Headline writers versus reality

Average full article read:

The media sometimes seem to use education as a point-scoring football eg in my first 9 months in Australia, I noticed that much of the media focus on education focused on a narrow debate about school funding. (In fact, if I was an alien landing in Australia from deep space, the media and political debate might convince me that the purpose of the education system was somehow connected to moving money around, not delivering teaching and learning Smile)

This week I’ve seen a cracking example of bad focus in the headline writing in tech sites in the US. It comes from a long interview with Bill Gates by the Chronicle of Higher Education. As you may know, Bill Gates now spends almost his entire time on the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on global development and health, and has a US programme focused on education and libraries. It is because of the work in the US on education that his interview with the Chronicle is set. And there’s a long article, with a complete transcript of the conversation and short video clips, on their website. The focus was on the future of higher education.

When The Verge reported it, they ran with the headline “Bill Gates: tablets in the classroom have a ‘terrible track record’ ”. Which surprised me hugely, as I had always believed Bill Gates has been a fan of tablet devices in education for years and years. So I went back to the transcript, and found what he had said was:

  Just giving people devices, that has a really terrible track record. You really have to change the curriculum and the teacher and those things…  

Now, that’s a sentiment I completely get behind. I absolutely and positively believe that simply dropping technology into education or business, or anywhere else, doesn’t change anything. You have to provide the support for effective change management. He wasn’t saying ‘tablets have a terrible track record’, what I think he was saying was ‘dropping technology into the classroom without pedagogical and change management support has a terrible track record’. And I can think of tens of examples of that horrible track record over the last decade (and even before that, I think perhaps the first example was the scheme of dropping Prestel into schools, which became known as the ‘modems in cupboards’ scheme in the late 80’s). So they’ve created a misleading headline.

I absolutely believe that without change management, Business + Technology = More Expensive Business.

Whereas with effective change management you get a more efficient and effective business. And I believe the same is true in education. Simply adding more technology, without effective pedagogical support and change management, can simply result in more cost. But support change effectively, and you can make a huge difference to teaching and learning.

Learn MoreRead the full interview ‘A Conversation With Bill Gates About the Future of Higher Education’ on The Chronicle

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