I would like to open by saying that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts and have learned so much from them! I really appreciate your unique experiences and expertise, and have also found myself admiring and enjoying your writing skills, as well as your sense of humor and style.
As I read your posts, I can relate to the general feeling that technology and new ways of learning are moving faster than we may sometimes be institutionally prepared for. In different ways, we all have stated that there are many questions to answer and clear goals/directions to set before deliberate change can occur. (Change is occurring all of the time, but it is not always deliberate.) :-)
As the Chapters 3 and 4 of the Web 2.0 new tools, new schools textbook reveals, there are many tools already available to support a learning communities approach and the offerings continue to grow at a fast pace. Lack of tools doesn’t seem to be at issue. Educational professionals have been sharing that the challenges establishing this new learning environment seem to center on (1) finding the time to stay current, (2) the lack of an adequate support structure and (3) legal/ethical issues.
As we all know, the pace that technology changes is fast and can be difficult to keep up with. As “Tentative Technologies” recently posted, it sometimes seems that by the time we know that an issue or technology requires structure, the “horse is already out of the barn.” The technology is already in use and we are late getting there. Add this to already growing workloads and it is difficult to find the time…yet it is critical that we do!
All agree that training is critical to success. As "Dangerously Irrelevant" and "Camilla's Ponder" both post, learning technology sometimes falls to the educator as staff training and development opportunities are not always readily available. Additionally, IT staffing and support seems to also be in question as roles and responsibilities are being redefined and the qualities necessary are explored, as discussed in "Chelsey's Chatter" post regarding Technology Administrators. As "Dangerously Irrelevant" posts, “Education needs geeks, but we need a special kind of geek who is one of us" guiding change.
Finally, while some concrete laws are in existence and have been clearly interpreted for us (i.e., FERPA), legal and ethical questions still abound. As “BlamSpot” recently pointed out, social responsibilities and etiquette need to be clarified. Proper use of social networks, mobile devices and other new technologies in an educational setting needs to be defined.
While these are challenges that we all encounter and are discussing, it is readily apparent that there are many, many individuals enthusiastic about the possibilities. Excitement is contagious and the anticipation of learning about new technologies and being a part of the coming change that will make a real difference to people has been expressed in so many ways. As our "Disrupting Class" textbook indicates “education keeps reinventing itself as the population changes what it wants from education”. It is exciting to be part of an industry that is continually looking for ways to improve.
In closing, as I think about my current position, an individual whose role is to provide the environment necessary to facilitate business and learning processes, I often wonder what concrete things I can be doing to help meet the challenges and provide a robust learning environment. As educational professionals, what specific things are you looking for from your IT support staff that will help facilitate the building and support of this new learning environment?
Image obtained via Creative Commons. Calgary, Alberta. Copyright 2010 D. Darwent. All Rights Reserved.