Technology platform for learning 04-20-2013

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  • The foundation of the technology platform for learning is a robust infrastructure that enables high speed access to resources and information through SuperNet.SuperNet brings the content to the school – effective wireless networks brings that content to the learner’s devices.Other infrastructure components include security tools that enable access to information, protect sensitive information and manage the flow of information over network infrastructure.In urban settings, we take this kind of infrastructure for granted. In some settings – particularly rural remote settings – not all learners or educators have access to the internet at home. In some cases, this foundational level of surface is available only at the community school.Many people who access services such as wireless internet at locations like local cafés and fast-food restaurants have an expectation that this infrastructure will be available in schools - however it is not uncommon for some people to understand the differences between a wireless network designed to support a small number of people using little bandwidth and one that is designed to meet the multi-media intensive use of potentially hundreds of concurrent users. The complexity and costs are not well understood, but the expectation for access and fast response times remains.
  • The way to best describe the devices used for learning and teaching is diverse and constantly changing.Lower device cost has reduced barriers to access for most consumers. This is creating greater pressure on schools to integrate technology into learning and teaching.However, the proliferation of devices has led to some assumptions that are not always true. First, devices – however low cost – are not affordable for all learners. Second, while learners seem to be proficient users of technology, they are not always proficient at using technology for learning. Third, educators – even young educators – are not always comfortable integrating these technologies into their teaching practice. Educators require time to learn, professional development, and technological support in order to effectively integrate technology into their teaching practice. It’s not as simple as “provide and play.”
  • Applications are the interface that enable people to use the infrastructure and devices to find,access, view, use, and modify information and content for learning.Well-designed and effectively implemented applications can be a very effective way to change the ways that people do things – sometimes in very profound ways – one application, iTunes, changed the entire music industry. Well designed, thoughtfully implemented and effectively supported, applications have a very attractive upside.However, these applications are sometimes poorly integrated – useful information may be scattered across multiple applications. In other cases, the design of these applications is ineffective, requiring that the people who use them find time-consuming and frustrating workarounds. Getting applications right is a significant challenge – when is it worth the investment for a “perfect” fit, and when is it appropriate to select a solution off-the-shelf that meets only some needs? How we gain a sufficient understanding of user needs to ensure that the application implemented meets those needs – particularly when the group of users numbers in the thousands…or hundreds of thousands?Finally, designing and implementing large-scale applications can be very risky. The investment of political and financial capital required to implement a large-scale application is very high – and failed implementations are not uncommon. The challenge is to choose wisely, design carefully, implement thoughtfully, and provide high levels of support…at a reasonable cost.
  • Finally, the reason that all of this technology exists is to enable people to access and use information. This is the “I” in IT.Information comes in a variety of formats – from structured data in applications like student information systems and financial systems, to documents, presentations, and multimedia like audio and video.In the past, technology standards focused on the devices and applications. It was not uncommon to specify which web browser or what type of laptop a person should use to access information most easily. However, this has evolved. Increasingly, standardization efforts emphasize defining consistent identifiers and formats that can be used across the broadest possible range of devices and applications.Proliferation of content and information is a second challenge. There is so much information that finding high-quality, reliable content that is useful is a growing challenge for educators and learners alike.In addition, increasing regulation of information and content through legislation such as FOIP and the Copyright Act also challenges educators and learners to make good decisions about information use.
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