Preparing for the Next Three Years

A couple of interesting things over the past 6 months or so that I have been a part of and/or witnessed that I wanted to share and reflect on.

I have been working with a lot of International schools over the past six months. I find it fascinating that in a lot of these schools, I end up having conversations with the administrative team where someone (usually the head of school) will say something along the lines of:

“You have spent a couple of days with us now, how do we compare to other International Schools you have worked with in the region?”

There is this sense that we need to keep up with our neighbors…the idea that we don’t want to get too far behind. I have yet had a head of school ask me.

“Jeff….what do we need to do to be a leader in the region?”

Photo Credit: Kadath via Compfight cc

Please do not get me wrong. I have consulted with schools now from coast to coast in America and in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. International schools are far ahead of their counterparts in the US, and in the International School world, Asia schools are leading the way. Part of it is money, part of it is where Asia is right now in the world and its own pace of change. Part of it is teachers, administrators, parents and students who I think see a change that is coming.

However, I don’t see a lot of schools pushing. Maybe schools that are pushing don’t need my services…which is alright by me. But there are many schools that have in their mission statement to “be a leading school in (Asia, Region, World)” but then they ask if they are keeping up?

So, what should schools who want to fulfill their mission statement be asking/talking about/planning for? Looking at the next three years, I think you’ll see many of these International Schools in Asia going to a “2 to 1” program. Many of them are already 1:1 or in the midst of rolling them out. The conversation has now turned to what comes after 1:1.

I don’t want to name schools here, but let’s just say there are many in the Asia region who have started looking at 3 year technology plans that call for both some sort of tablet device as well as a laptop for MS and HS students. Some schools are picking up the cost for both, other schools are buying the computer while having the student buy the tablet, and yet others are putting it all on the shoulders of parents. The individual school community is what determines how each individual technology plan plays out. There are a few reasons for this:

1. Textbooks are changing and schools are preparing for that change…although personally once you go this route, I think you do away with textbooks pretty much all together. In a 1:1 culture you can, in a 2:1 culture it’s easy.

2. Feedback from students: Personally I can’t find too many students who say they love it when a school turns their textbook into a PDF to use on their computer. Really…this isn’t the “new textbook” this is an old textbook in PDF form. So wrong on many levels.

3. What a tablet offers is a new way to interact with information. Tablets, as I have stated before, are mainly consumption devices. Yes…you can create with them…but they are consumption devices first and foremost and they do an amazing job at it. Once we start creating material that is specific for the interactions that tablets allow we “get it”. Tablets allow us to interact with information in a touch sensitive way, much the same way as books do. I’m reading a book in the Kindle App right now and I get to look words up, highlight, and take notes much the same way I did in old textbooks. But I also get to click on links, rotate objects, watch videos and interact with information that a paper-based textbook (or a PDF version of my old paper-based textbook) just can’t allow. The size and feel of a tablet is…well…made for this type of learning.

I am also happy to report that within these conversation all around the world, Professional Development is making its way more and more into conversations (maybe because I’m pushing it, maybe because the technology has been in place for a while, maybe because people are seeing that the technology without the PD is ineffective). Which is why I think we are still seeing growth in programs like COETAIL and for the new GAFE Course. More schools are encouraging PD around technology. Either in preparation for 1:1 rollouts or in preparation for what’s next.

So what will the next three years of education look like? Personally I think we will continue to accelerate in the transformation of a new type of education….what I think that will look like and technology’s role in it is a blog post yet to come. 🙂