Smart talk, dumb walk (Part 1)
Posted June 24, 2016on:
Last week I received email from GeBIZ to complete a survey (PDF file) and then either email the file or fax it.
The message and instructions begged these questions:
- Is this the standard of practice now?
- Is this a sign of things to come when public servants here have limited access to Internet-connected terminals?
- Why does an agency that essentially uses forms for ITQs, responses, and invoices not use an online survey instead?
Perhaps someone conspired to rile GeBIZ users up so much that they would provide feedback to demand for more efficient and effective practices.
An online version of the form is both more efficient and effective.
- Its submission is immediate as is a confirmation of receipt.
- There is no need for people to compile data from two different sources into one.
- The data can be automatically collated and analysed without first being inputted manually from the emailed PDFs or faxes, thereby reducing human error.
If this is what happens to a survey, I dare not imagine how other processes might be compromised.
As an educator, I cannot help but wonder what messages actions like these send to the larger system. Are these indicators of push-backs on progress?
I do not think that my concern is unwarranted. While mainstream school teachers are not quite affected Internet restrictions, there are already restrictions on services like Dropbox and mobile services.
If plans are only as good as their implementation, why does “smart talk, dumb walk” persist?
Policies crafted by leaders shape the work environment and culture. If higher-ups associate the Internet, social media, or anything “e” as dangerous or wasting time, they will enact policies that reinforce such hang-ups and nurture a culture based on fear.
Consider this scenario. Imagine I propose that school personnel decide on whether they spend money only on a textbook collection or Chromebooks. The books do not raise an eyebrow, but the response to Chromebooks is “Yes, but…”.
As different as schools are now compared to a generation ago, values and practices today are arguably still entrenched in the past. Ask teachers if they integrate technology and it is still common to hear phrases like “technology to enhance”, “the basics are more important”, “we don’t want the kids to be distracted”, or “the exams are handwritten”.
Technology should not just enhance, it should enable learning. The basics have changed and are more complex and kids need to be empowered. Very little outside of conventional exams and schools is handwritten. Even GeBIZ asked for email replies.
Despite the smart talk and inspiring rhetoric, what actually makes a difference is the walk. It easy to say you want innovation in schools. It is more difficult to create conditions for change.