'd read the Guardian more often! (I'll update this post with links and pictures sometime soon - when I'm not in the back of a taxi heading along the (English) M1 to Luton airport. Done.)

3 comments:

John Self said...

"I work in an industry that is keen on standardising Business to Business (B2B) interfaces between suppliers, not to mention B2C for customers too. And I'm in a company that is internally tackling application integration issues and exploiting the opportunities that Service Orientated Architecture brings (as well as suffering the downsides)."

I haven't got the faintest idea what you're talking about! Careful you don't end up in Pseuds Corporate in Private Eye...

Alan in Belfast said...

Think of it as meeting the "technology" part of the AiB charter in the blog's banner.

Besides, I can't rant about travel all the time. Though it's 22:30 and we still haven't boarded the 21:10 flight from Luton to Belfast.

John Self said...

Hokay. But can you translate the above extract from management-speak/New Labourese into English...? (My favourite New Labour phrase is "We are rolling out fresh fruit in primary schools")